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Why Do We Create Art?

Updated on February 6, 2011
And still I seek an answer.
And still I seek an answer.
Trees in winter
Trees in winter

What does it mean to create?


There have been many folks on web sites, blogs, or Facebook pages that display artwork along with personal photos, including myself. I studied art at the University of Kansas, and have used art to progress various business concepts--usually to fuel ideas in marketing for places I've worked, and also in the field of training and development. I enjoy drawing and painting the human figure, landscapes, and fantasy images.

My interests in art and creating art force me to realize that these are fascinating times for a visual artist to be alive. The advent of the Internet is the greatest gift to artists since the invention of printing. Before that moment, an artist's work could only be viewed personally. There was no forum for mass production of a single work. An artist lucky enough to be compensated for their work typically was hired by the wealthy, and their work was viewed by whoever the owner wanted or allowed to see it. The introduction of printing changed all that, allowing art that was once only appreciated by the wealthy to be enjoyed by everyone.

The Internet has had the same effect. Now artwork can be viewed worldwide, limited only be the number of people who visit a particular site. Artwork can be sold online also, allowing creators to benefit financially without having to sell their souls to a printer, publisher, or gallery owner. Now the artist can sell their work her/himself. Never before in history has it been so possible for people to enjoy another person's talent, and it has never been easier for artists to benefit from their notoriety.

Everyone is continually creative in the context of their lives, but those who have chosen to dedicate their lives to creative work experience both unique joys and difficulties. So why do we draw? Is it to be recognized? Is it to share our particular talent with the rest of the world? Who benefits--the artist or the viewer, or both? Is it to express something inside ourselves, or to act as a catharsis? Is it to add value to the world of art through style, form or content? I draw and paint, but do not make a living at it. I use it when I can to augment a project or goal, but I do not make much money through art per se. So, why do I draw?

My answers will not be profound, and I may not reach any conclusions at all. First, I want people to like what I do. Subsequently, I do not draw ONLY for myself, although much of my portfolio has never been seen by anyone else. I guess that means I draw for recognition, even if that recognition is not widespread. Yet, I don't promote my art in an effort to be further recognized, and neither do many artists. I have certainly sold artwork over the years, but I do not try to make my art "marketable". Why not? I don't know. I use art as a tool to teach, whether demonstrating to others how to draw or to use art as an instructional tool in other areas. I'm not really a teacher, though. Many artists are captivated by a narrow expanse of subject matter, such as portraits or landscapes. Not me. I enjoy drawing the human figure, but I don't have a "specialty". I often draw for cathartic purposes, but I don't believe anyone who saves their art can view what they do ONLY as a purging of feelings or emotions. If artwork is only for release, why save art after it has been created? I like to believe the best of my work adds value to the world--that art makes the world a better place, and everyone who contributes in this way helps improve the world we live in. But, I may not be good enough to improve the world with every pen or brush stroke. So, should I stop drawing?

I cannot find a single purpose that guides me through the creative process. Perhaps I am some type of artistic hybrid, not embracing any one reason to draw so fully that it guides or even influences me. Many artists have a clarity I don't possess which allows them to become architects, graphic artists, educators, illustrators, advertisers, or painters.

Am I an artist because I have to be? Creativity is frequently misunderstood as a talent bestowed on people that flows through the individual to the canvas, paper, or clay. But I had to learn to be an artist. I had to discover and develop the skills I use to create--a painstaking process typified by long hours and hard work with few rewards beyond the joy of creating. There is also a joy to working, however, and human beings are compelled to engage in work (not to be confused with selling our time and energy for money). So perhaps it is a compulsion to work that forces me to create.

Without the clarity to understand my own actions, I can only fall back on one catch-all reason for producing art--it makes me happy to do it. And I guess that is enough. But is it? Should the creative process be larger than the individual? Is it enough that artwork exists only because creating made the creator happy?

My question goes out to professional artists, amateurs, and wanna-be(s). Why do you draw? Do you know why? Can you articulate it? If you are willing to talk about why you draw, please respond to this blog. And thanks for reading.



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    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 8 years ago from Chicago

      I'm not qualified to answer, since I can't draw a decent stick man.  I do know the personal computer has launched a humongous industry of people who use artistic talent and vision to design what we see in our world today. It seems there are designers for everything now. And they are artists.

