261: Creating as Naturally as Breathing

“You must always work not just within, but below your means. If you can handle three elements, handle only two. If you can handle ten, then handle only five. In that way, the ones you do handle, you handle with more ease, more mastery, and you create a feeling of strength in reserve. —Pablo Picasso”

THE creative process is a means of envisioning a new, unrealized world. It is a process independent and transcendent of language. It is a means of nourishing both the creator and those who view the creation. Yet this nutrition is not widely esteemed. Art continues to be a marginal occupation socially, culturally, and economically. Yet many persist in its making.

I’ve had the privilege to know many artists who have made a wide variety of fascinating art. Only a few would be considered financially successful exclusively from fine art. In view of the obstacles to artistic success why do we persist? Although we are not immune to the lure of fame and wealth all the artists I know, without fail, love what they do.

One reason artists are so profoundly in love with the day-to-day work of making art is the opportunity for self-transformation. Each work of art excavates and reveals our true identity–each painting is a step in self-transformation.

I recently read a blog post stating people don’t buy what you make but rather buy why you make it. This smacked of the kind of manipulative marketing I consciously resist (see the TED video on the linked page). But why we do what we do, regardless of its usefulness in marketing, is a valid line of inquiry. And why do artists persist in doing what they do against great odds?

Our quest for transformation is a part of what we think is a good life– a life that embraces values we cherish. Not simply values we have fallen into or have been impressed into us by our culture–but values that expand what it means to be alive. This can often lead to a frustrating yearning for unattainable ideals. Such lack of practicality is what often earns our reputation as utopian daydreamers.

In addition to dreaming we have to sell our work in order to continue our artistic projects. Recently I concluded that I need to simplify my project. I need to work below my means, as suggested in the Picasso quote above, in order to insure that, paradoxically, the level I work at is my absolute best.

Working at an idealistic fever pitch is not sustainable. It depletes discipline and willpower. We must not let our ambition outstrip our abilities nor let flattery diminish the sincerity of our work. It takes humility to embrace our unique talents no matter how lowly we think they are.

By embracing our natural abilities and working below our means our work will have more ease, mastery, and above all, authenticity. We will attain a higher level of focus and relaxation and creating art will become, as Leonardo Da Vinci suggested, as natural as breathing.

Brad Teare –December 2015

Turn to Light, 60″ x 48″, acrylic on canvas, work in progress.

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Updated: 13th July 2024
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