What is Art?


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Ask a hundred people what they think the definition of art is, and you’ll get one hundred different answers. Try asking yourself the same question at different times of the day, and you’ll probably give different answers each time, too. The limit does not exist when it comes to art – what it is, why it is, and the forms it comes in. In fact, there are no limits in any facet of art. Just like outer space, it spreads out endlessly in every direction.

Many people find solace in being able to express themselves in a creative way. As humans, we’re not only creative with our expression, but the ways we release it. Some choose to dance, others singing in large groups…some even put on whacky outfits and do performances of jarring, confusing noises and movements in public subways.

But what leads some folks to end up dancing while covered in duck feathers, while others become the person who walks by trying to avoid eye contact? There’s probably more than hundreds of different things that trigger artists to go down the artistic road as well.

Some folks find themselves gifted at a young age. Sometimes all it takes for them is a little encouragement to get them to commit to a life of playful and hardworking artistic expression.

Other folks seem to find their way to art as a way to move past trauma, as they learn to express the pain and catalyze the healing process. Expression is a powerful healing tool. It’s amazing what beauty and creation can come out of the suffering we experience in life.

The truth is, art is such a unique expression of what we all, as individuals, hold inside, so it makes sense that the journey that each person takes to get there is going to be different. The combinations of thoughts and experiences, added to the many different mediums of expression, means there’s no limit to what we can create. And just because each path is different doesn’t mean it won’t be beautiful.

It’s not only we, the people, who have gone through transformations over time that led to where we are today. Art itself has morphed, transformed, and grown drastically over time.

Think back to the oldest art you can – back before oil paintings on fine canvas, or the big Bean in Chicago. For most people, that triggers thoughts of cave paintings. Archaeologists have discovered paintings in a French cave that date back to more than 30,000 years ago – and that’s some old art!

Of course, there’s no way to know who made the first handprint on a wall, but the beginnings of art might come from even earlier times. Our human ancestors started out in Africa, eventually trekking their way outward to Europe and Asia. Who’s to say they weren’t making things on the way? Could have been that they just ran out of caves on their journey.

The whole history of art is way too vast to cover in one little blog post – so if you’re looking to get a comprehensive education, there are college degrees for that. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t acknowledge how widespread and varied art has been over the ages.

Think of the transformation of painting, from cave walls in France to fresco walls in Greece, from canvas by Da Vinci to ceilings by Michelangelo. Visit a modern art museum and find yourself surrounded by the bright colors of pop art, the strange demonstrative moving sculptures, or canvases painted one singular color – subtle yet impactful.

With such a wide expanse of history, the idea of trying to join in and grab yourself a fistful of art experience can be a little intimidating. Where do you start? How do you start? And how will you ever measure up against the greats?

The answer is easy: you won’t. No bones about it. If you’ve never tried to create before, you’re going to be terrible. But just as all flowers start at seeds and baby birds fall before they fly, everything has to start somewhere. Starting with art won’t be the easiest thing you’ve ever done, but you may find it the most rewarding.

Pick the media you want to move within. If it’s painting, grab a palette. If it’s drawing, get a sketchbook. If it’s videography, grab your cellphone camera. If you don’t know, then try them all! Expressing yourself doesn’t have to require a whole bunch of fancy expensive equipment to start out – all you really need is your heart, and the willingness to open it up a little bit.

If you’re the type to need a little push from an outside force, whether it’s from a friend, a partner, or a very forceful stranger on the street, taking a class or two might be the way to spread your artsy wings. Accountability and fear can be the perfect motivation. There are classes for everything imaginable, from acting to sewing to printmaking to songwriting. You’re sure to find your niche.

As if the great feeling of accomplishment that comes with creating a tangible expression of yourself isn’t enough, throwing yourself into art has a number of other benefits as well. Find yourself stimulating new parts of your brain you might not be using in your day to day life, especially if your job is particularly analytical. Take on new challenges by trying a medium you’ve never tried before.

Art is also an amazing stress reliever – which makes sense if you think about it. We all could use a little bit of time to ourselves, even if it’s only twenty minutes, just to turn off all the things that follow us around in our daily lives. Picking up a pencil or paintbrush – maybe even a can of spray paint if you’re feeling reckless – and taking time to let your feelings flow through and out of you as you process your day, your life, can improve your day tenfold.

Taking into account it’s long life, the variation within it, and the huge role it’s played in culture throughout history, do you really need any more of a push to starting with art? There’s a reason it stays ever constant in all of our lives. Don’t just consume it – get to creating it.

Everyone is dying to know what you’re capable of.