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Lucian Freud



"A painter's taste must grow out of what so obsesses him in life that he never has to ask himself what it is suitable for him to do in art. . . . The painter's obsession with his subject is all that he needs to drive him to work."

British Painter

1922 - 2011

When I graduated from college in 1971 with an English degree and no job, I wanted to be a writer, but I didn't know where to start or what to write about.  In college, I had written poetry but no short stories or fiction.  I wanted to write but I had not subject.  I had no obsessions.  During a four month trip through western United States and Canada in 1972, I came up with an idea for a novel.  I decided to write a historical novel about John Kaufman, a Mennonite sleeping preacher in the early 20th century.  Kaufman would go into a trance and preach a coherent sermon.  People stuck needles in him to see if he would wake up.  While in Oregon I did some research.  When I returned in early November to Goshen I continued the research.  When I reached my hometown of Roanoke, I tried to interview some people who knew Kaufman and I was told to cut my hair and find a job.  I let the novel slide into my subconscious. 

Sleeping Head

I have taken years to figure out what my obsessions are.  In looking back over the more than 5,000 poems that I have written, a key subject stands out:  my relationship with God.  I write to understand God.  Even forty years ago when I wanted to write a historical novel, my subject was God.  I have been told by atheists and non-believers that I should not write about God.  And conservative Christians are often offended by what I have to say about God.  Yet write I must.  I am obsessed.

What are you obsessed with?  What drives you to paint and to write?  What wakes you up and inspires you to pick up your paint brush or pen?

Here is a video showing several of Lucian Freud's portraits and includes interviews with some of the people who had their portrait painted.

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