These questions are developed in tandem with writer John Fox to help clarify any artist’s goals.
- What art subjects bring you to your knees?
So many artists avoid their true subjects. Perhaps they’re afraid to shine a light into the darkest corridors of their heart and paint what excites, obsesses, or terrifies them. But the only way to discover your true subject is to create freely, wildly, without a plan, and to see what subjects crop up repeatedly. What thoughts can’t you ignore? Many times people don’t want to show their inner obsessions, demons, or embarrassing pain. Because “odd thoughts” can appear as a personal weakness to stolid Americans. Don’t avoid the subjects that wound you – head directly for them. If you show us this kind of very personal subjects, we’re sure to be interested in seeing the results.
- Who are you drawing or painting for?
It’s presumed that artists only need to please themselves and follow their private North Star. But even if we agree that a please-yourself ego-driven approach is an OK way to approach art, you still need to be aware that your art will have a larger audience of viewers. If you are a normal human, you want a huge audience on Instagram that beams love at you. But to be a more effective communicator, you need to imagine and target a specific group of humans to connect with. It could be Cubans, Mormons, teenagers. And even if you do that targeting, aim yourself even further: Cuban designers in Miami, Mormons who own art galleries, short-attention-span teens that crave Day-Glo pop art. Even better, choose a single person and direct your art to them.
If you can’t imagine a specific person that will like your art — then the truth is nobody will like it much.
- Why are you painting?
Burn through the easy answers quickly:
- Want to do something with my hands.
- Want to make money and be famous.
- Because you have something to say.
- It’s the only job I could get.
Drill down to the true depths:
- Because you want to express the unsaid.
- You want to understand trauma you experienced.
- Because someone told you that you couldn’t.
- You want to see what kind of artist lives inside you.
Sometimes it takes years for you to realize that the reason you make art isn’t what you thought it was.
- What is the one thing you want to paint before you die?
Many people make art because they feel it’s marketable or because it’s popular or they enjoy copying what others do in imitative fashion. But what do you really want to say before you leave the planet? You better figure that out and paint that painting, because the one thing I can guarantee you is that you will be leaving, and maybe sooner than you’d ideally prefer. So get busy and leave us a masterpiece, OK?
Art shown above: Woman with a Coffee Pot by Paul Cezanne. Monsieur Cezanne obviously had an affinity for Arabica beans which he didn’t shy away from.