What’s Art For?

It can be a subtle thing–the dismissive attitude toward art. At a recent eye exam, the optometrist, noticing that I needed stronger glasses, asked what I did. There are several correct answers the the question; this time I said, “I’m an artist.” The doctor looked at me cooley, said, “Oh,” and then said, “So your husband supports you.”

It’s not an uncommon answer. I once had a dentist plead with me to “get a real job,” so he could finish all the work my teeth needed much faster. My answer is usually “when we dig up ancient civilizations, we don’t judge them by their paperwork, but by their arts.”

As a creativity coach, I often help artists struggle with identity, purpose in life, and self-worth. In a word that measures efficiency by ROI (return on investment), most of my clients’ concern is focused on social and natural-world capital. That makes them the “other” and feel alienated.

A few days ago, a Wise Woman sent me this video of artist Peter Donelly, who draws in the sand between tides. The incoming tides erases his art. He knows, as any artist does, that art is ephemeral, but that doesn’t make it less vital.

Spend the 10 minutes with this video and breathe more easily, knowing that Peter is doing art and that he doesn’t question if it is important. He knows it is.

Every artist knows, often deeply buried, that the act of creation is what makes us Divine. And it is that knowledge that can be threatening to those who question the purpose of creation. Who wouldn’t want to hold that knowledge, live that responsibility, treasure and nurture such a gift?

Quinn McDonald is an artist who writes.


34 thoughts on “What’s Art For?

  1. I finally got around to watching this. Breathtaking. As for my personal art, which mostly takes place in books, I like to live by the words of one of my favorite artists, Peter Beard: “I’m glad to have wasted my life on documentation that has no purpose.” 🙂

  2. Pingback: Sand Art | stonechat

  3. Ahhh–that dismissive attitude toward ‘artist’. Recently I wanted to take a 3 1/2 day seminar on a new ( to me ) art form. It would have cost me about $1,800 for three & a half days ( all costs included ). My husband’s & my best friends’ remarks were to the effect that it would be ridiculous to spend that kind of money to better learn this method ( & have rights to teach it ). They included that I probably would not teach it or not teach it long enough to re-coup my money. I showed my sketch book to one of these friends and I never have received such a luke-warm response. This is why my art has always been a very private experience — not shared with others. I like this person’s art. Out There & not worrying about others think.

    • Some people don’t understand about learning art or expanding your world with art. If they are our spouses or friends, it proves so clearly why we need art in our lives. Don’t stop making art–I’m going to attend a seminar I can’t afford, either, and I’m going with a clear heart and head. Your soul needs it.

  4. I found your blog from a link on iHanna’s, and I’ve been enjoying it. Thanks for sharing this video, it was great how he gives this gift of art to the sea.

  5. I think it’s just – part of what it means to be alive. To be human.

    The feeling that there should be end result (that sells) is so deeply pervasive, I know I fight with it constantly. I’m sure you’re doing really good work with those you coach Quinn, as well as those who read your blog 🙂

    Thanks for the video.

    • I’m lucky. If people want to be coached to sell, I have a marketing background and can do that, too. But I gave up selling my work several years ago and am in a contented place right now.

  6. Thank you for taking me home this morning Quinn. I lived on this beach for a number of years and never tired of the sunrise out of the sea . . . now I love the sun setting into it on the western coast. Of course watching Peter Donnelly work is a real bonus! Thanks.

  7. I have seen him work, standing up on that pier. It was incredibly hypnotising. It was wonderful hearing him speak about it. It adds a whole new dimension to what I saw that day. The power of creation. The real return on investment.

  8. Quinn,
    I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed watching the sand artist at work; what a lovely vibration, talent and inspiration it was! I so appreciate your point of view on the position as artist. I applaud the work you do and your bravery as to your authenticity (who you really are). ❤

    I will share a link to this in Refresh Journal! Thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

    Be refreshed,

  9. How inspiring is that !!! It is a constant source of irritation that, after an exhibition, everyone I know always asks how many I sold. For me, seeing my work on a gallery wall with people standing in front of it, discussing it, is reward enough.

    • Gosh how this resonates! People often ask how long a piece of work took to make, do, or paint as well – as if this has ANY significance! I never quite know how to answer this one.

      • When people ask that question, they often are looking for information on cost. How long does it take to paint this, and how much are your charging per hour to do it, because that’s your value to them as an artist. It’s wrong, but alas, it’s often all they know how to do from their own work. I often tell people that I work on more than one item at a time, and some items take months to finish, some go faster. If the answer is “well, how do you know how much to charge then?” I know that they are interested in price, not value. That’s a different discussion.

  10. Quinn, I, too, love the words you wrote, especially the last paragraph. I felt a twinge of …envy, I guess,…watching the joy and love of process in Peter as he made his art. He exudes it. I want that. Trying to get there. Thank you for providing guidance and knowledge along our paths as creative people.

  11. It seems to me that “what is art for” is just a badly constructed phrase. It does not make sense, but in a nonobvious way. I think art is, but is not for.

  12. Just had to link this on FB for all my creative friends. And what an excellent remark on the importance of art that “when we dig up ancient civilizations, we don’t judge them by their paperwork, but by their arts.” Have to keep that one in mind for future use.

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