Drawing Lines

We draw many lines in life–make many choices and judgments–in significant areas like religion or politics, and in those less far-reaching, as in what to eat, what to wear, the colors we will paint our walls, the amount of skin we will show, the number of pets we’ll have, how much alcohol to consume, and on and on. We are continuously drawing the proverbial line.

These lines are often blurred–we sway one way or the other–for varying reasons, and our choices may be few or many (though the number of possibilities has little to do with how difficult the choice may be). Lines are drawn between complete opposites, like the difference between a red blouse and a green one, or they can be more closely related, like whether to have your steak medium or medium rare.

How does the artist decide where to draw the line with his art, i.e., how is it decided how one will paint, in what style. Of course it is not decided per say, it is discovered, it is found out, and it is what we love about ourselves–our unique individuality–that we search for. We are the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel”, the amazing and wonderful secret to continuously discover, and never do we tire of the journey because it’s ever changing–that which is sought–and so our love evolves with it.

Ladle 9x12 oil on board MTMcClanahanMaybe you don’t know where you want to go, what you want the work to be, to look like, to say. These questions are, many times and especially at first, unanswerable. We copy what we like and admire because we think this is how we want to be and we copy to learn. Experience, and therefore confidence, hasn’t developed enough to give us the courage to be ourselves, which is what we really want, and what we love. We are abundantly original; we only have to find ourselves, find this originality, discover it’s form.

“The journey is to find ourselves.”

We work, we imitate, we study, we work some more and then some more, and gradually we see something unique emerge from ourselves. It is a paradox that we must bring things that are not us, into us, to pull out our originality, to find our voice, our song. The journey is to find ourselves. In a sense we hide from ourselves and indirectly we find ourselves where we’ve always been, right here, like Michelangelo’s masterpiece waiting to be discovered from inside a block of marble. Michelangelo said, “If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery it wouldn’t seem so wonderful anymore.” He also said to work diligently and to not waste time. Work is the path to who we are.

Image: Ladle 9×12 oil on board MTMcClanahan

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.

2 Responses

  1. Roopa Dudley says:

    This is the very blog/article that prompted me to write about “Art With Purpose” that you just published on Dec. 28th. As artists we are forever seeking truth — and finding truth means finding ourselves. There is something liberating about it when we come face to face with truth. I completely agree with Michelangelo statement: “If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery it would not seem so wonderful anymore.”

  2. I think there is a difference between a style that emerges and a thoughtful purpose. Myself being one that relies heavily on feeling, your post Defining Your Purpose Through Your Artist’s Statementis extremely helpful in clarifying the difference. And it is such great advise to actually write out an Artist’s Statement that really speaks of what you do or want to do, rather than espousing artistic jargon just for the sake of sounding artistic. The latter doesn’t help anyone.

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