Milind Nayak Writings


When the non thinking artist tries to thinků

When one has to paint, he or she has to have an intense desire to paint. Painting does not happen with a weak wish, but the desire to do something about the wish and go forward to do something about it. It has everything to do with keeping our eyes open and dreaming. Once the dream is intense enough, there has to be the faith that the dream is not just a dream, but a premonition that one can paint and HAS TO paint to turn into an artist. No one is given a dream without having the power to make it come true. There are no shortcuts to painting but painting itself. When one starts painting and keeps at it with the faith that one day it will be possible to paint what one has to paint.

Artists are not born just by attending art schools but because art schools just give the markers on the technicalities of painting. One senior artist commented once on how blessed I was in not attending art schools. He said “ I spent five years learning how to paint and I had to spend another ten years to unlearn what I had learnt” Learning comes from the desire to do something. It does not evolve out of dreams that do not have power. This power is provided by our own actions and not by just listening to lectures and forgetting them. I have always been of the opinion that techniques can be taught – not painting.

Once one has learnt painting, the world pushes on the second question on to them. Do I have my own style to work with? What if this is not painting? What if I have not evolved my own style?
Stylizing happens when a lot of faith goes into one’s work. The search for style need not necessarily be a struggle. When enough paintings are done, an artist’s eye detects the style that is emerging out of his work. The style emerges. It is not got by intense thought or glorification of an idea. And how does the artist recognize the style when it emerges? When one detects a repetition of certain patterns and a common thread that runs through most of the work, it evolves as a style.


Once the artist exploits this comfortably, he realizes his own style in treating the surfaces he works on has materialized. Quite often people do not let go of the “Style” they have evolved. It turns into their alter ego and also how their work is recognized as apart from that of other artist’s works. The equation here is simple “I am known to work like this and therefore if I work differently my collectors may not appreciate the new work I am doing”. I call it the style trap. The art collectors and the Galleries also play an important part in feeding this myth.” We may not be able to sell this stuff as it is different” is the refrain that the Art Galleries come out with. To the art collector, nothing is better than the work he has bought and therefore any attempt at changing the style are viewed as not the right step. Therefore the artists step into any change other than the accepted format very gingerly. The attempts, therefore turn into “New, improved” work where the artist hardly moves into anything fresh. A talented artist who can produce much better work if left alone gets stuck between the walls of familiarity. Sincere painting then gets takes the turn of getting smothered by crass commercialization. When this happens, the soul of the artist’s work is lost forever.

In my own work, I shift between the Abstracts and the Landscapes. I started painting because of the love of landscapes. I am unwilling to sacrifice what I paint for small compensations like moving into the realms of figurative work. Ants do not move into honey making because it is profitable. I have heard on many occasions my collectors asking me to move into figurative work, and I have lost some sales too because I do not paint figures. An artist has to be happy in what he paints instead of moving into other genres, which he may not be comfortable painting due to personal preferences. As I said earlier, my works shift between abstracts and landscapes because it is here that I made myself comfortable. I love my work and when I am dissatisfied with the kind of work I am doing, I also change my style of I am doing. Personally, I am a bit against the principle of muscle memory dictating the work. The choice of the freedom of expression of an artist rests with him only.

I also value change because I think it is important to move forward instead of resting on laurels.
At times I wonder what is this force that drives me on and to connect with the canvas. There have been times when I have sat before a canvas and brooded over as to what to paint. Painting never happened then. Only when I approached the canvas without conditions of my own did I succeed – in starting the painting and carrying the action all the way through to finish it.

To me, painting starts as an act of faith. To commit a single stroke on the canvas is ever so difficult. There are other pressing concerns of the world outside. I realize at the time, that I have to make the time for the work to happen. Once the initial stroke is made, then the painting proceeds to evolve itself smoothly sometimes, resisting at other times. I do not drive the course of any painting .It evolves and emerges and then flowers into colors and gives joy, to me and hopefully to people who look at them.

When I tire from doing the same stuff for a while, I change my medium and get into some other medium. I may move to watercolors, graphite sticks or to pastels just to feel the need to experience something different. Each medium as something to teach, and if I don’t learn from the colors I use what else could I learn from?


When I finally decided to make a living out of painting I was forty five years old. I journeyed across several mediums of expression, photography, printing and others before I was ready to make a living out of painting alone. In all the years I have been back to painting, I can only say one thing. I am happy to return to painting and stay here. Any other things I may have to say will be cerebral and not experiential. Going with the flow of life is what I find easy to work with.

Written for an art magazine that failed to take off!