A letter to Henry Miller: To paint is to love again, indeed

Henry Miller

Henry Miller

Dear Henry Miller,

To paint is to love again, indeed. There were times in your life when you just closed yourself in your room and painted like crazy for days. You didn’t care about anything else but your watercolors because you loved life so deeply and that was the best way you found to express your love. To paint is to love again and the hardest thing to do is to replicate the drawing of a child, you said. You wanted innocence and freedom and love and these are great lessons for all of us to learn.

A writer who paints is actually more common than people might think. Sylvia Plath had a major in art and literature. John Fowles used to paint as well and wrote beautiful descriptions in his journals of the landscapes that touched his artistic sensitivity, he was especially fond of the purity of light and color typical to the Greek islands. The time spent in Spetses as an English teacher inspired him to write The Magus. In one of his journal’s entries, he talks about a lack of balance between the quantity of art people consume and the amount they produce. He goes on, pointing out that the mentioned unbalance could lead to what he called “the constipation of the demiurges”. How beautiful and funny at the same time! I am sure you would have liked it. Even Victor Hugo did them both. I believe it is wrong to limit ourselves to only mean of expression, when creativity comes, we should just bow down in front of it.

Henry Miller, image via Henry Miller Org.

Henry Miller, image via Henry Miller Org.

I think about love all the time. For artists, love equals inspiration. I find myself writing nostalgic texts when I need to release some pressure from my heart. I always tend to go back to the past when I write. With painting, it is different because if I let my hand go free, I can discover some unknown things. Writing can be painful, it fixes the weight of the words on a support, but painting is more dreamy. I don’t care about perspective, technique, quality. If I wanted to obey rules, I wouldn’t have turned to art. There is something heavy inside myself and something feathery. This is why I paint and write. This is nostalgia.

Henry Miller watercolor painting, Insomnia series

Henry Miller watercolor painting, Insomnia series

I am a passionate reader, I have been reading constantly since I was a child. My room is filled with paper books. They say you can live a multitude of lives through reading. Your books, Henry, have a special place in my collection. When I like a writer a lot, I just go and buy all his books and sometimes I get sad if that writer died and I know he cannot write more books anymore for me to devour. I have the whole collection of Haruki Murakami, Isabel Allende, Jose Saramago, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Antonio Tabucchi. And of course, your books, Henry, standing next to another book that fascinates me, Codex Seraphinianus of Luigi Serafini, an illustrated atlas of imaginary beings, that required the invention of a whole language and even an alphabet that goes with it.

The Henry Miller Odyssey (1969) – A documentary

I walked with you the streets of New York or Paris and followed the solitary pace of your thoughts while wandering through the forests of Big Sur, California. I also go for a walk every evening to clear my head and meditate about the meaning of all the things we live. I always looked for meaning in the books I read and in the encounters with people that crossed my path in life. We walk around, apparently with no purpose, but it’s up to us to filter from the multitude of emotions and experiences what is life really about. I am not worried I might have not found an answer yet to the many existential questions that blossomed in my head and I then address to God, to Jung or to you, Henry. You were 88 years old when you died and you wrote somewhere that those who had moments of great despair are those who are also aware of how great the instinct to live is. These might not be your precise words, but I know what you mean: when someone constantly thinks about death but finds himself running from the bus that could crash into him.

Henry Miller Painting, image via Henry Miller Org.

Henry Miller painting, image via Henry Miller Org.

To paint is to love again, you said, and you did love for many times in your life, with the pure heart of a never grown up. It is a matter of purity to be able to fall in love again despite the pain that inevitably comes with it. All the letters you wrote are proof of your passion: the passionate letters you wrote to Anais Nin and to the women that were your lovers. You did write many letters in your life, addressed to writer friends, such as Lawrence Durrell, or just to people that wrote you from all over the world when your inner voice started resonating inside people hearts. You said in those times you wouldn’t do anything else all day, just respond to letters, sometimes you even forgot to eat. I understand you well because since I started writing for berlin-artparasites, I sometimes forget to eat as well. People need solace and if I just happened to have the gift to put emotions into words, I should use it wisely. There is so much healing power into words.

Henry Miller painting, The Procession

Henry Miller painting, The Procession

I travelled with you across Greece and across America and I marvelled at the wisdom of the traveler, that had an eye for the beauty of the lands and an eye for the people inhabiting them. You were quite adventurous and last but not least, I should tell you I really enjoyed reading your lustful adventures. Lust is part of the human nature, I believe it should not dominate our entire behaviour, but we shouldn’t also remain deaf to nature’s call.

Love comes with lust. Painting comes with love. Writing and painting go well together. And this is love letter for all those people who know how to enjoy life. To paint is to love again, you said, and I would just add: to love is to live. And your sincere writing, dear Henry Miller, has touched me deeply.



Henry Valentine Miller (December 26, 1891 – June 7, 1980) was an American writer. He was known for breaking with existing literary forms, developing a new sort of semi-autobiographical novel that blended character study, social criticism, philosophical reflection, explicit language, sex, surrealist free association and mysticism. His most characteristic works of this kind are Tropic of Cancer (1934), Black Spring (1936), Tropic of Capricorn (1939) and The Rosy Crucifixion trilogy (1949–59), all of which are based on his experiences in New York and Paris, and all of which were banned in the United States until 1961. He also wrote travel memoirs and literary criticism, and painted watercolors.

Laura Livia Grigore is a poet, painter and psychology enthusiast, with a background in space engineering. She likes to experiment with various mediums and types of writing. Her artwork is orientated on emotions, reflecting her opinion that most of the answers we need can be found inside ourselves, although the hardest thing to do is to be sincere with oneself.

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