To Uplift Souls
October 4, 2011
My pal Cliff Cramp’s answer to the question, “What is the purpose of art?”
The artist is the first member of his own audience. Before I show anything, before I even make anything, the artwork is in my mind. Most artists work in solitude, so our work is seen by us first. Then it might go out to others, perhaps our family and friends, or our bosses if we’re professional artists. Then to who-knows-where from there.
But the first sucker to taste the snake oil is the artist himself. When I see good art, I assume the artist cares enough about himself to put on a good show for his audience of one. When I see bad art I assume the artist is lying to himself first, and it only gets worse from there.
This gets me back to my first question that any artist has to answer every day he decides to make something, “Why make anything at all?” The answer is similar to our very existence, “Why am I here? What is my reason? Was is my job? What is my nature?” The answer to these and other questions are rarely, “To make a video game.” because making art product never suits me as a landing place. It’s pointing forward to something else. Perhaps to provide for family, to bring joy to others or to explore, but the goal is not to just paint a certain painting. There’s a through line in there somewhere that pierces the long string of art and points forward to other works.
I don’t know Bill Watterson, but he is a great artist and brought laughter to millions with his comic Calvin and Hobbes. He disappeared from public display of his art, but I know he’s still producing art. It’s his job, his identity, his nature. He can’t not make art. It is likely for an audience of one, but there is an audience. When a tree falls in the forest it makes a noise, at least for that tree it does.