Weekly smARTips: Why Do You Do What You Do?

Bridge the gap between making art and making a living,

… one tip at a time

smartips_why do you do what you do

Your smARTip for the week:

Why Do You Do What You Do?


Most of the time when I ask this question, I get a blank look from the artist.

It’s as if I’m supposed to know why they do what they do.

If I press the questions, I’ll often get variations of: I love to paint (sculpt/pot/weave, etc.) /  it’s what I’m good at  /  people tell me they like what I do  /  I have to or I don’t feel completely me / I want recognition …

And none of these answers are wrong. In fact, there isn’t a right answer; there is  only your answer.

What’s key is asking and answering the question so you have a north star for measuring your success.

Here’s what the sassy, smart Molly Gordon, MCC has to say:

“If your primary reason for making art is to heal yourself or the world, then the measuring stick you should use for success is how healing the work is.

If your primary reason for doing art is to express something in you, or to explore something new, or maybe to speak what you see on the edge of our collective awareness and help wake the rest of the world up, then those should be the measuring sticks you use.

How well are you living up to your part of those standards?

You can’t control whether or not people wake up, but you have a great deal of influence over whether or not you are doing work that has the potential to wake people up.

So when you’re thinking about that ninety percent under water, pull out the appropriate measuring stick.  Because if you don’t know where you are successful, you will never have the momentum to keep moving.

And momentum is huge!”


Your smARTist Move of the week


Do this exercise to help you better align with success:

  1. Set up a quiet time to write where you won’t be disturbed for 15 minutes.
  2. Write down this question at the top of the page: Why do I do my art?
  3. As you write, notice which word or phrase has an emotional charge attached to it, like “heal the world.”
  4. At that point, stop write down a new question: “What do I mean by ‘heal the world?’”
  5. As you write, again notice which word or phrase has an emotional charge attached to, stop, and write down a new question: “What do I mean by ‘XXX?’”
  6. Continue this process until you feel that you’ve peeled back as many layers as you can to the original question: Why do I do my art?
  7. Look over what you’ve written and formulate an answer from your new understanding.


P.S. If you liked this smARTip, take a look at Molly Gordon’s entire presentation on  How To Be An Overnight Success.

…where she talks about the most powerful force impacting what you do and who you are as an artist. Add It To Your Art Career Library!

6 Responses to “Weekly smARTips: Why Do You Do What You Do?”

  1. Bob Ragland says:

    I make art because I have to. I live a full art life on purpose. I do perfect art business. I sold 40 works of art in the last five months. I did it by outreach.
    I send career updates to people, it works.
    I nudge people. A real artist writes handwritten letters to their fans. They make the mail interesting. They service accounts like any other business does.
    I sold 20 works on 2-25-14.
    Got a lunch to boot.
    Keep some cash and you don’t have to take no trash.

    • And my question to you, Bob, is this: Why do you “Have to make art?”

      Your response is more common than you might suppose from artists who feel a deep, deep compelling magnet to make art.

      But I’m asking you for an expansion of your awareness.

      To say “I make art because I have to” is the top layer of a deeper reality inside you.

      What I’m asking is that you don’t allow yourself to be satisfied with the top layer. Dig deeper.

      Why? Because, I promise, your art will only get better for each increase in your conscious awareness.

  2. Annde says:

    I make Art because I need to see what comes to me in my minds eye.
    I create what comes to me in dreams.
    Then attempt to draw it out then make it in physical form.
    There is never an absolute way. Do do many forms of art, silk paint, draw, ceramics, silver clay, jewelry.
    The form the flash takes depends on what medium my hands need.
    Sometimes it is fast and sometimes it will take more attempts to work out the medium that is chosen.
    At the moment I am silk painting, drawing, working in porcelain clay, silver clay and carving a lino block.
    Just sold a silk painting and like Bob I send it in a beautiful package completely decorated, wrapped in ribbons with a handmade card signed in calligraphy :-) A joy to hold!


    • And I truly hope you are making it clear on your website, blog, or in social media that you take such extra loving care with each order.

      Such small acts of generosity are too important to neglect at the front end, yes?

  3. This is a very interesting exercise I would like to do. I’m impressed that you have responded to these comments. It might be a few weeks before I comment. I hope you’ll still be keeping this trail alive. My husband says that I’m a noticeably more happier person since I’ve only focused on making art (just a few years now). Interesting because I’m so emotional during the process–not always on the happy side.

  4. […] “making art” for the word writing in my case. A few days ago,I was reading Ariane Goodwin’s excellent blog where she asked the question:”Why do you make art?” and i started thinking about […]

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