Why make art?

@“Andy B”#p124633 I was actively asking myself this question when I opened the forum last night and saw this post. After having “been a writer” for my whole life, I‘ve found myself struggling to find joy in writing. The stuff I really care about (a novel, a collection of short fiction) is bad and getting worse the more I work on it, but when I try to get out and just write for fun, I can’t get invested enough to see it through. I have no problem with walking away from something that doesn‘t matter to me, but it’s hard to give up on something that does.

I don't have anything approaching an answer, but uh this seems to be a common thing "people like us" to grapple with.

@“Andy B”#p124633

Hi Andy, I am an artist and around your age.

I have struggled with reason's for why I make art myself and have come to the conclusion that my reason for becoming an artist in the first place was because of the community you build through the arts. In college, I went to school to study fine art, and soon after, for experience and money, I took on some jobs making murals which I loved. After that, I transitioned into working as an arts administrator for a local non-profit. Nowadays I help manage grant/award based programming in support of artists.

I say this because once I began that work, I started to think less and less about creating art. At first it worried me, until I realized that for me, the most important part of making art was the conversation, and social influence that it has. I love making art for people, which is why I kept making murals. I love talking to people about art. I love showing people new art. To me, that is more than enough. I have stopped pressuring myself to create art because I have the privilege of being surrounded by it. It may not as exciting or sexy as BEING a professional profitable artist, but I learned that it was never really for me to make art into my personal, profitable business. For me, the importance of art is that it is healthy to be creative and do creative things. Sure, there are a million things you could do as a creative/artistic person for profit, but that's a bit of a more complex thing.

I‘ve gone through phases with this. Vince and I made the website insert credit because it didn't exist and wrote things that other people weren’t doing at the time. Now, there are about 1000 insert credits all across the world with blogs, twitter accounts, and entire websites dedicated to obscurities. with insert credit, I felt that making money on it would cheapen what we were doing.

Now, I'm the opposite. I really can't find the space to do anything artistic (or which is based on the knowledge I've gathered) unless it pays or has some sort of career-related drive behind it, unless I'm helping someone out who's less far along their career path than I am. I don't know if it's healthy or whatever but just saying art for the sake of work is also a valid way to go.

These days, I don't think I'd ever consider creating art for art's sake. There's almost nothing I've written that I haven't published or somehow "exploited" to try to get some tangible thing out of it. If I got rich, would I just stop? I'm not sure, I think that'd change the paradigm. But it might be different because "art" or at least creative work is what I do for a job, and it's the only thing I do for a job. So it's not what I do in my spare time, in my spare time I consume things, fix broken pipes, play with my dog, that kinda stuff.

The reason we all continue to do insert credit is because it's basically the only time we get to talk to each other. tim does it without getting paid! but I think that if frank and jaffe and I weren't getting paid we might not be doing it still. If that makes sense! It's enjoyable, but the financial aspect is a non-zero factor.

So I'm just saying you don't 100% have to be high minded about art, or do it for art's sake, or feel like you're fulfilling a grand vision. you can just do it because it's work, or because it's therapeutic, or because you wanna see gex and the geico gecko 69-ing, or you can leave art alone for a while if it's not doing anything for you.

As for why YOU should create art, I think:

  • - it's okay to let go and not create art if you're not feeling it. it might come back around
  • - if you need a reason, heck, open commissions or something
  • - ultimately, if it's not fun, either don't do it, or find a way to make it fun - find the part of it that's fun and focus on that
  • And if you need general inspiration you can pretend that the computer voice in this track is saying Andy B https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-mQ5DssG20

    @“Gaagaagiins”#p124666 @wickedcestus I didn‘t know this! Okay, I’m excited.


    @“Andy B”#p124725 If it sucks or hurts to do, don’t do it.

    true for art in this context. but all the other things I recommend doing suck & hurt some times. Going out of your comfort zone, learning something new, taking cold showers, all can suck and be painful, but are worthwhile and bring you out of the internet arm chair and into the reality of being human.


