Mighty Life List
Jan 31 2011

Painting as a Pastime by Winston Churchill

The best parts of Winston Churchill’s Painting as a Pastime*:

On libraries:
“As you browse about, taking down book after book from the shelves and contemplating the vast, infinitely varied store of knowledge and wisdom which the human race has accumulated and preserved, pride, even in its most innocent forms, is chased from the heart by feelings of awe not untinged with sadness. As on surves the mighty array of sages, saints, historians, scientists, poets and philosophers whose treaures ne will never be able to admire — still less enjoy — the brief tenure of our existence here dominates mind and spirit.”

“It is a mistake to read too many good books when quite young… The first impression is the one that counts; and if it is a slight one, it may be all that can be hoped for.”

“The boy learns enough Latin to detest it; enough Greek to pass an examination; enough French to get from Calais to Paris; enough German to exhibit a diploma; enough Spanish or Italian to tell which is which; but not enough of any to secure the enormous boon of access to a second literature.”

“Just to paint is great fun. The colours are lovely to look at and delicious to squeeze out. Matching them, however crudely, with what you see is fascinating and absolutely absorbing. Try it if you have not done so — before you die.”

“One begins to see, for instance, that painting a picture is like fighting a battle; and trying to paint a picture is, I suppose, like trying to fight a battle. It is, if anything, more exciting than fighting it successfully.”

13 Responses to “Painting as a Pastime by Winston Churchill”

  • Meaghan Says:

    “The boy learns enough Latin to detest it; enough Greek to pass an examination; enough French to get from Calais to Paris; enough German to exhibit a diploma; enough Spanish or Italian to tell which is which; but not enough of any to secure the enormous boon of access to a second literature.”

    Yes! I’m learning French right now for work, and can’t wait to be fluent enough to get my hands on their books. Right now I’m limited to Harry Potter in French but I’m sure that there’s tons of amazing work waiting for me. I’m going to try an original Houellebecq next, I think – I’m sure they’re better than the english translations.

  • mp Says:

    Alright…so, I head on over to Amazon because Winston seems to have lots of good things to say in Painting as a Pastime, and perhaps I wanted a copy of my own. And I think the price on Amazon must be a misprint but no no friends, it is not. So the question becomes, Mrs. Mason, how did you land yourself a copy of this scrumptious book?
    (Or were you that smitten with it that the Amazon “misprint” didn’t seem to matter? :) )
    Perhaps I need to find myself a better used bookstore.

  • Anna Says:

    I watched The Kings Speech this weekend (amazing!) and it made me want to learn about Churchill. So I found your post both informative and well-timed.

  • Meagan Says:

    I was surprised to really enjoy these quotes – especially the one about the tactile pleasure of mixing paints. So charming to hear that from Churchill. I passed it on to my mom as encouragement to her recently started painting habit. Thanks!

  • Maggeh Says:

    MP: I got mine from a used seller on Amazon, condition “fair.” So it was like $10.

  • Christian Says:

    I often feel that way when I am at the library, one of my favorite places. That there just isn’t enough time…

    Also it looks as if Winnie had a life list of his own.

  • Eithne Says:

    He talks about ‘taking down book after book from the shelves’ but neglects to mention his own habit of putting a stuffed toy in his bookshelves to mark the place of a book he’d taken. This is my favourite fact ever about Churchill, a man of many and diverse interests, to be sure: politics, painting, stuffed bunnies … Thanks for posting – this book is definitely going on my ‘want’ list.

  • sugarleg Says:

    the second quote. still cannot get through “The Grapes of Wrath” due to seething hatred of it as a sophomore in HS. sorry Steinbeck.

  • mp Says:

    haha noted :)

  • Stuart Finlay Says:

    I bought a friend of mine Painting as a Pastime a couple of years ago for Xmas a decent copy 1948 print, it cost about £12 on Amazon Uk. I will have to tell him to take good care of it.

  • Dalton Says:

    hello there, superb blog, and an excellent understand! just one for my bookmarks.

  • Alison Says:

    How horribly one-tracked am I that I read that as “Parenting as a Pastime” and spent the next ten minutes trying to figure out what the hell ol’ WC was talking about with regard to raising a child…though I do now plan to refrain from giving my 2 yo classic novels until he’s at least 15.

  • Leendert Says:

    a favorite.

    one of life’s great lessons is from this: if you can’t reasonably expect to become the best at something, that’s not a reason for not doing it

    and perhaps the most enjoyable passage for me:

    ‘so very gingerly i mixed a little blue paint on the palette with a very small brush [this is The Churchill, unbelievably, describing his first attempt], and then with infinite precaution made a mark about as big as a bean … at that moment .. a motor-car was heard in the drive … stepped swiftly …. the gifted wife of … ‘painting, but what are you hesitating about? let me have a brush – the big one’ … the canvas grinned in helplessness before me. the spell was broken.’