“Humans live in landscapes of make-believe. We spin fantasies, we devour novels films, and plays. Even sporting events and criminal trials unfold as narratives. Yet the world of story has long remained an undiscovered and unmapped country. It’s easy to say humans are “wired” for story. But why?” – Jonathan Gottschall
Why do humans create art?
Humans are the only animals that make art. To make it, we require consciousness, and I suppose in the same way, we use art to explore our consciousness. I’m deeply fascinated by the very beginnings of the artistic expression in humans, and it’s a subject that I wrote and painted a lot about between 2009 and 2013. Ever since we started talking and living in groups, we felt the need to start creating. We love storytelling: whether its embellishing the commentary of a football game, teaching kids about animals or just sharing memories with a friend, all of our lives are about stories. Children learn information better when it’s told as a story. But there was a time before writing, when storytelling first evolved through a visual medium instead.
A lot of artists, I believe, have this same drive to tell stories. For whatever reason, we choose to tell stories in paint on canvas instead of through poetry or prose. Maybe it’s because we’re not so great at writing, or maybe it’s because what we want to say is best expressed through pictures instead of words.
Honestly, I find expressing something in pictures far more difficult than in words, but painting is still my medium of choice. I made the decision to switch from writing to painting around 10 years ago, and haven’t looked back. I blog, yes, but I don’t write the extensive amount of poetry and stories that I used to.
I paint because: I find the world endlessly complex, beautiful, fascinating and sometimes shocking. I paint because I want to visit it all, understand it all, absorb it all. If I’m inspired by a snippet of conversation, a beautiful image, a heartwarming story of survival, I feel compelled to turn it into a painting.
Different artists have different reasons for creating. For many, it’s something of a visual diary, an expression of one’s personality and feelings, things that can be difficult to express in words or on paper. For others, it’s to give back: to offer beauty back to a society that’s sometimes too absorbed with misery, macabre and moaning. Other artists say that they paint because they feel they need to. I’m one of these, too. But what does it really mean?
Painting and creating art can be life-affirming, but it’s also a tough business. When things aren’t going your way, when you can’t quite grab a hold of that elusive idea, when inspiration just fails you, you feel crushed, helpless, truly your own worst critic. Most of us don’t feel this defeated during a 9 to 5 job. Art is more than a job, it’s more than a hobby, something to keep us busy. Painting is great for distracting the brain from the stresses of the day, great for allowing you to travel to places you’ve never been, understanding new things. The simple exploration of colour, coupled with some great music (if you have Spotify, I highly recommend Deep Focus – my painting playlist of choice), can instantly change your state of mind. If you’re someone like me that has chronic pain, or you have mental health issues, art can even be therapeutic.
But this is all my speculation. I want to know why you create art. What drives you as an individual artist? Please do let me know in the comments!
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