The Purpose of Art…

is washing the dust of daily life off our souls. ~ Pablo Picasso

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to check out the Picasso exhibit at the de Young Museum. It was incredible and inspiring, spanning his entire career and featuring works done in every medium imaginable. Sculptures in ceramic and metal; paintings in oil, watercolor, gouache and acrylic, drawings in ink, in charcoal, pencil and oil pastels; and in each room, blazoned across the wall above the art, quotes from the man himself, who had a colorful way with words, too.

It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child was one of my favorites, partly because you can see such playfulness in his approach to art, his experimentations with style and with substance, and you can sense his desire to cut through the roadblocks of mind and create directly from the heart, as a child does so naturally.

The other reason I loved the quote? I’ve begun painting this summer, and I’ve given myself permission not to study or practice, not to seek perfection or work at it. I’m playing, getting messy, coming at the canvas with childlike abandon and a variety of tools – brushes, sponges and palatte knives.

No, you won’t see any of my pieces in the de Young in this lifetime, and Picasso might not think I have a speck of talent, but I like to think he’d applaud my gusto and appreciate the joy I feel when I’m up to my elbows in splatters of acrylic with the sun trickling down through the lattice roof of my pergola and Joni Mitchell crooning through my iPod.

I work at writing, and I work hard. Painting, for me, is playing. (And the power of play should never be underestimated!) It’s a different way to tickle my Muse, to get her laughing and relaxed and maybe a little inspired. I couldn’t care less if my canvases are wall-worthy, though I will be hanging this piece – my very first one, which I painted to Arvo Part’s “Alina” – in my office, to remind me of the importance of taking risks and doing the thing (whatever it is) you think you can’t.

Besides, I rather like it. 

There’s been a thread sneaking through the posts lately, about having the courage to live strong and do what you want, even (or maybe especially) if it challenges you or scares you a bit. I’d wanted to paint for years, but I’d convinced myself I couldn’t. If I were setting out to paint like Raphael that would be absolutely true, and I’m certainly no Picasso. But as the man said – I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.

I’m not studying per se, but I’m definitely learning. I’m in this for the creative rush, for the feel of wet paint on my fingers and to “wash the dust of daily life” off my soul. After an hour or two, I hit the same Zen-like state I reach in a good, powerful writing session. It’s bliss, really – and when I turned forty a few years ago, I committed myself to spending the rest of my life following it wherever it may lead, even if I get a little messy along the way. (And I’ve known for years that I have a green thumb. I figure the green fingers are the perfect compliment!)


12 responses to “The Purpose of Art…

  1. Actually, I rather like your first piece. It has flow and continuity and I’m glad you hung it. It even compliments the wall. *grin*

  2. Jar O' Marbles

    Nothing so fun as making a mess with art supplies. It’s cathartic. It’s meditation for the creative parts of your mind.

  3. I’m with you about doing something other… And for me, it can be almost anything other – cooking or cleaning or painting or shopping or walking or just about anything. But my journal is my play time – oh, I write my deepest darkest thoughts in it, but I also decorate it, using it like a scrapbook. And that’s fun. Maybe I’m a collager at heart?


  4. Life isn’t long enough to do all there is to do, so don’t waste it not doing things you want because you’re afraid you might not do it as well as someone else or for fear of what someone else thinks.

    I like your painting. I also like the fact that you did it because you always wanted to. Tells me you’re not wasting time–because that’s a sin. 🙂


  5. Thanks, Wally. I agree, wasting time is a sin. And one of the perks of turning 40 and finding myself an orphan? I no longer worry about pleasing anyone but myself and my husband (and he’s easy to please) and I really don’t care what other people think of my choices. 🙂

  6. Great post, Lisa!

    I’ve always envied painters, artists. I’m not much good (okay, I’m horrible) at it. I can paint a picture with words, but anything else usually falls short. 😀


  7. I agree with Wally, do it because you love it. It take a lot of skill to paint. I really admire you for doing it. Pleasing yourself and making yourself happy is key to making others happy.


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