      I have written a lot of songs and I can't say I've done it for any reason other than I loved music to start with, since I can remember.  I started copying successful musical artists from before I was a teenager and by the time I was about 17 or 18 original ideas for songs seemed to pop into my mind out of thin air—fully formed songs.  The songs were there, and I had to get them out.  Could there be a correlation with painting or drawing?

    • Jewels profile image

      Jewels 7 years ago from Australia

      Hey, that's a good question - why do you draw? Made me think. Is it to duplicate an impression, an imprint and manifest it and make it personal. Gosh I hadn't thought about the why. You have me pondering. Thanks for that, I could be back!

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      James, I've thought a lot about the link between visual art and music, and when you say the songs were there and you had to get them out, well--I think you hit the nail on the head. The images pop up in my head, and I can leave them there or share them. I usually choose to share them. I do believe there is a correlation between music and painting. Thanks for the insight. Jewels, glad I could give you something to think about. Thank you for visiting my page.

    • profile image

      Gwil Noble 7 years ago

      I'm an Illustration undergraduate, and for I've tried my best to research this topic for my own practice. As far as I can understand, drawing has been quite fundamental to the success of our race as a whole; and I mean that quite sincerely. Drawing has given us the written language, mathematics, the ability to share knowledge between generations, and ultimately the power to learn, and overcome many of nature's obstacles. Of course it's not the only factor, but I feel it's a big part of what makes us unique. I feel drawing was like a tool in our push for life, and it can still be one. It's not a perfect answer, i know, but it sure makes me feel better when i doodle.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Gwil, thank you for a very thoughtful and enlightened response. Drawing is indeed one of the earliest and purest forms of communication, transcending language on many fundamental levels in its ability to create shared meaning. And, you are correct--drawing is a fundamental component of many aspects of society.

      Thank you very, very much for your comment.

    • ODDJOBSMOM profile image

      ODDJOBSMOM 7 years ago from North (Minnesota)

      Even if I keep a drawing tucked into a tattered notebook,just knowing it is there gives me a sense of accomplishment, same for the stories my computer is holding for me.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      OddjobsMom, you are correct--knowing the drawings are there, knowing the stories are there provides a true sense of accomplishment. For me, the sense of accomplishment is greater than nearly anything else I've done in my life. And, that is enough.

      By the way, did you draw the image that you're using for a photo (or avatar or whatever they're calling them these days)? It's very nice.

    • SusanAdele profile image

      SusanAdele 7 years ago

      "A sense of accomplishment"... yes, that is part of it, and probably a major part.

      To me its like a mother giving birth to a child. Each picture is part of ME, something I have created. No matter if it sits in a portfolio or sketchbook and is never seen by another person; if it hangs on my wall where only few will see; or it hangs in an art gallery where many will view; my "child" is of great importance and value to me.

      As with our children, each one takes a different course in their life. Art can bring happiness to someone else when they view it; it can bring you support if you sell it; if its used somehow in mass media, it can achieve great things.

      Or maybe it was just meant to help you, the Artist, through a difficult time when you needed to release things brewing inside before you explode. Art, creativity, can be comforting in itself. Even if no one else believes you can draw or not. Just the act of creating helps heal.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Susan, thanks very much for your insightful comments. You are correct, the art we create is a part of us, and what we do has value--to us, if no one else is there to appreciate it. And you are correct, each individual piece of art can be created for different reasons, all equally valid--a fine point to raise.

      My art--my "children"--has helped me through many difficult times, and that certainly is enough.

      Thanks again for your comments, it is obvious you have given thought to what you do and what compels you to create. Your clarity is enviable and much appreciated.

    • mega1 profile image

      mega1 7 years ago

      My art supplies have been gathering dust - lamentable - since I started making art with photos and paint programs - so much fun and such quick results - however there is no substitute for canvas, paper, paint, pens, crayolas - and I am inspired by your hub to get back to it just for the tactile fun of it. Also remembering how it sometimes gets me away from writing long enough to infuse some fresh ideas - so thank you very much - fellow Kansas person!

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Mega1, your comments mean a lot to me. I have enjoyed using computer programs to create also, but never truly embraced them (call me old-fashioned, I guess--or just plain old!). The physical aspect of drawing and painting just cannot be duplicated on a computer, even if the end result can. I'm honored to feel my words have inspired you in some way--thank you very much.

