Why Do Artists Create?
Why do we do it?
As a writer and artist, I frequently deal with the frustrations associated with making the visions inside my head real. Writing poetry or fiction or creating a new oil painting often presents setbacks and disappointments that makes what I do sometimes seem (to be blunt) not worth the effort. Extensive reworking of a piece is part of the game, but when repeated efforts continually fail to satisfy me, discouragement can set in.
It is also disappointing to achieve something artistically, only to find it is not received as I might hope. Everyone wants their labors to be appreciated, but when one’s efforts are met with indifference or actual derision, it can be disappointing to say the least. An impoverished Vincent Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime, and it has been reported that after his death, his paintings were actually used as targets for shooting practice. Clearly, his work was not received as he might have wished when he was alive; despite a talent and vision that posthumously ranks him among the greatest artists of all time.
There are many reasons artists push through their frustrations and disappointments to create, but why do we do it? What do artists want? I am capable of speaking only for myself, but I believe I can offer some generalizations that encompass the feelings of other creators, as well.
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We push ourselves to create, despite the obstacles
What do artists really want?
Artists are people. The woman behind you in the check-out line at the grocery store might be an artist. The waiter in your local restaurant might be, also. This may come as a surprise to those who view all creators as lunatics or unmotivated slackers dreaming their lives away, but it’s true—artists are just like everyone else. We have families, lives and interests beyond our work. We need the same things everyone else needs to succeed, and we seek the same things in life, although perhaps in different ways. Give us a little love and nurturing and we can create beautiful things. Because we are people—ordinary men and women like everyone else—we hope that when we create we will find these things:
1. Shared Communication: Artists communicate very precisely, although sometimes in obscure ways. We might beat you over the head with the message, or we might leave clues to our intent that we desperately hope you notice and understand. We use words and images to communicate our thoughts and feelings, and unless our intent becomes known and understood, we have failed in our work—at least on one level. Make no mistake—even if our intent is extremely difficult to understand, we desperately hope you will comprehend our message.
2. Acceptance: This should not be surprising to anyone who recognizes that we are plain, ordinary people. Everyone wants to be accepted, but artists often show themselves to the world in a very personal, intimate way. Because of this, we perhaps look for acceptance more than a bank teller or restaurateur. If you accept what we do, it inspires us to push through the difficult moments and continue. If you appreciate our efforts, others will, also. (Acceptance might take the form of compensation for our work, but that is certainly not all we are searching for.)
3. Recognition: This does not mean all artists and writers want fame and acclaim but, like everyone else, we want to be acknowledged for being good at what we do. Our craft is not easy, even if we make it look as if it is. When we spend all day or night painting or drawing or writing a song or poem, we are working hard. We would also like for others to see and understand that what we do is meaningful. We add beauty to the world around us with our efforts.
4. Respect: Because our work is so personal, we hope you will demonstrate respect for what we do, even if you don’t like it. Your view isn’t necessarily the prevailing opinion, and others might find worth in what you do not. It injures us when you mock or ridicule our work, because many of us cannot separate ourselves from our craft. We can take criticism if it remains constructive, but criticism without purpose is shallow and empty.
5. Positive Contributions to Society. Work is part of an upward trend in the universe—mankind’s collective efforts to improve the environment through its labors. Artists want their work to be valued as part of this upward trend. Artists use their talents to create beauty and make the world better, and the contributions of writers, musicians, painters and actors are not only significant, they are lasting. Creative people change the world with their talents.
Spread the love
Artists are not creative only when they are thoroughly miserable. Living a life of destitution and suffering from the rejection of the public is not a creative requisite. We do not rely on alcoholism and drugs to escape from the misery of our lives and/or refine our creative vision. The truth is that artists are far more productive when our efforts are appreciated and validated by society. Creativity thrives on support. Picasso was a visual artist who achieved sufficient popularity that he commanded a substantial income from the art market. Subsequently, as he became more successful, his unique brand of creativity flourished.
If you communicate with us and recognize, accept and respect us, I think you will love us, as well. People want to be moved and inspired by books or paintings or songs, and I believe they want artists to produce truthful, quality work. This can best be achieved in an atmosphere of respect and (yes, that’s right) love.
We all share our opinions about movies and books, recommending what we like to family and friends. Take it a few steps further. When you see a drawing or painting you like, or when you read a poem that strikes an emotional chord inside you—tell someone. Recommend the artist’s work to a friend and spread the love. Help the artist gain a modicum of acceptance and recognition. By doing this, you will be doing the world a favor.
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