The great aim is accurate, precise and definite description.
The first thing is to recognise how extraordinarily difficult this is.
It is no mere matter of carefulness; you have to use language, and language
is by its very nature a communal thing; that is it expresses never the
exact thing but a compromise --that which is common to you, me and everybody.
But each man sees a little
differently, and what he does see, he must have a terrific struggle
with language, whether it be with words or the techniques of other arts.
Language has its own special nature, its own conventions and communal
ideas. It is only by a concentrated effort of the mind that you can
hold it fixed to your own purpose.
I always think that the fundamental process at the
back of all the arts might be represented by the following metaphor.
You know what I call architect's
curves – flat pieces of wood with all different kinds of curvature.
By a suitable selection from these you can draw approximately any curve
you like. The artist I take to be the man who simply can't bear the
idea of that "approximately." He will get the exact curve
of what he sees whether it be an object or an idea in the mind. I shall
here have to change my metaphor a little to get the process in his mind.
Suppose that instead of curved pieces of wood you have a springy piece
of steel of the same types of curvature as the wood. Now the state of
tension or concentration of mind, if he is doing anything really good
in this struggle against the ingrained habit of technique, may be represented
by a person employing all her fingers to bend the steel out of its own
curve and into the exact curve which you want. Something different to
what it would assume naturally.
There are then two things to distinguish, first the
particular faculty of mind to see things as they really are, and apart
from the conventional ways in which we have been trained to see them.
This is itself rare enough in all consciousness.
Second, the concentrated state of mind, the grip over oneself which
is necessary in the actual expression of what one sees.
To prevent one falling into the conventional curves
of ingrained technique, to hold on through infinite detail and trouble
to the exact curve you want. Wherever you get this sincerity, you get
the fundamental quality of good art without dragging in infinite or