Group Discussion: What Makes You Continue To Create? III

Continued insight from creative people on what makes them create. This is a continuation of excerpts from artists (italics), with my responses, from a discussion I began on LinkedIn in the group, True Artist: Living The Art (edited for clarity). Part 3 of 3.


“What makes you, the artist, continue to create. What end result is so satisfying that it draws you in continuously. Are results where the momentum comes from anyway?”


“I strive for perfection, but I think it means something different for each person. When everything comes together in a perfect synthesis of color; texture; composition; values; etc, and my eye is completely satisfied looking at the painting, and I know that nothing by adding or subtracting can improve it, then the painting is ‘perfect’. It is not a ‘state’ that you reach, and what then? It is an ongoing battle to reach that goal in each painting, and that is what keeps me going.” M.G.

“So often I am asked this question & always i find it dificult to answer. I’ve been thinking about it for years. The act of creating a piece of art is very satisfying for me & I know other artists who find satisfaction in the creative act. The culmination of long hours of doing what i love is also deeply gratifying.” C.G.

“Many artists enjoy the process of producing art, the work in progress, because it has a beneficial therapeutic effect on the nervous system. It cures and soothes, sometimes it heals if done for a long time or if it becomes part of one’s life. There are also the lucky ones who enjoy the aesthetic result of their endeavor and those who like the social interest they can create, the communication with other folks, let alone the sale. Personally I gain from all the benefits art can provide.” A.S.

“I hope that my work will feel uplifting to the viewer. There is enough greyness, gloom and sadness around, and, for too long, art has offered us no alternatives to this, other than badly-conceived work, poorly-executed! If I can make one person smile, I have achieved something!” T.G.

“With each work I experience the drive to acheive the vision in my mind that inspired me to start the piece. Each work carries a glimmer of transfering that vision to canvas and gives me a little satisfaction, then, on to the next work with the anticipation that it will shine in my memory as a success that will without doubt allow others to see the piece as clearly as I saw it in my mind before i created it.” P.F.

“Perfection is a four letter word in my studio–in the sense that it represents a state that cannot be expressed another way. There are infinite ways to represent something and each may have merit in their own right, even perfection. Each of us are perfectly human but express it differently.

Green Boat And Sea (detail) by MTMcClanahan

Green Boat And Sea (detail) by MTMcClanahan


I aim for complete expression rather than perfection–otherwise I think I would stress out too much and not paint–say what I have to say and get the hell out!
You can’t practice perfection, only the tasks and habits that may lead you there, so why focus on it?”

“I like the quote from Salvador Dali, “Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it. ” I tell people when they ask “do you do that for a living” ..i tell them ” i do it for my sanity”.. all i know that when I create i can get lost in it like no other drugs could do for me.” M.B.

“You are so lucky, guys, your art exudes so much fascination and energy. In watching your paintings I see beyond the images reproduced, I see your existences, enthusiasms, beliefs. All that is good stimulus to improve myself.” A.S.

“I don’t see the end result as the driving force, Sure, its good to see the finished work but the process of creating is the motivator for me. Being in that zone is adictive to the point of being a life force. If you couldn’t create how would you feel? How big a piece of who you are would be missing? As an artist you live in two worlds. The reallity of subsistance and the satisfaction of the world of imagination.” P.F.

“complex mix of ego/legacy/charity/discovery/thearpy/discovery/identity/rapport with previous artists and having “a chance”” M.E.

“Another artist quote i like is “Art is never finished, only abandoned”… for a long while I didn’t want to hang any art in my house because all I did was sub consciously trying to fix the art every time that I looked at it .. on the other hand the day I stop doing that in my head I feel my art would not ever grow.” M.B.

“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.” D.S.

“For me, it’s just a huge part of me for who I am. Without it, I would be lost in this world.” B.M.

“Thanks for sharing that quote Michael – it makes total sense ;0) I have to ‘live’ with a painting especially, as I prefer it to evolve over time… once I am happy that the first stage is complete, whatever that may mean – and I know when I feel it, then I like to hang it where I can start to ‘see’ it. Then I know what is to come next. If I have something I thought was at the ‘complete’ stage around me for too long – then I begin to see it actually could go on and on being ‘completed’. All things are a work in progress… me also ;0)” D.C.

