Friday, July 24, 2009

The stroke of genius

Many of you, dazzled by the brilliance of my blog posts, must be wondering how I manage to come up with these masterpieces. Do I have it all in my mind, as I start typing on the keyboard? Do I plan out the template and the paragraphs before I sit down in front of the computer, just as Hitchcock thought through every single frame of his movie, before he began actually shooting? In other words, do I have a pre-existing vision that I merely transcribe into words later?

I can’t reveal my methods, of course. Few artists or writers of any sort can and will tell how they do their fine things, says Professor Alexander (I don’t know the guy from Adam, but he was quoted in an essay that I read recently in an antique book that I bought for Rs 50.). Prof Alexander then goes on to provide some valuable hints on how geniuses like Shakespeare, Leonardo, Raphael and me actually work.

Pre-existing vision does not pre-exist at all. It only comes into existence while the technical and physical work of painting or writing goes on. To what may end by being a masterpiece an artist may come at first with a mind empty and stone-cold. It may be that “another commonplace model to paint” was all that Raphael thought as he began the Sistine Madonna.

Suppose it so.

Well, he gets his tackle out and starts. In a little while the mere feel of the brush in his hand begins to excite him; the cold engine of his mind is warmed a little; it inclines to move; there kindles in him a faint spark of curiosity about the being who is before him; the quickened mind enlivens the hand, and the brush moves more featly; eagerness is growing in all the employed faculties of the man; images, thoughts, memories crowd in upon him till he wonders at himself with a kind of alarm mixed in his delight - will he ever able to keep himself up to this pitch, he is now so much above par, so strangely endowed, for while it may last, with spiritual insight and also with an unwonted dexterity of hand?

With an ease and confidence that amaze him he sees, infers and conjectures new things behind the fleshen mask of the familiar model’s face. A wonderful creature, this sitter! Wonderful creature, a nursing mother! A marvel, all motherhood, all humanity. ‘What a piece of work is a man!’ So it goes on, and if he can hold long enough the pitch of his exaltation, this mutual stimulation of spiritual and technical power, a masterpiece may come out of it, a Sistine Madonna, a Hamlet or a Gioconda, a thing absolutely new and surpassing, where nothing like it has been before.

The portrait proceeds, not from the imaginative anticipation of the portrait that is to be executed, but from a lively and intelligent excitement, using the skilled hand
as its instructive organ

My methods are fairly similar. I start out with an empty mind, staring at the white space on my computer and press a few random letters on the keyboard. In a little while, the mere feel of the keys begins to excite me, the cold engine of my mind warms up and before I know it I have produced a masterpiece.


shalini said...

Four years and still going strong. Keep up the good work. Have always like to go back and read your older posts. Every time I visit you I do that. But only started commenting of late. Many of your links have given me immense reading pleasure too. Heart felt thanks.


Rachna said...


You can go to this website and check the value of your site

Raj said...

Shalini, it certainly feels good to be complimented. Thanks so much.

Rachna, thanks for bringing me down to terra firma. The value of my site is $0.

Rachna said...


No such intention :). My site is worth $0 too. But we both know that what we write is priceless for ourselves. More than anything, I write for myself and it is good fun connecting with strangers and sharing views, won't you say!