I have a friend who is a painter. She is very good. I said to her once that she must have great technical skill to be so good. She replied that one does need to have some technical skill in order to express ones ideas, but that this does not make you a great artist. She continued that in order to be great you must paint from the heart. “Yes, but what does that really mean?” I countered. She said that the artist must truly feel the emotion or idea that they are trying to express, and that then they must associate vivid mental imagery with this feeling. Only then can one allow the feelings to flow from them and onto the canvas.

I decided to pry a little. “How long does this process take?”

“Oh, it can happen very quickly”, she said. “Sometimes the concept just hits me from out of the blue, and I simply let it happen.” She smiled and pointed to one of her works. “Like this one. It just came to me in a flash of inspiration.”

I turned to see the painting, an abstract in beautiful orange and gold hues, the glow nicely enhanced by an overhead track light. “Well, how do you know if you are successful then?”

“I know I am successful when I look at the painting sometime later, and it instills a strong emotional response.” She paused for a second and looked at her drink. “If you are really great your work will instill strong emotion in others as well.” She said as she looked up and opened her arms a bit.

“A means of communication.” I said as I looked into her eyes and smiled.

“Yes, like the drums in Africa. It is the same in music, in all art forms.”

We continued talking about other art forms for a while, and ended discussing sculpture. I have thought about this conversation a lot, and have come to agree with her, although I think this process is a skill in itself that one has to master over time. The artwork becomes like a reference in software. A small data type that can easily be passed from one routine to another yet which when dereferenced can yield a wealth of information.

I think I am going to ask if she will make a puzzle box for me the next time I see her.

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