Why paint? Why write?

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I’m an independent sort of person. Which is putting it the nice way. I like to do it my way, as Frank Sinatra said. To be in control. To be the master of events, of interactions, of methods, of outcomes.

My painter friend Ralph Iaccarino said it better: Artists do what they do because they want to control the world. They want to create their world, populate it, invent laws to govern it. They want to plunge their heroes into the fire, refine the dross from the gold. And in the end they want to reward the good and punish the wicked.

Controlling the world is impossible in life, where we control nothing beyond our willingness to love and be loved. But in writing, painting, music and other creative endeavors, for a little while the world is ours to be what we make it.

It almost sounds like blasphemy — artists as little tin-pot idols of their own making, playing at God. But I don’t think it’s as bad as that. Artists create because of the ember of creativity burning in their soul, and in all our souls. I’m not a painter, but I still react to a piece of art that touches my heart.

A lot of hours go into scratching that itch. Rewards are intermittent when they come, if they come at all. Van Gogh only sold one painting during his lifetime, and he was a genius. What of the lesser artists who didn’t achieve even that? Does commercial success matter? What constitutes success? Money? Fame? Prizes and good reviews?

I don’t think any of that is important. What matters is simply doing it. When the Muse calls, you follow. When the Piper plays, you dance. That is where the reward lies. It’s as simple as that.