Mystery: The End To The Means

I wonder what drives someone, myself included, to speak through art. What makes it necessary? It is necessary, to get it out, I mean. I don’t think it’s for anyone, really, but the artist; if there were no one else around I would still do it I’m sure.

Fire In The Sky 18x24 acrylic on canvas

I’ve had trouble working lately, I think because, somehow, the answer to this question has become very muddled. What was once an end in itself--illusionism/realism/impressionism--is now a means. The end I’ve now discovered, what I’m ultimately after in my work, has become, what I see as, mystery.

By whatever means or images I am moved to describe it I’m convinced that mystery is my goal. I could call it a feeling; how I feel when I see or imagine a certain scene, there is this overall felt impression that is indefinable and deeper than the things or shapes presented though the overall composition speaks to this feeling. It's comfortable and satisfying, the closer the goal I get. In every painting I try to create this feeling, it's the reason I paint (I think on some level it always has been), even though I cannot define it perfectly.

I wonder, also, how this can be, how can abstract shapes of color say anything about the depths of life. A beautiful flower is just that, beautiful, but I know it can also speak to deeper things by what it is, by the very fact that it is, by how it's presented, and so on.

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

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2 Responses

  1. Debraann says:

    Very interesting question! I think I am an artist because I have to be. When I am not hand embroidering or any of the other fibery things I do, my life is a train wreck. A complete derailment. I used to think making art was to make money(which I can still think) but I think it’s the process that drives me. The way it makes me feel. The peace and serenity I can find through it.

    • MT says:

      You know, it’s been said that commerce and art don’t mix, and maybe that’s true, but I actually enjoy selling my work, I enjoy the business end of being an artist. So I think we may think alike on this point, but, like you, it’s not what ultimately drives me to paint–I mean there are other ways to make money. And I share your feeling of “derailment’ (I like the way you word it) when I haven’t worked in a while. I vasilate between thinking it’s the process or the product that drives me, though, to do art. What I want to “say” seems to be as important/motivating, if not more so, than the act of saying it.

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