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  • Writer's pictureCarolyn Land

Your Purpose for Painting

“The work of a man is the explanation of the man.”                                                 Paul Gauguin

I have written many times about having an “Artist Statement”, which tells people what motivates you, the artist, to paint.  For emerging artists, this is “good food for thought”, and an excellent exercise to undertake.  It helps you zero in on why you pick certain subjects to paint, what motivates you to do what you do, and how you want to do it.

Another consideration however, is knowing your purpose for painting.  What is your goal?  Where do you want to be with your art, 5 years from now?  We all need to be creative, but how far to you want to push your creative spirit?  Are you a “hobbyist” or do you have loftier goals? Is the act of painting therapy, or a way to escape the everyday doldrums?  Are you technique oriented, and need to work until you render something perfectly?  Do you aspire to show your work and compete, sell your work, be in a gallery?  Knowing the answer to these questions enables you to “play” with more purpose, because you will know who you want your audience to be: family, friends, the public.

I would categorize artists in three ways; although there are no straight lines or one size fits all.   The first are those who are so passionate about their work, it is their “life blood”.  It is who they are, and gives purpose and meaning to their being.  The second group, is made of artists who feel that art is a part of the “whole”, a need, but not imperative as “life support”.  The third group, is made up of people who feel art it is a way to let their “creative spirit” speak, when they have the opportunity.  They want to enjoy the process and have fun!

If you fall in the first category, art is your life. You will learn all you can about your subject.  You will understand composition and principles of design to the fullest, and you will do, due diligence to the technique you use to express your voice.  You will be concerned about who your audience will be, and find every opportunity to be in front of that audience.  You are driven to create and having your voice heard.

                     “I am a great artist and I know it.  It is because I am that I have endured such suffering.”                                  Paul Gauguin

If you fall in the second category, you will have some of the same characteristics as those who require “artistic life support”, but you will enjoy the process more, and not be as concerned about who your audience will be, or what they think or feel. Competition takes a back seat to the creative process.

“Ultimately, my hope is to amaze myself.  The anticipation of discovering new possibilities becomes my greatest joy.” Jerry Uelsmann

The third category, are those who enjoy the process most of all.  They find fulfillment in self-expression, and learning new things; having fun is paramount.

“Painting is self-discovery.”   Jackson Pollock

Pastel painting by FL artist Carolyn Land

In the Quiet of Morn, I Think

There are times we need to sit back and take stock of our art life, and the direction in which we are going. Knowing your purpose will help you determine the answer to many of the questions I have been discussing. So, ask yourself the following questions: What is important to me in the creative process?  Where am I on this continuum of hobbyist to professional?  What are my aspirations?

No matter what your answers are, or where you fall on the continuum, as artists, we need to make sure our work reflects who we are.  We must always be authentic.

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