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August 10, 2006
by George Allen Durkee
Recently, a man e-mailed four images of his wife's paintings, asking, "Is this just a hobby, or should she get serious?"
So I looked up the word "hobby." I found it describes my feeling about painting perfectly: "A subject or pursuit of absorbing interest, undertaken primarily for pleasure . . ." Yes! That's it exactly. (And then tacked on, is this qualifying phrase: ". . . during one's leisure time.")
But wait! There is a deeper question than "Is this just a hobby."
What is the real intention? What is the primary motivation for making art? Is painting a casual diversion, or is one called?
Where's the juice?
It's not a question of whether one has native ability or talent. There are lots of people with talent who can't paint worth a damn. The most important prerequisite for becoming an accomplished painter is want to.
It's not a question of whether someone is willing to pay money for one's paintings. We live in a culture where the value of everything is measured by what it will bring in the marketplace, but that is not the measure of art.
And it's not a question of whether one paints during leisure moments or as a livelihood. The real question is: do I have a passion for learning? When I am comfortable with what I have learned so far, am I willing to raise the bar - to risk? Can I go beyond myself again and again despite setbacks and painful disappointments?
I make my own specific meaning of the term to "get serious." It means in my language to make a full-on-commitment. You don't just sit down at a piano and play a sonata without learning some things first. Painting is no different. Should one make the commitment - a sacred covenant with The God of Painting? No one can tell another whether they should or shouldn't. And I can't say how one makes the choice. It is a soul choice. The closest I can come is to suggest that one ask, Where's the juice?
Be well, Mary