KeO BLoG

Thoughts on Life, Art, Photography, Technology, Teaching and Travel…..

Why Artists Make Art

I’ve been thinking lately about WHY artists make art.

Why did the prehistoric people leave hand prints on the walls of caves?  Why did they paint a variety of beasts deep down in the inner chambers of the caves of France and Spain? We can ask this question for all societies throughout history.

Ancient Egyptians painted elaborate tomb paintings and built monumental pyramids for the Pharaohs. Greeks built magnificent temples to their Gods like the Parthenon and painted stylized figures on their beautiful vases. WHY?


What drove Michelangelo to free David from a giant block of stone and Da Vinci to paint the Last Supper? Why did Van Gogh paint Starry Night, what caused Picasso to invent cubism and paint Les Demoiselles d’Avignon? Pollock to paint Lavender Mist?
What is it that drives these people from every culture in history to make art?  Speaking for myself and other artists I’ve researched, I believe it’s because they don’t have a choice.  Some people (we call them artists) are driven to express themselves  using some form of artistic medium.  They must create because it’s an inner passion to take what is in their hearts and minds and synthesize external (and internal) reality and put it “out there” through some form of art, whether that be visual, music, drama or dance.  It’s like there is something inside the artist that must be set free.

Whether its putting marks on paper (or cave wall) paint on canvas, chisel to stone or making music artists really have no choice but to explore and investigate their creative vision in some way, shape or form.  Life is unbearable for serious artists who can’t make art.  I also don’t think artists make art for personal recognition or to win awards and be judged into shows.  Fame, money and accolades have come to many artists and alluded many others over the course of history, but these things are not the primary reasons for artists to create.  These things have come to some artists as a result of their art touching (connecting with) people in an intimate and powerful way.  There are certain works of art that transcend time such as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling fresco, Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Before the Impressionism period in the late 1800’s there was a patronage system that supported and commissioned art from artists and of course that was a big factor (and incentive) before the twentieth century for artists to make art.

These great artists and their works tap into the deepest core of the human condition.  Artists make art primarily because they don’t have a choice. It is an involuntary response to their world in which they live. It’s just what they have to do!

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4 comments on “Why Artists Make Art

  1. Bill Fryczynski
    February 21, 2010

    Patrick,
    I read your blog on why artists create art. The key word for me is “vision”. I can only speak for myself,but, there are times when I just get this image in my head that won’t leave unless I do something about it. You are right we create because we have to.
    I have a question for you. We are both athletes. Do you think the same compulsion applies to the athlete?

    • keoughp
      February 21, 2010

      I agree Bill. I get ideas (visions) in my head all the time for ideas for photographs, paintings and even blog essays. I can’t rest until I make that photo, paint that painting or write that article. I think the same compulsion can be applied to athletes although maybe in a different context. I was literally driven to play intense competitive racquetball for over 30 years until I blew out my shoulder and had to quit last year. I have not been able to find a sports substitute that gives me the same pleasure and physical/emotional release. I’m running now but it is not the same thing.

  2. Pingback: When you LOOK…What do you SEE? « KeO BLoG

  3. Helen
    September 18, 2012

    I have to agree with you. It is what we have to do.

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This entry was posted on February 20, 2010 by in ArT, Keough Journal and tagged .
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