Why Do You Create Art?
Are you obsessed?
Why do you create art?
As we start 2024, I assume many reading this newsletter have set new year’s resolutions for themselves and are busy trying to work toward their goals. Perhaps you’ve set a goal to paint “X number of paintings.” in 2024. Or perhaps you have a goal to land a solo show. Or maybe you want to make a specific minimum amount of income from your art this year.
Goals are fine, for what they are. But let me let you in on the one true secret of success. The one true secret of “self improvement.”
It is simply this: Do what you are obsessed with.
If you aren’t obsessed with something, discipline is a cruel taskmaster. If you are obsessed with it, discipline and goals are child’s play.
Are you obsessed with making your art?
“A good artist lets his intuition lead him wherever it wants.” - The Tao Te Ching
What is your definition of art?
Art (noun): the purest physical manifestation of the insatiable human hunger to create.
Do you have that insatiable hunger? Do you feel the same way artist Sarah Lacy does?
"I physically need to make art. Art isn't just a hobby for me. It's not something that I “like”. It's an intense passion, an ecstatic love affair, with as much turmoil, frustration, exasperation and need as a forbidden liaison." – Sarah Lacy
Or, think about what successful artist/blogger/cartoonist Hugh MacLeod said:
"The Hunger [to create] will give you everything. And it will take from you, everything. It will cost you your life, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it."
There’s a common thread among artists who succeed. They are passionate about what they do and they don’t want to do anything else. In some cases, they don’t even feel they can do anything else.
If you’re passionate about your art and you truly, deep down in your soul, don’t want to do anything else, then this article is for you. Those of us who are passionate about art know something that will sound corny to the rest of you:
Art Transforms Lives. Art Can Change the World. And Successful Artists Want to Change the World.
In most cases, changing the world starts (and sometimes ends) by changing the world inside of the artist himself or herself. Look at Sarah and Hugh. Their world is already a better place because they fulfill their hunger to create…and thus, the world is a better place. Simply because they have both listened to that voice inside of them that says, you must create.
Imagine Hugh stuck inside a cubical working on spreadsheets. Anyone who knows or follows him is laughing – that idea simply doesn’t compute…especially considering he calls many of his cartoons “cube grenades.” Or think about Sarah making smoothies all day instead of paintings….she’d be miserable (she actually did have a smoothie job…and she was miserable. )
The wonderful news is that, as Dr. Stephen Covey said in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Private Victories Precede Public Victories.” Once you change your world, by listening to that little voice, to the Hunger…you change our world too. Your artwork is a gift…no….a responsibility. And you need to share it with the world. We’re all waiting for you to share it with us.
So, answer this question for yourself: why do you create?
If you don’t truly feel the Hunger, if you don’t experience Maker's High, if you don’t believe or want to change the world with art, then it’s not likely that learning a few marketing and sales tips here and there will help you all that much. And setting New Year’s Resolutions, will simply create goals you don’t truly desire. And you will likely fail to reach them because, without obsession, discipline relies on willpower, which will eventually be depleted.
You must ask yourself where your heart truly lies, “Do I desire my craft? Or Do I desire success?” If you desire your craft, you will always be successful, perhaps not in the worldly sense, but in your heart, you will enjoy your life as you pursue your craft. Having said that, if you truly desire your craft, you can and should be successful, in the worldly sense. But if you desire success first, for success’ sake, you will be unfulfilled in life and will likely never truly master your craft.
The truth is that an artist cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve your soul and the market. You must serve your soul first, and then, and only then, find your market. You can be in the market, but you must not be of the market.
A child makes art solely for himself. He makes art to say something about his interpretation of the world and he shares it freely as a gift. He tracks no metrics and he doesn’t ask his audience what they want. He is an artist, not a creator but an artist in the truest sense. A child is a real artist and I hope you are too.
It is the insatiable hunger to create is what drives true artists. The temporary satisfaction of that hunger, via creation, is the only true satisfaction an artist can ever have. This is the inescapable yin and yang of creators.
It is important that you have this intrinsic drive to create your art because art is not like other products. Art isn’t even similar to what “content creators” do. Content creators and marketers of most products are on a never ending treadmill of pumping out content, getting feedback from the market, and adapting or changing their products based on that marketplace feedback.
That’s not what artists do. Your art must come, not from feedback you get from the marketplace (which is illustration, not art), but from deep inside you. Your art must start and end with your vision for what you are trying to say. So if you don’t truly feel that hunger to let your art out, then our marketing ideas won’t work for you. Because if you don’t feel that, you’re an illustrator or creator, not an artist in the truest sense.
But if you DO feel the Hunger to create, and you do feel there’s nothing else in this world you’d rather do, then congratulates, you’ve already accomplished your most important “resolution.”
Until Next Time,
PS - Hugh McLeod describes The Hunger:
Welcome to The Hunger.
The Hunger to do something creative.
The Hunger to do something amazing.
The Hunger to change the world.
The Hunger to make a difference.
The Hunger to enjoy one’s work.
The Hunger to be able to look back and say, Yeah, cool, I did that.
The Hunger to make the most of this utterly brief blip of time Creation has given us.
The Hunger to dream the good dreams.
The Hunger to have amazing people in our lives.
The Hunger to have the synapses continually fired up on overdrive.
The Hunger to experience beauty.
The Hunger to tell the truth.
The Hunger to be part of something bigger than yourself.
The Hunger to have good stories to tell.
The Hunger to stay the course, despite of the odds.
The Hunger to feel passion.
The Hunger to know and express Love.
The Hunger to know and express Joy.
The Hunger to channel The Divine.
The Hunger to actually feel alive.
The Hunger will give you everything. And it will take from you, everything. It will cost you your life, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.
Welcome to The Hunger. Its day has arrived. It will never go away. You have been told.