      Your comments are greatly appreciated.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Well my initial motivation, much like Picasso, Dali, Wright and countless other artists, was the most noble, to get chicks. Ha. Now that has evolved of course to mainly finding ways to raise my own eyebrows. You said:

      "I often draw for cathartic purposes, but I don't believe anyone who saves their art can view what they do ONLY as a purging of feelings or emotions. If artwork is only for release, why save art after it has been created?"

      I have several times in my life, created large artworks that I knew not only would have to be destroyed because of their size, but also that I didn't even have enough means to document their existence at all, and that is a real tragedy. I empathize with you in that I too just make art. But alas, I sense you have had more luck in the regular world and I don't mean that as an insult really I don't. I just can't seem to fit in anywhere, sometimes I might for a few years. But I'm always drawn back to trying to make this wretched art career grow wings. It's a blessing right Mike? Not a curse, right?

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Ben, it is indeed a blessing, albeit a mixed one sometimes. Artists are blessed with that extra way of communicating, a means of showing others all the things inside our head--the things that words aren't always enough for.

      I struggle as you do, both to find my way as an artist and to make it mean something--and the path is not easy. But it is a blessing--not a curse.

      Thanks again, Ben. Your comments are always insightful and welcomed.

    • Katharella profile image

      Katharella 7 years ago from Lost in America

      Hi again Mike, :) In answer to your question, why do we draw, I think each person has their own reasons or talents for whatever is inside them that need to come OUT.

      I am not one to picture something in my mind, then create it or be inspired by (although I do get inspired by others) others artworks, per se.

      My art tends to just "become," as I have no idea what my hands are going to create, but when I get a finished piece, sometimes taking years, sometimes just a few months or days, I find in it something that relates to my life, my feelings or what I want life or things to be. For a short instance. 2 Years ago, I created three people in a web, that sort of appeared as a hole, in a sense, same as a web, "one is caught." After much contemplation of WHY these creatures invaded my mind, I had come to a conclusion as to WHY they came to be, on paper. They were my father, who stood holding the grips of life over my son and myself. While they look wicked, the "times" I was living was wicked, and I felt I had no control, thus, caught in a web. Falling into the pit the hole. My son was also caught it in, and looked to me for help, that I could not give in whole, so I am a "being" not a real person, if that makes sense! I do have it uploaded if you'd like to take a look into my art folders at my myspace page (yes I too have one lol) ms.com/aristokat photos are in my art section of course, and all are welcome to view as I do not keep it private. I believe art is to share, and while I'd love it if I could live from the income, I'm not sure it's in the cards for me. I do love drawing and creating in either event! Thanks for another great hub, and I hope you can find time to view the crazyness of the inner workings of my twisted mind, FOR ART that is :) Best wishes! -Kathy

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Kathy, thank you so much for your articulate and thoughtful comment. Yours is exactly the response I hoped for when I wrote this hub and asked the question; what is it inside us that compels us to create? What happens afterward? Thank you very much for sharing.

      I will most definitely go to your myspace page and take a look, I am fascinated by what you described here.

      Thanks for sharing this, and come back anytime!

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Thanks for the warm encouragement again Mike, I'll take your word for it for now! *wink*

      Also, thought I'd direct you to this forum I noticed you weren't on there yet. Fellow writer/artist Sunforged is working on some free promo site for artists, I just posted my links there, you might want to as well.

      Here's the link:

      http://hubpages.com/forum/topic/24876...

      Hope you don't mind me posting it here, if you do, please feel free to remove, no hard feelings.

      BZ

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Thanks, Ben, I will take a look and perhaps get my links there as well. And, no hard feelings at all, your info is much appreciated!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I grew up using art as a form of entertainment in my youth. It has simply been a part of me like an arm and a leg although that was not what I formally studied. I have have had some local (Texas) success in selling my art...and a lot of what I do is to help charities. Simply said...the creation of art is self satisfying and if it can help or satisfy others as well...mission accomplished!

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
      Author

      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Peggy, thanks for your comments. I grew up using art as a form of entertainment, also. My father got big sheets of newsprint from the local newspaper company and I drew superheroes and whatever else while on the living room floor. It was countless hours of entertainment. The satisfaction one gets from creating art makes it worthwhile. So much of what I do casually has never been seen by anyone else, but it was fun. As you said, mission accomplished!

    • NateSean profile image

      NateSean 7 years ago from Salem, MA

      All of those paintings I put in my "art gallery" were left on the sidewalk outside of my apartment building when I moved. I was happy to see people rifling through them and taking some home with them.

