Are we compelled to create art?

Prehistoric Trance: A digital matte painting by Dawn Yilmaz
“Inspired by the Lascaux caves, I chose to recreate a prehistoric depiction of a hunter, who has injured a bison, but in doing so, sustained a severe wound and clings to life. The composition leans heavily on spiritual iconology and natural ochre colors. The painting evolved in an ephemeral way, crafted in small, dark rooms to recreate an environment similar to a cave. A 23” HP touchscreen running Photoshop CS6 was used to draw at steep angles. African Bushmen tribal music and trance inducement by reverse blinking technique, helped to create an inspirational and authentic atmosphere. Only three brushes; including two, with a soft “crayon-like” effect, and a third with a reed “airbrush” feel, were used and designed to mimic prehistoric tools.”

Over the summer, spare time is at a minimum, but I did take some time to catch up on a few of the movies I had been waiting to see. Little did I know, I’d end up pondering the artistic motivations of early man and the implications of those motivations.

So I began my mind bending journey by indulging in Herzog’s beautiful documentary, the Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a brilliant 3D tour of the nearly inaccessible Chauvet Cave in France.

Werner Herzog has long been one of my favorite directors. Beyond the insanity that is, The Burden of Dreams, there is just something über appealing about him.

If you are not familiar with Werner Herzog,  I suggest you watch how he handles being shot by LA sniper during an interview. Still not impressed? Then watch the animated short, When Herzog Rescued Phoenix.

The short features an audio of Herzog recounting the true story of when he rescued Joaquin Phoenix from deadly car crash with animation for emphasis. Priceless.

If you are not familiar, the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave contains some of the earliest known cave paintings in human history. The paintings are roughly 30-35,000 years old, which is only a  few thousand years after anatomically modern humans arrived on the scene in Europe.

The cave paintings are remarkably sophisticated and notable for changing the way scholars theorized about early art advancement in human beings.

Prior to the discovery, it was commonly thought that in the course of human evolution, art evolved in slow stages, from primitive to real world naturalistic designs. However, the Chauvet works contained subtle shading, skillful use of perspective, and a demonstrated mastery of elegant lines that gave way to entirely new theories. There are even stunning examples of the early foundations of cinematography.

I frequently hear other artists’ state that they are ‘obsessed’ with art. For some reason, this has always struck a wrong chord with me. An obcession is an ugly thing, and after all, I am not certainly not obsessed with art. To be fair, I have been described that way, but to say I am actually obsessed, feels… inaccurate.

Cave Art: A digital matte painting by Dawn Yilmaz

Instead, I find that I am compelled to create. Seems odd, but since I was a child it was something I  had to do – not as a matter of money or incentive, but rather, just a necessary function of my existence. It helps me to gain perspective and to sort out my ideals. It takes a vision from my mind and translates it into a way I can share it with the world.

My first paintings were on a wall, like most children, much to my parents’ dismay. I scribbled joyfully with whatever mediums I could find. My mother often recalls of a time, when at the tender age of two. I accidentally cut my fingers and was more mesmerized by applying the blood to the wall, rather than whatever pain I was experiencing at the time. She always tells the tale with a shake of her head, as if she still can’t believe what she saw that day.

But, after seeing the red of the ochre used in early prehistoric pieces, I wonder if my actions were not somehow, hardwired into my DNA, as opposed to some scientific image creating epiphany, I concocted on my own…

And I can’t help wondering if the need to create is just an instinct that some of us are just a bit more sensitive to.

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