Making Art

Bringing Art Making Into Your Life

How making art makes me feel.

Yayoi Kusama once said:

If it were not for art, I would have killed myself.

I don’t think I would go that far myself but I would feel pretty bloody bad.


Above: Yayoi Kusama, Self-Obliteration by Dots (detail), 1968, photographs by Hal Reif.


Above: Yayoi Kasuma’s piece at the Tate, Brilliance of life.

Yaoi Kasuma [born March 22, 1929] is one of those artists, whose life has mostly been about making art. From a fairly young age she has had mental illness and suicidal thoughts, which when I read about her life, I always thought it sounded like she managed by making art. She works rather obsessively and credits her art making with saving her life. She has lived for the past 40 years in a hospital for the mentally ill and makes art in a nearby studio.

Artists talk a lot about how they did something or what it means, but they don’t often talk about how it makes them FEEL when they make art. And when you get to it, it has to be the main reason we are making stuff because let’s face it we aren’t getting much money or kudos from it.

I get very antsy when I don’t get a chance to make stuff, kind of frustrated and edgy, pent up. When I am making something I can be frustrated, excited, bored, or even kind of happily vacant. But every now and then something really special happens and you go into the zone. You sometimes hear how runners can get an endorphin high, or other sports people go into the zone. I think it’s the same with art. You can have a ‘connected with everything’ kind of feeling, or like you are making something real, something that’s adding something to the world.

Sometimes I am making something and I have ideas zinging around in my head, of what the perfect next move will be, and it feels pretty beautiful.

Yesterday when I was at the clay studio I went into the zone. I’d been super busy for weeks [one of several reasons why I havent posted for two months, but more on that later] and I’d had less time in the studio than usual. Well I just went into a bit of a clay sculpting frenzy. One of the still life sculptures I’d been working on for a while was waiting for me to continue,  and the clay was at the perfect sculpting dryness/ wetness level, where its carves like soft wax, and it is delightful. I didn’t realise at first, but I was just going at that thing like there was no tomorrow. I was in this state of almost trance like attention, enjoying myself so much for a couple of hours. I thought, ‘This is why I make art, for that feeling right there’. It was so right , both in the feeling and in the work. When you go into this state you tend to make something really good. I could just see the clay becoming what I wanted. Maybe to someone else it was no different to usual but it felt pretty special to me.

moth2 moth3

Above: two different views of one of my still life pieces on the way to the kiln.

bird bird2

Above: a larger piece I finished quite recently, seen from two different angles.

For me the best feeling is when I am working on something BIG. I don’t mean a large object in itself but something that I have been working on for a while and it feels like it’s going somewhere. I also know that sometimes it gets quite hard and then my naughty brain will try to divert me off into something else. If its starts to get pretty intense I will suddenly start focusing on something else a little too much. Like at the moment I am obsessed with decorating my bedroom in a Bahamas kind of style. I’m thinking greens, natural textures, wooden blinds…but no it won’t really satisfy me. I won’t be pleased until the pieces of art filling my mind are on their way.

There is a japanese textile artist called Junko Oki whose works I have gone a little bit nuts for. I haven’t quite figured out if its more design than art but whatever the case it makes me feel woozy with love. She calls her work Woky Shoten and says in her book Poesy:

When I have needles, threads, and other special materials in front of me, something stirs deep inside my unconscious mind in spite of myself, and I am filled with strong emotion. That is when I regain my true self.

[from blog]

woki_shoten2 woky_shoten woky_shoten3

Above: some of Junko Oki’s beautiful pieces.

In an episode of ‘Art+soul’ hosted by Hetty Perkins featuring indigenous Australian artist Turkey Tolsen Djibrilla [or Tjupurrula], Hetty Perkins asked him why he painted and he replied:
When you sit down with no painting you get lonely.

This really stands out for me as a reason to make art. As I mentioned earlier I haven’t posted for two months and although I have been busy, I had also been spending a lot of time with our little dog because he’d been pretty unwell for a while and fairly ancient. Well he finally left us a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been a bit of a ruin ever since. And for me one of only times I haven’t been feeling super sad is when I have been immersed in the making. It’s made me feel calmer and more connected too.


Above: our lovely old boy.

Maybe art is a bit of a life saver after all, to keep us from drowning in sad thoughts, and to give us something to think about instead. The total immersion I can feel when I am making something is very satisfying, and it feels the opposite of pointless.

So next time you feel lonely or sad, or angry, instead of drinking too much, or maxing out your credit card online shopping, or yelling at someone, you could give making art a go. Go on, you might really like it.

One comment on “How making art makes me feel.

  1. mazzaus
    June 3, 2015

    How very interesting. I will be pondering this for a while, I think. I certainly make because it gives me pleassure and that sense of immersion. If you don;t already know it, I think you would find resonance in the concept of ‘flow’…from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It’s even become a TED talk!

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This entry was posted on October 27, 2013 by in creativity, Inspiration, Making art, sculpture and tagged , , , .
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