March 2018 Why do I paint?
I was recently asked "Why do you paint for your job?". An innocent question from an innocent child. A seemingly easy question to answer but upon further reflection I began to realize it was much bigger. The easy answer would be to say that "I love to paint"... or "It's all I've ever wanted to do". I've felt extremely fortunate at times that I have carved out this life for myself. Sure, it's not all glamourous but I'm sure any artist, making a living from their craft, will tell you that sometimes you have to pick and choose the bills you have to pay... and I am no exception. I have been fortunate though. I have been affiliated with 4 galleries, traveled over 5 countries, been on the cover of the local paper (twice), been in a few local magazines and on a few local TV stations. I explored multiple genres and exhibited my work for the past 18 years and made a living at it. Most importantly, I've met so many great friends. Somewhere in that process I even found Krista... and we had 2 daughters together.
So that part is great.
Looking back the biggest mistake (not a regret) was showing my work so early. When cheques started to come in regularly, I stopped being the artist I wanted to be. I couldn't have known that at the time. To me that was "success". I was a successful artist... but who or what was creating me? The money? The gallery system? The love and praise from family and friends? Probably all of the above. Again, no regrets. I enjoyed every naive minute of it... well almost every minute.
So 18 years have gone by. I've made some big decisions along the way but a few that I've made in the past 5 years have been career shifting. Each time it is a difficult thing to do. After all, this big hole I've been living in has been a comfortable one. With each choice I've made I've felt I was going backwards but, in fact, I am crawling out of the hole and into the place I truly want to be.
It's usually in times of transition that I start to question "What am I doing?" and rather, "What am I REALLY doing?". Perhaps you have heard the 10,000 hour theory. The theory is anyone can become a professional after putting the time in. I'm not so sure that "professional" is the right term. I'm sure you can become competent but to truly be good at what you do probably takes passion, drive and enthusiasm as well as being competent. After 18 years I feel confident that I can paint a landscape... even one that will most likely sell... but is that what I should be doing? Of course there is a voice inside that says... "just do that then"... "Go on, make people happy, lease a new Honda, get some new shoes for the girls." That's when I forget that I am an artist. I feel, at times, very competent, but after 18 years I feel like it's losing its steam. Sure there are many ways to prolong that for a few more years... new galleries, new clients and new cities, but what then? What's the point of reaching new people if what you're showing them is a bunch of bullshit? So now I'm back in the studio sitting in front of a few new canvases covered in a process I love but what scares me the most, is that new work may not preform as well as the previous.
I do my best to find times to turn off my brain... it seriously goes 24/7. Understandably so, I have chosen a way of life that is very demanding. One income, two kids, rent on a house that may be too big for our needs, a car, food, supplies, the aforementioned shoes, debt... it's crazy I know... reality is a bitch. Equally hard is seeing family and friends progress in a trajectory that I feel I should be on. They can teach you the Fine Arts but very few will teach you how to be an artist.
Recently I have returned to abstract work but I have not always loved it... in fact I think there was a time when I really didn't care for it. In 2012 I saw a documentary where Gerhard Richter, a German painter, let the cameras into his studio for the first time. I was floored. For the first time in my life I wanted to try something that someone else was doing... and I did. In fact, I did it for almost a year. Looking back, I can see that it wasn't the paintings I liked but rather, it was his focus. Here was an 80 year old man doing what appeared to be what he was supposed to be doing.
A week ago I had a comment on social media which read "Riopelle eat your heart out". A great comparison considering the work did, in fact, resemble his. I had seen his work at the local museum but honestly was never drawn to it. It appears now that our artistic paths have crossed. What he did prior to that and what he did after makes Riopelle... Riopelle. What led me to this point... and what I do after makes me... me. In the past I may have been discouraged to find out that someone else had the same idea as me ( or I them ). I see this all around me now. So a particular piece of mine looks like a particular piece of his but what brought us there is probably very different. Where I go from here will most likely be very different from where Riopelle ended up.
Often, much of my day is spent sitting in front of a canvas contemplating what to do next. I'd be lying if I said I didn't still momentarily consider what would be best for my family when picking a colour or a canvas size but at least I feel like I'm facing the right direction. Going back to Riopelle, he said "When I hesitate, I do not paint. When I paint, I don't hesitate" and this (like seeing Richter for the first time) resonates.
I just realized I haven't answered the question "Why do I paint?". I paint because it's what I do. It's what I love. It's what I hate. It presents great challenges. It provides crushing blows and great rewards. It defines my inner thoughts and feelings and allows me to expose my most vulnerable side. I will never pretend to understand what those around me are going through. We all have our obstacles to overcome. Some of us choose to "put it out there" or "allow people in"... I'm one of those people.
So many of my subscribers have many of my pieces on their walls. Although I don't believe contemporary art to necessarily be an investment, many of you have invested in me. Sure I have some favourite pieces but I assure you that each piece represents a small part of what got me to this point
Now, I am still uncertain what the future will bring... or what I'll be painting... but sometimes you just have to trust that a rocky road will eventually bring you to a beautiful place. If it doesn't, who cares? I've still got all those friends and supporters, my girls and the satisfaction that I did what I was meant to do.