Should you share the meaning behind your artwork?
I had an enlightening conversation this week with two of my members, Sonia and Simon, about a topic that resonates with every artist at some point: how much of your “why” should you share with the world? It’s a question that involves discovering your unique path through the creative process and understanding your audience, your “WHO.”
For some artists, sharing everything about their artistic journey feels natural. They lay bare their motivations, inspirations, and the intricate details of their creative process.
Others prefer to reveal only a small fragment of their “why,” leaving much to the imagination. Then there are those who choose to share very little, allowing their audience to interpret their work entirely on their terms.
The key lies in understanding your “why” and using it as a compass when creating art.
There is no definitive right or wrong in this matter. You might find yourself pondering whether divulging too much will rob the viewer of their interpretation or sharing too little will miss the chance to connect deeply.
It’s a balancing act, and the equilibrium is unique for each artist and their audience. The more intimately you understand your “WHO,” the better you can gauge the experience they seek from your work.
Let’s explore this concept through the lens of music.
Freddie Mercury, the iconic musician, is known for never revealing the “WHY” behind “Bohemian Rhapsody,” one of the world’s biggest hits. To this day, the true meaning of the song remains a mystery. We have inklings, thanks to the wealth of information about his journey and artistry, but a significant part of the “WHY” is left for listeners to interpret—a shroud of mystery.
George Ezra, on the other hand, stands in stark contrast. The singer openly shares his “why” before performing a song. He tells the audience where he was when he wrote it, why he penned it, and what it means to him. Does he reveal everything? Probably not. Yet, both approaches, the secrecy and the transparency, are valid.
As an artist, it’s about learning what you want to share and how you want to connect with your audience. The more your “WHY” aligns with your “WHO,” the more you’ll instinctively know how much to reveal.
Every piece of art is a personal journey, and every individual interprets it differently. Some of us relish the mystery and want to decipher the “WHY” on our own. Others enjoy the dialogue that comes with sharing the artist’s perspective. When I look at art with my friend Sharon, our interpretations often differ, and her viewpoint challenges my own, leading to fresh insights or a deeper appreciation of the work’s individuality.
Art is a dynamic experience, subject to change over time. What moves us today might evoke different emotions next month or year.
Visual artist Amanda Oleandar has been known to post an artwork and asks her audience what they see or feel, only to reveal the “WHY” behind it a few days later. This can alter perceptions, deepen connections, or even deter some viewers—and that’s the beauty of art.
In the creative process, it’s essential not to overthink things. Embrace the journey, experiment with different ways of connecting with your audience:
- Ask people what they see in your work or how it makes them feel.
- Share bits and pieces of why the work exists.
- Lay bare everything that went into the work.
- Share nothing and observe how the work is received.
All these approaches are valid and contribute to your growth as an artist. Remember, the most crucial guide is what feels right to you. The path to artistic expression is one of self-discovery, and you learn by doing. Most importantly, enjoy the process—create, connect, and let your “WHY” shine through your art.
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Have a great week & take care,