In ancient times, art was believed to have magical, healing powers, capable of taking people to a deeper state of consciousness. Art was seen as a gift from an unseen dimension, and was considered a mystical experience that transformed the viewers. It wasn’t just something to look at, however. Prehistoric cave art was a direct energetic link to the subject depicted: a picture of a horse on a cave wall connected the viewer with the power of the horse.
In the same way, tribal art was never intended to be a creative artistic style. It was a direct link to the energetic reality depicted, such as the power of lightening, or the power of life itself. The art was a doorway or connection that was believed to hold the sacred energy of what it depicted. But the tribe didn’t “view” the work; they participated with it.
In medieval Europe, the stained glass church windows were a direct connection between the devoted and the divine. The pictures weren’t simply describing a story. The art became a gateway to heaven, where the viewers were enchanted within a beautiful spiritual environment that held a divine resonance.
We modern people often forget art’s mysterious foundations, and we’ve now come to see art as something personal that the artist shares with the viewer: the artist’s thoughts, perspectives, and emotions. Your art is those things, but the mystical divine potential of art never disappeared. Modern culture just became reluctant to admit that the power is still there.
Once you recognize the possibility that your art can make a real difference in people’s lives, you can no longer pretend to be only providing art as décor, or as a window into your artistic thoughts. There’s much more, because your art may well contain the seeds of the sublime within it.
The practice of making art involves more than applying paint, more than utilizing the correct lens and exposure, and more than adjusting Photoshop filters. It is more than the sum of your artistic skills of composition, line, color, proportion, and form.
Your art has the power to soothe, to calm, to inspire, to awaken – in other words, to heal and transform.
This is the crucial link between the art you create, and art’s ancient origins. Let us now explore these ideas more deeply, so that you can recognize the transformational potential in your work, and include this understanding when you’re describing your art.
Who is the first person that is transformed by your art? That would be you, of course. While making your art, you’ve accessed a deeper sense of focus, of flow, of being in the zone, and of generally experiencing a deeper state of consciousness. Let’s go beyond these generalizations, to explore how to put the healing benefits of your art into words.
Let’s start with this question: How does your own art heal you?
Describe in your own words what your art does for you. When you’ve named those benefits, you’ll have a sense of what the benefits might be for buyers of your work. Of course, there are many kinds of people, with many tastes, so it’s useful to recognize that you’re not trying to appeal to everyone. However, if you receive specific benefits yourself, it’s likely that at least some people will get similar benefits.
Of course, healing means different things to different people. When you name the various healing benefits that art can provide, it helps you put this vast topic into words. And though you’re a visual person, being an artist, it is the words that help people understand you, and have a more informed appreciation of your work.
Some artists may believe that talking about the healing benefits of their work is somehow limiting. Perhaps you think you’re categorizing yourself, and telling people how they should feel when they look at your art. However, these descriptions of your work can also be liberating.
Instead of just vaguely suggesting that people look at your work and reach their own haphazard understandings about it, you’re helping them comprehend who you are, and giving them an understanding of your artistic world. Think of this as an act of kindness, where you’re reaching towards people, rather than demanding that they figure you out.
In part two of this series, you’ll discover the many emotional needs that your audience has, and how your art can address those needs. You’ll find ways to help people make the connection – your art helps them heal on many levels.