Painting well is a small feat of magic, like pulling a rabbit out of a hat. The difference between stage magicians and artists is stage magicians are in on the trick. Artists don’t really know how the rabbit got there.

Robert Frost put it simply, “No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

Artists of all types often admit this. I’ve heard novelists and famous musicians speak of the work taking on a life of its own. Painters will say, (if things went well), that the canvas seemed to paint itself.

We start with nothing, then push inert material until it begins taking shape, until presto!—the spark of life—the sudden thrill—a rabbit out of nowhere.

To choose to paint is to choose an uncertain path promising certain anxiety. There’s no guarantee that any given canvas will work, or of finding an appreciative audience, or of generating income, or even of being understood and taken seriously. Is it worth it? Yes, and for one reason.

The flash of real magic.

 - David Michael Slonim