Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Are We Having Fun Yet?

 Painting, A Moment in Time, cold wax and oil, by Donna Watson

When I tell a non-artist that I am an artist, the usual response is,  "You must have so much fun!"  This always puzzles me, and usually my response back is, "I wouldn't call what I go through as fun." which puzzles the non-artist.  I have even heard some artists say "I have a lot of fun when I am doing my art."  For which I give the same response back, "I am not having any fun."  So what am I having?

Detail of painting, by Donna Watson

I guess the word 'fun' is subjective and can have different meanings to everyone.  So here is the dictionary meaning:  "enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure... playful behavior... an activity that is intended purely for amusement and should not be interpreted as having serious purposes."

Detail of painting, by Donna Watson

So if I am not having fun, how would I describe what I am going through?  It is hard to put into words.  The quote by Martha Graham is always one I use when I try to describe the search and journey I am on as an artist.

"No artist is pleased.  There is no satisfaction whatever at any time.  There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others"

Detail of painting, by Donna Watson

Art is longing.  You never arrive, but you keep going in the hope that you will.  Anselm Kiefer

Journey, cold wax and oil painting by Donna Watson

Most people think happiness is about gaining something, but its
not.  It's all about getting rid of the darkness you accumulate.
Carolyn Crane

Spirit, collage using hand painted rice papers by Donna Watson

Things don't really get solved.  They come together and they fall apart.  Then they come together and fall apart again.  Its just like that.  The healing comes from letting there be room for all this to happen:  room for the grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
Pema Chodron

And this is how I approach my art, as a starting point for discovery, healing, and that divine dissatisfaction with the hope that I will get "it" with the next painting or collage or assemblage.  It is the "it" that is hard to describe.







37 comments:

A bird in the hand said...

I'm so glad you addressed this "fun" business. It has long puzzled me and I agree with you completely.

ronnie said...

*nodding my head in agreement*

Valerianna said...

Oh great post!! I was just musing about this very subject in the studio today. I had been in there working all day... and thinking about the intensity of the concentration, about being tired, but wanting to keep going, to see if I could get the painting to come out right, better - to get IT. I can say that I surely have moments of enjoyment - paint staining the paper, bleeding, watching that alchemy - but am I having FUN? Hmmm... it feels challenging, sometimes inspiring, often frustrating, always intense. To spend a whole day - a week - in this deep, meditative place journeying inside mood, color, shape, imagined forests... its many things, but fun is going for a ride on the water, not how I would describe painting.

Roberta said...

Oh yes, the fun thing. To me it shows a lack of respect for what we as artists do. Those who think it is fun are not really working. The work is the thing and it is not fun by any means. Pulling something out of a blank piece of paper is satisfying. But fun. No. Never.

amy of four corners design said...

don't understand the response of fun either...it is hard to explain...I think Roberta in her comment sums it up best...it is my hope that it is satisfying...some days not...but the days that are...keep me going...

over the rainbow said...

Thank you my Sweet. For this. Exactly. Your references are going on my board, once I get my board back up :-) Fun is playing with my Grand Daughters when I get to see them…

Velma Bolyard said...

a huge YES to this, donna. and i love the piece with the blue in it. and the quotes, especially martha graham's are spot on.

Kim Hambric said...

I can look back on a just-completed piece and think, "that was fun." My mind and body are ready for the next piece. I begin and wonder just what in the hell I am doing. The process is going to be long and frustrating. I do have to admit, finding one color that goes perfectly, or perfectly imperfectly, against another color is fun. Beats coal mining and subsistence farming any day.

Kim Hambric said...

Well, now that I think about it, there is a strong resemblance to subsistence farming. I was just recalling my latest crop failure.

lyle baxter said...

It may not be "fun" for you but seeing your art work gives me great pleasure! thank you for sharing your endeavors!

Sue Marrazzo said...

LOVE.....Journey!

Cynthia Schelzig said...

Wonderful art and as always interesting thought....reminds me of when I take a workshop and come home totally exhausted and DH says "why are you so "kaputt",,,you had fun all weekend:),,,,,right...

zendotstudio said...

It is a really interesting subject and I think people use this word lightly, without a lot of deep thought when they say "fun".

So many things, it seems to me, are about how we hold our mind. How I experience my art is a lot like how I experience the rest of my life. If life frustrates me, my art will too. If I am too goal oriented, too filled with desire for outcomes I get frustrated. If I just want to get er done and have a beautiful painting I am in trouble.

I have an artist friend who lives from a deep place of curiosity. Her art feels like play and she is most interested in the place where things get difficult.

Seeing how she works gives me hope and encouragement for all parts of my life, this is my ultimate goal, to come alive, to perhaps feel joy with encountering the difficult problem.

But you are right, perhaps fun is not the best choice of words. It's kind of like the word "busy".

Judy Shreve said...

I was a potter for about 20 years before starting painting - goal oriented - checking tasks off my list. It took me a long time to realize 'it's all about the journey' - and to enjoy that journey. To me whether I am lost in my painting - finding joy - or crazed because some aspect isn't working, I'm still enjoying the journey - finally. And to me that's what keeps me coming back.
Non-artists think we are all just coloring as kids do - they don't understand how deep we need to reach to create our work and what hard work that is. And they also don't understand how many pieces leave us dissatisfied.
Great post Donna!

Marie Danti said...

Maybe the word fun is too flip, negating the interior journey that pushes the art into being. Pleasurable? Sometimes. Sometimes it does feel like play, like pumping on a swing, going higher, losing oneself to the sky. Even a hard day in the studio when it feels like pushing against the wind, it is satisfying to know that I've done my best. All I really know for sure is that I feel most alive when doing art.
Great post Donna!

susan bowers said...

A wonderful post Donna - one to make us really think about how we describe the work we do. I will certainly be giving it some more thought. I really love the work Journey that you show here - the colours are completely engaging ..... could it be we are both venturing into a slightly more colourful palette??? x

mansuetude said...

Brilliant provocative post.

I also love this new work. Journey, esp.

Do they merge-- this inner journey and the outer "work" ? Or is form, the formation of an art object a way to try capture a fleeting divine essence craved ? Chaos ... What does it mean. Discontent elements wanting recognition .
The unanswerable.

Tammie Lee said...

hello Donna,

it is interesting to read all these quotes and consider what different artists have felt and said and perhaps another time they would have another answer.

I have enjoyed seeing each of your pieces in this post. For me i feel the earth, stones, mountains and dirt, the sunset and sunrise. But then again nature is a huge part of my life. beautiful each.

Seth said...

A very thought-provoking topic here -- one that I have not ever seen directly addressed. Thank you for that. And for all the beautiful work you included in this post. It inspires me!

Mo Crow said...

"difficult pleasure"
to quote the Australian painter Brett Whiteley back in 1989
http://aso.gov.au/titles/documentaries/difficult-pleasure/clip3/

Jo Reimer said...

Yes, I can't call what I do "fun", not all the time, and maybe not often. It's work. It's what I do, and there are parts that are fun, like when I'm experimenting with a new technique or product, but even that ceases to be fun after awhile and becomes more serious stuff. It may that our place in life fun becomes frivolous. I know I'm too serious and intent on being creative to allow fun to inhabit my studio, which is NOT an all-around good thing.

india flint said...

Unlike Martha i do have moments of satisfaction - lighthearted fun it certainly isn't. But it is a glorious and sometimes terrifying adventure. I'm sticking the Kiefer quote on my wall. Thanks for this one Donna!

Fiona Dempster said...

I think you have captured an important truth Donna - fun is not the word. Lots of words like satisfying, rewarding, inspiring as well as difficult, frustrating, describe the process better. I'm enjoying your new directions as well!

Barry said...

Hi D - Thanks for sharing your works - I love the opening piece. Regarding art as fun - I goes it is all about the words and how we each define them. There are times when I can say I'm having fun - but by that I mean a range of things - satisfaction, intrigue, a sense of achievement etc. So if I were asked if my art was fun - I goes I would say yes at times it is - but in the ways I have mentioned. But I would also say that there are times when it is challenging and frustrating. But the bottom line for me Is that I feel really fortunate that I have the desire and means to create. Go well. B

Sharmon Davidson said...

Great post, Donna. I agree with you that art is not "fun", at least not in the dictionary definition's denotation, since for me there is a 'serious purpose' involved. It is work, but gratifying work; at times it is meditative, when I am in "flow". It is rewarding and frustrating, and indeed, there is always that underlying sense of dissatisfaction, that longing that Keifner speaks of. I think this may be difficult for non-artists to understand.

The work you shared here is beautiful; I am espeically taken with 'Journey.'

Martin said...

Great post Donna!

Don Madden said...

Good point, good post, great images. I don't think of it as "fun", I think of it as TimeTravel, where I lose myself for hours on end.

ArtPropelled said...

Many phases of frustration, indecision and doubt but enough phases of bliss to keep me going back to it, day in and day out. I allow myself several hours between projects to experiment with new ideas just for fun, no pressure to create a work of art, just the freedom to play.

Feeling soothed looking into "A Moment in Time". We must miss a lot viewing a small photograph but I get the feeling there is much, much more to discover face to face. How big is this piece, Donna?

Eve said...

Hi Donna,
Very interesting and thought provoking writing. We throw language around, without really communicating and connecting properly. I have a technique question, I work in both collage and oil & cold wax. I notice you have found a way to "glue" your collage elements onto the oil/wax pieces. How do you do that? eveozer@mdgglobal.com.

Belladonna said...

Your art is so meaningful!

JonesMoore Studio Art, Lisa JonesMoore said...

I am of your school of thought about "fun" and creating something visual. I would not describe it as fun, but kind of like an itch that cannot be scratched enough...always a lingering irritation, but occasional satisfaction!

4roomsandthemoon.com said...

Thank you so much for openly talking about this! It's not fun!I sometimes say to others that it is, but I feel they are speaking from their own non-artist perspective of enjoyment of the final piece and I wouldn't want to take that from them. It's hard self-driven and lonely work and I would not change that!

Bridgette Mills said...

I agree with so much of your post. I do though experience joy in my creative process. Beautiful work

annell said...

A beautiful and thoughtful post. I agree especially wth the last quote, making room and art should be just that big. Big enough for whatever you need to say. I also like the quote by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "What is genius but the power of expressing a new individuality?"

annell said...

A beautiful and thoughtful post. I agree especially wth the last quote, making room and art should be just that big. Big enough for whatever you need to say. I also like the quote by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "What is genius but the power of expressing a new individuality?" For me it is hard work.

Carole Reid said...

Donna, your explanation put into words my feelings as an artist who does not have "fun" every day. Some days it's just plain hard work. Other days, when I let things flow, it becomes pleasurable and satisfying. Thank you for encouraging and thought provoking posts.

Tammie Lee said...

such a lovely post
photos and inspiring quotes
such beautiful tools

wishing you a lovely summer
and wonderful class