Art You Like Making vs. Art You Like Viewing

Updated: Sep 19, 2021

As I've been spending more time in my sketchbook and exploring different types of art, a thought has begun to swirl around my head. Can there be a difference between the art you like making and the art you like looking at? And how do you reconcile those so that you can find joy in both, despite their apparent separation? Basically, I want to know if it's even possible for these two to exist in a way that it doesn't leave us artists feeling like frauds. Now, a lot of the time, artists tend to make the art they also like looking at. But I don't think that's always the case, and that's what I'm most interested in analyzing. I don't have an answer at the moment, but I'm excited to explore this topic. Let's get into it.

The Pros


While contemplating this idea, I've identified a few reasons this scenario could be a good thing for artists. For one thing, some people have a natural tendency for a certain type of work. Some artists are great at illustration while others are great at portraits. The art we make is often a reflection of how our brains work. And it can be quite difficult to change the way our minds process and share experiences. Because of that, it might not be beneficial to an artistic journey to force that change. It could actually lead to frustration or burnout. In that situation, it might be better to continue to improve and expand upon your natural instincts so that you don't end up walking away from your practice.

Obviously we can train to get better in certain genres of art and we shouldn't avoid something because it's difficult, but what if you don't enjoy making the art you like to look at? For instance, what if you love going to an art gallery and looking at Abstract art but you don't enjoy making it in the slightest? Does that mean you should abandon the art you enjoy creating for art that doesn't fulfill your creative needs? I personally don't think that's the best idea. It could lead to a disconnect from your work, and, unfortunately, that always shows in the final piece.

Lastly, I think getting inspired from all sorts of places is a good thing for artists. If you're only looking at and enjoying work that looks exactly like yours, you're not likely to grow or change artistically. But if you're enjoying artwork that looks vastly different, imagine the ways you'll be able to spin that influence in your own artwork. We already find inspiration in music and film, why should it be so different when it comes to visual art?

The Cons


Now, there are some good arguments for how this could exist in a positive way. However, there are some downsides, as well. The first thing that comes to mind is feeling like a fraud or a sell-out. By having a distinction between the work you make and the work that moves you, it could foster the feeling that you're not making work that's authentic to you. Or that you're only making work with the idea of selling or getting likes. Or it could end up with you hating your work, because it doesn't look anything like the art you enjoy viewing. All of these scenarios are undesirable, and I could see how this separation could lead to thoughts like these.

It could also lead to feelings of failure. You might end up thinking that the reason you don't make the work you like looking at is because you're not skilled enough to create it. Or that you gave up too easily when faced with something that challenged you artistically. That can really drag you down and leave you feeling completely terrible when it comes to your art and your work ethic.

Final Thoughts


So what's the conclusion here? Like many complicated questions in life, I don't think there's one right answer out there. As I've recently donned as my mantra, "There's no one way to be an artist." (Thank you, Clara Lieu.) And that extends to this idea, too. I think you need to pick the path that best works for you and helps you lead a healthy artistic practice. I don't know exactly which path I'm going down, but I'll certainly be exploring this idea more in my own work throughout the weeks to come.


I hope this post got you thinking about what you're currently doing in your artistic practice. It might seem silly, but pondering these types of thoughts can help us understand ourselves and our work even more. And that leads to stronger work over time.

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Thanks for reading and happy creating!