Art that Matters Doesn’t Matter

I used to be obsessed with sketching. But somewhere along the way, I lost that initial connection to the act of drawing. At some point, I began to focus on what was “good” or “good enough” (for what/ whom?). I started to worry about making all of my art “matter,” wanting to make my projects obviously meaningful and moving. And in the process, I stopped loving what I was doing in the unconditional way that I used to.

In the beginning, it was simple. I was overwhelmed by a desire to capture the beauty in the way light hit something and the shadows it cast. Everything I saw drew out this desire in me, no matter how mundane. It could be the shadow thrown by a banana onto a breakfast plate; I didn’t care. This desire drove me to draw, and draw, and draw.

I wanted to be realistic, accurate, and detailed. But that’s not truly what I was in it for. I wanted to like my final product, yes, but that wasn’t the only thing driving me. It was the act of drawing itself, of making art, of capturing something—whether it was beautiful or not; whether it “mattered” or not. The act of making art mattered to me, whether or not someone else looked at what I made and decided that it mattered to them, too.

I guess that’s really what it all comes down to: does your art matter to you? If it does, you can stop worrying about whether someone else will find it meaningful. If you get pleasure out of creating art, if your art matters to you, then it matters. Even if it doesn’t “matter.”

What makes your art matter to you?

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Does this charcoal sketch of a church ceiling in Bath, England have an obvious message that matters? Or is it the process (and the trip I took there)–which makes it meaningful to me–that matters the most?  (Drawn in 2011)

10 Comments

  1. Well the product here is good too. I can see the unique perspective you saw the ceiling with. I think it’s when there is the spontaneous motivation that both the process and the product are good. Otherwise either or both can be boring.

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  2. I love making “art that matters”, but I also love just making weird, abstract stuff! I think you should do what makes you happy and try not to pressure yourself to fit your art into a certain mold. And I love that sketch!

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  3. This is the very conversation I’ve been having for several months now. I too was inspired by shadows falling across surfaces, the color shift in shadows, the reflected color on objects…but at some point I got lost in making art that people liked. I’m now getting back to making art for me. I’ve deactivated my Instagram account and stopped using Facebook, that has helped. I’m also just posting my art out here. I’m getting back to making art for me, for the sole purpose of capturing what has caught my eye, and I’m slowly starting to see those moments again.

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  4. I love the atmosphere of this one, it’s really dream-like and sort of disorienting. For some reason, it makes me think of that feeling of waking up in room that isn’t your own bedroom. That initial feeling of “whoa this isn’t right” in a dark room. It’s always great seeing artwork that triggers so many thoughts.

    And on the post topic, I’m definitely with you. I think creating art that’s meaningful to you brings out your best. Ironically, art that matters to you probably becomes more meaningful to others naturally. I don’t have data to back that up, but it just feels like something that happens.

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