A: This is an excellent question and one I like to revisit because with all the day-to-day frustrations and disappointments that are a normal part of an artist’s life, it is easy to forget what is important.
First, I make art because I have a gift and a desire to share it with others. To not develop, express, and share all that I have to say through my work is unthinkable.
Second, I make art because it is what gives my life direction and purpose. I believe that each human being has his or her own quest, driven by passion, to fulfill a certain duty. Recall Joseph Campbell’s, “The Hero’s Journey.” I need to make art in order to feel that I am living up to my highest potential.
Third, for inexplicable reasons (to me, anyway) soft pastel is an undervalued medium. I fell in love with pastel above all other media and hope to demonstrate that great art can be created with it. This is one of the drives that keeps me steadily working.
Comments are welcome!
* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
Those who would make art might well begin by reflecting on the fate of those who preceded them: most who began, quit. It’s a genuine tragedy. Worse yet, it’s an unnecessary tragedy. After all, artists who continue and artists who quit share an immense field of common emotional ground. (Viewed from the outside, in fact, they’re indistinguishable). We’re all subject to a familiar and universal progression of human troubles – troubles we routinely survive, but which are (oddly enough) routinely fatal to the art-making process. To survive as an artist requires confronting these troubles. Basically, those who continue to make art are those who have learned how to continue – or more precisely, have learned how to not quit.
But curiously, while artists always have a myriad of reasons to quit, they consistently wait for a handful of specific moments to quit. Artists quit when they convince themselves that their next effort is already doomed to fail. And artists quit when they lose the destination for their work – for the place their work belongs.
Virtually all artists encounter such moments. Fear that your next work will fail is a normal, recurring, and generally healthy part of the art-making cycle. It happens all the time: you focus on some new idea in your work, you try it out, run with it for awhile, reach a point of diminishing returns, and eventually decide it’s not worth pursuing further. Writers even have a phrase for it – “the pen has run dry” – but all media have their equivalents. In the normal artistic cycle this just tells you that you’ve come full circle, back to that point where you need to begin cultivating the next new idea. But in artistic death it marks the last thing that happens: you play out an idea, it stops working, you put the brush down… and thirty years later you confide to someone over coffee that, well, yes, you had wanted to paint when you were much younger. Quitting is fundamentally different from stopping. The latter happens all the time. Quitting happens once. Quitting means not starting again – and art is all about starting again.
David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art & Fear
Comments are welcome!