As a kid, I never asked myself that question, even thought I spent whole days painting with my cheap watercolors, occasionally switching to dry or oil pastels, then coming back to watercolors. I was in my world and time passed without notice.
Kids ask tirade of questions but they rarely question what they do. I guess it comes all naturally to them, since they are not yet too contaminated by the made up purposes and intentions of this society, which are, unfortunately, often far from the dreams of our hearts. Children live the dream of their hearts; they feel its guidance as easily as we listen to the TV news.
And so I painted my whole childhood. I painted as I pleased and I did not question it. Not surprisingly, once I started to attend the art school for talented children, my creative flow started to dry up. I did not understand why this was happening and it frustrated me. Now, with hint of wisdom acquired along my curvy path, I am able to look back and see that my flow became scarce as it started to be regulated by my teachers. We were given subject, taught the appropriate technique and we were lectured how to ideally approach it. It did not feel entirely free anymore. I had to think, instead of leaving the thinking to grown-ups and letting the painting pour from my fingers. Not every work brought me the same amount of pleasure as in times of my 'academic' ignorance, but on the other hand I progressed in composition and color sensitivity, perspective and learned new techniques I would have hardly discovered by myself.
And there is the dilemma of teaching and learning fine arts: walking the fine line of free, authentic expression while respecting certain rules which necessarily arise when one tries to represent a three dimensional theme on a two dimensional surface.
To answer my initial question: if you asked me 25 years ago, I'd probably say, after suggesting that it is yet another stupid adult question lacking a proper sense, that I paint because I like it. I would not even say that it makes me happy. Happiness for a healthy non-traumatized child is his/hers normal state. I'd simply say: I like it.
Why do I paint now? I surely still like it, no doubt about it, but is that all there is to it? No, as a typical adult who identified his self with too much of redundant stuff along the way, I somehow crave for a 'higher' reason behind my doing. Hopefully mine is not too far away from the dream of my heart.
Fist of all; let me tell you, that I strongly believe that anything which is created out of passion and joy will always shine above anything which was initiated with idea of profit at its origin. Personal experience showed this to me very clearly. I painted enough to notice that whenever I got a customer order for a theme I did not entirely relate to, something which did not resonate with me and I still opted to execute it for profit, the result was incomparable with piece of art I threw randomly on canvas because I woke up in the morning and saw it in my head, because I glimpsed it while I was walking through the city, because it came to me from above while I was lying in the grass. It took me half of the time to finish such painting too.
Another trap in painting, and one I want to avoid by all means, is the most omnipresent one: human ego. I paint because I want to be recognized, admired, rise above other peers, impress the opposite sex, get so good at it that I can paint the most complex of things, or finally earn some praise from my parents. Sounds exaggerated? You'd be surprised how easy it is to fall in this trap. When you start painting new piece it's not uncommon to hear that little voice in your head: I want this painting to be beautiful. Not a bad statement in itself, but how close it is to: I want others to find this painting beautiful? Dangerously close and it usually comes next. If I have to hear anything at all in my head, I would like to hear this: I want this painting to make me feel beautiful, from start till the end, every stroke of the brush. And when I look at it after the last touch I want to dance, because it expresses what I felt and I don't need to know why. It's easy to recognize if I did a good job: it just makes me feel good. Damn good!
But now, at this point of my life, there is a why behind my painting activities. Saying that I paint to make myself happy is very true. Moreover, I paint to share my happiness; to share what I believe is abundant in everybody's heart: LOVE. I paint with hope that if I'm true to my calling, people will look at my painting and will feel at least part of the joy I felt when I was painting it. They might even feel bit of that love I cherish for this world and by doing so I unintentionally raise our common awareness. Because who is happy in present moment, is aware, and who is aware realizes that we are so much more than what we think we are. He knows it without knowing it; he lives the truth of it, which is so much more than knowing.
I paint jungle because when I walk in the jungle the chatter in my mind ceases. I am part of the jungle and I marvel at its perfection, at its beauty, its generosity and lethalness, its birth and death. I paint tigers and other big cats because seeing a living thing possessing so much force while staying spotlessly graceful, looking at this cruel world with careful eyes, set in majestic head covered by strikingly colorful fur, hunter who is hunted, I respect it for its sheer existence. I paint sky because it's a painting in itself. It beats all masterpieces ever painted and we don't have to pay museum entrance to see it. I paint flowers because their silent beauty is so unimposing and says more about this world than thousand words shouted from tribunes of politicians.
And so I paint. For reasons my head would like to call noble, and my heart does not really need to name, because any reason is yet another clever ambush on something which feels no desire to be justified: our creative nature.
So let us be happy and present, regardless if it comes through creative dance of colors on canvas or from building castles of sand in upcoming waves.
Vancouver, May 31 st, 2012