The Conundrum of the Clean Break. A few times in my life I’ve known or run across people who suddenly throw away all of their art supplies and just turn their backs on the whole thing. One person I know who went to Fine Art school at a prestigious college threw out her stuff pretty much the day after she graduated. I think she had enjoyed art but had had it up to here with all the crap that formal education had layered on top of it. I remember her telling me that at some point she’d realized that people who won art shows always seemed to be the ones who had the longest or most clever ‘explanation’ of the piece, whether or not it actually had anything to do with the art itself. Being a natural painter, she painted what she was moved to paint from an intuitive standpoint and ‘explaining’ it was more like analyzing a poem by dissecting each word – it had nothing whatsoever to do with the actual impetus and creation of the art in the first place, and certainly wasn’t necessary for true appreciation.

In many ways I’m glad I never went to college for general writing or literature (“English”), but instead have a degree in technical writing/communications, which was more applicational than artistic – I never got flattened by observer-end analysis of ‘how to write’. So I learned a lot about structure and clarity, but nothing really ruined the creative process of writing for me. (I also know a number of people with English degrees who never wrote a creative word again.)

But anyway, today I read, on an email list where I just lurk, about another person who said she threw away all her art supplies so wouldn’t be doing any more art (for a while?), but offered no explanation. I’m sure there are a gazillion reasons for doing this, but it still always shocks me. I can’t IMAGINE throwing away my art supplies, unless they were no longer useful, even if I planned never to use them again. And I guess I would give them away rather than trash perfectly useful brushes and paints and pen nibs and colored pencils. But then, I am also the kind of person that can spend DAYS wandering around an art store or even an office supply store, in total wonderment at all of the amazing products and potential there. All of those blank canvases and papers, all the markers, and colors, and paints! Also, my practical half-German heritage also would make wasting anything that was still viable pretty much taboo.

So I guess while I can, in theory, understand the rationale and the passion one might express in throwing away all their art supplies, or breaking all of their pencils, etc., I just don’t think I could ever do it myself. Of course, the need for an instantanous, and perhaps symbolic, clean break from some aspect of your life that was either riddled with conflict or frustration might sometimes overwhelm the practical considerations.

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