Sight. Smell. Taste. Touch. Sound. Those are some of the most beautiful gifts of life. They allow us to enjoy, to live, to experience. And I can promise you that life is only fully enjoyed, fully lived, fully experienced when you take part in art. No – stop. I don't just mean art, like drawing and painting. I mean art: "the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination." What I mean is that within each of us, each human being you come across, including you, there is a well of thoughts and creativity that can make your life richer than you ever thought possible, if only you just dig down a little to explore it.
This world is but a canvas to our imagination. – Henry David Thoreau
Ok, you're probably thinking, "Please stop with your soapbox speeches." You're probably right. So I'll stop with the soapbox speech and speak – write, really – to you as a girl, as a college freshman, as an artist. I'll write to you why art is important to me and why it is important to you. Why it is fundamental to our happiness and how you can put some art in your own life. Let me start with a confession: until recently, I thought I was going to give up art. I imagined that as an engineering student with med school ambitions, there would be no place for art. Well actually, there could be, but for me. I couldn't bear the idea of making art a "side" hobby. Art couldn't just be something on the side. Art was my passion, my life and if I couldn't give it its rightful importance in my life, maybe I shouldn't have it in my life at all. Needless to say, that made me miserable.
Like me, for whatever reason, you may also think that art, whatever that means to you, doesn't have a place in your life because you aren't a good drawer or because you aren't that creative or because art isn't your thing. But it does, whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, whether you are the brightest crayon in the box or the dullest. Art has a place in your life and it is an essential ingredient to your happiness.
Every artist dips his brush in his soul and paints his own nature into his pictures. – Henry Ward Beecher
By creating you are indulging in exploring yourself, your own thoughts and the world around you. By creating you are opening the door to self-discovery and inviting others (if you choose to share your art) to take part in who you are. In a way art is a form of communication that allows you to write or show or tell others about you and what you believe. And maybe you say, "Eh. Nah. Maybe another day?" But the truth is that people, humans, are inherently social and crave communication. By creating your own art you are allowing yourself to communicate, to self-explore, to explore. More than that, by engaging in communication through creation you are also allowing yourself to grow as a person, to change, to meet new people and see new things. Keep in mind most psychologists agree that communication and human interaction are essential to happiness. Convinced of the value of creating art yet?
Like I said before, creating is a mode of self-expression that allows for you to explore yourself and get to know yourself, which are things that appeal to most of us. Why else would you all be so concerned about what your MBTI personality is or what your work place priorities are? So if you really want to know more about yourself, why not explore your creativity and imagination and own thoughts?
However, art creation isn't just about communication and self-discovery and yada-yada-yada. It is also about having an avenue to champion for the things that you believe in. Maybe you're a vegan and you're planning on writing a play about the beauty of animals or the greatness of being healthy (like the creators of the hit documentary "What The Health"). Maybe you believe in the importance of sustainability and are going to design architecture that shows how you believe in a world that's sustainable and concise (think Bjarke Ingels). Or maybe you're a writer or a portraitist or a gamer or a seamstress, any kind of person, any kind of artist. You can self-express and champion your ideals, whether it's pro-environmentalism or politics or the importance of wearing pink every other Thursday. (Personally, I think blue is the better color to wear.)
You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use a work of art to see your soul. – George Bernard Shaw
By looking at, studying, enjoying, living, reading someone else's art you get to see their soul, their thoughts, their beliefs. It's an intimate moment that can open up your worldview or your understanding. Maybe it helps you empathize with another person or get a glimpse of something that is beyond your usual scope. Even reading a biography can be incredibly enlightening. But there's more benefit to appreciating other people's art than just gaining perspective, knowledge and empathy.
Art appreciation is also about digesting and dissecting the art. It's about learning about the artist and seeing the commonalities and differences that exist between you and them; between how you see things and how they see the world. Sometimes exploring the worlds of others allows us to have a different perspective on ourselves. Much more than this, art allows us to use our senses and just experience. Sometimes it is a physical experience, like catching your breath after hearing a song. Other times it is an emotional experience where you are moved by the words you've read. Perhaps a mental experience and you change the way you think. In summary, art is a way to have even more sensory experiences that can only enrich your life.
Personally, art has been a lifeline of mine. It is one of the few ways through which I can express myself fully and completely, not for lack of friends and family, but because I simply am an incredibly reserved person. I could no sooner freely speak what I think than I could suddenly sprout wings. When I am sad or happy or tired or angry, one of my first resources is art, whether it's banging away at my piano or exploring my fantasy world through writing, I am always doing art. Always. I also take in art all the time, from indulging in tons of movies or scrolling through Instagram to see what's new on the #photography page. And there have been times when art has changed my life, from making me go vegetarian since the end of the eighth grade to encouraging me to pursue my passions in music. Art has changed my life and made it incredibly richer. Now I am beginning to prepare myself to busk and I've been writing my crime novel. And those experiences are things that have made me learn more about myself, like the fact that I am fascinated by psychology, and these are experiences and knowledge that no one can take from me.
If I haven't convinced you by this point, that's alright, but I do invite you to at least give it a shot. Take an art class, a graphic design class, a dance class. Or maybe go to a poetry slam. Or write stories online. Why don't you go to that club? Is it really going to cost you to check out that cool-sounding book from the library? Can you not try to face a blank page and see what you fill it up with? For the more daring among us, why not go to a professor's office hours and ask them about that project or their career? Why not ask that kid that always carries their guitar about why they always carry their guitar and if they'd mind playing it for you?
I can't answer those questions for you. I hope you discover the beauty of art and creating it. I hope you are happy. I hope you take all the opportunities in life and discover and explore and communicate as much as you possibly can. Tell people about how you've finally, finally fully enjoyed, fully lived, fully experienced life. Tell them about your art.
The greatest art of life is sensation. To feel that we exist, even in pain. – Lord Byron