Why Do We Make Art? 10 Inspiring Motivations to Ignite Your Creative Passion

why do we make art?
why do we make art?

Last Updated on April 8, 2024

In this exploration, we unveil ten distinct reasons which fuel the diverse motivations behind artistic expression, spanning the emotional, spiritual, and financial dimensions.

Why do we make art? Have you ever paused to consider this fundamental question, or why you’re specifically driven to create? Understanding your motivations can be an enlightening journey, guiding your artistic direction and helping crystallize your goals.

In this introspective dive, we explore ten honest, heartfelt reasons behind the burning desire to live and breathe as an artist. As you read on, be prepared to challenge your preconceptions, and perhaps discover facets of your artistic drive you may not have recognized before.

Why Do We Make Art: 10 Reasons to Create

Art serves as a powerful tool for self-discovery, understanding the world, and articulating concepts difficult to say or hear. Below, we break down the 10 specific motivations that propel artists to create.

1. Self-Expression

One of the primary reasons why we make art is the intrinsic need to articulate the unspoken emotions and narratives brewing within.

Art is often the voice of the soul. For countless artists, the canvas, clay, or chosen medium becomes a conduit for emotions, thoughts, and experiences that might otherwise remain unexpressed. 

why do we make art: self expression.

This compulsion to portray one’s vivid and active inner world is a powerful drive that many artists share. They either possess innate gifts or have honed skills that empower them to communicate through aesthetics. For many fine artists, this mode of communication is predominantly visual. Intriguingly, their prowess in visual expression often surpasses their ability to convey the same depth or nuance through written or spoken means. 

Through art, intricate feelings and perspectives find a tangible form, allowing these artists to manifest their inner intricacies and share them with an external audience, making every artwork a bridge between the creator’s soul and the observer’s gaze.

2. Love of Beauty

Beauty, in its myriad forms, has always been a muse. Some artists are driven by a profound appreciation for the world’s aesthetic wonders, be it in nature’s marvels, human interactions, or the abstract. 

For these individuals, beauty goes beyond mere admiration; it reflects an inherent order, a structure amidst chaos. This yearning to identify and represent order might stem from an intrinsic human need for security and safety. It’s an acknowledgment of a more profound structure, possibly hinting at a greater intelligence or deeper meaning to existence. 

why do we make art, for the love of order.

The very act of witnessing beauty, of recognizing these underlying patterns and harmonies of life, can move artists profoundly. In turn, their creations become not just artworks, but odes to beauty—a celebration of the sublime patterns, rhythms, and orders that both envelop and elevate us.

3. Catharsis and Healing

The therapeutic powers of art are profound. For many, the act of creation is a sanctuary, a space to confront and process personal traumas, sorrows, and joys. As paint meets canvas or fingers mold clay, there’s a release, a purging of pent-up emotions, offering both healing and clarity. 

This avenue of expression is almost antithetical to the love of beauty; it dives into the depths of human pain, chaos, and the apparent disorder of our earthly existence. Some artists, instead of seeking light, are drawn to this chaos, perhaps preferring the shadows, resonating more profoundly with the darker aspects of human experience.

Yet, with the freedom to express comes a weight of responsibility. What we choose to portray, the stories we decide to tell, they have consequences, not just for us, but for those who encounter our creations. I recall the onset of the second Iraqi war in 2003 and the chilling tales of torture that emerged from prison camps at the hands of USA forces. 

Overwhelmed with emotion, I felt a fierce compulsion to capture this pain, this horror, on canvas. That night, after completing a painting of a haunting portrayal of a tortured prisoner, I was besieged by a vivid dream. I found myself amidst an outdoor peace conference for the Middle East. The scene swiftly transformed into chaos as terrorists hurled hand grenades into the crowd, shattering any semblance of peace. 

why artists create art, order and chaos in art

Awaking from the nightmare, a profound realization dawned upon me: perhaps my role as an artist wasn’t merely to depict pain but to search for pathways leading to unity, to light. It was a defining moment in my artistic journey, prompting the conscious decision to eliminate black paint from my palette – a symbolic gesture of hope.

While each artist is unique, guided by their own inner compass, this personal experience underscored the transformative potential of art. Art not only allows us to delve deep into our emotions but provides a platform to channel them constructively, to seek healing, and perhaps, even light amidst the shadows.

4. Immortality

Art is eternal. Beyond the transience of life, artworks remain, bearing testimony to the artist’s existence, emotions, and perspectives. Through their creations, artists achieve a form of immortality, leaving behind a legacy that speaks to future generations about the times and sentiments of their era.

The very notion that one’s works will outlive them adds a profound layer of meaning to an artist’s endeavors. It’s not merely about self-expression or catharsis, but about carving a space in the annals of time—a space where their voice, their essence, remains undiluted, echoing throughout the corridors of history. This drive stems from the deeply rooted human desire to leave an imprint, to not vanish without a trace. The artworks become anchors, tethering the artist to the world, granting them an existence that stretches far beyond their mortal lifespan.

