Art I Don’t Like

Watch this yellow butterfly painting come alive

in about 2 minutes (time lapse)

What we see and feel about art is highly individual, personal, and intimate. It’s always interesting to see what people respond to, and what they like. It’s even more intriguing when the work I don’t like is a favorite of others- like this yellow butterfly which I didn’t enjoy painting, even though I tried to and had a few fleeting moments that felt sort of like joy. And then I didn’t like the finished art either. I was frustrated by it and almost binned it.

But it ticked off a box for a project goal and it would have been foolish to dump it, and get behind schedule, just because I didn’t personally care for it. So, I was committed to it. Well, my daughter really liked this one. I suppose that’s not too surprising, since sometimes we have the exact same taste in something (and compete to grab it first!), and other times we are polar opposites.

Later, when I shared this painting, one of my customers said she really liked this one, as one of her favorite works I’ve done. REALLY? But why? The thing is, I can’t even say why I don’t like it. I don’t know why. I just don’t. And that intrigues me… it’s how I know I’ve made it as an artist. My art isn’t about me and as soon as I set my paintbrush down, it no longer belongs to just me. It doesn’t even matter if I personally don’t like my art or if I don’t connect with it. Someone else will, and it’s not up to me to decide which paintings they can connect with and which ones I don’t allow them to see. No, art as a vocation is a language that is shared without censorship, not even self-censorship.

Now, obviously if my painting fails to make a project goal at some point- which has never happened- then I can justify binning it. But I’m past the skill level for that to happen. I’m rather stuck with my projects if my only real issue is “I don’t like it”. I don’t have to like it. If I insist that all of my paintings must be to my personal taste, I’ll never reach my lifetime goal of 1k finished paintings, and I’ll also have a one-sided conversation. Sometimes others connected differently to art than I do. What I might see as a disappointment, another person may see as special. Why is my perspective superior to theirs? It isn’t.

This same philosophy can be applied to all human interactions and ways of communicating. We must be humble enough to lay down our impulse to be the arbitrator of what people should connect with or what they should hear, see, do, think, feel and believe. We are not all the same, but our needs are the same. We all need to be respected for who we are, given freedom to think as we wish, and an opportunity to reject or connect on a deeper level to things that we can’t explain.

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