I went to the Metropolitan Museum of art the other day with my friend who was visiting from California. They were showing their entire collection of 17th century oil paintings by the Dutch Masters, Rembrandt, Vermeer, the 27 or so students of Rembrandt, you know, all of those guys (and one lady). It was a show that I knew I wanted to see but was unlikely to attend on my own. Lucky for me hangovers made for a slow start to the day, and when my friend suggested we go to the MOMA I was able to inform him that “oh no, the MOMA closes in an hour, but there’s something at the Met that looks good…” All kidding and mind games aside, the show was phenomenal. I’m not going to post any images of the paintings because I didn’t take any pictures of the paintings. I’m generally of the mindset that tiny photos of masterful works don’t help anyone, especially the famous ones that you can just find on the internet anyway. This might make me a hypocrite as I constantly post tiny photos of my own paintings on the internet, but that’s beside the point here. I wanted to simply stand in front of these paintings, to see how they worked through the problems, to wonder about their lives, and yes, to silently judge them. I realize that this last bit is insanity. These men (and one lady), were painters of the highest skill level, craftsmen at the top of their games, even the ones you’ve never heard of before. But somehow, somewhere, in a most uncharacteristic self-confident fashion, a tiny voice in my head kept nagging at me “you can paint like that.. you can do clouds better than that… that composition is flawed…that hand isn’t that well done…” Again, I realize that this is utter insanity. That not only do I have the advantage of photo references and zooming in and electric lights and pre-tubed paint and not worrying about cholera, I still struggle with color and form and composition, and a lot of my clouds come out looking like shit. They had to stand outside and paint cloud studies and bring them back into their studio to use as reference, or just try to remember what a cloud looks like. Not easy. And don’t get me wrong, 95% of the time I was standing there, I was simply marveling at the use of light and form and color and composition. But weirdly, I left feeling confident, like a solid painter in my own right, and that is such a rare feeling, if I’m being really honest. So I’m not certain what happened, or even if there’s a moral to this story, other than go to see the paintings that you know really do it for you. See them in person if and when you can. Stand quietly in front of them and don’t take selfies or photos because that really just makes you a fucking dummy. Stand there and marvel, and wonder about the life of the painter and watch how their mind works.