Recently, someone asked me how I learned to paint like I do. Fortunately, their question was complimentary—they liked a portrait I had painted! My response included naming experiences I’ve had—growing up in the home of artists and around the Cleveland Institute of Art; taking a few classes here and there; watching people, particularly through employment that encouraged that (the Army, personal training and death investigation); and drawing and painting a lot.
But there’s one thing I missed: I love to draw and paint, particularly people. I love art. As the bumper sticker says, without “ART,” the Earth is just “EH.” For me, this is true. Art and love are intertwined.
I think it’s love that makes us good at what we do. Love makes us want to be good and is the reward for working hard at it. It’s love that makes the work light and easy. And it’s love that gets us over the bumps in the road. In life—but in art.
Certainly, love makes the world go ‘round, but it also makes art go ‘round in very specific ways.
It’s love that encourages me to seek experience, community and technical proficiency. It makes me hungry to learn and grow, to seek people like me and to reach out and encourage others when I can and to read books and articles and blogs, watch YouTube videos and go to conferences. Love encourages me to dream of art school someday, even at almost 50 years old. To learn and to teach and share.
“But wait! There’s more!” as the “As seen on TV” salesperson might say.
I get a whole lotta love back from art. First and foremost, art is a gift to me. I’m grateful—and blessed—to be able to engage in the act of creating something. Art fulfills me and makes me happy. I find myself enthralled and laughing and intimate with art. It is a journey and a destination—and healing. Each of us has a lot to heal in this life. I’ve tried it through yoga and physical activity and long walks in nature. All of this is healing, but art . . . that is more. In creating, I learn to love myself more truly, even my blissfully apparent flaws. And I cannot help but love others, as I paint them.
Indeed, art is a labor of love—both on the part of the creator and the created. And so yes, what makes a good work of art is training and praFctice and perhaps a natural bent toward the creative—but it’s also love. A labor and life of love. For the artist, first. And then for the audience.