What motivates you to create art? Is it a desire for praise and recognition, or is it a way to pass the time, or do you have something you want to say?

For most people the answer is probably a mixture of all three, but with varying degrees of importance.

But let's start with the first option in the list: praise and recognition. Is a big ego a good, or even necessary, quality in a great artist? There are undeniably some egomaniacs who make great art, and achieve great recognition. But are all successful artists driven by their ego? I don't think so.

Ultimately art that is worthwhile isn't the product of a desire for praise and recognition, but of other more important qualities: content, originality, beauty, and connection. So while an egomaniac might be able to draw upon these qualities in his or her search for recognition, for the art to truly resonate it still needs to have that element of truth and authenticity.

But the real failing of those who are driven by their egos is that they put themselvesand not their art, first. The best artists understand that the work is bigger than they are, that it transcends them. The ego-driven artist can't see this, and so everything is reduced to how the results make them look to the rest of the world. This means less appetite for risk, for cooperation, and for giving credit to others. Put the artist into a team situation where they are required to collaborate and these problems are multiplied by a factor of ten.

Anyone who has worked in a team with people who reckon themselves better than everyone else will recognise this. Cooperation becomes competition, criticism becomes blame, praise creates jealousy.

In an environment where the end result is the main goal, rather than individual rivalries, these problems are less likely to occur, because artists will cooperate together to create the best possible work, rather than seeking recognition for themselves over others.

But this also applies when we are working alone. The best art transcends us, and we create better art when we prioritise the art over our own longing for recognition. Audiences are not interested the person, but in what that person has to say. If all you have to offer is a variant of "look at me, look how clever I am" your message will not touch people. You might earn some praise as a technician, but you will not create a genuine emotional response with people, because you don't have much genuine emotion of your own to offer.

Ultimately we are all human, and all fallible. All artists create art with mixed motivations: we are all seeking praise, a way to pass the time, and an outlet for own own unique voice. But it's important to get the order of priorities right: a meaningful message and a unique voice will get us much further than a quest for praise and recognition. 

Richard YotComment