Mar 31, 2014

Letting Go of Your Art

I'm sometimes asked if I have a hard time letting go of my paintings when I sell them. People often have the idea that artists get very emotionally attached to their work. Because of the love of their work, that must translate to love of the painting itself. I'm not quite sure why. Perhaps it's because people feel art comes from the heart instead of the head. Or perhaps because the artist is emotionally stirred by the subject, it's assumed they become emotionally stirred by their representation of the subject. But, if you think about it, many people love their work but don't necessarily translate that into an attachment to the end product. Think of architects. Theirs is a creative job. They may love their work. But do they feel the need to own every house created from their ideas? Not likely. So, do artists need to keep every painting created from their ideas?

I certainly can't speak for other artists. Maybe it's true for some artists, that their paintings become part of the family, their children, birthed from their creative womb. So perhaps they form some deep emotional bond with it that way. But I can only speak for myself.

Do I have a hard time letting go of my paintings?

The short answer: No.

Why not? Why do other artists get so attached to their work and I don't? The reason I don't get attached probably has to do with the reason I create art. You often hear people talk about art as a form of self-expression, emotional expression, or whatever the current term is. But, to be perfectly honest, I do not create art for the purpose of expression of any kind.

What! You're an artist! Isn't that the purpose of art, to express oneself?!

Honestly, I don't even know what the heck that means! Express myself? What does that really mean??

I'll tell you why I create art. Not for self-expression. I create art because I want to share beautiful images with other people. If I'm not sharing my images with people, or they don't think they're beautiful, there's no point. I have no desire to paint images just for myself. If I could sit on a deserted island and just "express myself" at the easel all day, knowing no one would ever see any of my work for all eternity, I'd rather just go fishing.

To me there is no purpose to art if it can't be shared. My reward for creating art is not self-expression. My reward is the satisfaction of knowing other people are deriving pleasure from it. I want people to see it, become emotionally stirred by it, and get some sort of enjoyment or pleasure from it. If I paint a picture of a horse, and someone tells me they have to buy it because it reminds them of their wonderful childhood summers riding horses on the uncle's ranch, that is far more gratifying to me than simply creating a painting of a horse because of my own love of horses, or love of painting.

That said, there are exceptions. I do occasionally become somewhat attached to a painting under certain circumstances. This is usually a result of having achieved some milestone in my skill development. For example, I did get a little attached to this fox pup painting when I finished it.

Why this one? Because it was different. It was the first painting I had ever done where I used only the three primary colors and white. All paintings created before it had included tubes of all sorts of pre-mixed colors. In this one, I had used only red, yellow, blue, and white. All browns, grays, greens, oranges, and every other color, was mixed from those primaries. That, to me, was a special achievement in my skill development, and I was rather proud of the results, especially for my first try.

So, for a while, I did not even put this painting up for sale, because I did not want to part with it. It wasn't because I had a particular attachment to the work, or the scene. It just represented an accomplishment in my skill development and I wanted to enjoy the triumph for a while.

I did, however, eventually get over it and sell the painting.

Here's one other example of a painting I got attached to for a short while. Again, not because I had any particular attachment to the image itself, to chickadees, or apples, or the greens and reds, or whatever. It was because it represented an advance in my skills to me.This was the first painting I created where I got multiple compliments on the excellent composition of the piece. While I may have already been skilled at rendering detail, or lighting, composition had always been a little elusive to me. This painting represents a point at which I actually conquered the challenge of creating good composition.

This chickadee painting is a more recent work than the fox pup painting, so I haven't tired of it yet and still have a little fondness for this piece. But, it is partly because I am fond of this piece that I would like to let it go and see it sold. If it sits in storage and collects dust that would make me sad no matter how much I love looking at it. I want to know that someone else will love it and enjoy it as much as I have. It's of little use to me if it can't be shared.

For me, I need to move on, to the next milestone, however many paintings that takes. But I certainly hope that all my stepping stones along the way will be enjoyed by many others. Otherwise, my art journey is for nothing.

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