Artistry lends itself to the hunter-gatherer mentality: that the act of searching for the thing is the art itself, and the result is the nourishment; the reward. We felt the pleasantness of the search as kids when we looked for bugs in the dirt, or played hide and seek, or went on dates, or shopped for groceries, or when we spent hours looking for hidden purple flowers in an RPG. Historically, humans derived pleasure as reward when following game to new hunting grounds, searching for edible roots, panning for gold, identifying stars, among many other things. The reward system trains us to look at our world in a variety of colored lenses that lead us to lasting success (i.e. survival). As visual artists, we certainly must survive, but with our needs met, our drive to pleasantly search now involves looking at our environment for a unique perspective, a thing out of place, a thing uniquely in it's place, or perhaps an effervescent moment - something that we can make permanent as a still or moving image, clarifying and subduing the subject for our analysis and appreciation (which is, personally, why we love slow-motion)!
We love visual arts for the way they allow us to see the world with moxie and curiosity; we live to both find our subjects and capture their essence. In this article on Scientific American, researchers used a variety of tests on subjects to see whether or not they would exploit a set of scrabble letters - as in, use them without trading as many in - or explore the odds by trading their letters in for new ones. What they found is that the subjects that were prepped to do one or the other followed their prep work, either sticking with their letters if primed for scarcity of large sources (i.e. “lumps” of goods), or trading them in if primed for abundant but spread out sources of goods. This showed that the human brain is quite adept at switching back and forth between foraging and mining. In a translation to the arts, one searches for their subject - perhaps a discarded loaf of bread on the sidewalk in front of a pond of ducks - and then mines it for the reward of interesting images, perhaps a beautiful shot that shows us how ducks rely on humans, both as the givers and producers of food (ducks can’t make bread!). The foraging and mining reward system is so deeply a part of us that we switch back and forth between each state of mind without awareness of it (have you ever stood in front of the fridge with the door open for 5 minutes before finally deciding on something?)
When we explore our world through photo, video, music, and other sensory arts, we are opening ourselves to the subtleties that are are typically background noise in the presence of bigger threats. Perhaps, when we walk on a busy street in the rain, we don’t notice the beautiful stained glass window on the house to our left, because we are busy gently monitoring the slippery cars narrowly staying in their lanes. We are obliged to focus on our safety. When we "turn on" our artistic, curious mind, we might still notice that stained glass window despite our need to protect ourselves; as artists, we make room for the reward even when we may have unmet needs. The discovery of the unique thing, much like our ancient foraging for foods, reminds us there is reward in the chaos.
These little moments - the little finds - are what drives our work. We're constantly searching for engaging depths of this world - and we love sharing what we find. We love getting uncomfortable to achieve our thirst for art.