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ImageI’ve often said “I’ve never created a meaningful piece of work when I was happy.” And for me, it still holds true. During blissful times, I’m too wrapped up in just enjoying it. Creating an image about my state of joy doesn’t even enter my mind. Maybe it should. It doesn’t.

As our lives cycle through the good and bad times, it’s those joyful times that are what life is supposed to be about, right? If that’s true, and if all those other image-makers (I will try not to use “artist” or “art” too much) are like me, then the work they create will only be born of emotions other than joy.

Based on this logic, I suppose that the general public assumes that artwork is created by people who are not happy. I don’t have any data as to what notions the general public has regarding how artistic folks create their images (or sculptures, songs, poems, photographs, writings, etc.), but I believe there’s a large section that thinks of artists as brooding, temperamental, flamboyant, emotionally frail, self-destructive, misunderstood, irreverent or even subversive. If this weren’t true, then the clichés wouldn’t exist.

Maybe artistic people are driven by a heightened sense of their surroundings. Maybe they’re a little more connected to their emotions than the typical person. Whether it’s one of these hypotheses or something else, I think two key elements help define why a person is more creative than the next: 1) a higher level of awareness, 2) a need to explore.

Many of us go day after day repeating a pattern. For example, typically my day would go like this: wake up, go to work, come home, make dinner, clean up, watch television, go to bed. I suspect a great many people would find this pattern familiar.

Monotony dulls our senses. We tend to overlook many beautiful details of life that might otherwise captivate us. Sunsets happen daily, but how many of us actually take the time to really experience them with our eyes, our skin and our minds? Sunsets can be such powerful experiences if we allow them to be. Seeing the brilliant colors, feeling the waning warmth, and realizing that you are, at that moment, an active participant in something magnificent—and are something magnificent in your own right. It’s these experiences, as simple as they may seem, that bring art pieces into being by someone who has kept themselves open to a higher level of awareness. And now that one has had the experience, one now feels the need to explore it.

I’m of the opinion that, if your purpose is to be an artist, it’s not enough to create something pretty, purely for the sake of aesthetics. One must have a purpose more meaningful than creating a painting, for example, to match the couch.

I’m not saying that something that’s created for the sole purpose of being aesthetically pleasant doesn’t have a place. It does. Nor am I saying that it doesn’t take great skill to create them. It can. We buy and surround ourselves with these types of things all the time. They are the things with which we decorate our homes, offices and other dwellings. But I prefer to categorize those items under the heading of decorative art pieces, rather than fine art pieces.

But in my opinion, the purpose behind the creation is important to the thing created. To be moved to this higher level of creation, one must have some sort of catalyst. And it could be anything, from the way the morning sun lays itself on a flower, to the complex subject of relationships, to attempts at understanding all the questions of a belief system. From the smallest to the largest, all are legitimate catalysts for inspiration. It’s in this inspiration, that one is compelled to explore, and from exploration, one begins to create something that has potential to be a real masterpiece.

What is art? I’ve been asked many times what I think makes something a true piece of art. It’s a difficult question and I don’t think I’ve ever satisfied the askers with my answer. I can’t say that I’m fully satisfied with my answer either but I have to start somewhere. So the most I can say to anyone when asked that question is: I’ll consider a piece of work an art piece if it was a genuine attempt by the artist at creating true art. I’ve been told that it’s a useless statement because, rather than answering the question, it just circles back on itself. For now, that’s as simple an explanation as I’ve been able to come up with. Yes, I know that it is an oversimplified and open-ended answer, but it’s always been a good starting point for a more in-depth dialogue. There are so many more facets to cover, both objective and subjective.

As I grow, I will change. As I change, so will my understanding of things and, in turn, my opinion of art, my role as artist, and everything else.