Why I Keep Making Art

Why I Keep Making Art. Christine Nishiyama, Might Could Studios.

In a previous essay, The Pressure of Greatness, I wrote about an interview with the photographer, Keith Yamashita. He believes he’s spent his time well as long as he pursued a “beautiful question”. And ever sense reading that phrase, it’s really stuck with me.

Basically everything I do at Might Could revolves around trying to pursue beautiful questions. It’s what drives these essays, informs my courses, and guides my artwork. All these things together help me explore and develop my ever-expanding creativity philosophy.

Having that creative philosophy helps to remind me of the meaning behind what I do and why I should keep going. I don’t always know what question I’m pursuing, and I surely don’t always know the answer, but it’s the pursuit itself that’s meaningful to me.

Why I Keep Making Art. Christine Nishiyama, Might Could Studios.

In another essay, Art, Worth, and Living, the beautiful question I ended up pursuing was ‘why do we make art?’ or perhaps, ‘why should we make art?’ It’s admittedly a grandiose question with many, many answers. But through writing that essay, rereading it a year later, and revisiting that pursuit, I’ve answered the question for myself:

  • I make art to see my inner world. It allows me to recognize my thoughts and emotions.
  • I make art to pull my inner world out. It allows us to communicate those thoughts and emotions to myself and others.
  • I make art to choose what to keep. It allows me to see my thoughts and emotions outside of me, allowing me to more easily choose which to keep close and which to release.
  • I make art to wander around when I don’t know. It allows me to make mistakes and try again.
  • I make art to notice and appreciate. It allows me to appreciate the beauty and wonder around us.

The spark to revisit this particular question was partially kicked off by a quote from a 1940’s cartoonist on Austin Kleon’s blog I read earlier this week:

“If you draw, the world becomes more beautiful, far more beautiful. Trees that used to be just scrub suddenly reveal their form. Animals that were ugly make you see their beauty. If you then go for a walk, you’ll be amazed how different everything can look. Less and less is ugly if every day you recognize beautiful forms in ugliness and learn to love them…”

Erich Ohser, cartoonist

And partially inspired by this quote from Mary Oliver:

“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”

Mary Oliver, poet

It better incorporates my belief that art encourages us not just to explore the world inside us, but also explore the world outside us.

Why I Keep Making Art. Christine Nishiyama, Might Could Studios.

Drawing a different subject every week with #MightCouldDrawToday shows me the beauty and mystery of the world. It shows me the detailed pattern in an alligator’s scaly skin. It shows me the intricate craftsmanship in Turkish painted tiles. And it shows me all the things that’s sparked the curiosity and wonder of the other artists who share all the things they’ve noticed and recorded.

Drawing in my travel sketchbooks, like #MightCouldinIndia and #MightCouldinVietnam, shows me the spectacular breadth of the world. It shows me the clothing, languages, sounds, and foods of other cultures, and how we can all be so different, and yet so similar.

In tandem with those outward-facing artworks, drawing my inner-world comics, from #MightCouldBePregnant to #MightCouldButterbean, shows me what’s really at the root of my moods and emotions. It helps me process my struggles and appreciate the tiny moments.

Making art provides me a space to observe all of this—to appreciate it, write it down, construct it into something new, and share it with the world.

I realize now that this is why making art is so valuable and important to me. Sometimes life can be hard, and we can feel surrounded by insurmountable problems. But no matter what, we have to be able to see the beauty in the world and remain in awe of all that surrounds us.

We have to be able to notice everything around us, our inner world and the outer world, and how it’s all connected and all fascinating. We have to allow it to spark curiosity, wonder, and hope in our lives.

Art can do all that. And that’s why I keep making it.

Why I Keep Making Art. Christine Nishiyama, Might Could Studios.


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