Inside Out – Why on Earth do I Paint?

Image of Alberta Prairie
Bold Prairie – 8″x10″ oil on canvas by Cheryl Peddie

‘Bold Prairie’
8″x10″ oil on canvas  • SOLD
by Cheryl Peddie

Am I an oddball? I’ve read a lot about other artists’ motivations lately. Comments about how their art depicts what’s in their heart and soul. Or, that a particular piece explores their beliefs about some particular issue. I notice stories like these because the story of my own motivation often seems to be missing. It’s not like I lost it. To lose something, you have to have owned it in the first place. Or at least, knew what the heck it looked like.

When I ask myself was in my heart when I painted this piece? Or what message I was trying to get across by painting the prairie in this way? Couldn’t tell you. Most of the time, I just go on auto-pilot when I’m painting. I’m not thinking ‘well if I put this stroke that way, it conveys this big idea I have or feel’.

When I’m painting, I just like that my brain chatter, worries and my TTD list shuts off. Things around me just still and my mind slips into peacefulness. I like the motion of reaching for paint, mixing it, laying it down on the canvas. The dance of stepping back to consider what’s there, what isn’t, what needs to still happen; and then moving back to make it happen.

But as to what I’m trying to represent of myself, of my subject matter? Most of the time, your guess is as good as mine. Now I realize, this is likely not what customers want to hear. I think that some folks want to hear about the inside story of a painting – the artists’ vision. Or some philosophical ‘why’ of a particular piece. But for most of my work, I just can’t articulate what my ‘why’ is. So I know I’m sticking myself out on a limb here.

What I do know is how I’ve heard my art being spoken of. I’ve heard folks comment on how a lot of my images have a short depth of field; about how some of my brush work is admired because it’s ‘unexpected’. About how clean my color is and of how it makes people feel happy to view.

So that makes me wonder: can you really always decide what part of your ‘insides’ will come ‘outside’ to live on your own canvas? So, yes, ones art can depict what’s in their heart and soul. But I think that although you can want this or that emotion, belief, viewpoint, or message to express itself, maybe it can’t be orchestrated or composed in such a predictable way.

Maybe it’s more of an unpredictable revealing of what’s in our hearts and souls. In an exquisitely vulnerable way, our paintings are an opening of ourselves. We do not know in advance what aspect of ourselves is going to be revealed. It is this that makes each piece of art so rare and beautiful. Each painting reveals a moment in time in the artists’ life and being, that is like no other.

Thanks for reading. All my best, Cheryl.

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2 thoughts on “Inside Out – Why on Earth do I Paint?

  1. Thank you for sharing this… I can tell it came from your heart and from a very honest place. I identify with you so much and you were quite eloquent in expressing your ideas.

    1. Thanks again Anne – yes it was a very honest place! It was scary to write and put out there. I hope that as the years progress I’ll find that I understand my motivations for art more clearly, and more in advance!! Take care!

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