Wednesday, January 23, 2013

"What's the point?"....

This title is a direct quote relayed to me via an email from a friend and fellow painter from our Hillsdale days. The quote is not directly her own... but she admits to having shared these same feelings which her friend had offered as an answer to her meant-to-be-encouraging question," When are you going to get back to your painting?" I'm sure that a good many people ask... or have asked themselves that very same question... and on numerous occasions. What can one say to a friend, or individual who feels so negatively about their creative process and spirit?

There is no "pat answer" I feel... simply because both the creative process and spirit of each individual is dependent upon so many variables. However... I will offer an observation from my own personal experiences that one might consider. It seems to me... that individuals with whom I've been acquainted... who create out of a sense of passion, rarely find themselves harbouring this "cul de sac" mentality and view of themselves. Their spirit is relentlessly in search of new knowledge... and they are never thrown from the saddle by "failure" or the challenge of honing a new skill or direction for their thinking.

There is no point... if one always arrives at the same predictable point where one left off... at the conclusion of the each previous work session. Treating one's process as a formulaic... linear and as a destination to be reached... is from the very onset... dead end. Copying other people's images directly... working from photos... "surfing" for direction and new purpose through other blog sites... is hugely limiting. Often, it is as well hyper-discouraging because the purpose of any art activity is to create self-expression. Interior ally... one always lives with the knowledge that the product lacks originality of thought. It might easily impress those who are not privy to the actual truth... but it is worthless as a deeply personal and motivating incentive to go forward with excitement and anticipation of finding the next piece of the puzzle. That's the whole point in creating anything. The rewards are Pride and Self esteem!

I offered no sympathy... solution or wise words of advice to my friend in my return email. I don't attend "pity parties." I choose to hang out with only those individuals, who by their actions... and not just their words, share the deep passion... sense of privilege and gratitude that I feel within... to be able to pursue and conduct  my journey... on my own terms and in good health... each and every day. I am NOT looking down my nose at... or judging anyone for their choices... but these are mine. Here are my reasons and my strategies for never allowing my Self to arrive at that "what's the point" state.

A Voice... which says ..."ART MATTERS!"
Artistic expression is equally valid and valued by me as a "voice", as are traditional universally accepted spoken and written forms of communication. Pictures were our first means of expressing ourselves and story-telling as children. We ALL made pictures willfully and  exuberantly with unfettered freedom. There were no rules... judgements or personal limitations. Our creations simply "were"..

The rules were introduced and imposed by an adult world. It was at that point when "the child"... playful and free... ceased to exist... or create in such beautiful and personal ... simplicity. At the end of our lives... "Some" of us dare to begin a search... no, a journey back past "the rules" through discouragement and socially induced fear of flying to that original Neverland and Place of Joy. Many... fail to arrive... or pretend... and end up throwing up their hands saying... "What's the use?" Others... and "I" am but one... paint  on... and  anxiously look around the corner in anticipation of the next opportunity to paint-and-learn... think-and -do.

Thinking... and Doing... BOTH MATTER!
At  middle age... and onward into "retirement"... many of us surrender both daily routine (ritual) and purpose and in many cases, lose touch with work relationships... routines and mental activity which basically defined us... and our sense of belonging and achievement. Being "retired" is a much sought after goal - being alive to collect pensions... and more importantly, have increased control over and use of our Time. For many, coming home (to live) is a big adjustment for both spouses... after excitement of the long-awaited promise of that planned long vacation has passed. What to do with the new coin of the realm -Time?

"Retirement" for "Me" is re-tire-ment. Four "new" tires... and on the road again. I used art in my "day job"in the classroom during all of my adult life... sharing my passion with children and other peers who believed, as I did that "Art Matters!" The difference in my "re-tire-ment"... is that I don't have to keep a daily planning book... or be (somewhat)  accountable for the performance of others in my presence. But... I continue to share my creative spirit and process in an open fashion through my classes and my blog site. Each painting and very post that share with you and others in the world gives me purpose and energy to "think-and -do."

There is a greater likelihood that the "D" word... dreaded stalker of old age will have unfair advantage over my capacity to "think... or do."
"Use it... or lose it!" ..... seems completely a sound strategy... to at least delay earlier onset than might occur by neglect. Think... about that... and do something. Maybe that's "point" enough! Even as a hobby... along with other enjoyable activities such as reading, puzzles, games and anything else you might find to be both pleasurable and rewarding.

We are all social beings... in need of meaningful contact... companionship and association with others of our kind. I am blessed to share such a relationship with my spouse Deb. I do get out to paint with others... or share our lovely home and the Islands when they come to visit and paint. Finding... or creating a small group who shares your passion and interest on a regular basis not only offers one something to look forward to on a regular basis... but at the same time exposes one to new ideas and techniques which further inspire and advance further personal development and learning.

Sketch Booking and Journaling
Buy yourself a bound sketch book and whatever drawing or sketching mediums you might wish to experiment with. Carry it with you wherever you go. You never know where an"idea" will present itself... and believe me, at our age... ideas are fleeting and elusive. Develop the sketch book beyond  being a mere drawing exercise. Mine records things which interest me like weather, temperature, a historical fact gleaned, person met, or colour notes to act as reference... should I wish to find the place again on a more suitable day... or to develop it further some day down the road into a painting.Here is a quote on the inside cover of one of my earlier sketch books... now waiting on my bookshelf... to come out of... "re-tire-ment."

Ideas come...
Ideas go.
This is my place
In which I stow.
Those kernels
I harvest
Along the way
In hopes that  they'll trigger...
And sustain "Me"... move me ahead
On some fallow day!

