Friday, July 21, 2017

The Creative Tortoise: Losing the Meaning of Art in Today's World

My Jizō watercolor pencils (Caran d'Ache Fancolors on Pentalic Aqua Journal) sketch.

A month back, I started doing daily sketch challenges on Mastodon, and what art I made got enough likes to not want to stop. Unfortunately I still stopped, because chronic illness doesn't care how currently buoyant I am on the praise of others.

This sketch of a small Jizō statue was the last one I made for the challenge, less than a week in. It took nearly four hours to do, small as it is (the size of a 3"x5" index card)—twice as long as any of my other challenge pieces. It's the one I'm proudest of, in fact a piece I'm proudest of for the month of July period thus far—but it also sapped what energy I had to create art for the rest of the week, including small sketches.

What can I say? I'm chronically ill and I'm not capable of doing timed marathon challenges. I try very hard each time, yet I can never complete such challenges. It's not that I'm lazy or not good enough—it's just that I'm sick. I have tried to keep pushing myself at the urging of former acquaintances who insisted that if I didn't create every day I not only was a failure but deserved to fail, a defeatist who would never accomplish as much as they would.

I'm a turtle, and they're hares. Of course they would win such races.

But art isn't an Inktober. Art isn't a daily sketch challenge. Art is definitely not competing in giveaways from art supply companies who want you to buy and use their products.

Art isn't even about competing for the admiration of the masses, nor is it about being useful to the entertainment industry.

A neutron star core in the center of a nebula in space, with distant stars. The accompanying poem reads: "My core is made of neutron stars. Yet I am supple enough to not let gravity drown out my light. I can let others know there is a universe." — 赤茶恐竜 AAJ

Art is about self-expression. And that is independent of what anybody wants or expects of you. It's certainly not about what's valuable to society nor to other people.

By all means, do art for all the other reasons. We generally need money to survive and buy more art supplies. Some of us love the inspiration that a challenge runs through our veins, some of us thrive on adrenaline.

But it's okay for me as an artist to not work the same way that others do. It's not like my neuro-atypical brain works the way other programmers' do back in the software industry.

The only way I can defeat myself is to listen to all the immature people who've never been sick, or who are in denial about what it means to live well with disability, tell me that I've defeated myself.

I do regret not being able to participate in giveaways and challenges. But ultimately I have a personality that sets up challenges constantly for myself and generates topics and inspirations from seemingly nothing, so it's not like challenges or giveaways ever gave me anything I didn't already have.

As long as I'm creating art, I'm happy and advancing towards self-actualization (or maintaining it at this point).

The Amazon links above give me a small affiliate fee at no cost to you if you buy the items through the link; this helps me stay alive.

Ava Jarvis is an ink and watercolor artist with a portfolio site at If you found this post useful, consider a one-time tip or supporting Ava on Patreon.