Do it! Illustration from Sol LeWitt's letter to Eva Hesse

Just DO! Words Of Wisdom From Artist Sol LeWitt To Artist Eva Hesse

Recently I came across a catalogue of an exhibition – Converging Lines – that showed the artwork of Sol LeWitt and Eva Hesse. Yes I know their work isn’t about pastels but what I want to share with you is a letter that LeWitt wrote his friend Hesse on 14 April 1965 while she was in Germany.

His letter is in response to one from Eva Hesse in which she must have moaned about the state of her work. If you’ve ever suffered self-doubt in your work, or if you do in the future, get out this letter and read/listen to it. You’ll find wise words to help motivate you.

Here’s a photograph of the first page of the five-page letter.

First page of a letter from Sol LeWitt to Eva Hesse, 14 April 1965
First page of a five-page letter from Sol LeWitt to Eva Hesse, 14 April 1965

Rather than reproduce all five pages here, I decided to make a vocal recording of it. You’ll find more good stuff from LeWitt!

A very short background on these two artists: Sol Lewitt met Eva Hesse in the late 1950’s. “I was sort of wowed by her..” (Converging Lines, p64).  He was eight years her senior but they became best buddies. Eva Hesse married the sculptor Tom Doyle (who is referred to at the end of LeWitt’s letter). Sadly Hesse died of a brain tumor at the age of 34 on 29 May 1970.

Learn more about Eva Hesse here. And Sol LeWitt here.

Also, check out the book that inspired this blog:

So what did you think of Sol LeWitt’s letter to Eva Hesse letter? Were you nodding, saying, “Yup I needed to hear this”? Or perhaps you’re going gangbusters right now and it didn’t resonate. Either way, let me know by leaving a reply!

Until next time,

~ Gail

PS. This blog  is rather short because I’m still deeply immersed in the DK Project, and probably will be for at least another couple of weeks. Still, I wanted to get something valuable out to you. Look forward to hearing what you thought of it!

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18 thoughts on “Just DO! Words Of Wisdom From Artist Sol LeWitt To Artist Eva Hesse”

  1. Spot on for me, Gail. I have been stewing over getting ready for a small show with another artist in May, wondering what new pieces to start, how to frame, publicity and everything else when I should just be doing! Thank you for sharing this letter.

  2. My art teacher told us many things in the course of our 11 years in her studio. But the one thing that comes to me again and again in times of discouragement and doubt is this: “Nothing is forbidden in painting except one thing: not having the courage to begin all over.” I am ever so grateful for that wisdom ; it has pulled my out of a hole many times.

  3. I taped a page from an old Page -A Day calendar to my easel. It says, ” To Begin, begin.” It also helps. It was fun to listen to you read the letter!

  4. Gail –
    Eva had her own personal cheerleader in Sol! We kind of all could use one (or more!) of those. Facebook HTP has really become that for me and I try to be that in there for others, too. I find the energy in there sometimes to be like Sol’s words in his letter to Eva. When you built that page, you kind of built a cheering squad! At least that’s how I often experience it.

    1. Indeed she did Elaine.
      Thanks for pointing this out, and then bringing it back to all the great cheerleaders – like you! – in the HowToPastel Facebook group!

  5. Lots of unpompous truth in here. I’m reminded of Brian Eno’s advice on creating. Don’t try to create ‘ART’, just take whatever is to hand and make something, and if turns out to be art… Great…If not so what, you will have learned from your efforts.

  6. Gail, Thanks for your interesting blog today! I enjoyed the progression of your art work it turned out so pretty. Also, loved that you read the tremendous letter (you should start doing audio books such a great voice). Great encouragement for me today. I am insecure about my art. Don’t always start a new piece due to self doubt. I don’t like for others to watch as I create due to self doubt. I have created many pieces that I am very proud of and I am always surprised that I was the one that created that piece. Isn’t that strange? I mean it is just paper right? If It doesn’t turn out… so what. I like these quotes: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Yoga and “Dreams don’t work unless you do.” Unknown. Thanks again for the encouragement today I now need to go forth and conquer. 😍

    1. Thanks so much Nancy! (The blog Nancy is referring to is called: Pastel To Paper – That Is What’s Important!)
      Thanks for the compliment about my voice. I’d like to do more audio and that’s given me a bit of a push – thank you!

