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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Why Paint?

Painting takes me in emotional cycles. Have you ever had moments of doubt where you plaque yourself with annoying questions such as, “Why am I painting?” or “Why bother?”. Those moments can strike at any time. I can be painting the best work of my life, have a steady flow of sales, and still come to those moments where I wonder if I really should be looking for that full time job. Every single one of my artist friends has come to those moments at various times in their lives too. Fortunately for them and me, it usually doesn’t last too long. All we need to do is check in with a fellow artist, whine a bit and tell them our thoughts, and we get the usual burst of laughter and a pat on the back. They take us lightly because we have all been there. Cycles are important. Each time I question why I am painting, I cycle back to a clearer more potent answer, and continue painting with revived fervor. Perseverance, I think, is the most important ingredient in success as a professional artist. Not to let those down times keep us from getting back in the saddle, and continuing to paint.

For those of you who were born before the 60’s, you must remember psychedelic trance-induced author Carlos Castaneda. I recently dusted off an oldie but goodie “A Separate Reality”, where I fell into a trance myself over a part where his guru/teacher Don Juan tells him that everyone has their own predilection. And this predilection is what each of us uses to “know”. Don Juan’s idea of knowing is more of an inner truth, a yearning to keep evolving, rather than an intellectual search. For instance, a fellow sorcerer in the book dances when he wants to learn a new truth… “and he dances with all he has when he wants to ‘know’.” Don Juan’s predilection is to “see” or use his eyes to glimpse alternative worlds. I love the idea of using your predilection to evolve by throwing yourself into it. That is when it hit me that painting is my predilection, my way or tool to evolve, to “know”.

While painting, and also involved in the business or career aspect of making a living as an artist, its easy to fall into the trap of thinking we are painting to create products. Or we try too hard to make something truly unique that will stand out in the crowd. I believe that a painting traces and records all our thoughts, aspirations, desires. If we think about the painting as a product for a specific market, and think about this obsessively while painting, the work may lose its spirit, and take on a restricted feel. If we try too hard to be different, the work may end up doing the opposite, by losing our individuality and soul.

I like using this idea from Castaneda, using the act of painting to evolve, to be a better person, to create in the larger sense. Perhaps some of this will rub off in the work and be an inspiration, not just another product.

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15 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Nancy, Just read your blog for the first time, and it's a great read.

I too read the Castaneda series, but for some reason only kept one of his books - Tales of Power. I never took psychedelic drugs, because it seemed like my creative life let me experience all that naturally. I'm going to pull out the Tales of Power and read it again.
Wishing you all the best.
Karen Stefaniak Trask
Catron County, New Mexico
http://t-squareranch.blogspot.com

July 25, 2009 at 4:06 PM  
Blogger Nancy Reyner said...

I don't do drugs either, and I agree that many of the altered states Castaneda wrote about, are possible through other means (Castaneda even mentions this). I like to meditate. My teenage son was reading the series, and got me interested in them again. I found it quite intriquing to read them so many years later.

July 25, 2009 at 7:47 PM  
Anonymous Christopher Guerra said...

Hello Nancy, I'm a first time reader of your blog, and i think it is awesome.
To answer your question: Why Paint?
As any Artist would instinctively know that painting is life! An artist should never question the reason why. That leads to doubt, and you doubt yourself, which is worse then 1000 deaths. On a side note. At my undergrad school San Francisco Art Institute (Or for you oldies California School of Fine Art)everyone thought i was on Acid. I still don't understand why? I myself never done any drugs in my life so i don't know if my paintings look like stuff you see on drugs. but since I was young I have been able to see "other worlds" as one might say. Of course I don't normally see them consciously, but rather during my nightmares that I suffer through every night. They really resemble galaxies you see in the universe. As I look at a painting I have the ability to make the painting in my mind in three dimensions, picturing myself walking through the painting.*shrugs* There I go rambling on again. Anyways, I am going to subscribe to your blog.
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http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=logo#/ArtDeGuerra?v=photos&ref=name

July 26, 2009 at 4:16 PM  
Blogger Christopher Guerra said...

