Do yourself a lifetime favour

Posted 06.03.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Is buying a painting extravagant? Is it any more self-indulgent than buying a boat, skidoo, patio set, even a microwave or a new outfit? If we bought only essentials we'd have a lot more money in the bank, but not much else.

We aren't monks and nuns; most of us can't live exclusively on essentials. Life is too short, and full of difficulties, so what's wrong with a few pleasures, with something that brings a smile rather than a worry?

There's a different type of balance sheet at work here -- not the essentials of life but the pros and cons of what adds value, stimulation, and pleasure to our lives. A boat to go fishing, a winter trip to fantasyland . . . or a painting?

Over the years, my partner and I have added a painting to our walls when we could, without going into debt and without denying ourselves any necessities. Our income isn't above the national average. Yet we can afford a few paintings from Pontiac artists -- imagine! It is possible, so the real question is why? What do we get from "art"?

There's a painting by Elke Bzdurrek at our staircase that is beautiful to look at -- every time I go up the stairs. It is of such quality it could easily be in the national gallery beside a Georgia O'Keeffe. Our kitchen has a silk painting by Dale Shutt, our living room has prints by Raymond Sander-Regier, Arianne Bouchard, and Valerie Bridgeman, the dining room glows with a piece by Marcio Melo and big photos by Lily Ryan, ceramics by Chantal Auger; there's a photo-collage by Alison Gerow, and several smaller pieces, including, beside my bed, a painting of the Coulonge River by my dad.

Sounds like a lot, but none broke our bank account; we got a discount from one artist, a time-payment by several, and a trade by another. Pontiac artists want their work out in the world and they can be very accommodating to achieve that.

As for our small house, we live with this constant stimulation of our senses and imaginations. My aluminum boat I use a dozen times a year, at most; my spouse bought herself a flat-screen TV, which she uses a couple of times a week. The paintings we use every day. They are stimulating and calming; they are inspiring, and they work a kind of magic that cannot be put into a few words. We feel their effects in all parts of our lives, and it is an enriching effect. It takes us out of ourselves, away from the hassles of daily life, and they pull us into exploring our inner selves. I see each painting a little differently each time I look at it.

Art can sound highfalutin', but paintings have been part of humanity since our ancestors first crawled into a cave for protection. They are basic to our human-ness, and essential to our individual wholeness.

Pontiac's artists are known for their skill and creativity; what a bonus for the Pontiac. Their art is not expensive on a cost-benefit analysis. I challenge anyone to beat the value and benefit of a painting that we can look at every day of the year, that stimulates us daily, year after year. The Pontiac Artists Studio Tour runs for two weekends, June 9-10, 16-17. What a selection, and a lot of fun! Go, take your pick, and reap the rewards forever.

Copyright © 2012 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/06.12