      Granted, I would have been happy to make a couple hundred dollars off of them but someone once told me you do art for yourself.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Nate, thanks for reading. We do indeed create art for ourselves, but hopefully somewhere along the line, the opportunity to benefit from our toils will present itself. If you get to see people take possession of your art because they wanted it, perhaps that was a type of reward in itself. As you say, a few hundred bucks wouldn't have hurt, either.

      Thanks for your comments, they are much appreciated.

    • profile image

      WildIris 7 years ago

      I am not an ARTIST with capital letters; rather, I am a crafts-person. I make stuff. ART, I think, is something different. ART makes a statement. Craft, no matter how beautiful, performs a utilitarian function. Why do I make stuff, why do I create? Well, most of the time I need to make something because whatever I am making serves a purpose, but there are also the elements of self-expression and narrative that get woven into what I make. To create is like breathing, we all carry visions around with us, but only a few devote their lives to it.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      WildIris, thanks for your comments. The distinction between Art and Craft is subtle and profound, and at one point I was considering writing about the difference between the two. Some folks turn their art into a craft, others add artistic touches to their craft. Two sides of a creative coin.

      To create is indeed like breathing and I believe on some level we all need creativity in order to flourish as a human being.

      Thanks again for your comment, you hit upon an extremely interesting point!

    • lovelypaper profile image

      Renee S 7 years ago from Virginia

      I paint,write or draw to express myself. Many times I use art as a means of therapy and release of emotions.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      lovelypaper, thanks for reading. I often paint to express my emotions--usually the darker ones, but not always. I find myself writing when I feel good, drawing when I'm a little more down. Not sure why.

      I always feel better when I do something create, though.

      Thanks for your comments, they are much appreciated.

    • Uva profile image

      Uva Be Dolezal 7 years ago from Washington State, searching for home town.

      I've recently come full circle from going to art school to trying to do several careers other than be an artist, that seem more logical and monetarily sane, back to art. A 20 year loop in 2009 actually. I sure wish I know why I draw and create art. I have a cartoonish abstract style to my drawing that is very easy for me. I find I'll doodle here and there maybe because it is another way to think, different than words and numbers. Music seems to be a universal emotional language & math. Drawing also has a universal language element to it, but is somehow more complicated by interpretation. Sound, being heard not seen seems to somehow limit the emotional math. And 3D, as in sculptures and form seems to add more complex interpretive ideas and be somehow more affected by scale then drawing. When we draw, it is as if it is understood that the drawing is representations of an idea, and the scale is in our mind. While sculpture has a life size, miniature or giant scale that is physical and greatly changes interpretation.

      I compare the three here: music, drawing, and sculpture, because it's how I process you questions. Why draw ? why create art ? Maybe it is because the world isn't made of words, or numbers. We are all communicating and making records, sharing ideas, and we make art because the form and representation of ideas helps us understand ourselves, what it means to be human and history, etc.. everything words and numbers alone can't capture.

      Oh, yeah, I joined hub pages to have a space to write in words but, my primary blog is an art blog. http://narrativenotes.blogspot.com

      great questions, really enjoyed this hub and discussion thread, thank you

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Uva, thanks so very much for your thoughtful response. The use of art to record and document ideas is of course a universal aspect of the creative process--when our language is insufficient to create shared meaning, we add to it through the use of words, pictures, music, or math. As you suggest, each of these communications tools contain their own boundaries and limits, and each are limited in different ways. A question similar in scope to "why do we create art?" might be, "how do we communicate?" And the answers are equally myriad and complex.

      Thanks again. I appreciate your well-reasoned comments.

    • profile image

      poetlorraine 7 years ago

      hi i enjoy your work and your writing..... thanks for this hub i found it thought provoking

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      poetlorraine, thanks for reading. Your compliments about my work are much appreciated!

      Thanks again.

    • Cheeky Girl profile image

      Cassandra Mantis 7 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

      Hy Mike. I am a frustrated would-be artist, living in a city surrounded by galleries and lots of creative people. I truly envy anyone who can draw or paint. I even did a hub recently with an artist friend of mine who painted a digital portrait in stages, just to explain it all. I have so much to learn. But I never get tired of Art and I never tire of watching artists at work, being creative!

      You ask a fundemental question about why people make art. My artist friend answers something similar to this. Anyway, thanks for a thought provoking hub!

