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  • Writer's pictureLucy

Q: Why? A: Because vs Intention

Reportedly when English explorer George Mallory was asked "Why do you want to climb Mt Everest?" he answered,"Because it is there."

For the inquiring mind, there is a lot of "why?" in art:

Why did the artist make this piece?

Why did the artist choose that subject matter?

Why did the artist choose those colors?

Why did the artist compose the piece that way? Why did the artist make the piece that size?

For some artists the simple answer is "because".

Because I wanted to.

Because I can.

Because I liked how it looked.

Because I felt like it.

Because I am an artist!

And indeed, you could argue the above questions and answers are irrelevant because artists do not need to justify their art.

Art is because it is.

And a part of me agrees, art is personal expression and needs no explanation.

However, personally I do a lot of planning, thinking, and researching for each painting.

Before I start a painting I spend time in thought observing what is happening in my life and how I feel about it. Then I ask myself, "what do I want to say about it?" Once I have a clear intention (and that can take a while!) I start looking for objects to represent the idea either symbolically or literally.

Once I have everything collected I head to the studio to set up a still life with a backdrop and experiment with lighting. I use a view finder to "crop" the scene/tableau and decide how I want to center the composition.

If the tableau looks good through the view finder I do several small (2" x 2") black and white value sketches to see if the values are interesting and lead the eye through the composition. I overlay geometrical compositional lines to check the foundation of the composition.

If anything isn't working I start over.

As my mentor Nancy Lucas-Williams at The Masters' Atelier of Drawing and Painting said, "A slow start makes for a fast finish!"

Eventually I compose something that works and I set up my easel and pastels to start painting. As I paint I meditate on my choices and usually end up finding greater meaning and depth to my composition than I was consciously aware. The more still life paintings I do the more I trust myself in those beginning steps.

To paraphrase the tagline from the movie Field of Dreams, "If I paint it, I will understand it".

Is my way any better than that artist that creates without conscious intention?


Absolutely not.

Creating with deep intention is just my way and I find great joy and fulfillment in it. 😊

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