Today I will tell you something about what it is like to be a painter, and how I think it differs from other jobs, although I would argue that painting isn’t a job (although it is certainly labor), it is more like personhood, a way of being. Certainly, it is a calling more than a job. One is called to paint in the same way (I would imagine) that one is called to the priesthood. The priesthood is a happier calling. If you are called to paint, you are called to a battle with no army and no one to fight but yourself. Which brings me to the things I wanted to tell you about painting, they are not nice things. The first thing is what the process is like, I will try to keep this short, I will try not to go off on every tangent that throws seeds from my words. I’ll bypass the whole conception phase, which I’ve talked about before, I’m not bypassing it because I’ve talked about it before—the positive thing about having no one reading this is that I can, with impunity, repeat myself—I am bypassing it because I’m trying to keep this short. I could write many thousands of words about the conception phase and how hard that part of it is, except when I am in the midst of a series, then it is easy, then I am a pretty contented painter, vis-a-vis coming up with what to paint next, usually the only problem then is bottlenecking, I have too many ideas and can’t decide which one to hunker down with. (Another u word I don’t like, but that is archeology at this point.) When I am not working in a series, the conception phase is no less difficult than trying to tug a full-grown human body through a mouse hole. It is the part of painting after one has decided what to paint, either easily or with profound difficulty, and after one has set out deliberately to paint this thing that I want to tell you (briefly now!) about. I will give you battle terms, for this is what it is, it is a battle with oneself and—of course—the canvas. For much of the process, this is a weeks-long process, this goes on day after day, from the time the first marks are made and subsequently buried on the canvas to the time when the painting begins finally to coalesce into something resembling its completed self. So, most of the process. For the greater portion of the time that one is working, these are the sorts of things one is saying to oneself: “Why am I doing this? Why did I do this? Why did I choose this to paint, it was a terrible idea! This was exactly the wrong thing to paint! This will never be good! You are wasting paint! Quit! Quit now! Quit! Quit before you waste more paint!” This is one’s daily relationship to one’s work—it is very difficult! And yet, one pushes on. One doesn’t quit. I don’t know why. I guess it is a combination of faith and fortitude, perhaps one is a little bit in love with slings and arrows, I don’t know! The battle is twofold, it is with oneself and it is with the painting. It is threefold, it is also with the critics (one imagines). It is fourfold, it is with the arc of history. There are some paintings that are right to remind me that I have no place at the easel, no business being there, but they are very few and far between. More often than not, the paintings coalesce, they come together beautifully, seemingly with ease, as though they were always destined for their final, easeful-seeming form. Well, perhaps they were, but they never informed me of that. The other thing I wanted to tell you is very much related to this, and that is how, as a painter, in the midst of works in progress, one must spend one’s time, all of one’s time, day after day after day, with inchoate, terrible-looking work.