Responding to rhetorical questions

I believe that, technically, one isn’t supposed to respond to things labelled “rhetorical”, at least, not in polite company. Ryan has, however, asked some interesting questions and I feel, if not honour-bound to answer, then at least sufficiently interested to examine, them.
Let’s break it down.

Why do you do it? Why do you do what you do? I don’t mean things like going to work, washing laundry, or eating. I mean the things you do that aren’t necessities. Why do you create? Why do you paint, draw, photograph, write, or journal? Is it a hobby? Is it a passion? Or is it just a job? Or because it makes you seem more interesting to others? Or because everyone else is doing it?

It’s because I can’t stop doing it. Interesting to others? Not my chief motivation. In fact, I have found the label “artist” can often be seen to be synonymous with “social parasite” in many circles. People act interested while thinking, “yeah, she does that to keep her busy while her husband earns all the real money.” It’s a vocation. I could have been a lot of things, but I chose (and keep choosing, despite hardship and frustration) this. I must feel that I have something to give to it….


While I’m asking, why do you choose the tools you use? Do you only use that brand of paint because of someone’s review or because you love the colour range? Do you use that camera because it’s what “all” the other photographers use or because you are happy with it’s ability to capture what you see? Did you buy that journal or sketchbook because of the brand or because the paper welcomes your medium of choice? Do you use the word-processing software with all the bells and whistles, or one that does just what you need?

I work in textiles because I like making art that not only appears three-dimensional, but is sculpted in relief. I also like the tactile nature of my media and its ease of manipulation. Plus the environmental hazards and mess aren’t as bad as for, say stone carving.


Bells and whistles? My paints are good paints, but not because they’re trendy, just because they work. I have a workhorse of a sewing machine (Bernina Activa 130) that will do what I tell it to all day without complaint. It won’t do anything fancy or create My camera was researched to suit my particular needs and what I photograph does actually reflect what my inner eye sees, more or less. I’ve learned to use it to do so (underexpose many things by one shutter notch does the trick for me).


And since I’ve already asked way too many questions, is your use of those tools unique to you in any way? Do you craft your characters like every other novelist? Do you draw the same things that others are drawing? Do you stand next to other photographers to take a picture from the same angle?


I try for uniqueness. It’s one of the reasons that I tend to create solitarily and not clutter my mind up with what everyone else is doing. I suspect that many basic techniques are used by everyone, whatever the craft, but I rejoice in finding new ways to achieve effects, combine techniques and render imagery. The only time I take the same picture as someone else is when I want a copy of what they see. Most times, I’m off in another direction.


I’m all for people creating, whether they have “talent” or not, but shouldn’t motivation be a factor? And shouldn’t the choice of tools play a role? Do you use what everyone else uses, or what works for you? Do you create what you see and imagine, or only what others produce? Is there any of you in what you do? And does it give something back to you?


Do most people lie awake at night and imagine linear tension and visualise colours layering? I suspect not. Normal people aren’t kept awake by problems of achieving dimensionality through the use of layered sheer fabrics (that was last night’s mental tangle). Folks who are artists can’t stop looking at the world differently and attempting to see it in their medium.


Did someone push one of our buttons today, Ryan?


3 Comments Add yours

  1. r.e.wolf says:

    It showed?! 🙂

    In truth, that post was inspired by an email conversation with another artist about “trendiness” and “fads” and “groupthink.” We’d both seen so much of it in a certain area; it was nice to know we weren’t alone. But it got my brain percolating, and really that’s never good.

    I called it “rhetorical” because I didn’t expect any answers, but I truly did want to know! While textiles aren’t my medium, your work has shown me that they can be, without question, “tools” to create beautiful art. You do things that leave me awestruck. So learning what motivates you to do it is like a gift to me.

    It was 2-sided, I suppose: genuine curiosity balanced against the urge to call out the “sheep.” Thank you for answering!

  2. arlee says:

    Hmm, interesting question–i shall have to give it some thought as well—people stare blankly at “textile artist” “Isn’t it *just* sewing/quilting?”

  3. Felicity says:

    Yours was a very interesting set of answers! The term social parasite stopped me in my tracks. I am in a fortunate position that I can stay at home and husband makes a good living. But even without his support, I would have to draw and indeed I did before I married (got crappy jobs and drew in the evening). It’s not about the money, as you say it’s about not being able to stop – it’s not a choice or a hobby.

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