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Returning to the studio after some period of neglect is just like an athlete returning to training after being sedentary. Gestural strokes are hard: my forearm is weak and my endurance for more than 2 or 3 hours at the studio is pathetic. But, I just have to work through that and get myself back in shape. My brain knows how to do things but the coordination and muscle memory are a little slow to cooperate. Even though I can not paint every day (as I would like) I do find that I am always looking at the world as a painter and that store of information becomes a resource when I am back behind the easel. Light, shadow, color, shapes – how these things can be built up in paint is always on my mind.
Maybe that’s why being a web designer is generally unsatisfying to me – there is nothing real, it is all flat. Art may be an “illusion” but design I find very analytical – and, probably most significantly, design is always created for a particular audience. It has to be tailored to their needs and expectations. With painting, it only matters what I think (and the artist must be completely honest with themselves because we will often try to be lazy and get by on what comes more easily).
The difference between painting and design is not that one is work – they are both “work”. I don’t paint for fun or leisure or to “express” myself. Self-expression without intent is meaningless (witness the plethora of personal blogs, hobbists encouraged by friends/family to exhibit in cafes, to write poetry and create photo-albums on Flickr). Good and thoughtful design is an essential part of painting. It is the structure that allows for the communication of the Big Idea. But, design by itself is not necessarily “art”.
I know all creative activities are supposed to be “art” these days: cooking (culinary artist), crafting, design and architecture (which now have their own exhibit halls in art museums). But, they just aren’t. Art is a spiritual thing – it is more than the sum of its parts. It is not always efficient or useful – but it is always moving, thought-provoking and very real.