What's the Purpose of Painting?

September 27, 2018
By Richard Robinson
What's the Purpose of Painting? logo

Someone just emailed me asking a very common question among artists...

She wrote: "I have a common problem.  Even though I paint wonderful paintings (if I do say so myself)  I don't seem to be able to see a good reason or better yet, a purpose for doing them.  How do I find my true passion in painting?  That's my question. Thanks, Peni."

I was away painting for a week and mulled this over while I was out there. Here are a few thoughts that bubbled up to the surface...

Little Moments
Our life is a collection of little moments which slip by so quickly when we don't notice them. The act of painting allows you to be very present in the moment, whether it's struggling or soaring, you're right there - present. When you aren't in the present is when the painting goes bad. Enjoy the moment.

What is the purpose in painting?
What is the purpose in anything? It's THE question. What reason? Ask me on different days and one day there will be no purpose, no reason, and the next day there will be the pure joyful purpose of living and experiencing. I use goals to get me from the hard days through to the easy days. Goals propel me forwards even when there is no reason for them to do so. Sometimes I think having no purpose at all is the purest form of being. Does a tree worry for tomorrow? Does the finger painting child worry for the purpose of their painting?

FINDING your Passion
What FILLS you with passion? Write a list of 5 or more things. Is it visiting a new place at sunset? Meditating? Running down sand dunes? Romantic times? Flying? Diving into turquoise waters? Praying? Running through the shallows? Dancing? Find those things and build more of them into your life - make lists, have goals, dream dreams, have a calendar on your wall with big green ticks in it for the days you've done something that moves you, leave stickers around the house which remind you to get your passion shot for the day, get friends on the same mission helping you helping them, read inspiring books and movies, listen to live music, follow that tingly feeling where EVER it may lead you. "Painting is like the cornerstone in a great arch. It takes the pressure of the day and holds all things together."
- Deborah Strandberg

Lost and Found
We are ALL on the hormone rollercoaster, and those of us who do fly a little higher invariably sink lower too, despite outward appearances. The entire Universe is designed on the basis of ebb and flow, so it's little wonder that our days and weeks and years follow the same pattern. We can't expect to live passionately all the time, but our consolation in the quiet hollows can be that we know we won't remain their long - we're just gaining momentum for the upward swing.

PAINTING with Passion
Aristotle said, "The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance." What is significant to you about your subject or concept? Find the thing you love most about the subject or concept, and focus on that feeling - let everything in the painting and in your experience of creating the painting be an expression of that feeling. One of my favorite moments is sitting back with a coffee and absorbing a freshly finished painting - seeing how my passion translated itself into paint. If the translation is garbled their is inevitably disappointment, but if the translation is true the coffee seems to taste extra good.

:-) Ooh, I'm all inspired! Better stop before I write a book.

Hope that helps in some way - it helped me. :-)

Oliver Deegan 29/06/2020 Richard, this is an article with perfect timing for me. I am having a block, as at the moment, I have too many lessons/ideas/must do sometimes/reasons not to starts/put on the eventually lists/ etc. which are blocking me from starting to paint. I am now out to my "studio" (shed), and will be starting on 3 canvases, each with a different idea and method, as I could not finally decide. I am now prepared to have different paths to completion of a piece, and not feel compelled to work solely on one. Passion is the answer. Painting is for enjoyment, not endurance. Thanks. Oliver
Louis Venter 20/11/2019 Thanks Richard, I agree totally with all you said. Three things come to mind: * Richard Schmid saying: " I paint because I HAVE to paint" * From Dead Poets Society: " We write poetry (or paint) because we are members of the Human Race" * Our God and Creator gave us humans a creative ability that is unique. We are the only species that has this ability. Thats maybe why its such a thrill to be creative! Keep well and enjoy, Louis