I have a storage locker full of my paintings. Other works cover my walls. When I moved to a smaller space, I sold, gave away, or threw things out with a heavy hand. Or so I thought at the time. I’m still discovering work that needs to go before I do.
There’s also a file cabinet full of rejected and unfinished manuscripts. At one time I winnowed those as well, and I’m about ready to do it again, but there is no way that I can part with all of it. Someday I will re-work that short story. A children’s book manuscript just has to be tweaked. And so it goes.
Now, when I decide to begin a new painting or manuscript, I’m sometimes stopped by two persistent questions that I hope to answer here: Is there really a need for another painting of my beloved rocks or the manuscript for a new novel? Do I have something to say that hasn’t been said before by someone else more talented than I am? I’m not certain that there is a definitive answer to either question, but after a long consultation with myself I have come to the comforting conclusion that it is my need that must be satisfied, my insatiable desire to catch that angle and cast of light, the expression on a particular face, or the fragile movement of a hand. My need also propels me to tell a meaningful story from a vantage point that is uniquely mine, with words that I choose carefully for their beauty, nuance, and power.
Many do not consider art of any kind to be a true necessity such as food, clothing, or shelter or a subject to be studied in the way that we do math and science. These people ignore the fact that the paintings and music of another time are also what we depend upon to form a picture and understanding of an era, a culture, a country.
It’s fair to say that most artists remain unrecognized throughout their lifetimes. Perhaps their work is seldom if ever seen at all. But though recognition from others is wonderful, inner recognition is fulfilling in itself and may be all we have. As Joy Halstead replied when I asked if she continued to maintain a feeling of artistic worth, What is artistic worth? I know I’m a good artist and some few others think so, too. My own feeling counts the most. It has to.
Who needs what we create at whatever age? We do. We need the process and what it promises over and over and over.