Talks on art by Henry Massey
© The Heatherley School of Fine Art Archives, 1932
It is quite easy to criticise your own work, all you have to do is look at it as if it were not yours at all, but someone else’s. Imagine that if it is mine if you like – that will make you very critical and also give you a chance of getting a little of your own back.
It does not matter if you imagine the work to be that of your best friend or your worst enemy – you will be equally critical, but, as long as you look at it as being your own drawing you will always be full of excuses for it.
Look carefully for what you can’t see, and don’t paint it.
When I am painting in my studio there is nothing in the whole wide world but nature and I.
Start your drawing by suggestion. Barely touch the paper. Don’t makes lines but bits of gossamer. They ought to be so slight that were you to accidently sneeze you would blow the charcoal off the paper.
What you want at first is a dream, a ghost, a mere suggestion. Whisper about it, and that under your breath. Don’t say it outloud until you are certain, and even then don’t shout – that comes at the end when you are quite certain. At that point you can use a megaphone if you like.
Having eyes you see not
You do not see with your eyes, you see with your brain. Your eyes are only lenses. They have no more intelligence in themselves than a pair of opera classes. You don’t see with them you see through them. It is not what you see but what you feel which is important.
Get a move on
You must get a move on with your drawing before anyone can help you. It’s like rowing a boat, one can’t steer it until it’s got some sort of way on it – if you try to do so you only waggle the rudder about and frighten the fish.
Wrong is right
Don’t let it worry you if you do it wrong. You can only learn by experiment, by experience, otherwise you could learn it all from a text book. You’ve got to do it wrong before you can do it right.
The most unlucky student is one who never gets anything wrong. First of all he gets a swelled head, and secondly he does not get enough experience.
Try, try, try again. But don’t tell me that you are ‘going to try’. I don’t believe in people who say they are ‘going to try’. I only believe in people who say they’ll do it.
When one object comes infront of another, (such as that hand hiding the face, and that arm in front of the chest, and the two crossed legs) you must ignore the front object while you are constructing the one behind.
Look at the front one as if it were made of glass and you could see right through it. It is quite fatal to just draw the separate parts which you are able to see.