Artists Just Want To Be Significant
Why Do We Create Art?
Recently I asked a group of friends what broke their hearts about their art (including photography, painting, music, writing, graphic design, etc) and the answers I got were varied and interesting. The one that I ignored mostly was the one I both understand and confused me. The young man basically felt no one understands him through his art.
"Jon: I hate that no one can truly understand me through art. That no matter how much of myself I put into my work, they can only analyze, appreciate it, and learn a little more from it. Because no one can fully relate based solely on artistic expression; only in conjunction with one’s own experiences can they make a connection."
Art and Understanding
The more I thought about it the more I began to get what he was trying to say. At some level, we all want to be understood and be relevant to the audience we create for. When they don’t understand what we paint, write, sing, etc, we feel that we have failed as an artist. The bottom line is to be relevant. If it isn’t relevant, what is the purpose?
Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.— Henry Ward Beecher
What Is The Purpose?
Or am I wrong? He said, “ Only in conjunction with one’s own experiences can they make a connection.” That seems to be the key. The most popular paintings are ones where the audience feels a connection. The most sold books are ones where the writer weaves a story were many people and relate and ‘feel’ the protagonist’s dilemma. The most popular songs are ones where the lyrics grab you at a deep level even if you don’t understand all that it is saying. For instance, Simon and Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence grabbed me as a teenager even though I didn’t understand all of the lyrics as I do now.
We have art so that we shall not die of reality.— Friedrich Nietzsche
K: So you know when you send off the completed album and then crickets. My own sister!
This photographer gets it. We are looking for feedback. Something, anything. Even if it is negative feedback it’s better than crickets. After you put your time, talents, years of experience and effort into a commission and then you hear nothing. For days. For weeks.
Working For The Church
My husband had this problem. As a videographer, he would work on creative promos for church events and after finishing a project he would wait. And wait. And wait. The suspense is hard to take. Finally, he would email and still crickets. Then he would call and speak to their answering machine. It broke my heart to see him question his work, his talent, his basic worth because they didn’t even respond for a month. Then what they told him was that they loved it but didn’t want to pay his price. That’s a nice thing to say after finishing the project for them.
I love the church and I’m a faithful follower of Jesus, but sometimes His people are the worst to work for. One church loved my husband’s work and wanted to hire him. (Sounds like good news, right?) They wanted to pay him $2 an hour for his work and they wanted it every week. No one can live on that in the US. My husband told them he needed $20 an hour and he never heard from them again. To be honest, his work is worth $200 an hour because of his expertise having worked in Hollywood on the Lavern and Shirley and the Happy Days sets. But churches don’t want to pay what people are actually worth. We understand that the church doesn’t have the funds that Hollywood has but still $2 an hour is an insult.
The point is, art never stopped a war and never got anybody a job. That was never its function. Art cannot change events. But it can change people. It can affect people so that they are changed… because people are changed by art—enriched, ennobled, encouraged—they then act in a way that may affect the course of events… by the way they vote, they behave, by the way they think.— Leonard Bernstein
Artist’s Pet Issues
Like most people, we artists have pet issues that we feel passionate about. Whether it is domestic violence or endangered species or environmental impact issues, we each have issues that we feel are relevant. And what is more natural than to use our art to express and expand awareness about those issues? However, we get lots of backlash from expressing our views and convictions. The public either doesn’t want to hear it or acts like you are shoving your beliefs down their throats. I know in my case I only want to raise awareness. I’m not shoving anything. My issue is child literacy and child abuse. I love creating the little images of children reading and being carried away by a good book. What could be more significant?
Art is meant to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed.— Unknown
Significance and relevance are basic to human nature. We all want to have it yet we rarely think about giving it and the affirmation that goes with it. Artists work for peanuts so the least we could ask for is the approval of the public.