Friday, February 8, 2013


One of my favorite possessions is this book, Winston Churchill's Painting as a Pastime.  Several years ago I decided to try painting.  This was totally out of the blue, since I had never shown any talent in this regard at any point in my life.  But I started, and tried both painting and drawing.  I also discovered that Winston Churchill had taken up painting "late in life" (after forty--watch what you call "late in life," buster!) and had actually become quite accomplished.  And this gifted man imparted his thoughts on the subject which became this slim little volume.

I found it absolutely inspiring.  I still do.

So when I found out last week that George W. Bush had taken up painting, of course I thought of Churchill.  And my admiration for President Bush grew. 

You see, if you have never tried something at an age when you have no right be be trying something new, you can't imagine the nerve it takes.  As a matter of fact, Churchill even said:
But if, on the contrary, you are inclined--late in life though it be--to reconnoitre a foreign sphere of limitless extent, then be persuaded that the first quality that is needed is Audacity...We must not be too ambitious.  We cannot aspire to masterpieces.  We may content ourselves with a joy ride in a paint-box.  And for this Audacity is the only ticket.
When I learned to paint, it was terrifying.  I was unaccustomed to putting myself in front of other people in any way.  So painting had to be intensely private.  Lessons were pure torture.  I really just wanted to be left alone with my paints and a canvas and an idea.

Think of what it takes to be the leader of the free world, as Churchill and Bush each were, accustomed to doing things very well, being in charge, and then doing something new that you most assuredly won't excel at right out of the box.  I didn't have this problem so much (I'm not even the leader in my own home!) but you can only learn something new if you are willing to be bad for a little while.
Not by a leader of the free world.  Also the first time I've ever shown a painting to anyone outside my home.
The benefit: utter escape.  The wonderful thing about trying something so completely outside of your regular life is that it takes your whole brain.  It requires the regular background noise of life to be quiet for a while.  For someone with a busy brain, it is pure magic.
Barney by George W. Bush, via Facebook.
I'm glad President Bush has found a new pursuit.  He is quite decent, I think.  I read that his email got hacked and some of his unfinished paintings have been released, and that seems like a terrible violation of privacy.  I'm only putting his picture of Barney here because that is the only one he chose to release to the public.

As for me, I haven't picked up a brush in a while.  I have found several pastimes that require my entire attention and offer the mental break I seek sometimes.  I think I am feeling inspired, though, and may haul the paints out.  And I think I'll re-read Churchill's words of wisdom again, too.

And I'll offer a tiny bit of food for thought: Churchill and Bush thought that acquiring new interests wasn't just desirable but necessary throughout their lifetimes.  Why shouldn't you give something new a try, too?  What would it be?

1 comment:

John Fraser said...

Wonderfully inspiring post. And I hadn't realized that Pres. Bush had picked up painting. I honestly thought "Barney" was a photograph for a while! Well done Mr. Pres!

Also, thanks for being brave and showing your talent. That takes courage, and I acknowledge it. My favorite part about your painting is the way you chose to portray the hills on the left and the hills on the right. By having one side in color and the other in "distant blue/gray" you really but some dimension into the picture and help it not appear flat. That, and, the color you chose for the mountains on the right brought me right back to 3rd grade when my family drove from Minnesota to California and we approached the Rockies from the east. The color is quite similar to my memory.

I am also with you with respect to "lessons." I think this is probably why I've never become an "accomplished" musician - although I certainly have musical talent. I just don't have the time for lessons (and practice).

But perhaps most of all what I like about this post is what you say in the paragraph that begins "Think of what it takes to be the leader of the free world." To me, that paragraph is the epitome of discipleship. To be a disciple means to be willing to try something new and know that you are probably going to fail the first time. But you put yourself out there anyway. In that paragraph you really encapsulated discipleship. Well done!