Why? Drilling Down to the Find the Answer

Why do I paint? Why do I get up and go to the studio every day? Why do, I do what I do? They all seem like innocent questions, but in truth, I’ve had a hard time getting to the real…or...honest answer.

First answers to come to mind were the standard “I paint because I love it” or “I paint because I need to” and many of the other common answers we’ve all heard to the question of Why? These standard answers have been recited so many times, by so many artists, that they have almost become a cliché. And what do they really say anyway? You need to…well I need to eat, sleep, and work to live…well, so does everyone else. So, do I need to paint to live? Well maybe not for my very existence, but to have a life? Definitely.

Backing up a little, I began to ponder the question because it has been talked about in an “art business” forum I follow. It has been proposed that “If you find your why, then you will know what to do”, “you will know how to talk to people about your art”, “you’ll know how to connect with people”.

Really? Ok, I’m on board, let’s find my Why?

Stretching to expand beyond the obvious answers, I encountered the “arty” answers (and yes I am making air quotes as I say “arty”). Those are the ones I read and think, what the hell, I don’t understand any of it? Or, the ones filled with such big words, I need a dictionary to understand them. Those weren’t quite the right answers either.

Other artists started to post their why’s to the group and they were beautiful, inspiring…in fact I wanted their whys to be my why…I tried them on…they didn’t fit!

It would have been easy to accept one of the clichés or to adopt another’s motivation. But if I wanted to be honest, authentic to me, I needed to get to the root of my Why? It’s been much, much, harder to answer such a seemingly simple question of Why? than I ever thought it would be.

Then I found it!

Just the other day, I was feeling a little sad, a little depressed, doubting everything, and totally unmotivated. I thought I might as well get something crossed off the old to do list. I sat down and painted 1” squares of color, adding white to create a 5-step value scale. The purpose is to see how the colors tint out and learn more about their properties – transparent or opaque, how intense the color is, that sort of thing.

I didn’t spend long at it, it’s not like an all-day thing, but all in all, a couple of hours. Cleaning up, I caught myself humming along to the music. In that moment, my Why? gelled. It might be one of the cliché answers, but I DO paint to be happy! Painting those stupid little squares of color, made me happy, it totally changed my mood, it was my light in the sea of darkness. And, as I thought of it more, I realized, it is about the actual process of painting and not the finished artwork.

I paint because without it, I’m a negative, angry, depressed, fun sucking person that no one would want to be around. (I might have exaggerated a little.) Painting is my happy drug, my positivity giver, my ……light in the darkness.

I often wondered why I feel disconnected from finished work. I’ve looked at finished work and thought “I don’t remember how I did that.” I know other artists that have trouble letting go of paintings to sell, but I don’t seem to.  I paint intuitively, so I thought it must just be because I tend to zone out while painting that I feel detached from the finished artwork. But I’m now wondering if it’s because it IS the process of painting I need, not the end product, and if that’s the cause of the removed feelings? Make sense?

Getting back to the original point – pondering the big question of Why? and how knowing the answer is supposed to help to connect with people and potential buyers? Yea…I don’t see how that’s going to work for me…maybe in leading art therapy sessions. :)

But, it was good! I find the answers to my Why? I have learned how important painting is to nurture my soul and how vital painting is to remain happy and staying positive in life. In the end, that’s all a girl can ask for!

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lifeNancy MurtyComment