Before I get stuck into this post, I want to make it super clear that I’m referring to ALL kinds of art. Painting, photography, music, creative writing, dancing, sculpting scale models of buildings with matchsticks, whatever means by which you choose to express yourself creatively, whether digitally or physically, with words or pictures or other sensory experiences, it’s all art.
I also want to make it clear that I am absolutely in no way against being paid to make art. If you sell your creations, give them away for free and accept gifts of appreciation, take commissions, or do creative work for hire, whether for yourself, as an independent contractor, or an employee, it’s all good. Art-as-a-job is most definitely valid.
OK, let’s go…
I’m not even going to attempt to write a comprehensive answer to this question because it’s different for everyone. I’m asking it because I want you to think about it and answer it for yourself. Search for your why.
It might be because you find it relaxing to make art, because it takes you out of the mundane world and feels like magic, because it’s your spark of the divine, because you feel a deep sense of satisfaction when you sit back and look at something you made with your hands (or your computer or your camera etc). It might not be that easy to put into words. Maybe you create because you’re inspired to, because you’re driven to, because you need to and you can’t explain it any further than that. If your why is a feeling that can’t be distilled into language that easily, it’s still your why.
What if I’m not good enough?
First of all, what is ‘good enough’? The way I see it, it depends what your goal is. There’s definitely joy to be found in making technical progress and mastering techniques, if that’s your aim. The feeling when you close your eyes and feel your hands float across piano keys playing a piece that you once struggled to sight-read is incredible. Looking at a painting you did today compared to one you did last year and seeing how much more intentional your choices of colour have become feels wonderful. If your goal is to make technical progress for your own enjoyment, or perhaps because you might want to pursue art as a job or work towards a qualification, allowing yourself to be spurred on by that desire is beautiful.
But. BUT. If you’ve learned how to use your camera well enough to take photos that make you happy, or you get a kick out of dancing in your living room without any intention of ever performing, and you don’t feel any great need to get ‘better’, that’s also fine. Seriously. It is. Maybe your why is all about the process and nothing to do with the result. Maybe that’ll change one day and maybe it won’t. It’s all good.
To share or not to share?
With the internet, it’s easier than ever before to share your creations. There are blogs, social media platforms, self-publishing tools and art-related websites where anyone can post the things they’ve made and share them with the world (or family and friends). You absolutely can, but you also don’t have to.
Again, it comes back to your why. For me, a huge part of art is connection. Sharing my art allows me to connect not only with people who enjoy looking at or reading it, but also with other creative people. I can have geeky chats with other photographers and get excited about words with other writers. I get to learn about forms of art that I have no experience in too, which will never stop feeling like magic.
If you’re scared of sharing your work but you’d really like to, try working up to it slowly. For some people, sharing their art with close friends and family first helps them work up the nerve to share it more widely. For others, it’s easier to share it with complete strangers first. And if you have absolutely no desire to share what you create with anyone else, that’s also perfectly fine. You do you.
Does feedback matter?
If you choose to share your art with other people, chances are some of them are going to respond to it. Appreciative comments, and even likes/hearts/whatever, on social media platforms and art sites can feel lovely. It’s wonderful to know that your art has affected someone. If you ask people to offer useful feedback, it can help you make technical progress and it’s also just really nice to know that someone took time out of their day to respond in detail to something you made.
Remember though, t’s also OK to share your art without any burning desire for critique. Maybe it doesn’t matter to you if or why some random people do or don’t like your art or how someone else thinks you could do it differently. I have a personal rule about not offering technical critique unless it’s specifically asked for because I respect the fact that some people genuinely don’t want it. This doesn’t mean they think they’re already amazing and can’t possibly get any better, or that they’re fragile and can’t handle anyone not being super impressed with what they do. It just means that for whatever reason, they aren’t interested in hearing how I think they could do something differently, which is valid.
I’m going to wrap this up with a short piece of text from my profile page on DeviantArt, my favourite online creative community.
I believe art is a way of life, whether it’s your job, your hobby, something that keeps you sane or something that keeps you breathing. The way I see it, art is for everyone and should be all about exploration and experimentation. Whoever you are and whatever inspires you, MAKE ART.