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Cheeky Girl, thank you for your comments. You might be more creative than you give yourself credit for, but it is great that you live in a creative environment. I will look for your hub with the digital portrait, you have me curious.

      Thanks again for reading.

      Mike

    • H.C Porter profile image

      Holly 7 years ago from Lone Star State

      I consider you to be one of the most rounded artists on Hub Pages and this hub and your views make it more apparent. I began painting/drawing/photography and writing, because I always have so much going on in my mind that it is not always easily organized or even understood at times. Creating whatever it is I am creating, gives me a certain degree of clarity, focus and peace. Art is truly a form of true expression. Thanks for writing this

      HC

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      HC, thank you so much for your comments. I am appreciative of your opinion of my skills and the admiration is mutual. You project a self-awareness and clarity that is essential for creators, and I respect your views a great deal. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here.

      Mike

    • profile image

      Derek 7 years ago

      First of all, it's wonderful to see how dedicated you are to all the responces on this blog, Mike. it is obviously very important to you.

      I think we create art (I am including writing, drawing, music, and whatever else can generally be considered “art”) as a means to connect with other people and with ourselves. We want to show the world the visceral, essential feelings that inhabit our mind to get some validation of their worth. Everyone is ultimately isolated in their own private universe, but it feels great to share a part of your reality with someone else and have them understand it on some level. I think art is any attempt to share our inherent “self” with someone, and we do it because it just feels really good.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Derek, your observations are much appreciated. I agree with your thinking-- art is indeed a method for communicating a small aspect of ourselves, and there is a true joy when a connection is made. When we can share ourselves through our art and have it be accepted by viewers, we have achieved something pretty special.

      Thanks again for your comments.

      Mike

    • Fluffymetal profile image

      Fluffymetal 7 years ago from Texas

      Great hub!

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Thank you, Fluffymetal. I appreciate your comments a lot.

      Mike

    • profile image

      micie 6 years ago

      they're right! we create to express OURSELVES.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Micie, thanks for stopping by. Yes, expressing ourselves is a primary reason to create. Thanks for sharing your opinion.

      Mike

    • acaetnna profile image

      acaetnna 6 years ago from Guildford

      I just love to draw and paint. It is so relaxing and totally emotional. Great hub.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
      Author

      Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Acaetnna, thanks for reading. I draw to relax, as well. It is one way for me to alleviate stress. I get into the art and other problems vanish--at least for the moment.

      Thanks again for stopping by.

      Mike

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      Zoey Gramber 6 years ago

      Come to think of it why do we draw? . I am a student and i am in year 7. I need to do some homework for art, saying why do we draw? . I think its from the stone age they tell stories and there life. Its about how HOW YOU FEEL. Lonely,happy,joyful,sad and anything else. Its you that create art. We create art everyday. e.g 'I home from school mum, I'll make a sandwitch'. THIS IS ART.

      thank you very much yours sincerely Zoey Gramber

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Zoey, thanks for your comments. I agree, I think we want to express how we feel and to take it a step further, I believe we have a need to share how we feel with others. We all crave for our feelings to be understood, and the only way to do this is to express ourselves. Art can be a very precise way of expressing our feelings.

      Thanks again.

      Mike

    • waynet profile image

      Wayne Tully 6 years ago from Hull City United Kingdom

      I create art to leave something behind when I'm gone, even if it's something small and worthwhile while I was living, that would still be enough, although fame, money and fortunes would be ideal too!

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Wayne, thanks for stopping by. It is always a pleasure to find you have commented on my work. I too hope to leave something behind when I am gone, and I hope that whatever survives me means something to someone. It would make it all worthwhile.

      Thanks again, my friend.

      Mike

    • profile image

      samantha 5 years ago

      ILOVE ART SO MUCH.IT IS MY TALINT.I ALLWAS HAVE LOTS OF FUN WITH ART.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Thanks for stopping by, Samantha. I appreciate it.

      Mike

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      hannah 5 years ago

      I think we draw is because we like to observe nature or express our feelings..

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Hannah, thanks for your comments. I agree with you. We are observing the world around us or telling the world what we think or how we feel. That is the case for all creators on some level or other, and you summed it up perfectly. Thanks again.

      Mike

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      Johnd480 2 years ago

      I truly appreciate this post. I've been looking everywhere for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You've made my day! Thank you again! egcfegdkagbf

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