Friday, June 3, 2016

Why do we paint?

Fields at Luscher Farms

As we were sitting in the shade on a warm almost summer day, our eyes focused on our paintings, but our minds free to converse, my friend and painting mentor, Randall asked me why I wanted to paint, what it was that I expected to get out of it, or something to that effect, as he sees me struggling with my self-education.  I responded with something about how I am such a literal person and need to learn the fundamentals before I feel able to express myself more competently.  I'm not creating Art, I'm "practicing."  And while that is a dodge, an excuse that I frequently use, it is also based in truth; I don't have a cranky art instructor critiquing my work and telling me to tear it up and start over, so I have to play the cranky part myself.  But assuming my practice does result in acquiring the skills to paint what is in my heart and mind, then why indeed do I want to paint?

Annie Dillard, in her book The Writing Life, does a good job of pointing out what it is we seek in Art.  If you substitute "painter" for "writer" the following might apply:

Why are we reading, if not for the hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed?  Can the writer isolate and vivify all in experience that most deeply engages our intellects and our hearts?  Can the writer renew our hope for literary forms?  Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power?  What do we ever know that is higher than that power which, from time to time, seizes our lives, and reveals us startlingly to ourselves as creatures set down here bewildered?  Why does death so catch us by surprise, and why love?  We still and always want waking.  We should amass half dressed in long lines like tribesmen and shake gourds at each other, to wake up; instead we watch television and miss the show.

It is so hard to explain what grabs us when we see a painting that reaches out and touches our hearts, but whatever it is, Randall has it is spades: his work is so poetic and filled with the emotions Nature has evoked in him.  I aspire to reach just a bit of that ability, and so I practice.  Some of that practice is of the human face, in all its subtlety.   Here is the latest effort on that front: