5. Don't Eat Your Art. Play With It!

My oldest surviving drawing with helpful explanatory notes added by my mother.

My oldest surviving drawing with helpful explanatory notes added by my mother.

Play is an essential part of my job as an artist. Sure, some aspects of what I do can feel like drudgery at times but, for the most part, what I do is deliriously fun. So much so that I actually feel guilty admitting it openly!

Honey Bee, pencil on paper, circa 1969, signature added by my mother at a later date

Honey Bee, pencil on paper, circa 1969, signature added by my mother at a later date

 

Personally speaking, making art has always been the default way of entertaining myself. As a child, sitting alone and giving my full attention to each new creation was the most rewarding way I could think of to spend my time. Compared to any other activity, making art was by far the most alluring. There was no doubt in my mind that art was what I most loved to do.

Hippo, pencil on paper, circa 1969, signature added by my mother at a later date

Hippo, pencil on paper, circa 1969, signature added by my mother at a later date

 

It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that most of us who go on to become artists unconsciously decide to do so at a very young age. Like me, they discover the joy and pleasure of creativity in early childhood and that siren song never stops ringing in their ears. Remember that childhood feeling of learning something new? I’m referring to those times when two unrelated ideas came together in your mind for the first time to form a new and wondrous revelation. That’s what happens when we make art.

North Pole, pencil on paper, circa 1970

North Pole, pencil on paper, circa 1970

 

In those instances the world, and myself, suddenly grew larger and more exciting. That’s still what happens when I make art today. There’s a pleasing, euphoric sensation that occurs. Sound familiar? Art is my drug and my lover (after my wife, of course). This phenomenon is the “zone” spoken of by athletes where all awareness of the outside world fades away and time passes unnoticed.

Snamachibahipigilieca, circa 1971, pencil on paper, signature added by my mother at a later date

Snamachibahipigilieca, circa 1971, pencil on paper, signature added by my mother at a later date

 

Plato (429-347 B.C.) is quoted as having said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Carl Jung (1875-1961), the Swiss psychologist, also understood the value of play and designed a mode of therapy around it. He believed that play therapy provided a way to express thoughts, experiences and feelings through a natural, self-guided, self-healing process. It becomes an important vehicle for achieving self-knowledge and self-acceptance through symbolic identification. That’s art!

Old Man, 1972, pencil on paper

Old Man, 1972, pencil on paper

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