Moreover, these physical relics of creativity act as bridges, connecting the past, present, and future. They’re not just tangible objects but vessels imbued with memories, emotions, and narratives. In a way, the act of creating art is a courageous defiance against the inexorable march of time—a declaration that while our bodies may perish, our spirit, our essence, encapsulated within our creations, will continue to inspire, resonate, and engage with souls yet to come.

5. Political Commentary

A significant reason why people make art is to engage in political commentary. Art has always been a potent tool for social change. By spotlighting injustices, highlighting societal issues, or advocating for change, artists emerge as champions of activism, lending voices to the unheard. Their works possess an uncanny ability to sway opinions, incite reflection, spark discussions, and even propel actions. 

Art’s ability to influence the masses stems from its emotive core; it speaks a visual language that, being bound neither by dialect nor culture, can evoke strong reactions and thoughts. This universal accessibility, coupled with its capacity to encapsulate complex ideas in compelling visuals, grants art its powerful influence over diverse audiences.

art and politics, why we create

Movements like POP art have showcased art’s ability to hold a mirror up to society, reflecting its complexities and offering critique. Such movements don’t merely reproduce what’s evident but delve deeper, challenging the status quo and urging society to introspect. In this realm, artists are not just creators but keen observers and commentators, deciphering the world’s intricacies and projecting their interpretations for the collective consciousness to ponder.

6. Recognition and Self-Validation

The human desire for acknowledgment and validation is a potent force, often subtly shaping our choices and aspirations. This underlying drive is particularly prominent in the artistic realm. 

Achieving recognition, be it through accolades or the more intimate experience of resonating with an audience, can be incredibly fulfilling. This quest for external affirmation, sometimes lying dormant and unrecognized in our conscious motivations, can deeply influence an artist’s journey.

For many artists, the act of creating isn’t complete without the subsequent act of sharing and showcasing their work. 

This need to display their art and receive acknowledgment from peers, mentors, and the broader art community can be intense. Such validation acts as a confirmation that their time and efforts haven’t been in vain. It reassures them that they have an eager audience who appreciates, understands, and values their unique contributions to the world. Each nod of appreciation, every word of praise, serves as fuel, driving them forward, affirming their place in the vast and diverse artistic landscape.

For some artists, the drive for recognition surpasses even material considerations. The allure of acknowledgment, the hunger for their work to be seen and appreciated, can be so overpowering that it outweighs the tangible rewards of financial gain. These artists find themselves relentlessly pursuing their craft, often in the face of financial adversity, fueled by the belief that their work has value in the eyes of their peers and the public. 

It’s a testament to the profound emotional and psychological impact that recognition and validation can have on an individual. While society often measures success in monetary terms, for many creatives, the true measure of their success lies in the resonance of their work, the impact it has, and the legacy it creates. This drive, rooted deeply in the human psyche, underscores the lengths artists are willing to go to ensure their voice is heard, their vision is seen, and their artistry is acknowledged.

7. Financial Gain

While understanding the myriad reasons why people make art, we must also consider the tangible factors that can determine an artist’s ability to sustain themselves in the field. Yes, passion and inspiration fuel artistry, but balancing this with financial prudence is vital.

For those aiming to turn their artistry into a full-time profession, it’s essential to treat it with the seriousness of any job – as an investment, a commitment. This means understanding the unpredictable nature of the art market, strategizing for lean times, and being prepared for the reality that the journey to a stable art-based income can be challenging.

However, with the right mindset and planning, art can be more than just an expression; it can be a viable livelihood. While many artists maintain a day job to ensure financial security, the ultimate aim for many is to immerse themselves fully in their craft. The crucial element here is to approach art with a dual mindset: as a passion and a profession.

For a deeper dive into the complexities of making art a sustainable career and the age-old question, “Should artists quit their day job?“, I recommend checking out our comprehensive video. It provides insights and advice on how to merge one’s creative aspirations with economic practicalities.

8. Personal Growth and Challenge

Artistry is not merely about creation, but also about constant self-discovery and evolution. Every piece of artwork serves as a marker on this journey of growth. As artists venture deeper into their craft, they uncover new techniques, challenge established norms, and push their boundaries. Each artwork is not just a standalone piece; it’s a chapter in an ongoing narrative, contributing to comprehensive bodies of exploration that chronicle their artistic journey.

When artists are urged to make art, one profound realization that many artists come to understand is that with every new project, they are not merely refining their craft but also learning about their own evolving perspectives. By revisiting themes or trying new techniques, they’re also mapping out their personal growth and understanding of the world around them. This journey is vividly visualized in their work, allowing both the artist and the audience to trace their progression over time.

why do people make art, motivation for making art

Just as athletes compete against their own best times, setting new personal records, artists too often find themselves striving to outdo their previous creations. But it’s not just about besting oneself. Engaging with the art community, comparing one’s work with that of peers, and absorbing external influences all play pivotal roles in an artist’s development. This mutual growth and competition serve as both motivation and a gauge for personal advancement.