Hello Nancy, I am a first time reader of your blog, and I think this article is great.
Why paint?
Painting is life! Life is painting!
Any artist should never question why they paint. This just leads to doubt, and doubting why you paint is worse then 10,000 deaths.
On another note. During my undergrad study at San Francisco Art Institute (or for the oldies California Art Institute) Just like any good painter I was in my studio everyday (Except if my girlfriend came down to see me)my peers always told me that painted I like I was on Acid. I still don't understand why they thought this. Maybe it's because I am strange to be around? or maybe it is because I am an Abstract painter. I am just like you I have never done any kind of drug so I have no idea if my paintings give the impression of being on LSD or any other kind of drug.I noticed from a young age that I have the ablility to see into a different relam or state of being. This is mostly viewed in the sub conciously during my nightmares while i seelp. This is not to say I haven't seen some visions sometimes while I was awake or meditating. this is mostly what I paint. Also I have the ability to take a painting I see and turn it into 3d in my mind and walk through it. Oh great I am rambling again. Anyways great post! I am looking forward to see more posts.
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BFA San Francisco Art Institute 09'
MFA Rutgers 11'
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Pictures of work
http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=logo#/ArtDeGuerra?v=photos&ref=name

July 26, 2009 at 6:30 PM  
Anonymous Ares Vista said...

I think it's interesting that painters are always connected with the psychedelic drug scene. It's like if you paint something amazing that is abstract or extremely unique, you must be on drugs.

July 28, 2009 at 9:03 AM  
Anonymous download music said...

Thanks for introducing me to the Castaneda series. I have just begun, but I'm enthralled!

July 28, 2009 at 9:04 AM  
Blogger Elaine said...

So pleased to read your blog and to know that I am not alone in those moments of should I go an get a 'proper job' as others refer to it and as you say even when I have commissions and are selling. I feel that I am still trying to find myself and my style,I love to paint in so many different mediums and with so many different subject matters, but then maybe this is a continual cycle and I will never just be one thing....

August 11, 2009 at 9:01 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

Nancy,

Thanks for this blog - funny but my father recently went to a garage sale and purchased a ton of wonderful old art supplies for me that are in great shape - lots of professional watercolor paper, etc. One of the things that was in the box was a Carlos Castaneda book called "The Fire from Within". I just now finished watching your new how to video through the artist channel, which totally inspired me to go try something new tonight. I'm also going to start the Castaneda book - what a coincidence.
Thanks,
Kim
Seattle, Washington

August 11, 2009 at 3:15 PM  
Blogger Bhavna said...

What a lovely blog, I am first time visitor and enjoyed reading.

Starting as a beginner, I have yet to convince myself on why I paint.

October 8, 2009 at 1:57 PM  
Blogger chokobul said...

Keith said,
Why paint? I'm not sure why I paint, but find myself drawn to the canvas. I have painted abstract,protraits landscapes,and a church all in acrylic.The fast drying time seems to help in my thought process.I lose all sense of time and wish days where 48 hours long.The subject has to inspire me in order to find success. I'm not sure where this journey in painting is taking me but so far it's been a great ride.

Regards the inspired one.

February 19, 2010 at 11:16 PM  
Blogger Craig Martin said...

After typing the question 'Why paint?' into google, I found your very interesting blog that brought back memories of both Castaneda's books and my brief youthful experiments with drugs.

As an amateur artist who never exhibits the questioning behind the motive to paint is a difficult task. I have hardly painted at all in the past 12 months due to this 'Why Paint' crisis, but somehow I still want to paint. I guess the questioning and reasoning comes from such facts that painting is quite outdated in the art world, and it seems impossible to create unique works of art in that medium. For me it is why paint, what to paint, where to get started etc.. There is a continuous flow of questions that need to be stopped before I can get back to putting paint on canvas, but I think reading your blog has just put me one step closer to that.

Thankyou.

May 2, 2010 at 2:49 PM  
Blogger Craig Martin said...

After typing the question 'Why paint?' into google, I found your very interesting blog that brought back memories of both Castaneda's books and my brief youthful experiments with drugs.

As an amateur artist who never exhibits the questioning behind the motive to paint is a difficult task. I have hardly painted at all in the past 12 months due to this 'Why Paint' crisis, but somehow I still want to paint. I guess the questioning and reasoning comes from such facts that painting is quite outdated in the art world, and it seems impossible to create unique works of art in that medium. For me it is why paint, what to paint, where to get started etc.. There is a continuous flow of questions that need to be stopped before I can get back to putting paint on canvas, but I think reading your blog has just put me one step closer to that.

Thankyou.

May 2, 2010 at 2:51 PM  
Anonymous Christopher Clarke said...

Agreed Nancy. Drugs seem to be a source of inspiration for many artists (not just painters), but a practice like meditation is a MUCH healthier way to open the mind to that level of inspiration that is sometimes beyond our reach during typical waking states.

September 26, 2010 at 2:49 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

Just asked myself, "Why paint?" Googled this question, had this post pop up. Read it, now I will go paint. :)

February 18, 2011 at 11:16 AM  
Anonymous drywaller toronto said...

Why paint? That's my biggest fashion, im just a beginner and i wanna learn more!

February 24, 2011 at 5:11 AM  

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