On a more theoretical level, I’ve spent a good deal of time gaining an understanding of the philosophy of aesthetics.
When art reaches the level of emotional response, it has the potential to purge our minds of unwanted feelings. The buildup of socially unacceptable feelings are given vent. Properly designed, art can provide an alternative to reality similar to the dream state, a variation of reality accepted by the mind. Art offers order, clarification, focus, transport, and escape from an chaotic world filled with conflict without resolution, confusion and doubt. In this chaotic world all of the arts are small islands of order. This cathartic effect is one of the reasons why art has had an almost mystic appeal to mankind down through the ages.
Art is accomplished in a state of high concentration. Time is suspended, skill sets are employed, there is the risk of failure and the opportunity for growth. It is this process of art, not the result, that is the destination of the artist. Robert Henri said, “The object of a painting is not the object of a painting, the object of a painting is a state of being.” Csikszentmihalyi titled his book on this subject, Flow, subtitle, The Psychology of Optimal Experience.
In order to concentrate my attention on the objective of growing the quality of my work, I find that public acclaim and financial reward are best relegated to the realm of desirable but de-emphasized consequences.
The human tendency is toward misoneism, which is the resistance to and fear of change. We find countless rationalizations that allow us to remain stuck in our comfortable habits. This leads to developing a level of competence and moving horizontally through life. We encounter examples of this every day but I do not wish to be among their ranks.
In his book, Edgar Payne quotes Whipple as having said, “Nature does not capriciously scatter her secrets as golden gifts to lazy poets and luxurious darlings, but imposes tasks when presenting opportunities.”
Art has the potential to afford the viewer and the artist expanded and illuminated experience, but for this to evolve the artist must be dedicated to growth. Growth implies change which may seem at variance with the desirable aim of automaticity, action without conscious thought. For change as well as automaticity to occur, new concepts must be discovered separately and if accepted folded into the painting process. I’m advocating here a lifetime of constant learning for the purpose of adding to, refining or eliminating the various methods employed. After John Singer Sargent sought out and painted with Claude Monet, he incorporated the theories of impressionism into his work and the benefits were self-evident. The deficiencies of an athlete are pointed out by a coach, worked on separately, folded in, and the result is improvement. We artists must be our own coaches.