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Why do I make art?

Written by Olly Halton

Photographed by Caitlyn Raymond | Modeled by Allison Davis

From the words of the Greek Muses to the modern-day people shouting on soap boxes, humanity has found its weird and wacky forms of inspiration. It exists all around us: it is in the conversations that we hear between people at the coffee shop queue; it is in the latest promotional posters for Coca-Cola; and it is between the dog-eared pages of the books at your local library.

That inspiration can also be from darker things: the worries and woes of the current world and its many zeitgeists. It is in the rising costs of heating bills this winter, the threat of nuclear war in the far East of Europe, and the erosion of women’s rights that sees more and more people flock to don their Handmaid’s Tale uniforms and march on governmental lands.

Dealing in our own minds with the darker things that surround us can feel like being isolated on the last patch of sand in an ocean where the sharks are already eyeing you up as though you are the candy groom on top of a wedding cake. But dealing with these things can bring us comfort, even in the short term. It is cathartic.

People use catharsis through talking with their friends, paying for therapy or communing with their own muses held deep within their hearts and minds and pulling the strings. It’s like that rat in the chef hat of that poor French lad who ended up making great pasta.

I have my own Remi the Rat in my head. It conducts a will to make art to deal with all my fears and the traumatic circumstances of life at the moment. Sometimes I enjoy writing about the darkness and what creatures could be lurking within its confines. Other times it’s a beautiful guided tour of all the people who have wronged me and now how they are slowly being chopped up and stitched back together in the very depths of the fires of hell.

Others make music or draw. People who are extra good at it charge commission. You can pay for paintings of your dog named Sausage to plaster your room with and confuse the real Sausage as to his new-found celebrity status. You can get people to play songs at your wedding that no one older than you would ever have heard of – who are the Killers again? They’re a band, Grandma, from America.

I respect the hell out of people who make their catharsis from that. Especially since I can’t draw or sing for the life of me. I can play one child’s nursery rhyme on piano though, so enjoy that party trick whilst I can remember how to do it.

I digress from the topic. Why do I make art? Why does anyone? People will tell you it’s escapism, boredom, just wanting to give it a go. But the truth is it’s to get what you have in your head onto canvas before you die. It’s a drive to share that little part of you that made teachers call you ‘a pleasure to teach.’ It’s a plan, a goal, to make something bigger. The amount of novels that outlive their writers are extraordinary. Van Gogh killed himself because he had spent a lifetime being told his work wasn’t good enough for even his own wall. Yet that 2010 episode of Doctor Who took him to a time where he is long-dead, but his work is immortalized behind glass and plaques display his name in bold. I’m not saying people create art for fame and fortune – though I’m sure JK Rowling doesn’t mind that her books have bought her a mansion – but art is something to immortalize a little part of you, to pass it down. Maybe your kids will be as good as you are at your chosen art.

Maybe, it will bring them catharsis. Maybe it will help them with whatever zeitgeist the world conjures up next.

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