Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The Greedy Artist

There is a story of a famous artist who painted marvellous paintings, but only on commission. He never ever painted just for the love of painting. His paintings were very popular and he was able to demand a high price in advance for the work he did.

One day a Geisha contacted him asking him to paint for her. Unknown to the artist it was her intention to show him up for what he was. He saw that she was wealthy, so he demanded a high price. The price was agreed on one condition, that the painting was completed in her presence, so a date was agreed.

On the day of the painting he arrived to find that she had invited many wealthy guests. He set up his easel and as they watched he painted. After some hours the painting was completed and he stood back pleased with his work. The geisha as promised paid him the agreed amount. She then turned to all her guests and said, “This artist only paints for money, his work is fine but his mind is dirty; money has caused it to become muddy. Painted by such a muddy mind, his work is not fit to exhibit, it fit only for my petticoat.”

She then removed her kimono and showed the artist her petticoat. She asked him to paint another painting on it. He in turn asked her how much money she would pay. After bartering a high price was agreed. The painting was completed and paid for. “See,” said the geisha, “His only concern is the price. Leave, artist, you have been shown for what you are.”

Many years later it was learned that where the artist came from there had been a famine. The artist had been paying for corn to feed the village. The rich had ignored the plight of the hungry.

The road from the village was in a very poor state and many of the villagers had accidents while travelling to the temple to meditate. He had repaired the road.

His Zen master had died without accomplishing his desire to build a school for his students. The artist built the school.

Once he had done all of these things he discarded all his art materials and lived the quiet life.

Sometimes before we judge a person we need to discover their motives. It is often the actions of the heart that matter more than the actions of the hands. The hardest question of all my years has been the question, “Do I want to be loved, or do I want to love?” Before I depart this earth I hope I find the answer.

This is the way of the Tao.

This Blog is linked to my other where the artwork is discussed:-

Along the Shore Triptych


  1. The point of this story is well said, Ralph. Judgment without knowledge is a scary thing.

  2. Quite often actions have a different agenda than seen on the surface.
    "Do I want to be loved, or do I want to love". I would hope you decide on both Ralph.

  3. So another thought provoking story! "Do I want to be loved, or do I want to love".
    My childhood I'm sure had love....but it was never demonstrated, never ever were the words "I love you" spoken, never ever was a hug forthcoming! Love was for Cinderella and there were no glass slippers in our home!
    Many, many years later I learned it was alright to express 'love', to feel 'love' to 'love' someone.
    And then when I did 'love' it wound up being a wound that left me demolished and afraid to 'love' again. I can say this state is an empty void.
    To be able to 'love' someone with joy is I believe, one of our greatest gifts and wonders. And in spite of pain that may or may not come out of the giving; sustains in beauty when 'love' seems a memory.

  4. Excellent parable, Ralph. I found myself reading and thinking in the first section "Thomas Kinkade!"...(The artist we love to hate). Then during the petticoat section I thought: ugh! what a trained monkey that guy is. (I didn't like her all that well either, man what a castrating bi**h!)
    But, of course, when we learn that the artist was a benefactor--the big mental shift occurs. Well done, Ralph!
    (The story reminded me of artist Harley Brown, an artist who is often accused of being somewhat "mercenary" (he has had many commercial projects/books)---In one of his books he told us that YES, he did (at one time) paint paintings "for over the couch" in whatever color he was told to use! The next sentence read: "I did that so my family would not go hungry". Well..he certainly went up a notch in my mind! ! It is kind of funny how we make up our minds so quickly about circumstances that we think we understand...when we don't know much at all. Thanks for the great post...I'll try to remember it when I am thinking negative things about others. (Thoughts about my former sister in law are exempt, however! I KNOW she is NOT buying a school for anyone. lol)

  5. "Better than to have loved and lost than not known love at all" that is for sure! but it is the first part of this story that engages me. If paintings, and other art, is the soul of the artist, then that is what I am always trying to see. Very little art "stands alone" without the story: it may be nice but what are they trying to say? As we understand the pain and love and life of the artist we realize that his/her painting is a window and we are given a moment
    to see a little deeper. Love is not conditional,
    it is the gift of a butterfly.

  6. I like the message of this story -- and I feel uncomfortable with how closely it cuts to the bone. You've captured the shameful ignorance of (some) judgment and the superficiality of labeling a person and dismissing them with contempt.

    Your question posits a false dichotomy. "OR" is the wrong conjunction. Try "AND" instead. To love and to be loved, which enables you to love more, and be loved more. The upwelling and outflowing of love. And, and, and, and, and ...

    I always kind of suspected you were a "Love Machine," Ralph. Now I know it's true!

  7. I loved the story and the comments. It is easy to judge based on our own rules..yet hard to know what is truly going on in a person's life. What is their motivation? I think we are all guilty at times of judgement when that should be left to the ultimate judge. But I know as I have gotten more wisdom..I may think some disparaging thoughts about someone but usually I stop myself and think..they have a reason for what they are doing and I don't know what it is.
    The comment about Kincaid was similar to some thoughts I had about that artist but instead I try to imagine him in his private attic studio doing some very wild abstracts..a fun thought.
    As for wanting to be loved or giving love..well I think that it is human to want to be loved and beyond our base instincts to love unconditionally. But we can learn to love, and we must open ourselves to love and learn to recognize it when it graces us. Much love to all of you and have a great evening..

  8. the only way we can love is because we are first loved...God is Love...yet it's such a strange and sad thing to contemplate that when Christ said love your neighbor as yourself, he assumed we love ourselves...but often we don't. you have reached out with much love, and i do feel you help others to love themselves!

  9. Excellent topic full of wisdom.

    A question back-at you: Do you really think you can be loved if you do not love?