On Purpose: Why Make This Art?

October 28, 2020

"What would you think if I sang out of tune," asked Ringo back in the day. He wondered if his audience would "stand up and walk out on him"? Behind his query is the riddle whose solve continues to elude so many of us who set out to express ourselves creatively. Adoration and perfection... hindrances which drain much of the magic from the beauty we might express. How might we make them less mighty?

My experience has been that there's a powerful creative reset at hand in the ongoing act of reconnecting to those motivations for taking our voice to the microphone, the pastels to the textured surface... our eye to the viewfinder. I do so periodically by unplugging and drilling down, truthfully on WHY it is that I make these images. WHY it is that I take a pen to the page to set these pictures to poetic verse? It's an exercise rich in return and an opportunity to both recall and re-order my purposes. In getting quiet with this question of WHY, my list generally resembles something like this...

  1. Because only I can see some thing in a certain light
  2. To practice and learn and stretch my mind... to grow as an artist
  3. To mute the external noise, exhale and get present
  4. To make a record that a certain person, place, thing or moment happened... and to tease out its extraordinary
  5. To, perhaps, one day share it with another?

If approached (care)freely, a list as this should build (and order) itself fairly effortlessly. Such an account will be (and should be) unique, for each of us. However, motivations such as my Number 5, will to some degree likely be a given for all. It's a reality not to be excluded, but rather dimmed. Despite our best attempts, forever there simmers some concern for how others may react and receive our imperfect artistic expression. The question becomes, how much weight do we allow it to seize? Regular visits to such probes present golden opportunities for reclaiming our motivation and shifting back to truth as the driving factor in our creative process.

When I downgrade the "riddle" to the bottom of my list, I cut off a bit of the clench the applause factor holds on the work that I make. In a gesture of pause to consider the hierarchy of my purposes, well before the click of my shutter, often a quiet recalibration happens. Of course ongoing practice is essential in order to build some muscle memory around this recall. And, despite my efforts, many days I find my list going straight out the window as I lunge forward in a fog of outside influences. But some days... some days I remember, and when I do my "verses" are just a bit truer.

Back to the Ringo question... Lucky for us, he sang out his tune, and of course, we know how that plot unfolded!


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