Why? It is the first question I want to ask every artist I interview. Why do you make art? Surely not for the fame, the fortune and everything that goes with it, thank you all, because those things rarely come. Art-making will never be a bed of roses, no pleasure cruise, at best a challenge before the whole human race…
Enough with the Queen tribute; you get the idea.
Artists say they make art for a wide variety of reasons—fun, relaxation, personal expression—but for many of us, sooner or later, we realize that we make art because we can’t bare a life in which we don’t. It is simply who we are, even if our business cards say otherwise.
“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life,” a quote attributed (perhaps incorrectly, but more on that later) to Pablo Picasso. While art provides a bounty of mental health benefits that we will explore in more detail in other posts, this idea that art transcends the monotony, ugliness and grime of everyday life to cleanse our soul seems to be at the root of art-making for many of us. Perhaps it is the very nature of art—that it often does not have a predestined outcome or purpose—that makes it so soothing and necessary. We create art to wrestle with or make peace with our own thoughts, but in the process we often end up creating something that speaks to others in ways we did not imagine or even intend. For those of us who struggle to justify the existence of art in our lives, would you consider foregoing taking a shower every day simply because you couldn’t prove that it made you better? Of course not! You take the shower because it washes away the grunge of the day and leaves you feeling both soothed and energized at once.
Back to the Picasso “soul” saying. In January 1964, “Playboy” magazine published an article entitled: “The Wisdom of Pablo Picasso” attributing the quote to the artist without a source reference. According to super-slueth Garson O’Toole who authors the fascinating website “Quote Investigator,” this quote is actually a modification of a passage from German author Berthold Auerbach ‘s 1864 novel “Auf der Höhe” (“On the Heights”) about the cleansing nature of music (same quote, substituting “music” for “art”). The quote attribution to Picasso was repeated by the Associated Press, NBC, and “Life” magazine and many others, proving yet again how many people read “Playboy” just for the articles.
No matter who said it, the quote highlights several of the things I associate with art-making:
dust (for me, art-making is generally messy)
soul (my “why”) and
everyday ( how often I need to make art, although not always how often I do or want to make art).
Maybe I should design a waterproof sticky note featuring the quote and place it in my shower for daily inspiration. Could waterproof sticky notes be my new side hustle?