Why do I create art? Why do I paint watercolours? Why do I choose the subjects I do? Why do I paint in a representational way? Why indeed, when we live in a society bombarded with imagery almost every second of our lives?
The answers to these questions may, on the surface, be very simple. But the simplicity would be deceptive.
They may on the other hand, be complicated. But the complications could seem pretentious.
So how should I answer them?
I will just be honest. I have drawn, and painted, for as long as I can remember. It is something you could say I’ve been driven to do, but I wouldn’t describe it like that. I just really like doing it, and I find the results very satisfying. So, there’s your simple answer.
But why do I like doing it? Why do the results satisfy me?
I am a thinker. I like to sort things out in my mind and understand them from every angle. I doubt and examine everything until it makes sense to me. Every fibre of my being hates not understanding something if I’ve encountered it. I want to know, but at the same time, I like mystery. It is the quest for knowing that I enjoy the most. A long time ago in my biology class in high school, there was a poster showing a tropical island, and the caption was, “The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder”.
It was this kind of thinking that led me on from there to study biology and chemistry in university. I learned such amazing things! Every single thing I learned did lead to another question and so I found the caption on that poster to be true. I was filled with wonder. I went on to try to add a few little grains of sand to the island myself.
A life break from the laboratory work extended itself for quite some time, I was enjoying all the imagery of illustrated children’s books with my kids, and I felt the desire to express the wonder through that medium. I studied, I wrote, I sketched, and still I wasn’t satisfied. That is when I learned to paint with watercolours. And once I really learned to paint with them, there was no turning back.
This is my medium! I can let it follow the rules of gravity, observe hydrophobic and hydrophilic interactions, perform chromatography, test bonding, think about the physics of light, the optics of perspective, study botany and zoology, all on my sheets of 140 lb cold press paper. Add in other weights and roughnesses, gesso-coated paper and yupo, and it gets even more exciting. I can be completely experimental but I can also be in complete control. Every painting is a multitude of puzzles I have considered and attempted to solve, as well as being a single puzzle in and of itself. What is it about this that makes me want to paint it? How do I represent this best? In what way can I show the viewer of this painting what I see in my mind’s eye? And of course, since they are transparent watercolours – how do I keep the light? I’m not sure what goes through other people’s minds when they are riding in a car, or hiking on a trail, or looking at someone’s face, but in my mind I am seeing paintings, considering what pigments I would use, analyzing angles, and noticing the patterns. I will never have enough time to create them all.
When I decide to paint something, it is because there is something there, at that moment, that attracts my brain and is meaningful to me. It may be sentiment, comfort, beauty, light, wonder, memory, or a significant pattern. It is in the patterns, especially, that I lose myself. I guess that speaks of the scientist that remains in me.
I like to think I solve just enough of the puzzles to let the viewers sort the rest out themselves, but perhaps sometimes I go too far. Never mind, I can’t help myself as I get lost in the patterns I want you too to see. I think there is something very special about an image that has travelled through the intricacies of the human brain and human hands before materializing. No one else on the planet will make the same piece of art as me and that gives me comfort. Each of my paintings and my other creations will be a legacy to the generations that follow this time, and so something of me will remain in this world long after I am gone. Not only are my thought patterns and hand movements somewhat preserved, but also the world I am presently living in. And this is a very quickly changing world.