Sometimes Wayward is the Way

Painting is a journey, and the journey to the end is as important as the end. The journey isn’t a straight line, but a meandering one. The journey is a process, and while some artists start the jounrey with an idea about what they want to represent or where they want to go, I start with the tactile, the physical—the materials themselves. Working with materials, letting myself be entranced by the materials, is what I find freeing. I work in a very intuitive way, getting into the painting by getting into a rhythm. I don’t understand what I’m doing—or saying—until later. Often my paintings are prophetic: I think that’s true of all artists—whether making music, dancing or writing poems—artists are always doing things whose meaning is revealed over time.

My work comes out of deep feelings and humble things. The more I can attach my work to a feeling—the stronger the work will be….When we’re painting, if we think about what’s happening in our lives—and not about the outcome or product (the painting)—we’ll get in touch with the energy that’s inside us, and we’ll work well. Some people think that if an artist works abstractly, she’s just throwing paint around. That’s not true. Art has to be thoughtful.

When we see Edvard Munch’s Scream, we understand the emotion: The image transcends and replaces language. It has an impact that doesn’t have to be explained. In the same way, we can love a poem without being able to paraphrase it. I think of art as a form of visual poetry. We feel a connection with a universal human experience. In all good work, there’s a spiritual element, and by spiritual, I don’t mean religious. To be spiritual, you just have to be in touch with your life—attentive to your feelings and aware of the beauty in the humblest things.

Murray, Kentucky, artist Joy Thomas paints portraits, still lifes and landscapes. Her work has been selected for many juried competitions, including the Salmagundi Club and the National Arts Club of New York City. She most recently received first place in the animal category of The Artist’s Magazine’s 2000 Art Competition.

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