Growing up in the fifties with my dad Bill Randall, a commercial artist, I sometimes wondered what the purpose of art was, aside from putting bread on the table.
My dad would spend all day working in his basement studio, which smelled delightfully of oil paint, fixative and other chemicals, painting hamburgers, Palmolive girls, or Colliers covers. He once painted a hundred-dollar hamburger (that was a big deal in the fifties). He was best known for his Date Book calendars and Colliers’covers. (That’s me, my brother and dad on the couch.)colliers

Then for fun, he’d create more of the same! – bridges over leaf-flecked streams, portraits of family, old mills.
But it was a lot of work, and the point of it all eluded me.
By art I mean anything from graffiti to the Sistine Chapel, from singing in the shower to Handel’s Messiah, from graphic novels to Shakespeare. Why do we do this? What drives us to create?
I came up with some ideas:
For entertainment, for relaxation. We all know about this: after a hard day’s work we sometimes seek mindless relaxation: watching a TV cop show, or listening to our favorite music.
To show off. To express ourselves. To experiment with line, color, movement, ideas, words. To find the beauty in ugliness. To reveal some hidden ugliness.
To expand our minds. To change hearts; I’m reminded of the inspirational story of Rodriguez’ musical success that helped motivate South African activists.
To help our children go to sleep we have lullabies. To focus on a detail worth remembering.
To emphasize a feeling or an aspect of reality that we might otherwise miss: as in the painting Nighthawks by Edward Hopper800px-nighthawks_by_edward_hopper_1942.

And finally, to draw closer to God. Because something in us wants to imitate the Creator. J.R.R. Tolkien described this very well in his essay “On Fairy-Stories.”
Thinking it over, I guess it’s worth the time after all.
Why do you do what you do?

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