“I’m only an artist because painting is cheaper than therapy."
We’ve all probably heard someone say this to us before, and to be honest, I used to kind of hate this statement. It’s always been my firm belief that anyone with a talent should feel obligated to use that talent to benefit the world around them. The job of a good artist should be to create work that inspires positive change, shares information, or questions the way people think. This isn’t to say that I thought it was inappropriate for an artist to create art for their own therapeutic purposes however—simply creating art for one’s own personal gain seems selfish. In the same way that a good doctor shouldn’t be concerned only with their own health, I didn’t think that a good artist should be making art only for their own benefit.
Eventually I started to realize something though. A lot of the art I really enjoy functions as a way for the artist who created it to vent about something going on in their life. They were expressing emotion, passion, fear, love, heartbreak, in a way that only paint or sculpture could convey. I enjoyed it because I connected with it. Their art was not only therapeutic for them to create; but therapeutic for me to be audience to as well.
Since then, a lot of my own artwork has latched onto the idea of art as having a therapeutic quality for the audience viewing it. If an artist creates something personal, and honest, and vulnerable, an audience can relate to it and feel some kind of sense of connection with the artist who created it—as well as all the other members of the audience connecting to the art alongside them. There’s comfort in that, I think, and bringing people closer together is always a good thing.
With all of that said, I also have to admit that there IS something therapeutic about the simple act of creating. The sensation of painting is always a relaxing one if we can allow ourselves to enjoy it without fear of making mistakes. Painting can be meditative and helps you to be mindful of both details and images as wholes. Leonardo Da Vinci said “Painting embraces all the ten functions of the eye; that is to say, darkness, light, body and color, shape and location, distance and closeness, motion and rest,” and some suggest that the complex visual focus he describes allows us to push all of our worries aside without effort, and instead pay attention to the task of painting and creating.
I think that the casual artist and the trained artist alike can find some kind of comfort in losing themselves in a painting. There’s a sense of healing that comes from the calm and easy focus and attention described by Da Vinci. There’s also something wondrous about watching a blank canvas transform into a work of art—whether the painter involved has been painting their entire life or has only just picked up a brush.
So yes, I still firmly believe that talented artists should try to use their art to benefit others. But simply creating something positive is one way to do that. While I do still hang on to this opinion, I also believe that it’s always important for one to take care of themselves as well. While I would of course never say that art accomplishes everything that therapy can, painting is indeed a fantastic way to relieve stress, relax, and of course express one’s emotions. When most therapists charge around one hundred dollars for a session, and it costs less than half of that to paint with professional artists at our Pinot’s Palette studio in Bricktown, I guess I can’t argue that painting IS actually cheaper than therapy.
- The Artist's Insight - A monthly blog special by Eric Maille -
I’ve been painting my entire life, but I think you’ll agree with me that being a painter doesn’t make you an artist. An artist must be willing to explore the fascinating world that exists behind paintings- a rich history of unique talents, creative imaginations, innovative techniques, and thoughtful self-expression.
I’ve spent a long time developing that insight and learning from the insight of others, and it's helped me to become a professional painter and illustrator living and working in Norman Oklahoma, and an instructor at Pinot’s Palette Bricktown. Now, once a month, I’ll be providing tips, tricks, and stories from a polished perspective, and an artist’s insight, so that even the casual painter, can become an art-lover and artist themselves!
Sincerely yours, Eric Maille