L asked: "Why do people spend countless hours painting or pursuing art? Seems so selfish and self-indulgent. What's the point?"
These days, at least for me, it is a connection to Spirit that drives me on. I only feel connected to life, fully alive, when I have the chance to connect in some way with art or the artistic process. Sometimes that involves writing about art, sometimes teaching, sometimes painting; Sometimes reading or discovering my own insights in other art forms… Sometimes revelations occur constantly when visiting a new city or museum….the list is endless. I am in love with discovery, both of an external and internal nature. It is a permanent unfolding, this love.
L deals with the materialistic world, and has been exposed to many experts; the world’s finest and most influential; A place where critics and experts reign supreme, and only if you are a product of the system, educated by that system, validated by that system, can you be considered a 'worthy artist'. (Worthy of patronage, collecting or being considered "serious" I suppose.) Whilst I do not have the benefit of their formal education, I have to say that, in my (by comparison very lacking) experience, the opposite feels true: Only if the work originated "not of this material world", beyond the artist, could it possibly contain 'Art'.
For me, Art is the essence, the Creative Spirit behind and beyond all things. It can be found caught up in poetry and literature that remakes the mold of men who encounter it. It can be found present in the exquisite line of the Shodo master, or caught forever in great paintings... paintings that bypass the mind entirely, yet burn you with a Presence words cannot describe. I've heard it in monastic chants whose words are unintelligible to me, and I’ve heard it in the piercing note of Miles Davis contrapuntal to Marcus Miller's beautiful baseline. All portray the 'essence of life' not dependent upon sight or sound, and not containable or explainable by critics, or those who purport to be 'in the know'.
- It is indefinable
- It is unquantifiable
- It defies understanding or definition
- It can only be felt by those who encounter it
- It feels like a beautiful remembering...
It requires that the 'artist' refine himself as an instrument, for he is not a source of It, but a conduit for It. He molds his life, his body and his mind, refines his skill, (into which he probably puts in at least 10,000 hours) then yields his egoic mind, and responds to It. That artist can become a poet, painter, musician, teacher, doctor, scientist… The point is, It is different for everyone. The best way I have found to find one’s path is to follow the advice of Joseph Campbell when he said “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where none existed before”. In other words, follow your calling. After a certain point, one must go without the need for approval of peers, society or expert opinion. It takes courage to leave the ‘group’, but sometimes one must...
A 'good artist' in my opinion, is simply a person who has agreed to do 'the work', in body, mind and spirit. Agreed to become a conduit for life. Its direction is fleeting; It is instantaneous and does not appear to occur in linear time or as a result of thought. (Rather, 'insight' is it's preferred communication). Like a bolt out of the blue, the ideas come whole and almost fully formed.
If you ask me if I have created 'Art' yet, I would have to say that I have only perhaps seen/felt glimmerings of it within certain works (usually from a powerful intent to serve or help someone or something greater than myself). Some of the works are unfinished, left in precisely that condition because I am afraid that that one, powerful mark may be "the Thing" that moves me, (rather than my skill, or any image that may have occurred). I could never say I have created Art. As part of my process, I always attempt to paint some ingredient that connects us all; Perhaps some reassurance, some human condition that is common to us all... Reminders that 'you, the viewer are not alone'. My hope is that my viewer feels something 'beside' me, rather than being enthralled with any masterful element... that he/she is reassured and comforted, then ultimately, hopefully left with a desire to discover and recover the Art within themselves. That's where my lessons come in… To give them a way to access Art in their own lives could be my greatest gift and my greatest art form. I just know it's something I'm powerfully led to do.
I merely respond to the call. Everything I do, when I'm at my best, is just so that I can hear (feel) It. It is beautiful when it happens and I am powerless to refuse... For me, the morning journal, the reading, the walks are only preparations, but necessary preparations. They're how I 'tune my instrument'; Tune-in to my highest self. All are ways I have discovered to put my ego aside so I can 'let the music come through'... When it does... Oh, what a feeling! When it does I am left with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. Art is a privilege. I am merely a servant to the dictates of the Creative Spirit... the closest thing to God that I know.
And that’s why I paint.