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A Solitary Process

I can imagine few tasks as lonely as painting. I believe this characteristic of my art form motivates painting classes, “plein air” excursions and painting clubs. Most artists are not hermits. They do not choose to work alone.

If that is so, why is the public’s mental image of an artist one of a lonely soul working feverishly in a garret somewhere? Because that image rings true.

Painting is a solitary process. It often begins with a visitation by the creative muse inspiring a person to invent something from nothing. Then an execution commences that can be very messy. Paint, dirty brushes, spill prone containers of mediums, water or brush cleaner all invite cleaning catastrophe. Add infinite numbers of progress decisions by the artist - each a solitary and singular choice taken to expedite an outcome only visible in the painter’s mind - would force me to exile the perpetrator immediately to one of those garrets. The process demands isolation.

So, most paintings happen by an artist working alone. During that happening, the artist would have entertained input from others, especially other artists and the viewing public, but due to isolation, input was not available. In today’s team work ethic, the concept of individual accomplishment is inherently alien.

The artist then exhibits the work in an atmosphere unsympathetic to individual achievement and is surprised public reaction is a blank uncomprehending and unappreciative stare. Painting is a journey taken alone by the artist and only after it is finished does it become an often unwelcome public item. Compare attendance at an art gallery opening to the most tepid Hollywood release.

For most artists, painting is a garret imprisoned art form through the process including exhibition. Lonely…but sadly, often true.

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