Column: Motives for artmaking come full circle | Local entertainment

Dayton was bustling for our Art Loop Studio Tour on Nov. 12. I’ve lost track of how long we’ve been having this annual event, long enough to reflect on how my studio, art and motives have changed over the years.

The most obvious change is my studio, which prior to 2016, was so small people had to wait outside and enter in shifts. When we began doing the loop, I worked both full-time and part-time jobs; it’s obviously easier now to find time to prepare my space for the studio tour.

My definition of a “successful” Art Loop Studio Tour has transformed over the years. In the early years, I shared what came from my heart in the few hours I got to devote to my passion. Selling was a total bonus. Later, as a “full-time artist,” I tried to be more serious about creating, marketing and selling. “Success” became associated with sales and art became a job. This year, visiting with friends, sharing why I paint and seeing people experience the art brought my idea of “a successful studio tour” full circle, and sales were a bonus to a truly enjoyable day.

I’ve written before, that when my motives for artmaking fall into striving for income or awards, the art falls flat, along with true satisfaction in this profession. In the last couple years, I’ve peeled back my objectives for being an artist, investigating my intents and purposes; I’ve seen that the more prideful my focus, the less fun or fulfilling the pursuit is.

Past motives for artmaking came to mind: from drawing pictures as a little girl; to painting as therapy after the birth of our stillborn daughter; to the fulfillment of my dream to paint full-time when I lost my job in 2012; to fear which forced a carefulness that stiffened my style and sapped my joy as I worried about paying bills and supporting our family a few years ago.

I used to fear going blind or cutting my hand off in some tragic table saw accident because not being able to paint terrified me. All I had to offer seemed tied to talent. Lately I’m willing to surrender art if it’s taken; it is, after all, a gift. This reawakens my gratitude for the blessing of getting to do what I love (and that I can do something else, if required). “You can never sanctify to God that with which you long to satisfy yourself,” O. Chambers said.

Artmaking, I rediscovered, is about process, story and unexpected, fun things happening as I joyfully sling paint and step back and forth. Rather than a means with which to acquire anything material, painting is about connection to my Creator, to viewers and subject. I remembered that art is not about being known or getting wealthy or even paying the bills, but recalling those early, joyful reasons I create. The rest is simply byproduct.

Studio visitors commented on the freedom and color in one painting, distinct from much of the work on the walls. I explained that I keep that old painting to remind me that when fear tightens my brushstrokes, tames colors, makes me conform to trends or strive for sales or acclaim, to be true to the vision God put in me. That painting reminds me of the joy of entering my tiny space back when studio time was precious, and it was play, not work.

Sonja Caywood is a local artist who lives in Dayton.