Audience and the Artist’s Motivation

We had a discussion tonight in the ceramics studio, the topic being who is the artist’s audience.  A lot of us are fond of the idea that the artist is pure, and can create art solely for oneself, being free from any outside influence.  Of course we must realize that is not truly the case.  We don’t live in a vacuum, and it is impossible to avoid some sort of influence upon one’s artwork, especially in this age of globalization.  Often our audiences can be one of these influences.  We create something that an audience can relate to and finds pleasing, and the feedback from them is very rewarding.  It motivates the creation of similar works.  But does that prevent growth and change as an artist?

As a student of communications, I live by acknowledging that people are constantly changing.  If the artwork we are creating does not change along with us, doesn’t that cause a sort of disconnect between the impulse to create art and the satisfaction of having created something personally significant?  How then do commissions for artwork, and fields like graphic design fit in?  Can you find a way to make art for someone else, a patron or client, but still maintain a sense of personal significance?  When we were drawing as children we were not inhibited by thoughts of our audience; what flowed out of us was art that could not have been any more relevant to ourselves.  It is rather depressing that the impulse to create solely for oneself may fade away entirely as we leave childhood behind.  Ultimately our discussion came down to the question “why do you do what you do?”

I won’t venture too deeply into why I make art.  First, I simply enjoy the process, and I think most artists would say the same were you to ask them.  Another motivation is fear.  As odd as that may sound, think about it this way.  Creating art is one of the most basic elements of being human – think back to your childhood again, remember all those drawings mom would hang on the fridge? the finger paintings? drawing all over the walls in your basement with crayons (sorry mom and dad!).  When I consider what it would be like to stop making art, I think about that.  To me, losing that basic human element of expression is terrifying.  The fear of not making art far out-weighs the fears associated with insecurity in the art I make and the acceptance it will receive from my audience.  I have found that in times where I stop creating art I grow increasingly miserable, and that is proof enough for me that maybe I’m doing the right thing.

So, take some time and consider why it is you do what you do.  It doesn’t matter if that is creating art, or synthesizing advanced chemical compounds – what motivates you?  Is it personal satisfaction, or fulfilling a curiosity or wonderment with the world?  Does an audience influence the work you do?  Share your thoughts, and thanks for reading!



6 responses to “Audience and the Artist’s Motivation

  1. Had we known we had a budding artist on our hands we maybe would have left your crayon art on the walls and floor!!!!

  2. It’s always been my choice to do everything (i.e. photography, web design, and even blogging) for my own satisfaction rather than for “Others”.

    but yes, i still do consider my audience thoughts, for only one thing, if it is commissioned.

    I truly believe that I have to be passionate/love what I do than “i have to do this / I have to please someone else”, or else It won’t make sense.

    just my 2 cents .


  3. Hey Karen,
    I think that is the way to go. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as until this point I always thought I wanted to do graphic design. Recently however I have found that my designs are not interesting to me anymore – like designing for a client doesn’t allow for any of “me” to go into the work, and as you said it just doesn’t make sense or it feels fake and uninspired.

    How do you maintain that passion when working on commissions? Do you only accept commissions that you are interested in – or do you have some way of injecting interest into projects that would otherwise be dull?
    Thanks for dropping by again!


    • Every time I do commissioned projects, I always make sure I still do my own style and only inject a few ideas from the client. I mean, I do believe that they chose me to be the artist for their project because they like my style and not to be a human-robot to do 100% of their thoughts/ideas.

      and we are artists, we are born to come up with something original and extra-ordinary! right?

      • You are right of course! I guess my problem is that I doubt myself too much when it comes to commissioned work. Part of that I think is that most of my commissions come through other sources rather than directly to me – so I don’t always feel I have gotten the project because of my style. But if I don’t start putting it into my designs, it will never be the reason people come to me for design, right? I need to approach graphic design more the way you approach commissions! Thanks for the feedback Karen


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