I often hear, “Write what you would want to read.” As I think about what I want to read as an artist, and maybe what most artists need, it is encouragement to keep going. Did anyone’s parents ever say to them, “You should be an artist when you grow up”? Maybe a few did, but mostly they say be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc.
Being an artist is not for everyone–it is constant work and frequent rejection. When I was teaching, one of my colleagues said he had dropped out of being an art major to study law because art was too much work.
“For art, ” he said, “you actually had to make stuff!”
But another thing I keep hearing from artists is “You always come back,” or some variation of my own story, which is for years I neglected doing my artwork because everything else seemed more important, but eventually I came back to making art.
So why is art important? According to Friedrich Neitzche,
“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.”
I can relate to that. Not that my art is great, but that I create out of gratitude. I see such beauty in nature, in people, or in colors and textures, and I’m so thankful to always have beauty. Even and especially in the midst of pain and a constant flow of devastating news, that beauty is freely given, if I can just pay attention long enough to notice.
When we make art, we know we are more than just machines: we can feel again, we can react to what we see in front of us or in our imaginations in ways that are intuitive, emotional, and unexplainable. We do not know what is going to happen on the canvas or on the page. We are led by something or someone beyond ourselves. There is mystery and magic once again when we create art.