It can be sometimes difficult for non artists to understand why we often sacrifice so much to be an artist. After all, our lives are rarely stable without outside employment, and yet we have to have resources to buy art supplies. Almost never does the cost of a painting cover the costs and time involved. Not to mention the years of experience that went into creating the composition, technique, experimentation and inspiration. We almost never get out of painting monetarily what we put into it.

So why do we paint, then? Why do we choose to experience life from a less than stable perspective just so we can paint?

It’s not really a choice.

It’s a calling.

janet-bray-painting-eleanoraFor me, it’s that when that paintbrush touches canvas, magic flows.  Comfort appears on the canvas in thin layer after thin layer. Emotional expression builds up in the form of whatever is inspiring me at the moment. Attention to detail gives me something for my overactive mind to focus on. Research of the animal, plant, or landscape gives me pleasure, and recreating its best moments gives me a sense of accomplishment. I empathize with my subject – even landscapes. I feel their energies, the sense of being them, and putting it to canvas gives me a distinct joy that I have never found in anything else.

Often when I paint, I turn on my favorite playlist full of songs that uplift me, inspire me and to which I inevitably know all the words. I sing as I paint, and sometimes I take breaks to play piano. The fullness of all this creativity gives me something I cannot achieve in any other way. It’s my own little whirlwind of an upward spiral. Creativity begets more creativity.

When I am deeply engaged in painting, I often forget to eat. I move around constantly because my broken body demands I do not sit still for long lest I turn to stone in that position. I hyperfocus on what I’m doing, and often I miss or ignore phone calls, texts, emails and anything else that isn’t contributing to the creativity.

What comes out the other end are pieces I’m usually pretty proud of.

I don’t require much. In the last six months my entire world has been turned upside down and stomped on – separation of a very long marriage, new home, new world view, new job, another new job, drama from all of the above, a serious car accident (not my fault!) and the resulting injuries and extra work resulting from the claims and litigation… my health has taken a beating and I am struggling with keeping up with all the life changes. But I don’t need much else aside from my animals (2 cats and a parrot) and a few good friends.

And my art.

Always my art. It is my therapist. My lover. My best friend and my worst enemy. My contrast of joy and the vehicle of pain. It focuses me and diffuses me. It preaches to me and gives me peace. It is the experience of reflecting, not creating. It is the communion I experience with the natural world around me, and the expression of how that feels as it flows through me.

This is why. This is the reason we suffer. This is why we deal with substandard wages and sometimes living conditions. It is beyond us to do anything else. It is everything.

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