Lately I've been looking at lots of work by other artists. Full time painters I mean. Fine artists whose focus is creating work that patrons might buy, who teach or do whatever else they can to make the mortgage payment and buy groceries and art materials. Some of the work leaves me marveling at the skill and sensitivity that these people have developed, many in media that have intimidated me forever. Oil landscapes painted on location that leap off the canvas or paper, that make me think "oh, I can feel the heat and the beating sun or the cold and fine, blowing snow across that field." I will probably never do work that approaches what these hard working artists have accomplished.
What it is for me has more to do with what I'm feeling. Sometimes - often - raw, impatient, angry, exuberant, energetic, overwhelmed with emotion. Pencil leads break, pastels shatter to dust, the paper gets smeared. Sometimes quietly reflective. What's valid? I don't know. All of it. But there has to be something in it for the viewer or it risks being narcissism, or at best, art therapy. Trying to find and maintain the right balance between technical practice and the experience of seeing and the feelings that are churned is like trying to ride a wild horse. I'm a perfectionist but I hope I never break that horse's spirit.