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Why Do You Do Art?

I was recently asked the question 'Why do you do Art?'. You'd think after forty plus years of doing art I'd know the answer to this question but I actually had to stop and think about it.

Anywhere but here, by TET, July 2004
"The art that I'm most proud of is work where
I've set out to communicate an idea..."

I'm aware many people create their art as a relaxation or escape from stress. I suspect many artists in this category are those that get their inspiration from painting their surroundings - such as landscape, still-life and portrait painters.

Just from my observations those artists, once they've developed their skills and are confident in their techniques they can afford to relax and enjoy the experience of creating their art without stressing too much about whether their final artwork will be successful... chances are it will be.

I'm not one of those people.

Creating my art certainly isn't a stressful experience by any stretch but I can't say my mind is relaxed during the process. If anything, it's more active than ever as I have to bring my idea out into a visual image from my imagination. On top of that, my painting style is rather quick, so the next decision is never very far away and I'm usually planning ahead to what I imagine the finished result to be.

Some people do art to earn a living. I'm certainly in that category but it's not why I do art. I create art whether I think it will sell or not. I do consciously try to steer my non commercial efforts towards a commercial gain, as I did with my GoAnimate videos, which started out as a fun activity two years ago but this year earned the bulk of my freelance design income. However the reason I do that is to avoid having to get a regular day job - which would severely limit me from doing art.

The more I work as a freelance artist/designer the more I realize that bringing other people's ideas to life is not personally satisfying to me. Challenging sure but not satisfying. Even though I'm the first to admit that some of my best work is done for other people (particularly among the cat paintings that I'm known for) this is more a result of my high personal standards than trying to fulfill my need to create art.

I used to think I create my art for other people because I'm not that sentimental about hanging on to my own work. Having other people enjoy my paintings and having them on display in their homes. It's great to know that people do that with my work but I think it pleases me mostly because, if I kept hold of it, I'd store it away out of sight - because once an artwork is completed, I've got from it what I needed. I don't need to keep looking at it.

 When it gets down to it, I do art because I have an idea to express. The art that I'm most proud of is work where I've set out to communicate an idea, whether that be a simple emotion or an entire narrative. It's why writing and animation both appeal to me. They allow me to express complex ideas and complete stories in a creative way beyond the single image or series of images you can create with a painting.

That's pretty much why I do art. I'm all about expressing an idea.


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