This interesting and really rather entertaining overview of the creative process and its methods follows on from Marr’s previous A Short Book About Drawing.
The history is fairly well known. In 2013, Marr suffered a serious stroke that left him partially paralysed and having to struggle with even the simplest day-to-day tasks. The physical rigours of painting with oils curtailed an important private activity and led him to a period of introspection that this book recounts. In effectively an instant, he found himself having to think about the simple act of applying paint. Each brushstroke became an important event and this led to further analysis of structure, colour and line.
“My only advantage in writing about [art] is that, because I paint, I can talk about colour, composition, ambition and failure without libelling anyone else”, he says. This insider view makes this more than either a painting manual or a history of art – something Marr is clear about. Rather, it is a contemplative view of the intellectual approaches to painting, of how the artist both views and reproduces a subject and the mental processes involved.
All this could easily become an exercise in navel-gazing and, in a lesser writer, most certainly would. Marr, however, is a first-rate reporter and analyst and, while one cannot help feeling that there is an element of self-therapy here, the result is fascinating and encompassing.
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