Maria Scheller-Two Girls Friends Long Hair Blonde And Burnette Flower Mural

Why Everyone Can (and Should) Make Art

 

Last night a group of friends and I gathered together to watch the Deomcratic debates. Inevitably, about mid-way through the debates, we got sidetracked with conversations, unrelated to Bernie’s vigorous gesturing and Pete’s disproportionate talking time. One friend and I got to talking about our academic interests and the classes we had taken so far. We talked about her passion for political science and my interest in sociology. After bringing up the fact that I’m taking my first college-level art class, she asked me how it was going. This is a relatively harmless question, at least at face value, but one that I found incredibly difficult to answer.

In attempting to find an answer, I found myself confronted with my experience; sculpture is a huge time commitment. I am in the studio Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-4pm. I often stay afterwards to continue working, anywhere from half an hour to two hours after class work time is over. I often come to the studio before class as well, then stay after dinner and on until midnight. When I’m not working on my sculpture project, I am sure to be thinking about it and all of the possible improvements I could be making. All of this sounds intimidating, and might suggest that my art class is going… not so well. Yet, as I confronted the time-consuming reality of my work I also realized an equally important truth about sculpture: I love it.  

After all, I already knew that the class had been draining my time and energy. What I didn’t realize was how much I enjoyed the work, and how much I had missed it. Inadvertently, in asking me how my class was going, my friend had asked me to own up to my passion for art. She could not have known that I have been making art since preschool, when I couldn’t speak English yet and had to rely on art to keep me company. She didn’t know that when I went through a period of mental illness in eighth grade, making art is what kept me afloat. She could not have known that I have trouble focusing in class if I don’t doodle, or that I did a month long painting program at an art school in LA, and have been dreaming of the time I spent there ever since. Art is the keystone of my life; it’s what keeps the other parts of me together and standing.

Yet, because it has defined me for so long and in such a profound way, art is my greatest insecurity. My ability to make art has become tied up in my self worth, which is not uncommon for artists. I’m sure, as anyone who has made art will tell you, I take the successes and failures of my projects very personally. After all, art is an inherently personal and emotional process. My long hours in the studio drain me in a way that no other activity can, but they also feel like the most rewarding activity that I put my time and effort into. At the end of each work day I get closer to a final product, a physical creation that is uniquely my own, and comes from a vision that is equally as unique. There hasn’t been a day when I have felt that the work I do in the studio isn’t worthwhile.

Brush Painting Color Paint

The feeling of being the sole creator of a never-before-seen invention and being able to share that invention with the world is something I had been taking for granted. I am thankful that a casual conversation with a friend inspired me to remember to be grateful for my art practice. As young people with incredibly busy, ever-changing lives, it is so important to engage in some activity that we feel entirely in control of—something that allows for the free expression of the ideas in our heads. Art is the only medium I know of that allows for a directly tangible manifestation of unique thought. In creating a work, an artist is able to watch their ideas come to life on paper, wood, or film. Although it’s essential and rewarding, the process of being creative isn’t easy, and certainly challenges the artist to push themselves in new, exciting directions; to invent, reimagine, and get to know the world around them. The stability and opportunity that art brings is priceless, and I am someone that deeply believes that art should be a safe haven for every type of person at any skill level. The human body has the ability to give life to an artistic object, using the strength in our hands, willpower, and imagination. This amazing human ability can be intimidating to begin using, but is the most equally accessible way for all people to express their unique understanding of the world.

It is important to remember that “good” art is objective– any product of your creative process is an accomplishment to be proud of. For those that are timid to start their art-making journey, there are ways to make art in a way that feels less intimidating; art can be simply doodling a scribble on a notebook or spending time coloring in segments of a squiggly line. Your new art practice might come in the form of a hand-drawn line pattern or mandala. You could even casually sketch a friend at the dinner table or make up a comic book character in your free time. Working on a zine with friends is a great way to engage with the world creatively while spending time with the people you care about. If you find that you have spare postcards or magazines lying around you could use them up to create a collage notebook, that might end up doubling as a journal. Your art could even come in the form of a calming watercolor wash that reflects your mood that day. It is important to create these everyday outlets through which to express your vision of the world, both for your own benefit and for the benefit of future generations that will become inspired by your creations.