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Thread: Why should I paint?

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    Why should I paint?

    Alright so maybe I am overthinking things lately, and maybe not...but I recently have been coming back to the question of "Why? why paint?".

    Before I had always been satisfied with my answer of "to make a pretty picture", that is, I always was interested in the aesthetic side of things, the technical (and I still am greatly interested in this). There was no such thing as emotion in artwork, since it was all composed of patches of light and colour (emotion itself cannot exist within a pigment), so painting is just that, making blobs of paint or pixels. End of story. All I was interested in was the technique, studying light and anatomy and so forth.

    Now I am questioning this, it seems to me like a very closeminded view. I remember Andrew Wyeth said "to be interested solely in technique would be very superficial to me", and I never got that until recently. I am beginning to see that brushwork and technical skill are not ends but rather means to ends. Art is about conveying an emotion or expression or idea...it is a mere vehicle. Emotion in art is very real, though not always a tangible thing that can be identified clearly (sometime certain things like soft edges will convey certain moods, and other times no technical thing can be identified as setting that emotion). And it is more important than technical things. Why is it that so often a perfectly executed painting is less interesting or feels dead, and another painting lacking technical skills (or at least not at a full mastery of everything there such as anatomy or something) will be more interesting and have a strong impact, despite its perfections? So this brings me to my question--what am I trying to say or get across? And I cannot answer this. I have nothing to say. So why speak? Why paint?

    Maybe I am misunderstanding all of this too, I don't know really. Even in those rare artists who do project pure emotion through their artwork (there are not many who I feel this from, Andrew Wyeth and Jeff Jones are two examples, though I strain to think of more off the top of my head), how much of that can be understood beyond just a feeling of raw emotion? How much of it is intentional? Is there a specific thing they are trying to convey, or is it incidental, and they are just making pictures? How do I get this in my work? What should I be trying to say? What is all of this anyways (Harold Speed talks of "dither" in The Practice and Science of Drawing, though it is hard to define and discuss given how elusive it is and how subtle and changing)? Does illustration need to say anything anyways, or is this thought process limited to fine art? Is there such thing as an "artist" vs an "Artist", if so, what separates them? Is it enough to be just satisfied with making pictures, and enjoying the process? SHOULD I be satisfied with just that?

    Despite all of this, I am still very attracted to the technical, though my tastes are shifting away from the Bouguereau and Gerome look towards the Zorn and Sargent and Cecilia Beau look (and some even looser things, such as Richard Schmid or Tibor Nagy). It seems that it is still the brushwork and technical that attracts me to these artists though (and perhaps I feel guilty for this?). Or maybe I am misinterpreting other things as mere technical brushwork, when there is more really going on...

    Sorry for the ramble, it is a bit of stream of consciousness thing running through my mind at 4am and I doubt it is very coherent...I'm not even sure how you guys would respond to this...but any thoughts on the matter would be interesting to hear and try to digest. I have a feeling that I will look back on this thread in a few years and really have a good laugh at the way of thinking presented here.
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    Hey Andrew , I was recently thinking the same thing with drawing or painting as well, why do we paint or draw? Well when you picked up that pencil basically you put yourself on a quest, an adventure there would always be no end may it be in mastery of technical skill or other things like portraying emotions or telling a story. There are really many perspectives to art but really if you want my opinion on why I paint or draw, perhaps this could be due to the stage I am at with it, is to simply have fun, make my mistakes, learn and enjoy whatever path I follow. I recently discovered this after a period of dissatisfaction with my work and I always asked myself why do I continue to draw if no matter how much I improve the dissatisfaction with the quality of work I am producing will remain mutual. You could be a bard on this journey who likes to tell tales and stories on your journey as an artist, you could be a wizard on this journey seeking wisdom and mastery of his artistry, you could be many things on your art journey seeking many different things from it. As long as your happy doing what you do that is all that counts really. If perhaps you are looking for a different reason or looking for something to fuel this conversation here is an interesting lecture and interview with Ian McCaig on story telling and illustration you could listen to while drawing. I found it to be quite interesting.