“I vasilate between thinking it’s the process or the product that drives me. What I want to “say” seems to be as important/motivating, if not more so, than the act of saying it. Thinking more on this, I really believe the pleasure comes from having successfully said what it was I imagined to begin with. I almost think that if I could snap my fingers and the work would be completed in an instance, that that would be ok.”

“Stepping away from the art project for a deep prospective, and making a few changes along the way, and at-last the true project that you are happy with to share with others!” P.M.

“There is no end result until the day I die. In the interimg the search for results is on. If the results were totaly satisfying, there would be no need to continue. Its like being a pioneer in search of the perfect place. You may not find it but its one hell of a great ride.” P.F.

“Phyllis, your statement makes me think about the “rhythm” of work. I find that after stepping away for a time, when I come back (not just to one painting but to painting in general) I seem to be a better artist. This stepping away usually comes after intense, prolonged working.

May have something to do with the brain’s placticity, I don’t know. I wonder what working “rhythms” others have, if you’ve ever identified them. Some people work better at night for example.

I agree Peter but sometimes it’s the euphoria of getting it “right”–or very close anyway–that propels me on; I get depressed with bad results. I liken it to golf (a game I seldom play), there are many bad shots but every once in a while you hit it just right; I think that, maybe, keeps people playing. It’s the potential of great things happening isn’t it?

I see your point in equating the totality of one’s life with a searching though, and maybe I’m wrong, deep down in my subconcious may be the desire to be perfect and so I keep trying. Or maybe it’s a bit of all of it. I seem to ask more questions than I answer.”

“MT , My golf improved when I stopped keeping score and just played for the enjoyment of the game. Now I can par five or six holes and get mostly single bogies on the rest with an occasinal birdie. I apply some of this enjoyment principle to my painting and find I’m more creative.” P.F.

“Good advise Peter, but I almost cannot fathom not keeping score–that’s very telling isn’t it?”

“MT, Keeping score is ingrained into us from childhood. It is society’s measure of succes. It fades the child and creates the adult and it deminishes the creative aspect and promotes the instinct to survive, a commonality counter to artistic expression. As we create we search for the child within, the intuitive power of free expression that can’t be measured only expressed. Free the child, loose the baggage that slows the journey.” P.F.

“MT, Next time you play golf try it. Then go and paint. Whats to loose?” P.F.

“I’ve been reading “The Van Gogh Blues” by Eric Maisel, who says that artists and other creative people MUST “make meaning” or they get depressed and unhappy.
What I take from that is that I’d better get on with it!” P.F.

“Interesting to equate “art results” with “keeping score”, Peter. I’ll have to look at that more closely, look at myself more closely.

And Priscilla, to ‘make meaning’–that is a wonderful way to say it I think. Viktor Frankl (Wikipedia) said that that was what we do–people that is–we search for meaning. That artist’s are “creating” meaning–that really hits the nail on the head; we are realizing an abstraction, giving meaning a 3D form.”

Part 1 / Part 2

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. Betsy says:

    What is art and what is perfection in art? When Monet painted his masterpieces the salon wouldn’t accept these because he did not meet their standard. Instead, he painted to achieve what was in his mind’s eye. ( in the broadest sense). If we only strive to paint what is “perfect”, there are fewer risks, fewer intuitive accidents, fewer opportunities for the work to flow in harmony with some inner voice. While I have a long way to achieve all that I can, the act of doing, exploring, feeling, and letting go is mesmerizing and peaceful. It feeds my soul in a way nothing else does.

    • Hello Betsy, you raise an extraordinary question–“what is perfection in art”. Is it one of those “I know it when I see it” kind of things? I’ve been reading your sentence on being “perfect” over and over, and it is so relaxing the way you put it–takes the stress away. I like the idea of taking the word “perfect” out of the equation. You have described the situation well–that being to paint what is in the mind’s eye–because that is what “reaching perfection” is to me, i.e., it is saying completely what you want to say, saying on canvas what you see in your mind. Perfection/masterfulness in art is specific to each piece of work. I wish I understood it as clearly as you seem to–we all have a long way to go I guess and your words are very inspiring; it’s not about reaching some pinnacle, but it’s about exploring your feelings. Have you read Kipling’s poem entitled If? I love where he says “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, And treat those two impostors (my emphasis) just the same”.

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