According to productivity gurus, there are two types of motivation; extrinsic and intrinsic, with extrinsic relying on the “if/then” reward model, and intrinsic depending more upon personal, internal drives. Extrinsic can be great for tasks; establishing a daily writing habit, getting kids to do chores, say, or exercising, but can fall apart when it comes to advancing the establishment of a routine into a higher, creative achievement. When it comes to art, researchers have found that the “if/then” model can actually destroy motivation. Artists, it seems, are inspired by everything but an external reward.
Intrinsic motivation is dependent upon three main factors; autonomy, or auteurship; mastery, or the pursuit of excellence in a given skill; and purpose, the soul-driven intention behind a quest or endeavour. Finding out one’s purpose is a lifelong exercise — and should be mutable and ever-evolving. We know that temporal landmarks like birthdays force us to reflect on the big picture and can trigger clearer thoughts on our purpose. For many, it’s the best time to change behavior, set goals or take action. For artists, this phenomenon, dubbed “the fresh-start effect,” has often been hacked into a daily practice for the purpose of cultivating renewed inspiration quickly and regularly. For us, it can be a shortcut to refreshing our internal creative drive.
Daniel Pink, an expert on human motivation, has made a case for imploring businesspeople to understand what artists innately already practice: in the near-carrotless world of fine art, where the journey is often the only reward, the ideas are inherently better. Without a known destination or straight path to victory, artists dwell in the periphery of problems and solutions, forced to look around and take time to contemplate options and routes to discovery. The secret to meaningful conceptual thinking is to circumvent the obvious and embrace the mysteries. This is how we surprise ourselves and push beyond the “first thought.” While the first thought may be the most expedient, it will not advance the artform. You must commit, over and over again, to putting yourself in the arena of better ideas, so that a process of discovery can take hold. “Ideas,” wrote John Steinbeck, “are like rabbits. You get a couple, learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”
PS: “Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.” (Daniel H. Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us)
Esoterica: If you’re looking for a fresh start, begin by simulating a temporal landmark. What is this? A sunrise, or a brisk walk, first thing, or what’s outside your window, connected to the larger rhythm and business of nature. The riot of squeezing your paint on a fresh palette, or the ritual of stretching new canvas, or the first sip of coffee before doing so. Create a new day, a new hour, a new week, a new month, a new you in a new life, and do it regularly. Here’s your fresh start, designed as an open field, its purpose shaped by your urge to direct your own life and to get better at something for its own sake, because it’s interesting and worthy of your attention. Live with a yearning to hard-scrabble at a calling greater than just you. What makes it important? There is no tangible reward — there is no guaranteed audience or applause for your pursuit. There will be no foreseeable performance bonus. Sharpen your thinking and accelerate your creativity by embracing this private and noble drive. The reward, as you know, is in the trying.
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“The world embarrasses me, and I cannot dream that this watch exists and has no watchmaker.” (Voltaire)
Sometimes we see what no one looks for–images that have waited for us to find them. If we are lucky, these images will wait while we try to capture them with paint on canvas. They will probably change as we reach for them. I believe that if we clearly and honestly record what we see, we will be surprised, enriched, and sometimes stunned by what we’ve found.
There is almost always a narrative in my paintings as I believe that a story may be introduced in a scene. The viewer must fill in the before and after with unique eyes and experience, but enough can be presented to set a challenging stage if the work is successful.
Along with being a visual story teller, I’ve been called a colorist, surrealist, patternist, and sometimes a texturist. I’m an Atlanta artist–an oil painter for over twenty-five years–with a studio in Brookhaven. I love working with oils because each painting session results in a new revelation of what they might do. There is a mystical quality to each painting and each day for me.