Painters are compulsive gamblers.
In the studio I mean.
Gambling is defined by the willingness to risk something you value for the hope of gaining something of greater value.
We know that artists traditionally gamble with their financial security. Many also gamble with their health by using toxic materials. Why do they risk security and health? I think they are addicted to the possibility that the next painting will be the big jackpot. The painting that says it all, that wins the big awards and goes down in the chronicles of great art. Or, if they are of a different temperament, the painting that is simply closer to their intent or vision than the one preceding it.
As for myself, the average compulsive painter, there is just enough occasional improvement to entice me to continue. OK, maybe this is not the drug that addicts all artists to their craft. Some get a high from producing and really love the process. The basic need to create is in everyone to a greater or lesser extent. But personally I am also dragged along with the notion that someday I might be able to produce the sort of paintings that speaks deeply to your humanity, to your essence, to your spirit and that these paintings would be taken seriously by many, including the curator of a museum, maybe even a great museum. There, I said it! Silly me. Silly, since most all of my work is very commercial. Oh well, big goals are good goals. The point I had intended to make is that dissatisfaction with current work is nearly a constant for myself and many artists.
I heard Robert Mankoff, cartoon editor of the New Yorker Magazine, speak in an interview on NPR the other day. He said, “Everyone has an idea for a cartoon that they think is great, only real cartoonists are unhappy with what they have.”
Of course there are lots of happy artists out there pleased with their great works. You are lucky if you are one of them! But dissatisfaction is the fuel that feeds many artists who have a commitment to that elusive je ne sais quoi that is art.
As Ken Danby said, “Whenever I’m asked to identify my best work, or my favorite, my answer has always been the same – ‘My next one!'”