    @“Andy B”#p124633 I love making things when someone asks

    This is the main reason I used to enjoy art overall. I used to paint a little and draw and do assemblages and create sculptures from broken objects or wire. Its been decades, but I enjoyed it most when it was requested or was meant to be a gift. Otherwise it felt like I was just practicing until the next request was made. Art can be a really personal experience so I think its best to do it under the circumstances where it brings joy. Nowadays I mostly draw whenever my 2 year old daughter brings me her Boogie board and she will promptly erase whatever it is I've drawn the moment I'm done, and thats fine because I think she enjoys watching me draw moreso than seeing the finished drawing itself.

    it's somewhat vaguely less humiliating than killing myself in the face of an uncaring and arbitrary universe that has nonetheless systematically disintegrated every emotion I was once capable of experiencing

    to put it another way I make abstract art that allows me to sort of see the emotions and ideas that I am not actually feeling because I stopped feeling my last thing about 4 or 5 months ago, translating the memory of who I would have been if I was still anybody into some sort of visual spectacle

    I had a much better answer last night but I fell asleep before writing anything and now I do not even care enough to put that idea into words

    what is this? some sort of narcissistic attention grab? I am disgusted by my own expression

    there is nothing left to remember, and to make art in an imitation of even the act of remembering

    none of this ever mattered

    upon further reading of this thread I would like to clarify that I am not human and that is the dumbest reason to do anything. you being human means absolutely nothing. it doesn't connect you to anything. there is an infinite, unbreachable void between you and every other living thing, and every single time you ever think you are connected to anything it is a lie

    art is a lie that connects the artist back into their own asshole, and for the audience it reflects nothing but their own synapses firing into a chaotic spiral of their own perception. look down and see your own dick if you have one. congratulations, you are both artist and critic.

    this is not satire but i'm sure someone will correct me and say that this post is somehow art anyway, mostly because of how much I hate the fact that I'm posting it

    An interesting figure to look at on this topic is Henry Darger. A (now) well known outsider artist, only known because after he died they found a ton of work in his place. He seemed to need to make work, for some reason, but also seemed to have no need to share it.

    On the other hand, in Peter Brook‘s “The Empty Space” he talks about how theatre doesn’t really exist without an audience, even if the performance is being staged.

    I feel like using art as investigation, to work out ideas or personal feelings, can be a really worthy pursuit, and whether that's for an audience or not, for money or not, the worth is still there. I also think working to a brief or with and end goal in sight is worthy, though a fundamentally different type of practice.

    the Darger method is viable: make your art hermetically weird enough and make enough of it in terms of taking up enough sheer physical vs the size of your home that you become famous based on how alarmed you make social services

    Art is the most straightforward way to answer a question that begins with “Wouldn't it be cool if”.

    yeah this answers the question of why outsider artists persist in obscurity. Some of them sure seem like they had a real brain party

    @“Reverse Kaiser”#p124826


    @“Reverse Kaiser”#p124826 it’s somewhat vaguely less humiliating than killing myself in the face of an uncaring and arbitrary universe that has nonetheless systematically disintegrated every emotion I was once capable of experiencing

    I'm printing this out and posting it on my bathroom mirror. I am in love with everything you just wrote. Do you have any of your abstract art online?

    @“Andy B”#p124860 no I am extremely averse to social media

    I will pm you something

    Hi folks. I'm tapping the glass in my official role as moderator as the mod team has gotten some comments about this thread.

    This is a challenging post for me to write because the mod team don't want to tamp down on discussion of what drives people to make art, but we also do not want to veer off into the discussion of self-harm and suicide. Note that we are not taking any action, have not identified any specific offending posts or users. Please remember to abide by the community guidelines.



    @“Andy B”#p124633


    Or I often made things for other people. I love making things when someone asks. Or making something for someone who I know would appreciate it.

    I suppose this is the best answer. Create things for specific people, even if they're gone, even if you haven't met them yet.

    When one of my best friends died days before turning 27, I knew I'd end up writing something. I assumed I'd write some harrowing, bleak poetry, but what came out of it instead was a novel that I wrote specifically because I thought it would make him laugh. He's been dead now for eight years and I still keep writing novels for him, hoping he'll keep on laughing, if only inside me.

    @“edward”#p124887 you're such a wonderful guy, edward


    @“Andy B”#p124633 The only reasons I can currently come up with to make art are that I’m good at it and I can do it.

    I feel that I've thought this exact phrase so many times. It's very relatable. I would always think "Whats the point of making art that has no where to GO?"

    I want to offer my experience. I felt the same way (and may feel it again soon!!) and I had many well-meaning and heartfelt words from friends over the years saying "Just make it for yourself." or "It doesn't matter if no one likes it." Which, I dunno, if those kinds of affirmations work for somebody I'm jealous 'cause they don't do nothing for me. Waves hitting a cliff.

