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Why do artists paint the same thing over and over?

Why do artists paint the same thing over and over?

Sometimes people see my work and say ‘Oh, that’s so different to the piece I bought twenty years ago! I prefer your watercolours…’ Or ‘Wow, this is so similar to the piece I saw at such-and-such gallery five years ago…’ And then we have a conversation.

I paint as healing, as meditation, as grounding and as expression. Sometimes I paint yellow skies with red flowers. Sometimes I paint dark and moody treed landscapes. Sometimes I paint a dog, or a galah hanging off the electric wires after a good soaking rain. I get lost in time when I paint. Often, I revisit an idea over and again. I didn’t invent the wheel there – many artists have recurring motifs or muses in their work. For me it’s poppies and daisies. Big blue watery skies. Sunsets. Lone gum trees in Christmas Hills, or the Yarra river at the Bend of Isles.

These are all part of my psyche and my expression of them feels as natural as breathing. Last month I dreamed a pair of paintings and painted them. They’re big square gallery wraps, a metre square each, with the white ‘timber’ frames actually painted onto the canvas as well. Flowers. One’s of a sunburst, with a predominantly orange sky and a warm mess of flowers. The other’s a perennial favourite, red poppies with a blue sky and white clouds – an image that I never tire of painting and feel the need to revisit fairly often. Of course, every time I paint a picture it comes from a new inspiration or creative impulse.

But I kind of like Elizabeth Gilbert’s thought that ideas float around in the ether, waiting for a dream to jump into, or a body to make them manifest. And that there are not necessarily any ‘new’ ideas, just ideas whose time has come.

I reckon it’s the same with painting.

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  • Rudi on

    Well said Liz. I share your love of poppies and big flowers. xx

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