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99.9% of everything I've ever drawn or painted has held no meaning to it except for what I've given it in terms of technical mojomojo or "coolness". The meaning you find when looking at someones art is purely your own. It won't hold the exact same meaning to even two people. What I'm saying is that you're just over thinking stuff and should be drawing. Either that 0.1% will mean a lot more to you or it won't, it doesn't really matter. No matter how much meaning or story or whatever you bring into a painting, you can't put that entire image or idea, which is yours to begin with, into your viewers mind no matter how good you are technically or storytelling wise.
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    Maybe it's life experience you need to bring in more emotion. Some artists communicate emotions naturally while most do not I think. Just like there are some prodigies who take to technical abilities fantastically, but most of us don't. I feel like it's something we can learn and many do inadvertently and it shows eventually in their painting.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dile_ View Post
    The meaning you find when looking at someones art is purely your own.
    I think this cannot be stressed enough.
    As recipients of artwork- no matter if we're talking about a novel or an image- we take part in the process of creating "meaning". An author might be thinking a lot about "the meaning" and try to convey it, or not at all. That doesn't mean that the audience will understand or even care. On the other hand, a purely technical exercise, say a still life, might mean a lot to some recipients for some reason.

    As an additional note, in my experience the main difference between "an artist" and "an Artist" usually amounts to nothing more but pretentiousness on "the Artist's" part.
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    IMO art is communication, it is a language that training give you the skills to communicate with. What you want to say is up to you once you have the skills to speak. I think the best art has something of the speaker in it and it comes from a place of truth or understanding.
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    Why should you paint?
    To say what you cannot write or sing.
    From Gegarin's point of view
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    Please debunk this one ..still it will help for some.
    sometimes you should just start going mad on questions like these. I'm no good in it but here!
    If you think about it makes no sense!
    The only reason to paint is to answer the need.
    If the need is money you paint for money.
    If the reason is fulfillment the need is as well.
    if the reason is the need the need is itself.

    If you say I paint for no reason you need to have no
    reason ( and that's hard). Is this still about painting? No? Is your question?
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    First of all, I checked out your work and it is expressive, particularly the linework in your figure drawings. But, maybe I'm misunderstanding what you're question is.

    A master artist can't help but be expressive even if they try. Once they've mastered their tools their personality, appetites, and temperaments come out. It's been said by someone (I can't remember who) that all great works of art are self-portraits. When you look at a painting of shoes by VanGogh you're really looking at a painting of VanGogh. When you look at a Rembrandt you're confronted with the personality of Rembrandt, regardless of the subject matter. Same with Uglow, Frazetta, Corot, Ingres, whomever. That's why no two great artists work looks alike. You could line up Rembrandt, Corot, Frazetta, Garcia Lopez, or whoever you want and have them paint the same subject. All their paintings will be great, but they'll also be completely different, because their differing temperaments and personalities will come through. Each will select different things they think are important and ignore those attributes that don't interest them. Look at a bunch of different artists and see what kind of mood they create. The mood from a Kathe Kollwitz or a Goya is very different than a Monet or Chardin. Why? What different choices are they making regarding shape design, value, color, etc? For your own work, that's your first question. "What mood/atmosphere do I want to create?" Most of these problems have already been solved, which is why looking at masterworks is helpful because you can see how master artists solved these problems.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Sonea View Post

    Why is it that so often a perfectly executed painting is less interesting or feels dead, and another painting lacking technical skills (or at least not at a full mastery of everything there such as anatomy or something) will be more interesting and have a strong impact, despite its perfections?
    This is something I don't get. What do you mean by a perfectly executed painting? Do you mean a painting that is essentially a Xerox copy of reality? A painting in which someone just mindlessly copied every stupid detail and made no decisions or selection as to what was important and what was irrelevant? So perfecly rendered it "looks just like a photo?" If that's what you mean, then that would not be a perfectly executed painting. In fact, I'd call that a bad painting. Take a look at this Chardin. This is, IMO, a perfectly executed painting. It's a complete statement. But, check it out, when you really look at it, there are no details. Those aren't flowers. That's paint. But each brushstroke is in the right place, the right shape, the right value, the right color, and it has a unity that wouldn't be there if he'd rendered out every nook and cranny and every silly highlight.

    I don't know if I really addressed your question, but I hope that helps.

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    kamikazel33t: I like the analogy you have there of it beinga quest or journey, and that there isn't one route or end, and that at different stages in the journey the point of said journey may change. That being said, I still feel a bit lost. I guess I am pulled in a few directions right now, and am not sure what my role or purpose should be. I haven't watched the video yet, but I will take a look at it later tonight.




