Chances are that you recently graduated, or maybe you decided that you want to take your art business more seriously. Whatever the reason, you are in a place where you feel that you are at the beginning of your career as an artist. The irony is that I, an upcoming artist, am going to share with you my insights into starting out as a creative. We both might be absolute beginners. However, we are not beginners at life. Maybe you have experience in a different discipline, as a parent, as an entrepreneur or at the school of life. We can use our former experiences to figure out our new artist’s lives. I regard myself as a philosopher who uses her writing and her art as tools to do research. Put simply, philosophy is the art of posing the right, fundamental questions. In order to survive as emerging artists we have to ask ourselves a difficult question before anything else: Why make art?
Of course I could give you my top five of actions you could take. It is always a good idea to make friends, to have a somewhat decent website, and to learn to talk about your work. You can find this type of advice all over the internet and I totally recommend that you keep the given advice in mind. However, all the advice in the world is not going to motivate you to make the effort when nobody is looking. Only you can do that, by asking yourself some uncomfortable questions. The most fundamental one for any type of creative work is: Why make it? Why do I make art? I am being the devil’s advocate here: there is no need for art like there is need for medical staff, it is very lonely, most art is already been done and better, you take the risk of alienating yourself from society, even from your family. So what is it that you, despite all these possible negative setbacks, still want to make art?
Why do I make art? The reason is simple, but wasn’t easy to find. The reason I make art is because I want to. I have the desire to create. To create is desire itself. It is almost a godlike feeling. Doing research, writing, trying to grasp the right shadows, it’s all part of longing. Longing itself, not possession, is what drives people. Desire is what makes people tick. If you have everything that you want, there will be no more desire and you might become complacent. People always want more. This greed is what destroys our planet in terms of consumerism. However, the same eagerness can be transformed into creating. To become familiar with your desire is to get to know yourself. The ancient Greeks only had one mission: to know themselves. Your desire is the source you’ll return to when the going gets tough.
How to find your desire? Again, we need to turn to philosophy for an answer. In the case of finding your longing, your energy, it’s more about a method than an answer. You’re the only one to give an answer but before answering a question you need questions. Socrates, a Greek philosopher, used to talk to young men at the market of Athens to unveil life truths. The method Socrates used to discover the truth was by asking questions. It’s based on the assumption that you have an inner knowledge that you only need to unlock by asking the right questions. The philosopher started out with some chit-chat and made a first move to ask a general question, for example ‘I noticed that you’re a poet. Why do you write poems?’. When the man answered the question Socrates would reciprocate with another question: Why does writing poetry make you happy?. This would continue until Socrates and the young men found the fundament: desire is the movement to bring forth the good.
This method of asking questions until you find the essence is also called the Socratic method, or the birthing method, because Socrates acted as a kind of midwife (his mother was a midwife) who births truths. Beware though: at one point Socrates asked too much questions and was sentenced to death by the city state of Athens by drinking a cup filled with poison. Being a philosopher is a dangerous pursuit. Another note: Socrates always had the last word in the dialogues. When it comes to your own desire, you have ownership of your own answer. If you succeed, all the fruits of your labour will be yours. You’ll be able to talk about your work, know how to do your research, see new opportunities, pick a subject, come up with series and titles. It’s time to get uncomfortable. Why do you make art?