It’s a pretty big question to ask, honestly, but I love answering it for people.
Ask any artist why they make art and you’re going to get so many unique answers you won’t know what to do with them all.
That’s because we all make work for very different reasons. But I would venture to say that for almost all of us, we make work because we need to make work – it’s part of who we are, it identifies us, and without it many of us would feel incredibly lost.
I’m in that boat.
There are a few reasons that art making is at the center of my life. Thanks to a combination of breeding, natural talent and formal training, there weren’t many other options for me – not that I want there to be. Although there are certainly days when I think life as an accountant or a lawyer might have been easier. Our society is always ready for more business professionals – But artists? What are we thinking?
But no – I wouldn’t walk away from this strange and unusual journey now. I walked away from it once only to find sorrow and confusion and a complete sense of panic… I’ll take a little judgement from society and painted covered jeans over whatever the hell that was any day.
Which brings me to the reasons…
One. I make art because I need to make art.
Art making (and writing, which of course is merely another form of creating and sharing truth) has become one of the only healthy means of processing the breadth of emotions I go through on a daily basis. As a highly sensitive person, I feel most things super-duper deeply, and sometimes that REALLY really sucks. Sometimes it’s anxiety, sometimes it’s depression, sometimes it’s pure joy, sometimes it’s anger – sometimes it’s all of it all at once.
Every time it feels like too much until I start honoring the fact that I need to do something creative with all of those feelings.
In the event that I put it off and put it off and put it off (like I did for years after graduating – DO NOT RECOMMEND), the struggle I create for myself trying to suppress the big feels becomes too great.
When I don’t take the time to process, and make shit about all of the frustration and the sadness and the elation, and the mind blowing antics I see happening in the world today, well… I lose it. I end up breaking down, spiraling out, crying and drinking an entire bottle of Moscato while I paint Maisie Williams’ eyebrows and blast Kesha at 6pm on a Friday night.
So. I make art because I need to make art. It is part of my life blood to do so.
Two. I make art because I want to make art.
I make art because I don’t actually want to push numbers like an accountant, or work 90 hour weeks like a lawyer, or wait tables (I did that shit through college and it sucks).
I’m building a career as an artist because I hate Corporate America with a passion. I am not about working for some rich white dude in a corner office, sitting at a desk from 8 to 5 for the sake of sitting at a desk from 8 to 5, and wearing “slacks”. And I hateee office politics.
I want to make art that challenges that entire narrative – the status quo, the default track, the herd. I want to make art because art can be a vehicle for change. I want to make art to wake people up. I want to make art that challenges what you know about yourself and your beliefs. I want to make art that challenges what I know about myself and my beliefs. I want to make a statement. I want my truth to be heard…
I realized after much reflection in 2017 and 2018 that carving out my path as an artist is the only path for me, because it is the only path that will allow for the autonomy of expression and being that I so desire.
I recognize that this road will be a hard one, and that I’m still going to have one of those bullshit jobs to make it work until I gain footing, but I know it will be worth it because I’ll be living my truth and following my mission every step of the way.
Being an artist and a creator is at the very core of my identity, doing anything else would be a disservice to myself and to the world.
And Three. I make art because I love great aesthetics!
Art for the sake of art almost got me through art school, but then my senior thesis show came around and I needed to send a bigger message than that.
(I just wasn’t thinking that broadly yet, cut me some slack 😉 )
And the concept never left me, nor will it ever.
Coined in the early 19th Century, “art for art sake” was said to convey the idea that the chief and only aim of a work of art is the self-expression of the individual artist who creates it.
I fucking love that.
Share your story, and speak your truth for the sake of doing so? Let me repeat. I fucking love that.
Self-expression like that is a complete act of love. Self-love, love for your fellow humans… I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: when you open up your heart and share your truth and your stories and your pain/joy, you are setting the stage for someone else to do the same. It creates a ripple effect that ultimately spreads love, compassion and understanding and makes the world a smaller place.
If that isn’t worth it to you… you might be a sociopath, but I’m not here to judge 😛
On the great aesthetics note, making things for the simple purpose of decorating your space is also near and dear to my heart. Charles Lewis Tiffany once said that beautiful design makes for a beautiful life. Why not surround yourself with things that are a reflection of you and your personality? That you deem beautiful?
When I’m not creating work to make a statement, spark an idea, or drive an emotional response I’m usually making kitschy home decor like paintings of figs or dogs.
Those paintings are for the times when I need to create and I’m not sure that I have anything bigger to say. That’s not to say that that type of work has nothing to say – I’m just confessing that, for the most part, mine don’t.
And that’s fine! We’re allowed to make art just for fun.
That’s what’s awesome about art! Meaning is subjective.
Anyone can do it, even if they think they can’t.
Art doesn’t “have to be” anything other than intentional. If you can’t do realism, don’t. If you hate abstract, leave it alone. If you think you suck, getting better only takes practice.
But give it a go sometime – whether it becomes a hobby, or a profession or just a thing you tried that one time – I promise you won’t be disappointed.