What is art?

Is it just me, or is "art" hard to pinpoint? If you had to sit down right now and pen an essay about "What is art?" - could you do it? 


I stopped to think about the definition of "art" today.  First I wondered why I drew a blank when I asked myself, "What is art?"  I suspect it's because definitions are based on words, and words fall into the domain of the left brain – the part of the brain that adores labeling, categorizing, tucking everything into neat little categories.  The side of the brain that adores definitions over ambiguity and prefers order over chaos. Did you know that when you are in the midst of creative activity, when you "lose yourself" to the flow of the creative process, the left side of your brain essentially falls sleep?


Making art is a right-brain activity. Doodling, painting, sketching, sculpting and all other creative pursuits activate the right side of the brain, the side that expresses itself beyond the confines and rules of verbal language.  That side of the brain doesn't give a hoot what the 'definition' of art is – as long as it gets to make art, it's happy.


Still, I thought the question of "What is art?" was still worth pursuing.


According to Wikipedia,

"Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items (often with symbolic significance) in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect."

A few keywords stick out to me: product or process, deliberate arrangement, symbolic, influences and affects. 


So "what is art", to me?  An important unspoken component in this question is why do we create art? What is that mysterious force that compels certain people to pick up a paintbrush or mold clay or transform ordinary objects into creations of beauty?


I'm sure we all have our own individual reasons which are probably as unique as the art we make.  Here's what I've come up with to explain what art is and why I do it:


Art is a language of visual communication. Art is all about showing, rather than telling. This allows you the freedom to absorb the images in your own way - letting the images seep into your mind, stir up memories, spark new ideas, and inspire your dreams.


Art is a journey. Art can take us to places beyond our wildest imaginations. Art is the stuff in our wildest imaginations. Through art we can show each other our inner worlds and outer worlds - all stemming from our own unique points of view.


Art can reveal hidden truths, and present known truths in a new light. Through art, we can explore the universe in a new way, approach life from a different angle, and spend time seeing everything from someone else's perspective.


Immersion in art enriches our lives on many levels. Through viewing or creating art, you can rejuvenate your creative spirit, reignite your imagination, and nurture your curiosity. When you make art, or appreciate art, you experience for yourself how the creative process can improve the quality of your life and the lives of others.

What is art to you?

So what do you think? What is art to you? Why do you create art? What makes you pick up a pencil and draw a line that turns into a series of lines that turns into a drawing? Please share your thoughts here. The ideas that we share can help inspire and encourage one another.

Views: 95

Comment by Kathy Lynn on June 6, 2011 at 2:00pm
This is the "art colony".... surprised more of us haven't commented on this.  As you mentioned, art is a right brain activity.  Yet, sometimes we are getting a message from "them" that since the brain is divided we are dealing with 2 separate entities, yet they aren't.  They desperately need each other to function fully.  Like muscles though we can work one side up more than the other.  Art to me can be whatever it takes to express the feelings and sights around us, to share what we are with others, maybe to prove our existence.  Whether our art is with paint, ink, fabric, food, camera, music, dance, etc, To express it somehow, is a desire created within us, we all need to get it out.  It is a reflection of what we have taken in thru our senses, and like a young child we are constantly calling out "look, look, wanting to share, because not everyone can see what we have, and we don't want them to miss out.
Comment by Catherine Marie Chiara Duran on June 24, 2011 at 9:23pm

Art is so many differant things to differant people. Evryone views it differantly, everyone has thier own personal ideas, likes and dislikes.  So, it is so difficult to define. for one person will think a work of art is a masterpeice, another person my see the same work as worthless. Although, I have my own likes and dislikes I don't see any work as worthless, it is an expression of the person who created it. I am a left handed artist, and i find it easy to be in my right mind. :)  Art is many differant things, but to me the best art is art that expresses the artists inner most personal feelings, wether or not it is understood by others.


Comment by Sue Sotelo on June 24, 2011 at 10:55pm

Here's a few fun quotes

It pretty much sums up what art is to me :>) 


Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.
Thomas Merton

Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.
Henry Ward Beecher

Comment by Thaneeya McArdle on June 25, 2011 at 8:52am

Great discussion, gals! 


I like those quotes, Susan. :)


Well-said, Kathy: "Art to me can be whatever it takes to express the feelings and sights around us, to share what we are with others, maybe to prove our existence."


I totally agree with this Catherine: "I don't see any work as worthless, it is an expression of the person who created it."  


I think of art as a way of expressing and sharing, and therefore we all have an artistic voice and something valuable to contribute.


Thanks so much you guys for sharing your ideas on what 'art' means to you!

Comment by Catherine Marie Chiara Duran on August 28, 2011 at 4:45am
Creaating art makes me feel like me. I feel it is what I was meant to do. It makes me feel truly alive and when I do not restrict myself to "copying" an image I feel free. When I'm feeling very emotional..I belive is when I do my best work.
Comment by Jeffrey A. Knight on August 29, 2011 at 8:45pm
Jeff here -- I told my students art is a journey -- a never ending journey -- as artists we invite the viewer into our creative world -- our very being -- our imaginative thoughts -- I hope people are aware this is an honor given to them -- a rare and wondrous gift.
Comment by Ev McTaggart on September 5, 2011 at 5:13pm
Art is food for my soul.
Comment by TJ Willms on November 16, 2018 at 9:27pm

Art like beauty lies in the eye and soul of the beholder. I personally do not understand many abstract art forms, they don't please my eye. That does not mean that they are not completely valid art. That reaction may be precisely what the artist was striving for. I look for things that are skillfully executed  through sheer effort and determination, a real feat of illusory magic. For me art enlivens the soul and challenges the creative intellect to produce work that makes the heart sing. It doesn't bother me that Jackson Pollock sold framed drop cloths as art. I just don't see the beauty in his...paintings?     


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