Sunday 19 June 2022

Making art for yourself: the importance of selfish art

I finished a painting yesterday afternoon.  I called it The Blue Scissorknight.  

I sprayed it with sealer, I got an op shop frame to put it in.  It's not my best work, as it's a technique I'm experimenting with - and as a result a bit uncertain at - but it's art, it's art for me, and that's important.

But why is that important?  I doubt anybody will see it.  If I get my art into a gallery for a week or so (that's been a goal for a while now) then I highly doubt The Blue Scissorknight  would make the cut amongst my other work.  Why then did I make it at all?  Well, I'll tell you, and it's jolly important you understand this.

I made the painting because I wanted to.  I WANTED to.

"But why bother?"  The world asks unhelpfully, "If you can't show it, you can't sell it; why did you bother?"  First, I'll have to tell you that I lied - that wasn't the world speaking, that was consumerism.  A society with a short-lived attention span conditioned to consume spoonfuls of easily digestible media at lightning pace.  And it's consumerism that, nine times out of ten, has destroyed creativity.

Please don't misunderstand - I'm not writing from a butthurt perspective, nor from any place of failure!  I'm a selfish artist, which I believe is the best possible way an artist can be.

So let me let you in on a gloomy bit of fact:  New Zealand, far from the idyllic paradise land the travel brochures sell it as, likes to portray itself as an artistic people, a culture with time and resources enough to kick back and create.  That is a front every civilized country likes to adopt, as it makes the economy seem open enough to allow "unproductive" activities.  And it's a front not at all reflected by those maintaining that economy.

We Kiwis are farmers, not known for creative flair.  When an artist happens amongst us, they're misunderstood and considered bludging off the system.  Living in Northland, for example, I've heard some pretty nasty local stories about Hunderwasser (1928 - 2000), an Austrian artist whose design for an art gallery now stands on Whangerei's waterfront.  

Hundertwasser Art Centre

From what I've heard - entirely from people I've worked for/with over the past year we've been living in Northland - nobody wanted the art gallery built, nobody cared.  Someone dredged up a rumour of pedophilia and everyone ran with it.  Now notice that I specified "people I've worked for/with"; that's the tradies, the backbone of NZ's society, they're the ones with the figurative finger on the pulse of the unwashed masses.  And if the unwashed masses don't care for a multi-million dollar artistic venture (which I might add is FREE for the public), then why would they care about the daubings of one more mad artist?

That's why you, the artist, has to care.

You create art because you want to express yourself - or maybe just because you just WANT to.  You get a sense of achievement in getting what's in your head down on that canvas.  You want to tell a story, you want to portray a world, and you must do it for you.  Because while you might be your harshest critic, you also need to be your biggest fan.  Your only fan if need be!  And that's okay!  It might be seen as unproductive, it might be seen as a waste of time and resources...  But in this day and age, who cares?  Who, really?  Why should artists bother contorting themselves to the whims of others?

And do you buy thousands of dollars' worth of 40K, just to make a custom Astartes Chapter GW will never acknowledge?  Because in creating art it gives the artist joy.  And if the artist can't find joy in the art they create, then maybe they have to find another means of achieving their vision.  Maybe they need to realise that all those people telling them "You should make it like this" or "Oh, I'd do it like that" really have no say in their creativity.

Let the artist create art for themselves.  Let the artist be selfish in their art.  Because then the vision the artist produces will be more pure, unadulterated by the poking and prodding of companies trying to use their art like another soulless resource to haggle over.  So I'm going to put The Blue Scissorknight on a chair and look at it for a few days, then pop it away in a cupboard and paint something else.  Nobody can tell me otherwise.

Let the artist create.  Don't mind my rambling, I just needed to get this down somewhere.

Bye bye for now.


  1. 🖤🥺🖤 thanks for writing this, thank you.

    1. Someone needed to say it. Most people don't understand how important art really is.

  2. I really like the stark white highlighs on the scissor knight. And I do agree, the commercialization of art can suck the life our of it.

    1. It turns out into a product, doesn't it? They expect it to be pumped out as if from a machine, leaving the artist drained.

  3. I've kind of been thinking along similar lines lately, as I've come to realise the freedom that has come along with the restrictions of my health issues that mean I'm unlikely to ever play full scale 40K again. Not having to worry about whether or not something fits the rules of the games has let me open up, and start building shit just because I think it's cool, with no regard for any other constraint.