Self-Collage by C. NicholsonLast fall I wrote a post titled “Why I Write.” It’s one of the few entries I’ve written here on my blog where I really talk about the woman behind the keyboard. In it, I recognize that all artists have different motivations that pull at their subconscious, compelling them to open up a metaphorical vein and create. For years, I never really thought of my writing as art because it always seemed that fiction, theater, screenplays and poetry were the only forms of the written word that people deemed “artistic.”

As you learned in that soul-bearing post from December, I don’t view my writing that way anymore. But even if the world doesn’t see nonfiction writing as an art, it’s pretty clear that I am drawn to the creative dark side in its many forms. Be it film, poetry jams, concerts, gallery openings or dance performances, I need art to make my life feel truly rich. But why art? Why not cooking or sports or family fun time?

If I’m being honest with myself, I really don’t have the answer to that question. What I have is the sense of fulfillment and calm that comes when I see Philippe Quint’s violin bow set the strings on fire with Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto. What I have is a memory of contentment and joy when I watch the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater execute “Revelations” with beautiful perfection.

So what is it about art that pulls, excites and incites me in ways that nothing else does? Well, there’s this great scene in an episode of Sex & The City where Carrie is trying to explain why she loves fashion. She tells a gentleman that when she only had enough money for dinner or the latest issue of Vogue, she chose to buy the magazine. Why? She says, “I feel it fed me more.”

That’s how I feel about art. It feeds and sustains me when so much of life seems like its sole purpose is to strip away. I didn’t study Art History or Design in college. (I’m a proud English Lit major.) I can’t draw worth a damn or play an instrument without stumbling mercilessly, but I can appreciate the skill and the talent that it takes for others to produce a work that puts their blood, sweat and tears on display for all the world to see.

Art not only feeds me. It sustains me. It reminds me that my brain is capable of achieving so much more, and the only way I’ll find how much is if I push myself to build that next “great” work brimming beneath the surface. I’d love to think an amazing tennis backhand or my ability to organize a fantastic children’s birthday party would produce the same level of passion for life. But we both know it won’t.

Last Wednesday, I attended a mixed media art class where we were asked to create self-portraits from a variety of supplies. Despite being all thumbs and awkward with my watercolors and gels, I somehow produced something I liked that felt oddly representational of me. Mixed media isn’t my forte, but diving into a creative project where I was forced to let go and just be there working in a moment of self-possession was wonderful.

I’m not going to give up my day job, but I respected the process and serenity that came with producing a work of art simply for the sake of doing so. No money was to be gained. No portfolio pieces were crafted. Just me and the art.

And no matter how pretentious that sounds, it reminded me of why art is the ship that keeps me afloat. To paraphrase Carrie: “It feeds me more.”

What inspires you to create?