I hope that this post doesn't come off as a pompous tome... from someone with all of the answers. It is not intended... or offered as such. I offer it purely as a further insight into how I continue to journey with Hope and Optimism in my daily life. I paint today... and always, out of a natural compulsion to actively and freely express... and share my personal thoughts and observations as I journey. Painting... and most especially when I am able to paint en plein air... puts "Me" in touch with this Cathedral of Creation... an Eden that we are blessed... each of us to worship and live in. "I" am One" with all of Creator... His Creation... and the Universe.... and "that's the point"... for "Me"

And to my talented fellow "painter"... Paint on!... Keep searching!... And a happy... and quickly approaching retirement to both of you! Thank you for the post idea!

Wishing you all Good Painting... and deep and rich blessings in your lives and Art!

"A Rideau Relic" on  Little Rideau River Road - (as is) oil sketch on panel 8x10 inches
Completed while I waited for Deb to finish up at her Frontenac Arch Biosphere Retreat Day Session at Chaffey's Locks on the Rideau River. A productive day for us both.Her inside and at it... and myself  "out there"... in that "Always Fresh" ... Canadian winter landscape!

Winter became a tad more than fresh today in Rockport and for much of Canada too! What a glorious morning... right from first light! "River Spirits"... my description of the shafts of steam... as they wafted off the rapidly icing open waters... making their eerie way westward. Shore of Canadian ice skates out rapidly to join hands with the American side on the south side of the River!

Would I go out for my morning walk-about? What's the point of freezin' yer sweet --- off? Never entered my mind.  See what you folks huddled warmly in comfort at home missed this morning?? Always a reward... and something to be gained through stepping up....

Made the tea extra special... upon my return! Stay warm!

Ishpeming... iced in for the winter

Jack Frost (no relation to Captain Peter)... at work

Close enough to nip yer nose!

Creation is random???.... unplanned???? Me thinks not!!!


  1. I don't paint as often as I would like, however, I have never voiced that expression (What's the point?) because know why I paint. I only paint to please myself and my family...and...thank family is easily pleased. I paint from my own photos as I am never certain when I will be able to paint, and always take a picture of what I would like to see hang on my wall, or my family member's day. I have to admit, though. I really REALLY want to try painting outdoors...soon!

  2. Hi Wndy!... Thanks for visiting... and for leaviing your very valid points!

    What you have added merely confirms my statement that there are so many variables and personal reasons for painting... or not! Life can indeed get in the way of a regular routine when family must be taken care of!

    Do find a way and the time to try your hand painting outdoors. You will never regret the effort made to do so. That experience will change your ideas about painting in general forever... as it has for me!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  3. Sometimes it gets hard to keep bouncing back up when a piece turns into a failure again and again, Bruce. For me, while not a true pity party, it is just simply fact. The point, however, for me is that it has to be a true passion because it is the one thing I do again and again since I was 6 and won my one and only art contest. I keep trying because I must! So? 47 years later, I still keep trying to do my ideas justice. Sometimes I succeed in my own mind, others - more often than not - are failures. But I sure can attest to bring frustrated enough and reaching that why bother point? I bother on, though, merely for the love of it.

    I love the old, probably no longer used, barn. You have such a wonderful style that I adore in every piece you do. I think your heart comes through loud and clear in all your work.

  4. Good Morning Dear Friend Sherry!... Thank you... for never giving up on your sharing of your art and your exceptional spirit - "We" are all the better for that choice that you continue to make.... each and every time you try... one more time!

    Painting is only a game of failure... when one does it for less than authentic reasons in my mind... or when one views everything they do as "failure." In either case, the end result is predestined to become simply that - self imposed failure.

    Your passion is obvious Sherry... not only for Art itself... but for life... family and people at large. Service... is also an art form... one which the current world needs more mentors in... than more "artists."

    Your "Presence" is a huge gift to "Me" personally on my own journey. Your continual visits... comments and assurances buoy up my own work and journey. So if you "adore my wonderful style" (your words)... know that your words enable me to continue... "to try"... again and again... just like you. "We" are a choir Sherry. Each of us has a distinct "voice"... which is unique and beautiful... and worthy of being heard. Join in... by choice... in a choir where no voice is greater than the rest... and the "music" we have to share ... together... will reshape and make the sad world around us... a better place... for others and in the same breath... better for us too.

    Is that "failure?.......
    I wonder!..............
    Choice again Sherry!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  5. A very timely post for me Bruce because I have recently been reflecting on the fact that all of my 'art' is copied from existing images and therefore totally lacks any self expression from me. It is why I put the word art in single quotes. I don't like to call it 'art' .... and that means I don't like to call myself an 'artist'. It's for me to put some of ME on the canvas. Thank you. ;-)

  6. Good evening John!... Thank you ever so much for visiting and for offering your own personal feelings about the post and your own artistic process.

    Please don't feel negatively about your "art"... and moreoverr and to the point don't devalue it. Making art and finding one's own vision and process is a life time commitment. We all develop differently and favour certain modalities with which to learn.

    Copying from images is legitimate... many beginning "artists" use it to commence their journeys... and I was one of those people. I learn better independently... and by trial and error. I sense we share that preference.

    By all means look to and work towards that time when YOU decide to lay aside images as crutches and finally... no matter the outcome... build upon a process that is truly your own.

    I remember those plein air sketches that you made and posted a while back. I truly enjoyed them... and could feel the passion that you enjoyed and recorded in making those small studies! Maybe that's a place to start... when the weatrher permits. Unbtil then

    Good Painting and playing!
    Warmest regards,