What is art? Does it even matter?

  • We go to an art gallery or art museum and look at paintings and sculptures.  Is that art?
  • We browse a craft fair and see clever items, useful and well-made.  Is that art?
  • We hear music on the radio.  Is that art?
  • We listen to music live in a concert hall.  Is that art?
  • We watch a play or movie.  Is that art?
  • We go out dancing and we observe a couple that moves in extraordinary ways.  Is that art?

I love Seth Godin’s description*:

Art is what we call… the thing an artist does.

It’s not the medium or the oil or the price or whether it hangs on the wall or you eat it.

What matters, what makes it art, is that the person who made it overcame the resistance, ignored the voice of doubt and made something worth making.

Something risky. Something human.

Art is not in the … “eye of the beholder,” it’s in the soul of the artist.

An artist draws a straight line from their heart through their medium to your heart.  Art moves you because it resonates heart to heart. 

Art allows us a glimpse.  When we experience art, we glimpse our own soul. 

Here’s why it matters

Art matters because creativity matters. Your creativity matters.

If art is an expression of the soul, then creativity is the soul’s channel or pathway of that expression.   Writers write.  Painters paint.  Dancers dance.  Chefs cook.  Every path is unique to that person.

We are born to create.  Whether you acknowledge it or even recognize it, your creativity is with you always. 

Julia Cameron in her pivotal book “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity” says it this way:

In a sense, your creativity is like your blood.  Just as blood is a fact of your physical body and nothing you invented, creativity is a fact of your spiritual body and nothing that you must invent.

Admit it, you are always dreaming up new ways to do something. 

That can take many, many forms.  Designing spreadsheets and writing code are ways to express your creativity.  Staring into the pantry and gathering random foods to combine for dinner is an act of creativity.  How many times have you done that?  Pulling together an outfit in a new way is an act of creativity.

You are creative All. The. Time.

Oh yeah?  Not me!

It’s true that not everyone is an artist.  But, you don’t have to make “art” to be creative. 

When our go-to thought is “Oh… I’m not creative” we are stifling our natural state, like stuffing your foot into a too-small shoe.  Think of those women in old China with their feet bound.  Eventually, you’re crippled. 

You don’t deserve to be crippled. You don’t deserve a stifled life.  You are magnificent exactly the way you are.

Your creativity is how your soul expresses itself, no matter how mundane.  No matter if others don’t “get it.”  And no matter how harshly your judge yourself.

I’m challenging you right now to become more aware of your creativity.  How does it express itself?  When do you engage with it?  How will you nurture and feed it?

I’d love to hear your answers.  Please share and inspire others! 

*Thanks, Trudy Rice, for posting this quote!  You can see her incredible work here.

4 Replies to "What is art? Does it even matter?"

  • CJ Sleppy
    April 12, 2019 (7:11 pm)

    I know I’m creative enough to entertain myself but have great doubts as to whether others are just giving “lip service” or whether I can actually make some sort of living from it. The other stumbling block is getting overwhelmed with the “online” platforms – I know how they work in general but then there are so many stumbling blocks and challenges to getting things functional that the frustration builds which creates or increases the self-doubts. I have built my website though and would appreciate some feedback – both on the overall website and, especially, on the silk florals I have listed on the specific page, Designs by CJ.

    • Debra
      April 14, 2019 (2:44 am)

      Your florals are beautiful, CJ. If you enjoy making these and others are encouraging you, then go with it! It’s not helpful to question their intent; that’s the inner critic talking. That stinker is inside all of us; instead, listen to your joy when you’re engaged in making the wreaths. That’s your true voice.

      There is a lot going on on this website and your work is lost there; it deserves its own site. If you’d like more specific instruction on how to build a profitable art business, I recommend Alyson Stanfield’s book, “I’d Rather Be In the Studio!” She addresses all the ins and outs of marketing and really “gets” what it’s like to be a creative person who hates the techy stuff.

      Good luck! Please let me know how things go for you. Your work matters!

  • Bex
    April 13, 2019 (5:12 pm)

    The two statements that caught my attention:
    “person who made it overcame the resistance, ignored the voice of doubt and made something worth making.”
    “We are creative All. The. Time.”
    How many times, through my habits of behavior and thoughts, have I created the same damn day? Maybe instead of overcoming the resistance, it’s more like intentionally shifting off the path of “least resistance.” My get up, go to song is “Yes to Life!” By Eddie Watkins, Jr. There is a line in, “What are we gonna create today? The Universe is ready to play”

    • Debra
      April 14, 2019 (2:13 am)

      You’re absolutely right – habits of behavior and thoughts create the same damn day. The truth is, habits and automatic responses will run your whole life! I love that you’re looking toward intention as a way to shift off that path and I love that song lyric.
      So, what will you create today?

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