    Dennis: You may be on the money here by saying I am overthinking and need to just draw. And I agree with your percentages for how my art is too... but I will disagree a bit with your suggestion that just because you cannot fully convey something to another, you should not care. Should one not strive to convey it anyways? A partially conveyed idea is better than an empty shell without substance.




    wardrum: I have been wondering about the whole experiences thing too... at the moment I am still quite young and haven't much lived life. And I'm not doing a lot about it currently either, I basically am either at work or am sitting at home wasting time and maybe drawing a bit. "Some artists communicate emotions naturally while most do not I think", I think this statement isn't necessarily true. It is the balance of intuition vs logical analysis. People begin art with intuition only, which without any training or direction is very crude, then they begin to
    study and learn and observe and take on a more logical approach...just then it is a matter of whether or not you keep that intuition with you. A lot of academic art loses sight of this I find, and maybe that's what I need here, to stop thinking so much and listen to that intuition in the back of my mind. Is intuition in art what this is all about? Is intuition seen as emotion?





    Benedikt: Yeah I guess it is important to remember that...still, I think that one can try to place meaning nonetheless, and even if it is misinterpreted or only partially received, it will be recognized.






    dpaint: Yes, this is what brought all this up in the first place though. If art is about communication, then what do I do if I have nothing TO communicate?? Like, I have no message to tell the world, no story, nothing. There is nothing I wish to say...so why speak? Or is this the kind of thing where I should just keep talking until I begin to find my own words and find what it is I was trying to say all along?







    Chris Bennett: Not to sound too rude or anything, but this type of statement comes across to me as the kind of thing that sounds profound but holds little actual meaning. Perhaps I just don't understand how to use this, but I don't get how this will help me with all of this. And what if I have nothing to say?






    Gibi: Ah, interesting thoughts, so in your mind the act of doing art is the ends rather than the means? It is not even the result that matters, but the act? I guess it does fulfill a need within me...I mean, without art I would have no point to live I guess. It is an obsession that has consumed me, so I should do it just to feed that obsession.






    jpacer: First off thanks for the compliment on my work. It does bring up another question (one that perhaps pertains very closely to this discussion) which is "what is an expressive line (or painting)?". In the latest pencils I posted the line is very uniform and I tried to keep it rather heavy handed, though I also tried to get it nice and confident and clean in one go. I have heard others talk of lines that vary a lot in weight and disappear to be very expressive. Others might call a scratchy loose line to be expressive. What makes it expressive? Is anything by default an expression simply by it being an intentional mark?

    I guess the next part of your post somewhat answers this--any artist cannot help but escape their own expression. Maybe it is difficult to see this in one's own work though, because I find my work to be generic, derivative and lacking in expression. Perhaps it is also something that develops a lot more with time and experience, and is soemthing I should nto even worry about too much.
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    I don't think Chris was being trite. You did to live life a bit to find what you need to express. Spending all you time learning without ever giving yourself a chance to spread your wings can limit yourself. Does it matter if you fall on your face? You paint because you need to express yourself, and not those polite faces you show to everyone - dig deeper, go out and live bit more. Face your demons and angels.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Sonea View Post
    And what if I have nothing to say?
    Then you have a problem, but I wouldn't worry too much about that...the very fact you realize that and wrote such an OP, puts you on the right path.
    Just follow it...it won't lead you astray.

    Is anything by default an expression simply by it being an intentional mark?
    Yes, but...there are thresholds that separate these things, contrary to what Beuys might have thought.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Sonea View Post
    If art is about communication, then what do I do if I have nothing TO communicate?? Like, I have no message to tell the world, no story, nothing. There is nothing I wish to say...so why speak? Or is this the kind of thing where I should just keep talking until I begin to find my own words and find what it is I was trying to say all along?
    Most of commercial concept art/illustration is communicating what other people have to say. But there has to be some sort of passion, a piece of you in what you make or else it's just generic shit that gets lost in the pile.

    If anything, I think we could at least be actors trying to feel/convey what the characters in our images are feeling or what we would feel like in a particular scene. Maybe some of us don't have much to say but maybe we can say what others want to better?
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