The Advancing Artist: Make War Not Art

Revolt of Cairo by Anne-Louis Girodet

Creative endeavor is not a warm blanket, but a war! To settle in a place where all my expectations are met with ease is no longer being creative, it is only existing. Too many times art is seen as frivolity, a pastime, and one of relaxation and calm. If it is that, if it only soothes and never agitates, then I know I am dormant, frozen in the grip of contentment.

It isn’t easy being a good student. It requires great perseverance, patience, and hard work.” Barbara Nechis

Rage” against the calm, cut your path through the thickets where briar and thorns cut, where you must exert yourself, over and over, against the unseen foe, towards the brawny intellect only experience bestows. Press ever forward, upward, around and back. Lay your pride at the threshold of “dreams come true”, and miracles.

…a lesson crucial to those who want…to tackle the upper reaches…; if you work hard enough and assert yourself, and use your mind and imagination, you can shape the world to your desires.” Malcolm Gladwell

Be ravenous! Growing as an artist requires that I not be a spectator, one watching the thick , black ooze of quiet effort drip from his uncallused hands, but a warrior, wielding saber on the field of battle, on the field of discovery.

“There are no shortcuts. One never knows when an ‘inspired’ painting will occur, but the more concentrated hard work is put in, the more likely the successes will be. A studio session is usually draining, exhausting and occasionally exhilarating. If it is relaxing, something is probably wrong; you are not thinking hard enough.” Barbara Nechis


MT McClanahan

An artist and perpetual thinker, MT McClanahan finds inspiration through connecting ideas across a broad range of topics. He especially enjoys philosophy and how art and life interconnect. He is the founder of TPT and his paintings can be seen at mtmcclanahan.com.

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11 Responses

  1. oldswimmer says:

    Ride on!!!!! Right on, too!

  2. roopadudley says:

    In my studio I work till my body and mind starts to get numb averaging about 6 to 10 hours a day. It is a frustrating and grueling experience to paint — I am speaking about the process of creating something I have already envisioned fully completed to the last detail.. Then viola! Just like magic a new painting is born (just as I envisioned) and all that pain of painting it and the frustration suffered is completely forgotten and thus moving on to a next challenge. I mainly live for the results.. I really don’t know how to stop or relax anymore.

    Painting used to be a past time for me years ago and then I got laid off in 2012 and instead of hitting the blues or reaching out for gin and tonic, I equipped myself with some canvases, paint brushes and paints to literally paint my sorrows away. I found solace by producing artwork like an obsessive maniac. The more complex the composition, the better satisfaction I get from seeing it done right.

    The irony that I find here is that I consider my Art to be Epicurean – The Art that Delights. However, in order to get to that stage where it becomes ‘delightful’ I go through a process that is anything but delightful.

    I thank God everyday for blessing me with Hyper Focus ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), a loving husband and my two healthy remarkable girls who bring much joy to my otherwise lonely existence as an artist. It is unbelievable how much one can accomplish when they are motivated and at peace with themselves and their lives. Every day is a bonus and an opportunity to create something beautiful. So I don’t know if I would count this as being at WAR, but rather as PEACE or BLISS that comes naturally when one has reached his/her self actualization.

    • One man’s metaphor is another man’s (woman’s in this case), well, I don’t know, but I think we’re talking about the same thing here.

      Another way to say it might be that, I want the purpose of doing to be to grow, to be of moving beyond where I am now, to see more. It is not one of stagnation. I don’t want my purpose to be one of standing still. To do this I don’t think I can think about making “Art”, but of making the statement. Art is only the residue of my ever expanding intentions.

  3. I have begun to recognize that an artist stakes his(er) life on the work.
    The work at hand is transformation and the will, courage, skill, and daring it takes to do that
    In very real terms, the actions an artist takes paint are as irreversible as actions taken on the field of battle. Thanks MT for pointing this out.
    How, then, to paint that lovely vase of flowers , eh?

  4. Merima Salidzik says:

    If I may give my modest opinion, I think that is the beauty and power of art, the transformation, we can take any negative emotion and as Roopa suggested turn into positive energy and creat something that ia actually benefitial to everyone. There are no guarantees that someone will like our art but in any case we painted out the emotion rather than let it sit dormant and consume us. I personally believe that creativity is the key to fuel innovation and mechanical aspects of life to greatness. What would any great building such as the Gugenheim for example be if it wasn’t a work of art? But at the same time if it was not structurally sound than how could we enjoy it? I guess what I am revealing is that I love architecture but just not any architecture, but great time-test withstanding architecture that puzzles us and that stands out.

    • MTMcClanahan says:

      You describe the feeling so well Mirima, it is good that we get it out and not let it consume, which it will. I like “painted out the emotion”. That creativity is the foundation of all we do must be so. Very interesting. Creativity is not intelligence but may be even more important to everything we pursue. I will have to think more on this, maybe find some resources on it.

  5. I just noted an auto-spell in my remark that makes it confusing. As it is posted “In very real terms, the actions an artist takes paint are as irreversible as actions taken on the field of battle. ”
    I think I wanted to say, “In very real terms, the actions an artist makes in paint are as irreversible as actions taken on the field of battle.”

    I hope this might help a bit.

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