Why share original art online (or at all)?

It’s a funny time to ask, having already created a blog to share my evolving artistic endeavors. Yet the question has nagged at me anew since my very recent foray into blogging. Although it’s possibly a tangential inquiry, I also wonder how sharing is connected to the creative process. All might agree that art is a form of expression. Does that mean, almost by definition, that creative output should be shared? Is this perhaps a variant of the age-old query: “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

If we don’t share the things we create do they really exist? To what degree does the act of sharing, and the response generated, change the work? If we do something and no one is there to like it on our chosen social media outlet, did it really happen?

The last question is a joke, really, but I do think one’s relationship with social media and the intentions behind sharing through the varied online options are worth examining. What if no one likes a post? Does that mean it wasn’t worth making? Should one aim for popularity or post the pieces that are most personally meaningful?

Why do I, someone without any current interest in sales and a very small social media footprint, share my creative work online? First, I want to evolve and I think that’s more difficult to do in a vacuum. I am enriched by people’s comments, which sometimes help me see something new. I also enjoy connecting with folks about topics that are jointly meaningful. Most of all, lofty as it may sound, I like the possibilities of inspiring a positive feeling. For example, my paintings are often described as soothing. What’s not to like about encouraging calm in our strife-filled world?

Even so, I don’t always know what people think or whether they’ve even seen a post. Therefore, the response from others can’t be the whole story. Maybe we first need to understand what drives us to create something. Why make another painting? Why write a blog post or poem or story? Are the motivations highly variable? Or is there a universal drive at work?

To articulate my personal answers about the reasons for creativity is more difficult than I had expected. Maybe that’s one reason we make art – to express things that are challenging to characterize or explain in linear form. Wondering why we create may be a bit like asking why we exist or why we breathe. I understand some folks make things for utility or monetary gain. But I doubt those are the reasons an artist keeps at it, particularly in the early stages.

I can say with certainty that the anticipated unveiling is not what motivates me to put paint on canvas. Quite the opposite, actually. Nor do poems, or even blog posts, start with an audience in mind. Rather, creative expression feels more like my soul’s urging, something to fill the corners of my being, a way to expand an otherwise partially inflated balloon.

How I feel in the world is directly proportional to how much creative energy I generate and express. Sometimes I make excuses – I’m so busy; I don’t know how to paint well; My thoughts are disorganized; I’m not good enough. And every time I say no to myself in these ways, I feel my energy wither. The possibilities for myself shrink and I become fatigued from holding myself against the beautiful current that wants to guide me. In contrast, when I say yes, when I allow my personality concerns to be consumed by the joy of creating, I am expanded.

We are all creators, aren’t we? Sifters and shifters of energy in different forms? Not everyone paints, but we all make something new by virtue of our presence and choices about how we express. And don’t we all look for ways to be ourselves most fully? Don’t we all feel best when we allow ourselves to be swept up by a wave of creative energy, in whatever form that takes?

So why not share? Whether imperfect or still in development, why not let others see what we’re like in full expression? Because when we do – when we offer the results of ourselves in fullness – perhaps that is when art becomes love.

Speaking of love…I’d really love to hear your thoughts!

Re-creation recreation

Over the recent New Year’s holiday time off, I happily anticipated two days with minimal obligations, consecutive hours available for painting. Rarely do I paint with a goal in mind, but this time I wanted to finish a painting I had started months ago, untouched so long for fear of ruining the nascent scene I wanted to preserve. It’s not unusual for me to feel this way. It’s easier to start, free of expectations, than to finish over the mounting attachment to outcome. Even so, I’ve grown increasingly comfortable with painting as a process and my experience with this particular painting provides an interesting mirror, a reflection of both progress and ongoing challenge.

I’d thought about finishing the painting a lot over the last months, imagined how best to continue my original vision for it. I thought I had an idea, that I was ready. But it turns out I’m not so great at executing a planned vision. And I can be pretty impulsive when the paintbrush is in my hand. That could be reframed as willingness to experiment, I suppose. Or maybe I’m just not very skilled. Untrained, I don’t have an internalized a set of rules from which I might improvise with control. Still, I like best when the paint is wet and I am able discover form in its movement. I also understand the associated limitations and risks.

On the last day of 2018, I began the painting again, or rather, I tried to continue the painting with an openness to experiment. The experience could be called a success, but only with a willingness to define it as such. Although I made several interesting and different paintings along the way, I couldn’t quite get the ground to work with the already completed sky. There is grief in misplaced brushstrokes and poorly chosen colors, the lost kernels of good ideas, but also hope in the possibility of something better. Finally, I cut the strings of my attachment to the existing sky and, somewhat desperately, drew a loaded paintbrush across the upper half of the canvas. I thought letting go of the sky might preserve the new ground. I was wrong.

I figured the sky disaster was the end, the last nail in a painting not meant to be. And as I prepared to wash my brushes, I offered a prayer of thanks to the thickly layered wet mess, and considered the most fitting way to dispose of it. But I hesitated, still attached I guess, and wondered what would happen if I put the painting under the running water.

Magically, the original sky reappeared, mostly unscathed, as the newer ground washed away beneath the water streaming from the bathroom sink, a mandala of colored sand partially erased with the wind. If even for a brief moment, I understood the purpose of that Tibetan Buddhist tradition – nothing is permanent. And the obvious corollary reminder to live fully in the present. That the sky endures in this particular painting may also be metaphorically interesting to consider.

After many hours of work, the painting looked much the same as before, half complete, a sky waiting for the right ground. If anything, it was a little worse for the wear, with ugly remnants waiting to be painted over. But it wasn’t the same painting at all, nor was I the same painter. And truthfully, I enjoyed the process even before the absence of a visible endpoint, an artistic journey that I’m certain has applications for other aspects of my life.

Each brushstroke informs the next, some apparently more so. Any creation that facilitates growth is a personal, and maybe even priceless, work of art. We need only to keep going, with a loose attachment to outcome, and learn when best to pause before continuing anew.

Today, nearly a week later, I tried again. The result is pictured above.

Transformation

Sometimes a painting changes. A lot. Although I never quite liked looking at this painting in the early stages, I found I kept looking because it kept changing. These images represent my first draft and appear different only because they were photographed at different times of day, as the light changed it. Ultimately, I painted over most of the original.

The final image is the result, a very different painting for sure.

Transformation (acrylic 12×12)

The poem below is an ode to the making of this painting. But has broader applications too, I think. I’d love to hear what you think!

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Transformation (December 2018)

I kept looking, hoping to decide
Wanting to understand how you changed
So different in the shifting light
Around you (and me)

Your soft edges, pastel tones
Transformed. Foreboding, gloomy
Then airy, overly subtle. Again.

Neither quite right, not fully you

Still, you had much to teach me
About preferences and contrast
Seeing and letting go

Both of us in transformation