Day 43: on not knowing (Part One)


This post is part of a project I ran earlier this year ‘100 paintings, 100 days’. Some of the 100 days are still available, and this is one of them -Make me an offer! To subscribe for my current email project ‘Advent’ in which you’ll get a painting each day in your inbox throughout December 2016 head over to this link and subscribe to my newsletter:




‘That painter who has no doubts will achieve little’

-Leonardo da Vinci

Are you comfortable with not having all the answers? Are you ok to not know where you are going?

So much of our lives seem to be spent maintaining an illusion to ourselves, and others, that we know what we’re talking about, that we’re in control, that we can be trusted. Admitting we are uncertain or that we just don’t know involves a vulnerability that we might not be comfortable showing, especially in the world of work and business, but this can also spill over into our private lives, which we insist on running as if we are in control. It’s not always clear either if we are more intent on convincing others or ourselves. We want people to think of as us someone dependable, reliable, someone who ‘delivers the goods’. As for not knowing and being capable: in fact those two things might not be as mutually exclusive as we think. In a complex world being clear about the limits of our knowledge can be a very useful skill.

Art has some helpful ideas here. When I teach drawing I often give people as a first exercise, the task of drawing the wrinkles on their hand. Without putting in the outlines of the hand, I get them to simply chose a line, and follow it, follow every wobble and wiggle, every deviation and forking of those lines within the interior of the Palm. Pretty soon the students become absorbed in the beauty of those details, and they get lost in the task.

What is happening Is that, without outlines or any familiar landmarks to fall back on, the more logical and literal left-brain mind is stumped and is forced to take a back-seat, allowing the more creative right-brain to come into play – becoming fascinated and ever more tuned in to the subtle differences of line and direction. This exercise can transform people’s ideas about what drawing is and can be. They see that is not about putting a preconceived idea of something down on paper; it is about looking and recording that process of looking. It is the process of discovery itself, and not something done after the event.

So you see, Art (and countless other forms of creativity) actually depends on the willing acceptance of not knowing. If you start a drawing thinking you already know all about the thing you are drawing – you have nothing left to discover. You have to be prepared to get lost. This is the very point of what I’m saying: we lose something and we find something more precious and mysterious.

I think this principle is applicable to other areas of life too…Next time you experience any impasse or difficulty in your daily life – why not ask yourself if taking a more flexible and open attitude to the situation, and even being ready to reconsider what ( and how) you know what you know about it, might help now.

x Thank you to everyone who wrote in today to share their special spaces and places – I will be painting some of my favourites, so look out for those over the coming weeks x

Inside this new love, die.
Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky
Take an axe to the prison wall.
Walk out like someone suddenly born into colour.
Do it now.
You’re covered with thick cloud.
Slide out the side. Die,and be quiet. Quietness is the surest sign
that you’ve died.
Your old life was a frantic running
from silence.
The speechless full moon
comes out now.
– Rumi





‘On not knowing’ – 20 cm x 30 cm – coloured pencil and watercolour on paper – For sale £43

Copyright © 2016 Jack Godfrey (Artist in Portraiture ), All rights reserved.



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