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Still I Learn

I first saw this black crayon drawing by Francisco Goya when I was in my twenties. I couldn’t stop thinking about this hoary old guy. His composition is stunning, the light and shade around him as compelling as Rembrandt’s. Now in my seventies, I’m looking at it more closely. And another element emerges, louder, brighter, and clearer than the rest.

Francisco Goya, Still I Learn

The date: 1828, the last year of Goya’s life. He was in his late seventies, infirm, and completely deaf. A survivor of several serious illnesses, he probably felt very much like the old man. I wonder about him too, and what he was real or just a composite. Where was he going? And what was he still learning? We know Goya was concentrating on the new art of lithography at the time.

I identify with Goya’s need to learn. He gives me an excuse for exploring techniques and effects available in programs like Photoshop, Adobe Premiere Pro, and Adobe After Effects. I like to picture him transported to today, sitting at a computer, hacking away at stunning color combinations.

I admire Goya for creating this ghostly visage of old age. But I don’t want to be like him. I know how wishes work in shows like “One Step Beyond.” There’s always a catch. If you want to be like one of the greats, that wish-grantor genie also makes you suffer like them. He was hounded by the imperious Catholic Church and its brutal Inquisition and had to sidestep through courtly politics and thickheaded kings like Carlos III and Ferdinand VII. No thank you. Way too much stress.

Francisco Goya & Peter Bates, Altered Drawing

I don’t envy Goya’s life. Who I really want to be is the old man in Aun Aprendo. Looking wryly to the side and continuing to move forward, even while balanced on sticks, he’s my latest obsession. In the picture above I’ve stuck my own face into the drawing. I just learned how to do that today.

Peter Bates

Peter Bates is a writer and photographer living in Florida. He is the administrator of this blog and runs the blog Stylus.

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