      Self-doubt can keep us all back from exploring and expressing ourselves fully. And no, what you say doesn’t sound strange, it sounds very familiar!
      One thing I sometimes do to get working is when I buy new pastels or paper, I give myself a timeframe – a generous one so I have no excuses! – to use them. And I tell Cam, my husband, that if I don’t use them up by the specified date, he can give it away to an artist who will use them. And I write the date on the calendar. This works well!! Why spend money on tools when you aren’t going to use them?
      The other thing is, work and don’t show anyone if that’s going to prevent you from putting pastel to paper.

      Love those quotes!!

      So go now and DO!!!!

  7. My self doubt is so strong, I have been unable to do for quite some time… It’s so hard to battle this. As I write this, I am laying on the couch, my pastels untouched. When I see you with, I can’t imagine why you would have doubts. If you saw my work _ especially just sketches _ I believe you would tell me that I have no ability. The resistance is so strong! If it’s important to me and my soul, why do I resist so much? Why must I be so paralyzed with self-doubt?

    1. Ahhhh Lori, I feel your pain and know it. I have felt that resistance (still do from time to time) and asked exactly that question: If painting and expressing myself in art is my soul’s yearning, why don’t I just get on with it? Why do I resist?? And truly, I think part of it is this feeling we have about the outcome. We fear that it will look like rubbish, that it will then be a waste of time and materials and why bother. So here’s a couple of ideas for you.

      First, to get you going, I want you to do this as you sit on the couch. Grab a pencil (or pen) and a sketchpad. Then do a blind contour of your hand. A blind contour is when you look at the subject you’re drawing (your hand) but NOT the paper! Make sure you CANNOT see the paper and what’s being drawn on it. This is SUPER important. Because you’re drawing in this manner, you know the drawing won’t look like a perfect representation of the subject. I mean, how can it?? Don’t be tempted to look at the paper otherwise your judgement side will start to kick in. Don’t give it that chance! Instead, sink deeply into observing your hand. Take time – there’s no rush. Enjoy the sensation of looking deeply. Draw the contour of your hand, the bumps, the crinkles, the wrinkles, the spots, the scars, the rings, whatever you see. And know that all those things are NOT going to end up in the right place. But ohhhh what a delight of a drawing you’ll have!! You can do a blind contour of anything in front of you – a vase of flowers for instance…or your feet as you lie on the couch…or a cup of tea.

      Second, when you are ready to pick up some pastels, choose a pastel painting that’s been done on sanded paper that you really don’t want to keep. Take it outside and brush it off (you can use an old cheap brush for this). Then take it inside and with white or black tape (preferably artist tape but just use drafting tape or electric tape if that’s all you have) and depending on the size of the paper, divide into four or six blocks. Then just enjoy making marks over the whole piece. Don’t worry about what anything looks like. Pick colours you love, brands you love. Choose a few colours in different values. Vary the pressure, vary application – side of pastel or linear. Just have fun! When you feel “done,” peel off the tape and see what each block looks like. Then take each block and without regard to outcome, work on it. See what’s suggested there and just PLAY and push a bit further. Don’t judge. Put on music that brings you joy and just relax and laugh. It’s just paper and pastels!

      The main thing is to get you back to the joy of creating, the joy of the lusciousness of using soft pastels. The longer we stay away from creating, the harder it is to restart, and the more our soul cries. So grab that pencil and paper and just DO. I KNOW you will feel better for doing something because action really is the antidote!

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Gail Sibley

Artist. Blogger. Teacher.

My love of pastel and the enjoyment I receive from teaching about pastel inspired the creation of this blog. It has tips, reviews, some opinions:), and all manner of information regarding their use through the years – old and new. Please enjoy!

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