I’ve been asking myself this question for a long time. I hinted at it while in France. Yes, I was inspired by heroic painters, and by my father. But, it could have just been that…inspiration. Why is it that the first thing I want to do when I go to a new city is view the art? The churches, the museums, and the libraries are my Hajj rather than my Mecca. They are my journey, not my destination.

What then is the destination? For that matter, why paint? With cinema, you can tell a story even better than one can with paint. And, with the cinema effects, and now 3-D, they can be just as, if not more, realistic then most painters can accomplish with the brush? But, by the nature of the movie making process, many people must be involved. As an artist, you are actor, director, gaffer, best boy, director of photography, set designer, etc.

I think that the question is more about the puzzle. A computer can play chess better than almost all people on the planet, yet we still play. Everyday, people do soduku, crosswords, and countless games of solitaire as a ritual. We as a people are fascinated by the puzzle. As a boy, Friday nights were always special to me. My mom and I would go to a local store that predated Walmarts called Fred Meyer’s. There, I was given time to find something in the toy or crafts aisle that caught my fancy. My regular habit was to get something that posed a problems that I had to fix. I was most keen to find something that required thinking, a step by step process, goal oriented, and non-repetitious. Invariably, I would usually bring home a model. Once home, I would sit watching the Dukes of Hazard, and I would labor to put together my model. These nights fostered within me a desire to understand how everything was put together. Soon I found that like the models, you could take anything apart and try to put it back together in the same order was just as fun. Light switches or door hinges weren’t safe from me with my trusty screwdriver in hand. The local library had a lending program that included a tool box for kids, that and a trip to the lumber yard for scraps, and I had hours of “Fun”. It was the process of assembling or creating, not the created objects that gave pleasure. Trust me when I say my first (and only) doghouse was so rickety, that my dog wouldn’t even enter it.

The idea was that it was just fun to create. It didn’t matter if it came out well, the fun was the process. The process was learning. The internal dialog of, “Why is this so?”, “What causes this reaction?”, and “What happens if I do this?”. According to Bloom’s Taxonomy, the higher order thinking skills were being employed at this point, namely analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. In me they triggered the “A ha!” moment. I learned a short while ago that when we have an “A ha!” moment, it releases opiates into our brain, and we experience pleasure. Therefore the discoveries  and moments of illumination themselves produce within us pleasure, thus reinforcing within us the desire to have more. Thus, illumination rather than learning is addictive.

I often forget to enjoy the process when I paint. I become so fixated on: Is this good? Will others recognize its worth? Am I doing it “right”? Does it look like what it is supposed to be? These questions plaguing my internal dialog seem to have no end; worse yet they seem to have no purpose. Instead, they prey upon one’s insecurity and feelings of inadequacy, but fail to give anything in return.

However, if I remember the boy of 10 and the feeling of following a step by step plan to achieving a goal, the process is enjoyable, illuminating, and most of all fun. It allows me access to the feelings of my youth: when I was just experimenting with a new tool and the power that it gives, when I found new discoveries, when I surprised myself. And, if I choose to just create despite the outcome, I enjoy the process throughout. Perhaps, I might even be lucky enough to have an “A ha!” moment.

This is why I paint.

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