The Purpose of the Artist: The Sensitive Spirit, or the Eccentric Ego?

the-weeping-woman credit

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls. – Pablo Piccasso

 One of the goals of parenting should be to broaden the parent-child relationship from “supportive” to “engaged.”

The other day my son was playing a spelling game, and he had to spell the word “axe.”  I was curious what the difference was between “ax” and “axe”…and although I’m sorry to say there isn’t a big difference between the two, I did read a definition of “phrases which use ax”  that seemed relevant to what I am trying to explain.

The phrase was, “have an ax to grind have a self-serving reason for doing or being involved in something: she joined the board because she had an ax to grind with the school system.”

 A lot of times I see parents, or if I’m being completely honest, I see myself, participate with what their children are doing for self-serving reasons.  You could say, “they have an ax to grind with life/school/careers, and so they have a self-serving reason for being involved in what their kids are involved in”:

They wanted to be a soccer player when they were a kid, so they put their kids in soccer.  They want to be successful, so they put their kids in successful programs.  They want fame and prestige, so they put their kids in activities that will accomplish this for them.

It is very difficult juggling our own expectations with our responsibilities of parenting: on one hand, you will always want better for your children.  I want my children to have a better childhood than I had, so I make deliberate choices in order to provide them this.  I want my children to have as many opportunities as possible when they are adults to pursue a stable and successful adult life, so I make deliberate choices as to what they participate in, where we go, and what we do.

But at the same time, this pursuit can hinder the children in regards to what they are genuinely gifted in.  It can hinder artists, in particular.

If a parent wants their child to be “successful”, they will encourage them to pursue successful hobbies, groups, goals, careers.  They will also discourage “unsuccessful” hobbies, groups, goals, careers…and more often than not, art falls into the “unsuccessful” category.

As young children, creativity is highly encouraged and praised.  But in later teenage years, it is seen more as a “neat hobby,” but “nothing they will use later in life.”  Which is an incredibly unfortunate belief for anyone to have…

In order for parents to move from “supportive” to “engaged” in their artistic child’s interests,  it is helpful to understand exactly what the purpose of art is.

Understanding the purpose of life has been the crux of philosophy since the beginning of life.  Or the beginning of philosophy.  One or the other, depending on how you’re looking at it, but volumes of books have been thought up and written throughout thousands of years simply exploring what “The One Thing” in life is.

Narrowing the topic of understanding down to “Understanding The Purpose of Art”  is a little tricky.  Is the purpose of art to create beautiful things?  Is it to reflect beautiful things? Is it to create interesting things, or explore the concept of what is interesting, at all?  Is the purpose of art to explore what it means to be human, what it means to exist?  Is it to define what is life?

What is the purpose of Art??

This simple, and yet completely not simple, question can absolutely help a parent understand why Art is important to their child, and this alone can broaden the parent-child relationship from “supportive” to “engaged.”

The 5 Purposes of Art:

1. Basic human instinct for harmony, balance, rhythm.

As you can see in these 3 different pictures, each artist saw a different harmony, balance and rhythm to life, which reflected their own lives, as well as the times and societies in which they each lived.




2. Experience of the mysterious.


3. Expression of the imagination.


4. Universal Communication


5. Ritualistic and symbolic functions.




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