I came across an interesting little film, Painting in the Dark:The Struggle For Art in a World Obsessed With Popularity, from video essayist Adam Westbrook that speaks about the life and struggles of Vincent Van Gogh.
While already a well documented tale, one with which many of us are very well acquainted, Westbrook uses Van Gogh’s life in a way that makes us question whether we would have the same sort of inner urge to continue creating without the encouragement of others. Van Gogh, after all, basically painted for an audience of only himself and his brother throughout his entire creative life yet painted incessantly, producing work at a prodigious pace.
He also introduces us to the word autotelic, taken from the book, Flow, from famed psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The word refers to a self contained activity, one that is not done with the expectation of future benefit, but simply because the doing itself is the reward. In short, it’s what you do when you are your only audience, when you are the only one who can judge the work.
I think of my current Icon series in that way, even though I have been sharing the work here. It is done solely for my own pleasure and satisfaction, without a thought of trying to please someone else with it. It’s just something I have to do and what will become of it is of no concern to me at this point.
There’s something very liberating in that but whether I could sustain this passion for it through a decade of hardship is a difficult question, one that I hope to never have to face.
This film is a little over 10 minutes in length and very well done so if you have the time, take a look. If you like the work of Adam Westbrook check out his site which contains his video essays, delve. Or his regular website. Or if you would like to lend financial support, you can visit his page on Patreon.