Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Artists and Painters (Brace yourself for a philosophical post)

Late last December, my mother was scheduled for orthopedic surgery.  I went to the hospital to keep my dad company during her surgery and recovery time which meant I had three hours of quality, and basically uninterrupted, time to talk with my dad.  During our conversation, there was one thing he said that has been replaying in my mind ever since, and I don't think I'll have peace until I put it down on paper or, in this case, my blog.

With three hours available to us, we chatted about a wide variety of topics.  At one point I shared some frustrations that I have at my workplace. (Understandably, there is no perfect workplace - or at least I haven't found one.)  He was surprised to hear that I was frustrated because I tend to limit with whom I share that information.  At one point, he looked at me and said, "The problem is you're an artist, not a painter."

My response: "What?".

He explained, "In every occupation, there are artists and painters.  The painters are the ones that go in, do their job, and go home. They're good painters. You should be a painter."

Wow. I wasn't expecting to hear that from my father, but it struck a chord in my mind and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.  He nailed it.  There ARE "artists" and "painters" in every occupation.

Painters are content to use colors, already premixed, straight from the paint store.  Eggshell white is a popular color with them.  It's not exciting, but it looks nice on most walls, gets the job done, and passes inspection.  It allows them to paint a room in an efficient manner and move on to another job.  

The tools they use haven't changed much in the last few years or decades.  They're not interested in being innovative; in fact that's not required to be a good painter.  At times they are mandated to make changes because the government tells them they can no longer use a certain type of paint, so they may grumble a bit, but they adjust, and move on.  After all, it's still paint and it still covers the wall.  

They don't spend time outside of their work day searching for ways to be creative or to make their work stand out.  They do as my dad says, they go to their work site, paint the walls, and move on to the next job. Simple as that. 

They're in demand; after all, many people are looking to hire painters.  Rooms, buildings, and fences need painted, and why pay extra for an artist when a painter will do a nice job?

Artists, on the other hand, can't wait to mix the paint colors, driven by an inner desire to find a color palette that will intrigue others, and catch their attention, an improvement on what others may have expected. They don't view their work as a "job", but rather as art. They want to differentiate their work, make it stand out, shine with creativity, and speak for itself.   

They enjoy going to view others' work in museums and exhibits so they can learn from them, in their own communities and beyond.  They're not stagnate, but rather always in motion, learning and growing; creating and experimenting with new techniques; making adjustments and fine-tuning. 

Painting and personal time blurs into one, often making it difficult to distinguish between the two. Even on vacations, they view things through an artist's eyes, asking how they can incorporate what they see into a future art piece.

Artists are in demand also, but not necessarily more than painters. It's interesting that there are artists that are well-known and sought out, not something that can be said about painters.  Artists may be overlooked, but for most artists, their goal is to have their artwork noticed, not themselves.

Yes, there is a huge difference between an artist and a painter even though both paint on a daily basis.  

The sad question may be, do schools want artists?  The interview process encourages it, but high stake testing and other demands pressure everyone to just paint the wall, complete the work so it passes state inspection.  Ask, or tell, an artist to just paint the wall enough times, and eventually the artist will do exactly that.  Creativity, innovation, excitement - slowly squeezed out, forcing the artist to conform to being a painter, a disappointed painter that continues hoping for an opportunity to be an artist again. 

So there...I wrote it. It doesn't mean I'll stop thinking about it. Over the last two weeks the artist vs painter thoughts cross my mind throughout the day, especially when I meet a painter at the copier making yet another 15 page packet to students to put in their notebooks with the others collected throughout the semester.

It's obvious that life as a painter is an easier road, but will an artist ever be content, for any length of time, working as a painter.  Probably not. No, definitely not.

Proof that I'm never too old to benefit from the wisdom of my dad.  Thanks dad. 

 ....just keep painting...

1 comment: