Pause for thought: Maggie Hambling and the importance of Drawing


I think this video shakes me out of my comfortable Devon life and makes me remember my guts. I avoid the news, especially Radio 4’s The Today programme because there is usually an article which makes me weep, and that’s no way to start the day. However, these things cannot be ignored and they have to get out of you somehow. Maggi Hambling says that artists are incredibly lucky, when she talks of death in her family, because creatives can process pain in a positive way, by working through the intense feeling on paper or in 3D.

Listening to her, and she has been described as abrasive, I find an incredible love for the human spirit or plight and an honest and humble attitude to who or what is making her art. She is an inspiration.

Drawing is her starting point – she makes a drawing every day, and also commented that her mentor and teacher Lett Haines said to ‘Make your work your best friend’. By this he meant tell your work everything in your life, i.e. share your innermost feelings and secrets with it, as you would confide in a good friend. Go to it when you are lost, tired fed up and let it revive you.

Another way I like to work is by exploring and discovering whilst doing or making a piece because there is grit and excitement in it, which hopefully is transmitted to the piece. It’s a painful way to work sometimes because you don’t know the way, or what the outcome will be; whether it could be considered worth while or not, but in this way it becomes an honest work. I was so happy to hear her say: ‘Make everything an experiment other wise it’s dead’. This is how I feel.

Portraits – ‘Its all about love – you have to get into this place where all your baggage is got rid of and the person in front of you comes through…’ Maggi Hambling threw this into the melting pot too, and I believe all art is about love. The love to physically do it, the love for the subject, the love to inquire and dissect, the love to learn and to display the learning and the love. This love is no rose-pettled bed of comfort but a fierce, visceral and passionate love for life.

Making art is a visual conversation, a human encounter with graphite or charcoal, paint or ink, wood or stone – the human hand makes a set of marks, with economy and feeling, and then something else goes on, something else takes over when you have emptied your ‘bag’ and maybe a ‘good’ piece comes out of that emptying.

‘When you’re in the zone you haven’t a clue what’s going on and that’s the best state to be in, the muse is really present and something has taken over and its going right – it paints itself’ Maggi Hambling.

Thanks for the inspiration Maggi, I am coming towards the light.

1 Comment

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January 6, 2020 at 10:36 pm

Thank you this resonated with me completely

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