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Is Art Necessary?

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I am an artist at heart and an accountant by profession. I make paper collage paintings and also enjoy painting with acrylic on canvas. I particularly like learning new techniques and styles of painting.

However for some time now I have been plagued by the question “Is art necessary?” I have felt perhaps I ought to put my time to better use. Do something really productive and worthwhile. Do something that would improve the world, something really useful and perhaps to make a difference. And also find my purpose. Yes the perennial question – is this all there is? Suddenly making art started to feel like a kind of selfish indulgence. Like I should have utilised my time to do something more important. So I started to think if any art was necessary at all.

Every single day I read the morning paper. I read to keep myself informed of the news. The news is of crimes committed. Of horrible crimes against women and little children. Of the destruction wrought by natural calamities. Of people suffering from lack of water or too much of it. Of the air being polluted and of climate change. Of plastic destroying marine life while uncaring governments ruin the environment. Of the corrupt politicians destroying the social fabric for personal gain. Off Ill-informed people running the economy to the ground. Wrong people at the helm of affairs suppressing and destroying the good. Makes me wonder if anything will ever help stop the rot. Hardly gives me any reason to smile at all. Save for the little cartoon on the back page, Calvin and Hobbes.

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So while I have largely felt like Nero fiddling when Rome was burning, I suddenly caught myself on the last line there. The little cartoon Calvin and Hobbes seemed to be the only thing relieving me from the relentless depression of the morning paper. The little stuffed tiger and the very cute expressions. The cleverly drawn cartoon with barely 3 or 4 panels conveying an idea usually a witty one. Drawing the reader into the life of a little kid sometimes making the reader wonder where the story goes next. I am always compelled to read this cartoon. Even on mornings when I am running late I have a quick look at the cartoon. On holidays I take the time to sit and marvel at the talent of the cartoonist. How the stuffed tiger looks so alive in one panel and like a toy in the next. Thank you Bill Watterson.

So what is this cartoon if not art I asked myself? It provides me a momentary respite from the depressing news and tediousness of the daily newspaper. In a way it enriches me by giving me a glimpse of something fantastic. So isn’t this all that art is meant to do?

In a world plagued with sadness perhaps art is like the clouds parting and letting in a ray of sunshine. Is that not important? There will always be death and destruction and blood and tears. There will always be bad news and people in need of help. But then art must exist too. Art provides a kind of relief to the dreariness of one’s life. Perhaps this could be also why they made so much art in the past centuries when daily life was a grind and there was so much sickness and suffering from plagues and wars. And today when we look art works from the past we are uplifted and filled with a sense of awe, of the greatness of their vision, of the enormity of their talent and of the permanence of their works.

This is why art is necessary. Though not all art can be compared to the great masters, in its own way every artwork speaks to someone. It does provide that glimmer of light in a cloudy day. It elevates the soul of its maker and makes the viewer consider if only for a moment a glimpse into a different world. And if it is really good art, it makes the viewer pause and perhaps smile or be awed.

So art is necessary. All art is necessary. I arrived at the conclusion that it was important for me to continue to make art for myself and for the benefit of others.

The next question I am considering now is how much time should I spend on my art. Perhaps I shall refer again to a quote by little Calvin, “God put me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I am so far behind that I will never die.”