Why We Make Art | Lee Hammond

The need to create is one of life’s great mysteries, and art itself is highly misunderstood. Few will ever really know or understand what drives an artist to create what they do. And many wonder why the artist can’t stop, or ever to want to. Artists are often highly misunderstood, for the mystery of how we think is impossible for most people to comprehend. For many, why we make art and the personality of an artist can seem confusing and frustrating.

Why we make art | Lee Hammond, ArtistsNetwork.com

I wish others could see us as the passionate, dedicated people that we are, instead of as curious oddballs. Throughout my life, I’ve been judged and treated differently for being an artist. The attitudes I received were of both extremes, with people being in awe of my creativity, and seeming somewhat afraid of me. Some saw me as immature, and immediately wanting me to draw something for them for free. They saw my art as nothing more than a fun pastime, something that I should happily give away, as if they were giving me a grand opportunity to do something fun.

When I was younger and still honing my artistic skills, I was deemed the hippie type, and it was often assumed that us artists in that era were also delving into drugs and other unsavory lifestyles. Or, they saw me as an awkward loner, and being anti-social for wanting to be alone a good chunk of the time to draw. It’s of no wonder that during my formative years, I often hid my desire to draw, fearing the bullying and ridicule of being different.

Why we make art | Lee Hammond, ArtistsNetwork.com

If we teach, the joy of passing the creative process down to others will live on and on.

Why We Make Art: We’re In Love With It

As an adult, it has become easier, but some of the the attitudes have remained. Just within the last few weeks, I was sent a message on Facebook from a person I’ve known for more than 40 years, stating, “I wish I could sit on my butt and draw instead of having to actually work.” Another wanted to know if I had anything from my books I no longer needed and wanted to give away, so they could give it as a gift to someone. Yes, the misunderstanding still abounds, with many thinking of art as a childish playtime, rather than a profession job, and artists being productive members of society.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re in love with art like me, and have probably endured some off-color comments as well. But be grateful, for most criticism thrown our way is based in envy or jealousy from others who simply don’t understand us, and aren’t enjoying their life as much.

So why do we make art? Why is art so important to us? It’s simple. Because we enjoy it. In fact, we live for it. Few in life have this type of passion for a certain thing, particularly something that’s so enjoyable. It was given to us at birth, and it drives us forward. It’s reasonable to see how frustrating it may be for someone with a lackluster life, to see us having so much fun, and being so fulfilled.
But it is art-WORK. Few understand how very hard it is to develop these skills, and to try to take it to a profession level. Even the artist who does it as a hobby and pure joy of doing it, has moments of pure frustration when it doesn’t work out. We all know how it feels to take on the daunting task of learning a new technique. We know the tears when a piece becomes a disaster instead of a masterpiece. We are artists, not magicians, and the magic is not pulled out of a hat. We struggle. We keep on trying. We WORK at it.

But, I believe the most important aspect of why we make art is in the legacy we leave behind by following our heart’s desire and God-given talents. When we are gone, a tangible expression of our life will be left behind. If we teach, the joy of passing the creative process down to others will live on and on.

Why we make art | Lee Hammond, ArtistsNetwork.com

An art workshop student of mine, posing with her finished piece

Why We Make Art: It’s Who We Are

I recently returned to Kansas City to teach a class to many of my former students. Many of them felt that after I moved away, they wouldn’t be able to draw well anymore. When I left I told them that I had given them all of my tricks and tips, and all they needed to do was keep on trying and practicing. While it was indeed sad to move away, I was right. Most of the students came to class armed with their accomplishments of what they had done in my absence. I had taught them well, for their work was just as good, if not better, than when I had left. They had realized and found their potential.

Someone recently asked me, “Why do we keep making even more art, when we have stacks of projects completed already? What is the point of it all?” I certainly know that dilemma. Can you imagine the amount of art I have collected over the years with all of the books that I’ve written? Surely, you would think I would never need one more! But, make more, I do. Because it’s what I love, and creating art makes me happy. It’s not just what I do, it is who I am! It fills my day with a feeing of joy, and that’s why we are alive to begin with. To be happy.

Why We Make Art: It’s a Gift

Why we make art | Lee Hammond, ArtistsNetwork.com

Me with my granddaughter, who’s enjoying this colored pencil drawing I made for her

When I donate my artwork for charity, that legacy lives on, and it helps someone. When I create a gift for someone, that artwork becomes an heirloom, and it lives on. When I write a book, it becomes a legacy of learning and it lives on. So, as you can see, art is life itself. That’s why we do it. We are told to do it from deep down inside.

Never feel bad or guilty for doing something that makes you feel so happy. Life isn’t all about working at something you hate, earning your money and then dying. If you were fortunate enough to be born creative, your art is the greatest thing you can do to make a positive difference in your own life and others. We have a gift of creativity, and we should use it. Will you be misunderstood at times? Will you be judged? Probably. But so what? I’d rather be happily different, than miserable with life and blend right in!

Keep being the wonderful creative person that you are! I’m so happy to know that I can share it with you!

~Lee


Lee Hammond has been called the Queen of Drawing. That may not be fair these days, since in addition to providing the best drawing lessons, she has also created fantastic books and videos filled with the same easy to follow acrylic painting techniques, colored pencil techniques and more. Click here to see all of the instructional books and DVDs that Lee Hammond has to offer!

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