Why Should I paint?

It has been years I haven’t touched my paints, brushes or canvases and they lay on the lintel shelf at home dry and covered with dust. The last time I  painted on canvas was for my solo exhibition way back in 2002. Few people whom i knew and had invited did come for the show, appreciated it pretty well and wished the very best for my future. I did get some good reviews & criticisms in reputed dailies and the event announced on the radio!! (wow, I thought I am famous!!). A few seniors (or pragmatic uncles I would say)  asked me questions like “Is the show a success?” “Did you get something?” “How many did you sell?” etc “Did you get back what you spent?”. For all these my answers were in the negative.

herd, handgestures

Herd, Acrylics, 2003

Yes, I had quit my first job, spent quite a lot (for me as part of a middle class family in India 1 lac is a lot) and took 3-5 months in working and organizing the exhibition.  I did sell few small paintings which totaled around Rs.5000!  It is quite obvious that I was bankrupt, had no job in hand and my parents, sister looked unto me to change scenarios at home and having a secure, stabilized future. I was too ignorant of the real world out there.

I realized that the art world isn’t as rosy as I had fantasized it to be. I had my whims that there are rich and famous people, who would want to have unique art pieces to decorate their homes, they would see my exhibition details in the dailies, would come for the show and buy it!!  Well, there is a lot more that happens in the world of art business. I realized it is not important What I Know, but it is important Whom I Know to sell my work, sustain myself  and make a living out of it. I should have lobbied around journos to write more about me, my work, invited celebrities, hosted cocktail parties during the show, have a professional promoter with me etc., etc., etc., Basically, I should have done my social networking homework with a strategy. Nevertheless it was a great learning experience for me and gave me lot more insights into the future nuances of living an artist’s life!

I neither had the courage to take my art forward nor I had the essential moolah (back up money) for existence.  I wanted to see my family smiling and happy as well. Having this in mind, Down! went the brushes into the box and the canvases rolled up, frames broken.  I searched for a designer job which would give me a stable income, held the mouse again and have never turned to my imaginary world till date. Every effort of mine to practice it during weekends and holidays have turned futile and I have almost given up on it.

Meanwhile over the years, I have been thinking and questioning myself  “A work of art is successful only when it is sold?”, “An artist is successful only when his works gets sold for high prices and he is talked about much in the media?”. After pondering over and over with the same thoughts in the mind I also finally arrive at the question “Why Should I even paint?”, “For whom should I?”. Probably I should get along well with the sponsors of my show and work according to them, so that they get their revenues in return. Who would even listen to me what I have to say? Why would someone take notice and absorb my ideas, thoughts unless it is of any use to them.

It is a busy world out there and every single thing in life is turning into an object, a commodity which is a reality everybody knows. Even If I start painting again, exhibiting again (of course now with better marketing strategies, networks, promotions etc.,) I guess I would end up being a producer of particular kind of commodity (a canvas with some figures, attractive colors etc.,) which will hang on few walls across few affluent homes.  Am I not doing the same now being a Designer in the IT industry? Producing good looking software products, websites etc.,

My thoughts in this post are around… If I have to measure success in life in terms of money, material and luxuries in life, then I don’t have earn a living by selling an art piece! Art has no purpose and it is just an expression without any restrictions, fear and no qualms.  A work of art has to come from within, may be without a purpose and just for the sake of it. Only then, I think I would call it successful, free and genuine. Just like a 5 year old kid, who paints without a purpose. The child is happy seeing the colors and goes on filling up the spaces as it chooses. It doesn’t care for people’s comments, doesn’t care if it would get sold and also doesn’t care to preserve it. It is the moment which is enjoyed and forgotten. I think that is where real art lives:-)

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10 comments

  1. Vani · July 9, 2010

    🙂 Art would have been “successful” during the non-tech days. In the tech world, people still tend to be creative but express it using different set of tools. You are fortunate enough to be able to experience and express in both worlds. Not defining success is the key in my world.
    It is what it is. Keep Painting like that 5 year child.

    Warms Wishes
    Vani 🙂

  2. Praveen Nair · July 9, 2010

    Hey Vani,
    Thanks for taking time to read this. Yes, I do consider myself fortunate to experience both the worlds. Hmm… Not defining success in anything is such a nice feeling although difficult. I remember a proverb ” To be able to do, all that you are supposed to do is a difficult thing to do”. Will try and keep updating my posts often

    Regards
    Praveen

  3. Sunayana Nair · July 10, 2010

    That’s an interesting blog, Praveen 🙂 I like the first painting – ‘Herd’. What makes me angry all the time is that people with mediocre talent often get ahead in the art world simply because they have clout.
    Personally, I think, if I make a painting that I really like, it will always be close to my heart. I wouldn’t want to sell it at all. It is first for my satisfaction and pleasure and then for the viewing pleasure of others. It feels good to be appreciated, but ironically, appreciation is not enough when you have exhausted your finances for an exhibition.
    I have been toying with the idea of holding an exhibition here in Muscat. But the thought of building an influential network for a ‘successful’ venture is so daunting and so ‘materialistic’ that it puts me off. But then, if you aspire to be known as an artist, you need to be able to strike a fine balance between the commercial and personal values for your artwork.
    Let your first venture not discourage you. Keep trying. I read up on ways to promote one’s artwork on a site called ‘Redbubble.com’. I found it interesting that some plush coffee shops and eateries also agree to display artwork by local artists. They charge a small commission at times, and are less expensive than art galleries. Try and explore this option.

    All the best..:)

  4. Praveen Nair · July 10, 2010

    Thanks Sunayana! Yes, this is one more point which i missed in my post that I wouldn’t want to sell something close to my heart. But in pursuit of making it look nice to the onlooker somewhere in the corner of the mind, it gets corrupted. That happens in an effort to make it commercially viable. Nice to know that you are in the same frequency as I am:-). Also, I am happy to know that you are planning to host a show. Wow! All the best!

  5. niru · July 10, 2010

    Dont u think we will have to prepare ourselves to be what we are ? The art of unlearning is quite a task . The world is what we percieve it to be . We are what we want to be . Lets not be loosers & choose the easy way out . Live your Dream ……………….

    • Praveen Nair · July 11, 2010

      @Niru, I am not running away or choosing the easy way out. I repeat what i mean “My thoughts in this post are around… If I have to measure success in life in terms of money, material and luxuries in life, then I don’t have earn a living by selling an art piece! Art has no purpose and it is just an expression without any restrictions, fear and no qualms. A work of art has to come from within, may be without a purpose and just for the sake of it. Only then, I think I would call it successful, free and genuine”
      Just like when you feel like playing drums, you just go on and experiment whatever you want to. People who want to listen, let them.. otherwise no qualms!

  6. Aditi · July 11, 2010

    Praveen,
    What a lovely article! I didn’t know you could write so well as you paint! You are truly a gifted person! Keep painting like you always did!!! You know you have a fan!

  7. Binu · July 12, 2010

    I knw of a sketch which i will always cherish as part of our memories :)) keep goin at it Praveen..u really are an item 🙂 , a master piece i mus say :)))

    • Praveen Nair · July 13, 2010

      Thanks Binu:-) Am only a piece. The Master is in all of us 🙂

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