Artistic Integrity

An Allegory

 Once upon a time there was a young man who was determined to paint great pictures.  He acquired the best materials and studied with excellent teachers.  Starting with a fresh canvas, he put his heart and soul into creating his master work.  When he had finished the last brush stroke he stood back to assess the result.  He was very disappointed!  It was not as interesting as Dali, nor as emotional as Van Gogh, nor as mysterious as Da Vinci. "That doesn't look like anything I’ve ever seen," he thought to himself.

He was discouraged but determined to improve.  He put the painting in a dark corner facing the wall and went to the Louvre to study the masters.  First he made drawings of them and studied their composition.  Then he set up his easel and began to make copies, studying brushstroke and color.  He became an expert at turning out paintings that could almost be taken for the originals, but each one lacked something undefinable. 

For years he persisted in this study, attempting to perfect his technique in preparation for painting his own visions.  At times it seemed he had finally captured the missing element, but alas!  At the end of his life, although he had an entire warehouse of finished canvases, he knew he had failed.

Art collectors who had been intrigued by rumors of such a large collection found his studio and sorted through the paintings.  "Almost Mona Lisa," they said.  "An attempt at Starry, Starry Night."  One by one they threw them into a bonfire.

They came at last to a very old canvas with its face hidden against the wall.  They nearly threw that in the fire as well, but when they tried to categorize it, they found they could not.  "That doesn't look like anything we've ever seen," they said to each other.

They hung it in the Louvre. 

Dana Clark


"Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession...Envy is ignorance.  Imitation is suicide."  Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance.