Online Blog tour with author Mary E Martin: The Drawing Lesson

Hi Fran… Here are some answers.

Alexander Wainwright was an outstanding artist and painter. Why was he so shaken up when he lost his muse- Peter, which created conflicts in his artistic expression and his paintings to take on a new dimension and character?

At the beginning of this novel, Alexander is about to embark on a long journey, which will ultimately result in a fundamental change in his nature. When he refused to read his friend Peter’s manuscript, he genuinely thought he was doing the best possible thing for him. He had a heartfelt belief that an artist must go it alone and that he must not interfere in Peter’s work.


At one point, Alexander says that,  “An artist such as Peter would have been destroyed by the likes of me. He doesn’t know it yet, but he needs to free himself from me…” He wanted to give Peter the highest degree of artistic freedom without any interference from himself. I think this is a very laudable motive, but Peter doesn’t see it this way at all. Peter is terribly hurt, feeling that he has been abandoned by his friend at the moment of his greatest need.


Earlier in the story, Alexander has been seized by an artistic vision. Suddenly, he has painted ugly, misshapen creatures across his most recent, beautiful landscape. He does not know why, but he calls these beings the trolls. Their appearance in his painting shocks him, but he senses that his landscapes are the way human beings see the universe…beautiful but essentially abandoned by its creator. I think Alex has been living his life this way—abandoning those who love and need him. And Alex, as Peter says, is playing the god who turns his back on human needs.


While Alex may have been right to insist upon giving Peter his artistic freedom, he forgot that Peter is much more than an artist. Artistic endeavour is only one part of a human being. Alex has overlooked Peter’s very human needs of love, support, care and interest.


Perhaps this is a pattern in Alex’s life. As a great artist, sometimes he fails to give people what they need. Alex cannot seem to give Daphne, his latest muse, a real “human” relationship. She wants him and his love expressed in this here and now world. But he can only respond to her inspirational value as his muse.


In fact, there’s a bit of a history here. Years back, he loved Maggie, one of his students. She was a young, married woman with whom he began an intense affair. Did she leave and return to her husband because she become pregnant? Why did he not insist on knowing? Daphne tells him he seems to be living on a different plane, high above everyone else. Is this, she asks, because he is afraid of what is down here?


Alex may use people as inspiration for his art. That is why he is journeying to find his muse. But something must be wrong with that. Where does love, concern, care and compassion fit in. Don’t other people have their own needs which should be at least taken into account?



And so, that is exactly what Alexander has to learn. By the end of the story, he understands compassion—the ability to stand in another’s shoes and to suffer with that person. Other people’s needs are important. So many of the people he meets in the story help to teach him exactly that. When Alex saves his tormentor, Rinaldo, not once but twice, he proves he has well and truly learned the lesson. He has grown so that he can genuinely forgive Rinaldo and all his attempts at destroying his career.

When he realized that Rinaldo was out to destroy him why did he still seek his approval and allow his mind and hands to paint grotesque pictures and lose the light and vibrance that he had painted before?

This novel is more than just about a drawing lesson or flashbacks about how his career began: Rinaldo’s and opinions proved to have a great impact on Alexander: Why?

I’m not so sure Alex is seeking Rinaldo’s approval. But definitely, Rinaldo’s actions have contributed to Alex’s mental and emotional state. It’s like when you are at the top of your game and someone comes along and undermines you by making you doubt yourself. You might say that Rinaldo knocks Alex off his perch!  Certainly, I think that Alex was ready to move on to his next stage of artistic creation and the next stage of his personal evolution. Rinaldo is the trickster who shakes things up and foments change. In fact, as Alex’s art dealer says that Rinaldo was very important in moving Alex onto his next stage of development in his art.

Why did he feel it necessary to have a muse or someone to help inspire him to paint?

An artist such as Alexander is working at a very deep level of his psyche where all the truly creative processes occur. The best way to answer the question is to quote the man himself as he speaks to Daphne.

“My art comes from deep within. Some places are comfortable, familiar rooms, which I have often visited in dreams and reveries. Others are wonderfully fanciful and enchanting lands. Still others

contain the terrifying stuff of nightmares. But all those places have their treasures and must be explored and intimately known if one is to create. Some quality, an essence, within the

muse is like a candle flickering in the dark, illuminating everything in those rooms. That light leads the poor artist through his own private heaven and hell ever onward to his creation.”

What influence would Daphne have on Alexander in the future?

This is such a great question! Daphne will likely reappear in the third novel of this trilogy. She is definitely the stabilizing influence in his life. She brings him down to earth which he very much needs. A person such as Alex lives, according to her, “up in the clouds” unaware of the people down below. Because Alex is a visionary artist, he needs this ballast in his life. One of the hardest things for him to learn will be that, although he has access to mystical experience which takes him deep into the psyche, he must still be able to live on planet earth with those who have love to offer.

With what he pulls on him at the close of the novel, why would he forgive him? What was Rinaldo’s true motive in destroying Alexander?

Rinaldo’s motive is jealously and envy. He is absolutely infuriated that Alexander has snatched a prize which is so frequently awarded to conceptual artists. He regards Alex and his work as trite and bourgeois. I had some difficulty in creating a balanced portrait of Rinaldo. On the one hand, I’m much more like Alex than Rinaldo. Personally, I like to think that there are forces operating in this world which are yet to be discovered and understood. I am not like Rinaldo who is basically a nihilist, an existentialist. To me the world is not meaningless and absurd.  So, it was hard to give Rinaldo his due as an artist who is regarded as the outsider. He is the one who can lead the way to the next stage in art. But actually, ironically, he forces Alex to cut the new path. Alex becomes the one who leads the way—not Rinaldo.