Getting to the heart of why I make art.

Photo by Yana Nikulina / Unsplash

I’ve been reflecting on my intentions for art.

Why do I make art?

Why do I like art?

What do I wish to accomplish with my art?

Also, is it presumptuous of me to call my art, “art”?

I spend a lot of my time making art, so I feel it’s important to evaluate the role art plays in my life to determine whether I should continue with the practice and/or tweak how I rank its importance. I’ve found gut-checks of this sort to be quite useful when prioritizing what matters.

As with many things, to understand art’s value in my life, I think it’s useful to first examine my roots. The art I make for leisure (drawing, watercolor) serves a different purpose than the creative design work I’ve produced professionally.

My design roots: a brief origin story

Way before I got into drawing and watercolor, I fell in love with creative design. It was 1995 and I was fifteen. My grandmother had gifted my family our first computer. The computer lived in my bedroom, and I quickly became the power user of our family of four.

It was around this time that I overheard two of my high school friends talking about how they were building websites so they could share about games they liked to play. They were far more experienced with computers than I was, but nevertheless I was intrigued: I wondered what I could to with a computer if I learned mine well enough to make a website of my own.

I had no idea what my website would be about. There weren’t many inspiring sites online at that time as the internet was still relatively new, but for whatever reason, I felt a deep desire to try.

There were no website building tools in 1995 (at least none of which I was aware). If you wanted to learn how to build a website, you needed to visit your local bookstore to get a book about HTML coding. Google and YouTube and the vast resources we now have at our disposal didn’t exist then. Websites were designed painstakingly, line by line as HTML code in a .txt file, which you’d then upload (at super-slow speeds), test, preview, then refine. Rinse and repeat. It was a lot of trial and error, pixel by pixel...and I loved it.

Over the next 15+ years, I poured myself into the process, investing a substantial chunk of my life into honing my skills as the internet grew and web design platforms and styles came and went. During this time, I developed a deep appreciation for typography, turning to fonts as an important staple in my design process, as well as composition and color. These interests eventually tendrilled into logo design, print design, ad design, and social media content design. I wanted to master all of it.

I began learning copy writing because I wanted to cultivate a more natural and cohesive tone across all facets of brand messaging. Typically, designers design and writers write. I did (and do) both, and this allowed me to marry these components together more intuitively.

I took up photography to enable me to get the types of photos I wanted instead of relying solely on stock imagery, and, eventually, began investing heavily into videography.

I love nature photography and plan to begin sketching more from my own photos.
My first attempt at shooting and editing video (outside of skits with my brother) began in my kitchen.

It was around this time I realized why I was so passionate about learning all these skills: they were each a means of telling stories. I didn’t care about web design or photography or copywriting or any of these other things as ends unto themselves. What I sought was mastery in leveraging these tools to help good causes connect with others through inspiring and engaging stories.

Every time I designed something, I did so in order to tell a story. Every time I wrote something, I did so in order to tell a story. Creativity was a conduit for me to share with others in a medium with which I felt comfortable. It was a more natural format for me to share. I’ve touched on this here before, but if you’re newer to my blog, I’m an introvert. Outside of this blog, you won’t often find me sharing much about myself in public, but give me a good cause, and I won’t shut up about them. I’ll do whatever I can to share their story in whatever formats fit best in the moment.

Two other core elements of my personality are my desire to help others and my love for making people laugh. I can be shy, but give me an opportunity to help someone or indulge my silly side and I’ll come right out of my shell. (I’m camera shy but totally ham-it-up for silly photos.)

So, what does any this have to do with my lopsided sketches, doodles, and blobs of watercolors? Let’s look at those questions again, but now, with context...

Why do I make art?

I make art because I have a deep need to connect with others creatively. Making art is how I communicate and participate in a community of other creatives.

Creating art also helps me reach a flow state more quickly than any other activity. It helps me relax and slow down and it’s helped me feel a deeper sense of connection with the world around me. Making art has enriched my life.

My appreciation for the world around me has deepened through my sustained practice of nature journaling.

Why do I like art?

From the scritch of the pencil on the paper to the way the watercolors mix into each other, art can be whatever speed I need it to be moment by moment. I love gaining inspiration from other artists and participating within the art community. I enjoy experimenting with new (and old) approaches and tools and just...making.

Sometimes, I limit my art to graphite...

...other times, I experiment with new techniques, like digital art with motion.

What do I wish to accomplish with my art?

I wish to inspire others to ignite their creative spark and find the joy that comes with getting lost in drawing the world around them. Sometimes, I wish to make others laugh and let more of my silly side out publicly onto the page. I have gained so much from art and hope to help others discover its joys.

Is it presumptuous of me to call my art, “art”?

No. An artist makes art. Regardless of my skill level, I make art regularly and I do so intentionally. I think this is what matters most.

Afterthoughts: Regarding my creative roots, I could have ventured much further in my ‘Way Back’ machine but felt the article was already plenty long. The bulk of my childhood was spent building Legos, sculpting Play-Doh, making forts, and coloring. In fact, when I got back into analog art a few years ago (I had been spending too much time at the computer each day), I began with adult coloring books. I didn’t love the format, but it ultimately led to nature journaling and the idea that I could learn to draw my own pictures to color.