Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Refusing to Give

There was a mighty clansman who over the years had extended his territory over a vast range. In those days it was traditional to pass from the father to son the title of clan chief. This chief did not have a son, his wife was dead and he was growing older, he lived with his daughter. His daughter was both beautiful and also very clever, but tradition stood in the way of her succeeding her father.

He seemed to be a good clan chief, the people lived in peace and all seemed to be well with little trouble or in-fighting among them.

It was therefore with some surprise that the people heard the news that the chief was going to hand over half of his realm to a younger man. This younger man on his death, if he had proven to be a good chief would inherit the rest of the realm. The decision would be made on the basis of a simple contest.

The person who could come before the chief and teach him how to make a good bowl of porridge would take both the hand of his daughter in marriage and half of his realm. Being a wise chief the daughter would be given say in who was permitted to take part in the contest. The people were surprised, knowing him of old, it seemed out of character.

On the appointed day the first stage of the process was begun. All those who wished to be put forward appeared before the daughter and were either selected to go ahead or were not. At the end of the day there were still some two hundred candidates.

The next day began, each candidate in his allotted time trying to show the chief how to make good porridge. The process continued over a number of days. After all had been given their turn, nobody had managed to teach the chief how to make good porridge, so he continued to reign on his own.

Once power has been gained it is very difficult to give away.

I have noticed artists who have achieved that allusive something in their work and wondered how they managed it. I have asked them, but found many very reluctant to give away their secrets. I asked them, “If I become a student of yours will I learn how to achieve this effect?” The answer has also often been in the negative. “I do not as yet have that included in my course.” or something to that effect.

I have said it before, but say it again, “This is sad.” Because others may in fact be able to assist in making the effect or technique even better, to the advantage of all.

This is the way of the Tao.

The image above was used because it was inspired by that beautiful part of Scotland where one of the worst ever clan battles took place, Glencoe. My thoughts on the painitng and its construction can be read at  Large Mixed Media


  1. Ralph...great story and insight. Thanks for sharing...yes we must all share the end result as well as the process..it is after all, a gift from God

  2. I very much enjoyed reading this! I had the great fortune of visiting Scotland twice (I used to be a golfer!) The history was awe-inspiring...and the beauty (well, I don't have to tell you!)
    I wish that you could be in my art discussion group here--we have artists of the first order who will tell you everything you want to know and then some...but, of course, I know the type you are describing too. The art world has always been shrouded in jealousy and pettiness. If I remember my art history correctly DaVinci and Michaelangelo were arch rivals who did not like one another one whit. Your painting is beautiful--the shards remind me of an expression I know.."what is broken is beautiful ....because it is broken". (both mosaics and people are "more" from having been broken).

  3. Indeed. I took a course with a noted artist because I admired his work. The cours proved to be a waste of time, energy, effort and money.....and when asked how he achieved a certain aspect of his 'famous' paintings, skirted the subject and moved on to more mundane course matter.
    Yet, another instructor couldn't wait to share his secrets.

  4. I thank you all for those comments and ongoing support in this blog. It means much to me that you take the time out from your busy lives. I read all comments and take heed of what is said.

  5. Hi Ralph!... "I" stumbled upon your blog by chance really... I do not surf about... but sometimes when I encounter a blog of interest to "Me" through one of my own blog followers... I look further.

    I have very much enjoyed the contents of both blogs. "I" share your strong belief that "We" should openly share our ideas... feelings and processes with others who share our passion for making Art.

    "I" to invite "You" visit my site. Perhaps you might be encouraged that there exists those who are willing to share... if you so wish!

    No matter your decision... Thanks for your ideas and blogs "I" wish "You"...

    Good Painting!
    Bruce Sherman