12 July 2013
The Difference between the Heart’s Desire and Demand
John Ashberry’s The Painter allowed open ended thoughts when writing this poem. Ashberry repeats the words “canvas,” “buildings,” “brush,” “subject,” and “prayer” each seven times throughout the entire poem; he used the word “portrait” eight times. This allowed the reader to develop his own thoughts and ideas of what the poem could be about. In this analysis Ashberry’s poem was created on the basics of derivative art; he portrays a situation where the artist’s creativity conflicted with the demands of the people (meaning the people from the “buildings”). They said to “try using the brush/as a means to an end. Select, for a portrait,/Something less angry and large, and more subject/to a painter’s moods, or perhaps, to a prayer (Lines 9-12).” In the poem, the author presents the struggle for the artist who wants ...view middle of the document...
Then the painter positions himself between the symbolic pieces: the buildings and the sea. This sort of sets the tone and the assumption of the artist being torn between the two. The artist’s intention was to creatively produce an imitative portrait of the nature of the sea; on the contrast as excited as he was, the process did not yield to him easily. The author then makes a complex comparison of his will to paint the sea to that of a child’s prayer: citing “But just as children imagine a prayer/Is merely silence, he expected his subject/To rush up the sand, and seizing a brush/Plaster its own portrait on the canvas (Lines 3-6).” After the painter’s realization that reproducing something as complex as reality, he gives up his attempt and “there was never any paint on the canvas (Line 7).”
The author also compares and contrasts the differences between the artist and the people in the buildings. The point of focus in the poem is their individual way of thinking: the people in the buildings mock the artist for his desire to replicate the sea, implying he is crazy to have attempted it. The people in the building also feel that the artist is there to please them, and/or “work” for them citing “So there was never any paint on his canvas/Until the people who lived in the buildings/Put him to work (Lines 7-9).” The people in the building directed the artist as if they were to direct his very strokes onto the canvas.
In the poem the painter is just sitting in view of the sea as he continues to consider his uncontrolled subject; the sea in the poem symbolizes several of things such as: chaos, creative space and freedom. Again, as the painter was positioned (ironically) between the buildings and the sea, his desire to paint the sea symbolizes his underlining jealousy of the freedom the sea has and how it liberates him from the judgmental, shuffle-and-bust city lifestyle that is behind him. Throughout the poem the painter has the brush readily in his hand yet unable to complete the process; this symbolizes his other struggle. His desire to paint the sea is then drowned out and his vision is lost which results in frustration resulting in a ‘paint-less portrait.’