In the article “3 Ways to Grow as an Artist,” the emphasis is on the continuous learning process in artistry. It underscores the importance of embracing change, seeking inspiration from diverse sources, and remaining open to feedback. Integrating these principles into one’s artistic journey ensures not just skill enhancement but also personal enrichment. Every artwork then becomes not just an expression but also a testament to the artist’s ongoing commitment to growth and exploration.

9. Religious or Spiritual Connection

For many, art is not just an expression of individual creativity; it’s a deeply spiritual endeavor. This drive stems from a desire to connect with a higher power, to delve into the enigmatic realms of existence, or to manifest and celebrate religious beliefs. In the act of creation, these artists often see their works as more than just pieces of art; they view them as offerings, sacred gestures dedicated to a divine entity or force.

art and spirituality

This perspective imbues their work with a profound depth and purpose. Every brushstroke, every chisel mark, and every note isn’t merely about aesthetic appeal or artistic exploration. Instead, they become acts of devotion, of worship, where the ultimate aim isn’t self-praise or recognition but religious and spiritual elevation.

Such art transcends the individual. It bridges the gap between the earthly and the divine, acting as a conduit through which artists communicate their spiritual revelations, questions, and insights. And when audiences encounter these pieces, they’re not just admiring art; they’re partaking in a shared spiritual journey, resonating with the artist’s exploration of faith, divinity, and the deeper mysteries of existence. Through this lens, art becomes a dialogue between the artist, the divine, and the observer, a trinity of connection bound by spirituality.

10. Pleasure and Recreation

Beyond the profound reasons why we make art, there’s a simple, undeniable truth: making art is fun. The sheer joy of bringing something to life, of playing with colors, forms, and ideas, is reason enough for many.

Remember the earliest days of childhood when hand painting was a gleeful activity, when fingers dove into vivid colors, smeared across sheets without any inhibitions? Those were moments of pure play, devoid of judgments or expectations. This intrinsic pleasure in creation, a type of play, persists as we grow. It’s reminiscent of that uninhibited child within us, eager to explore without the fear of making mistakes.

Such joy emerges intrinsically, radiating from deep within oneself, making the process deeply satisfying. Art serves not only as a medium for expression but also as a return to those moments of childlike wonder, where curiosity and play ruled the day.

Moreover, art provides an avenue for escape, a respite from the routine, granting artists a sense of freedom and a space where the soul feels unbridled and unchained. For many, art isn’t just recreation; it’s a lifeline to personal liberation and a gateway to those precious, playful memories.

Why I Make Art

As I reflect on my own journey, the essence of why I make art is deeply intertwined with memories, self-awareness, and a sense of purpose. I remember the innocence of my younger years when art was a delightful pastime, a bridge to cherished moments spent with my mother. Those were the days when each stroke of color was an exploration, a playful dance of imagination.

The praise I received, the affirming nods, and the gleaming eyes of appreciation made me feel special. Was it self-validation? Perhaps. Was it the thrill of personal growth and the challenge of refining a skill? Definitely. Knowing that I possessed a unique talent, an innate gift, filled me with a heady mix of pride and responsibility.

But beyond the personal connections and the joy of the craft, the allure of immortality beckons. Seeing my works adorning the walls of galleries and museums imparts a profound realization: my creations could transcend time, living on, speaking to souls, long after I’ve left this realm. This potential for eternity, for my essence to linger in every brushstroke and hue, adds depth to my passion.

And now, as the journey unfolds, I’m driven not just by the love for art but by a deeper, compelling sense of duty. A duty born from the recognition of my gift and the desire to share it. A responsibility to not let this skill be confined to just my world but to spread its magic, to teach, to inspire. Because art, for me, has always been more than just creation; it’s a legacy, a gift, and a lifelong mission.

In conclusion, knowing your motivation of why you make art isn’t just an exercise in self-awareness; it’s pivotal in charting your artistic journey. By examing what drives you, you can set clear goals, measure your success, and carve a path that’s true to your essence. As artists, this introspective understanding is the compass guiding our creative explorations.

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About the Author

Born in Chicago, I received my B.A. in Studio Arts with a concentration in Photography from Oberlin College. In 2001, I moved to Amman, Jordan where I worked both as a contemporary artist and as a photojournalist. I exhibited my photography in numerous exhibitions throughout the Middle East and internationally.

Eventually, I became the lead photographer for a Jordanian Lifestyle Magazine and Photo Editor for two regional publications: a Fashion Magazine and a Men’s Magazine. This allowed me to gain a second editorial eye for photography, as I regularly organized, commissioned, and published photoshoots from other talented photographers in the region.

While in Jordan, I also began teaching courses and workshops on Drawing, Seeing with Perspective, and Photography. I consider my teaching style to be somewhat radical but very effective and have received much positive feedback from my students through the years, who in turn became professional artists themselves.

In 2007, I moved to Berlin, Germany where I am currently based, and while I continue to expand my own fine art photography and contemporary art practices, I gain special joy and satisfaction from sharing my experiences and knowledge with my students.

To see more of my personal artwork click here.

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