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What’s the Reason You’re an Artist?

By Dan in Misc > Art Opinion

Why are you an artist? What drives you to create?

Maybe if you’re a new artist, you’re not sure yet. Or perhaps you’ve been an artist for so long you can’t imagine anything else.

I think it’s important to know WHY, though, so I’d encourage you to think about it.

Personally, I don’t make art because I enjoy the painting process. I’m not a Bob Ross. Painting is the hardest work I’ve ever done, and it used to make me wonder why I chose to be an artist at all.

Back when I was a kid, on the other hand, drawing was what I did to be different. My two older brothers weren’t interested in art, so it was a great way to get attention. Granted, I also felt the need to be GOOD at art (we were all very competitive) and that pushed me to practice, practice, practice.

Wouldn’t you know, it paid off—I became the “artist” in my family and even at school. It wasn’t my whole identity back then (I did sports, too) but it was definitely a big part of it.

When I took my first painting class in college, it was like becoming an artist all over again—and I still had to be good at it. I couldn’t stand the thought of failing.

Thanks to some great teaching, and (again) lots of practice, I learned to paint. But I never enjoyed the process, it was always hard work. So why was I an artist?

Well, over time I began to understand the answer to that question, and it seems to be rooted in the competitive side of me that I mentioned before.

When I’m painting I feel like a marathon runner dying to reach the finish line. I feel like the mountain climber whose single driving goal is to reach the peak. I want to succeed. To win.

And the truth is, I paint to have created not to be creating.

Once I realized that about myself, it actually made my life a lot easier. I began to paint in longer stretches, completing paintings in one or two intense sittings. Being done sooner meant that I enjoyed painting more.

For some of you, that might sound weird. If you enjoy art as a process, you probably like to keep a painting or drawing going for months, completing it slowly over time.

But for me, that just doesn’t work.

I also prepare more by sketching, taking photos, and planning because I won’t be ABLE to stop if the painting isn’t perfect. I know my greatest enjoyment will come from finishing and walking away, leaving behind a work of art.

And even though you and I might not be alike in that way, we all have something that drives us to create.

For you, it could be the process, using color, working with your hands—being in the moment. Perhaps making art is your emotional outlet, or your way of getting the approval of others. Maybe you just really want to make art that sells.

Which one is it? What drives you? Do you know?

If you don’t I hope you’ll think about it, because the simple truth is this: understand yourself, and you’ll be a better artist.

*Note: this post may contain affiliate links*

I’ve talked before about how to judge art, but today I’m going to explain why I think it’s important that all of us DO judge the art we come across, and speak up with. . . read more

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