How about some more artsy philosophy?
I wrote a blog a while ago entitled "Hey, That's Mine!" where I discussed my ideas about copyright and intellectual property, and well, it's not the kind of perspective or position most people would expect an artist to have. This time I want to explore the seemingly paradoxical idea that my paintings are not created for me, but for others.
I say it's paradoxical because if I am not creating paintings for myself, then why would I be so adamant about not letting anyone tell me what, or how to paint? I do paint what I am 'told' to paint, but that comes from somewhere inside me, or from outside in the ether, or a combination of the two, or whatever. But I don't listen to anyone who would tell me what they think I should be doing with my art. I believe that if you are going to have long term success, however you like to define that, and fulfillment with your artistic endeavors, then you must be authentic, true to yourself so to speak, and not be concerned about what you think others would like you to do.
I have often told the story of how I was into painting trees, conifers in particular, back in my early days of trying to get my career going in Montreal. The galleries there were not interested in my work and did not think it was a good fit for their clientele. Instead of adjusting my style to fit that market, I simply came out west to pursue my goals. I came to a place that was a good fit for me instead!
Now, like most artists, I like some of my paintings more than others. I also discovered a long time ago that my favorite paintings are rarely the most popular in the art market. So I just do what comes to me, making sure they are good paintings, and let them go where they may.
There is a story about one particular painting that stands out for me above all others in this regard. I was working on a collection of paintings for a show when the gallery owner asked for one more painting to add to the show. I had run out of time and the painting I was hoping to add to the collection was not to my liking. I knew I had done everything that I could to make the painting a good one from all of the normal aesthetic criteria one would apply when assessing a work of art, it was just not one of my favorites and I was not keen to send it out to the show until I could spend more to decide what I wanted to do with it. In the end I let the painting go to the show as it was. And, as is often the case when this happens, it sold right away, and to someone that treasured it more than I could have imagined.
At a show the following year I was approached by the client who had purchased that painting. She wanted to meet me, and thank me for creating this painting that was so special and important to her. She told me the story of how my painting had become part of her healing journey. She had been diagnosed with a rare eye disease, she had been gradually losing her sight for a couple of years. The doctors had given up and told her there was nothing they could do to save her eyesight. She went to see another healer as a last resort and they prescribed some exercises she should do every day to help with the healing process. It was suggested that she find something pleasing to gaze at for long periods of time. She thought that a work of art might be a good idea and happened by the gallery just before the opening of the show. She told me that she walked into the gallery and the painting in question caught her attention right away and she knew that this was what she was looking for.
By the time we met her eyesight was on the mend and she wanted to thank me for creating that painting, just for her, and her healing journey. I was moved, of course, and realized once and for all that I just need to make the paintings that come to me and not be concerned about my own feelings about them, cuz they aren't mine. I like to think I am being commissioned by something to create art for others that will hopefully contribute in some way to making their lives better or more enjoyable. For me, it is a fulfilling, and humbling way to think about what it is I do as an artist.