    I graduated art school in 2015. President of the art club, curated shows every semester, submitted work all over the place, sold so many prints and comics and was Known In My Community. And then... I moved into my grandmother's basement in an Atlanta suburb. No car, no job, etc. But I tried and tried to make work every day and it got harder and harder. I started waiting tables which I was (and remain) VERY bad at and it crushed my spirit. I got into an abusive relationship, I got an apartment. I didn't pick up a brush for years and I felt so guilty, so empty about it the entire time.

    Eventually I got fired from yet another restaurant and broke up with my ex. And decided I'd give freelance illustration and design a go and hey I lived (meagerly) off that for a couple years. Painted a mural once that was exciting but the bar it was in closed due to COVID. Eventually I moved in with my current partner, got a job in publishing using all my design and typographic interest and got health insurance and a decent office chair. But I was still not really making the work I wanted. I'd manage to produce a couple paintings a year, they are, I'd say, somewhat aesthetically meandering, which is natural. But I wasn't Being an artist in a way that felt real to me.

    And then my friend opened a gallery and wanted me to put on a solo show. I promised him a dozen paintings in six months which should get me in just under the line, I'm in the middle of it right now. But I gotta say it's brought me all the way back to the old days. I feel excited to work. It's easy to choose to paint rather than do other things. It's easy to think about the work and know its direction. And frankly I owe it all to having a deadline! It's structure and purpose and context, not just blinding making art to feel like you made something. It's made me think that I care more about the communication of art making rather than the "treasured object" aspect.

    So, maybe find a place for you art to go and it'll feel possible to make. I know that's fucking difficult, I wont pretend like the chance to have a little show didn't just fall into my lap. It happened because I maintained a relationship with someone else in the art world. Maybe see about shows seeking contributions? Then you'll have a theme and a deadline!

    I don't know, it's just what helped me. I'm dreading falling into a depression the day after it's over but at least I've learned a bit better WHY.

    TLDR, making art that's just going to living in your home with you and not be seen by anyone seems like a tough thing to just get motivated about doing. It helped me to find a place I knew the art was going to go.


    @“Gaagaagiins”#p124647 Just before I opened the forums (as I do many times throughout the day) I was thinking about a truly stupid and self indulgent and kind-of-pointless-but-that’d-be-the-point project that came to me a few months ago. Is this a sign I should start it?

    Update on this and also further confirmation of my overall ethos: the reason to make art is to just make yourself laugh while imagining making your friends laugh or at least groan (actually showing it to your friends might even be optional)

    @“Gaagaagiins”#p125482 Yeah, every time I write for any other reason (even things that are widely accepted as “valid”), it just sucks. When I just start stringing together my personal Neapolitan flavor tastes, then I love it.

    I’ve been processing some general sense of “why do things if not to impact the world?” which is a general damper on many of my instinctive excitements, a whip I crack over my own head nearly constantly.

    An image in my head that motivates that question is that by sharing things with the world, I’m spiraling things off into the rest of the universe that will have unknowable consequences and impact that will outlast my conscious presence in the world (and are hence beautiful and worthy). The way my grandma’s words still nudge me around after she is gone. I want to do that too, so spending time on things that are only ever seen by me feels like a tree expending energy on ingrown branches.

    The mindset shift I’ve been trying to keep hold of the last few days is that this view of the outside world as being the place where things can spiral off infinitely is equally applicable to any single mind (which I am the same as any other who I may value nudging). When I spend twenty minutes learning more about how to spoof RPGツクールGB2 into doing something like counting, I have no idea how that will impact my future self, mental state, choices. It will have an impact that spirals with all sorts of other stuff and will impact how I choose to interact with the world in another instant.

    I never could hear things along “do it for yourself” lines, but something like “do it because you can’t predict how it will impact yourself” sounds more palatable to me. The human mind is a wild mess of uninterpretable causes and effects, and I know it’s possible to stir my own pot while being creative. It’s similar to the moments of making yourself laugh.

    I wrote this post because I wanted to take the time to hold a mirror up to myself and look at the words for a second. Maybe it will mean something to someone, but that outcome doesn’t matter. I’m dropping pebbles into my own pond.

    Ed: I also know the “whip cracking” part of my mind will be rewarded if/when this post gets a reply or like. That’s just the natural way of things. But I’m trying to also help myself remember that had this just been a notepad doc, it still would have value and impact on me.