The Why Behind It All

Why do you paint?

It all started with a conversation.

My friend and I were on the way home from seeing a play in Toronto and we got talking about art.  Because she is not an artist I was especially interested in her ideas about art. What do normal people think about art anyways? I know I’ve been programmed into my art philosophy over the years and I wanted to see art with fresh eyes.

She struggled to find the words for ideas that were mostly emotional and visual not logical and language friendly. When it came down to it, my friend said that “Art should make me feel something”. And then she looked at me and asked why I painted.

Then there was a podcast …

because I can be really dense. I don’t often catch good ideas the first time, God often sees fit to toss the same idea in my lap in different ways.

This time the participants in the podcast were talking about the importance of knowing why you do something in relation to your success and for life in general.

This time I caught the hint and I began to ask myself:

How clear can I get on why I do what I do?

In order to answer that question, like most of the other big questions I’ve examined I started to explore it in the back of my mind and through writing. I thought I’d share it with you, incase you’re interested in what makes one artist tick.

Why Women?

As you may have noticed, my women and figures are generally faceless. It is not because I can’t paint faces.  I do like things to be open-ended, though, and faces have a real way of nailing a figure down to being a specific person. It is a little inconvenient for me. I like to imagine the stories behind the women I paint and I find body language so much more telling than facial features. I think that we rely on facial features to get information and almost ignore body language which is inherently more honest.

I also am in love with the idea that women have qualities that make them beautiful – things I love about myself, my mother, my girlfriends. Things that should be emphasized and drawn out. So I am constantly on the look out for stances and photos that reveal those positive qualities –  strength, allure, compassion, thoughtfulness, mystery, kindness, wistfulness, and the ability to be visionary and to dream.

Why Shoes?

This acrylic painting of a strappy little stiletto is vibrant magenta and not for the faint of heart.Because they are innately girly. They are sexy without being too much.  Because you can imagine yourself in them without having to suffer the reality of wearing them (blisters, rubbed skin, being too tall to dance with your date…). I haven’t always loved shoes. I have big feet so shoe shopping is generally a chore. But a while ago I started looking at the shapes and colours in store windows. Shoes can go from practical to fantasy~ and if you’ve learned anything about me I have a moth like attraction to the ideas of imagination and fantasy. It’s also possible that I paint shoes because of all the time spent reading fairytales as a child. It could have a deep subconscious symbolism for me. Or they could just be fun, choose your own adventure here…

Why Flowers?

Because I’ve always been a gardener. Flowers can make me happy for days. I love their vibrant colour, their shapes. Flowers have very distinct qualities and personalities and I find myself drawn to them over and over again. When I’m creating the flower paintings I am often imagining the kind of woman who would love that flower. In my imagination the woman and the flower share powerful qualities. I tell the stories of flowers I don’t like enough to plant in my garden because their shapes say something to me.  I’ll tell you a secret. I don’t really like daisies.  I wouldn’t plant them in my garden. The wild ones smell funny. But I do love to paint them. To me they speak of simplicity, of a girl who is drawn to meadows and graphic designs. The woman who loves daisies is a resilient, sunny, free spirit.

Why Abstracts?

These are the area I’m experimenting in. My best abstracts are emotions arranged on a page. I don’t include a legend for a person to decipher the why behind an abstract painting, but I do leave strong colour cues.  Like the rest of my art, my abstracts only give you enough threads of the story to pique your interest but not enough material to knit an afghan with. I think more than anything, these are paintings I do for myself, simply because I like to have the freedom to push paint around on a canvas without an inner critic pointing out that I strayed outside the lines.

After reading all this, has it raised a question in your mind? I hope that question is “Why do I do what I do?” And I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.


2 responses to “The Why Behind It All”

  1. I have thought about the why a little bit, but you have inspired me to look and think again.

    You seem to have a very strong thread of femininity (or ‘the feminine’ if that is a better way to put it?) through your ‘whys’ – revealing what that means to you through your women, flowers, shoes and emotive paintings.

  2. Hi Laura,
    ~Great post, very interesting question. =)
    I liked reading about your “whys” and now I’ll have to think about mine a bit before I can answer.

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