Why We Paint
For the last day of this 30 days of blogs about the daily studio practice, I address the most essential ideas behind humans and creativity. Each of these 30 posts has covered something that comes up in a daily practice over the normal course of events– but this one is about the driving force behind it all.
For me, I am certain that the core motivation behind all creativity is connection. It starts in the mind, linking one thing to another, and the painting (or drawing, writing, or other medium) is basically showing the work. Tracing that path so another person can follow it, and sharing that recognition when they get there. If I could not show my work or use it to connect with others, I would probably still make it just to entertain myself, as I did when I was a child. But the connection and the recognition is part of a chain reaction that leads to more and more of that thrill of touching something inside another person. I don’t believe artists are trying to be inaccessible, mysterious or enigmatic, even when their work requires some effort to understand. They are seeking understanding for themselves, and attempting to share that with others.
We each have different origins for our work. Some use work for stress release, a kind of meditation. Others need income and gravitate toward what serves that need. The joy of recording nature or familiar scenes and faces may be all the artist needs to continue. I have learned that memory and identity are important words for me, and that I use the past, nostalgia and a strong point of view in all my work. I am not sure it is vital to know your own motivations, but I do know how you can find out.
Keep searching your work for clues. Make a lot of new work. Do the self-critiques and the writing exercises that mine your strongest feelings and memories for imagery. Look at works by others that have impacted you and think about what you felt and experienced at that time. Spend some time daydreaming and doodling without a plan or a goal. Try a new medium or a different size canvas and push at your boundaries. Paint something you would never paint, in a way you would never paint it. These things are all challenging and will cause you to grow, and to surprise yourself, and ultimately to know yourself better. That is what your art demands. Give the practice a little of what it wants, every day, and it will reward you again and again.
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