How to Make Meaningful Art

how to make meaningful art

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Are you worried about how to create meaningful art? Afraid that your life’s work is lacking soul and won’t be able to make even a splash in the art world? Or, maybe, you’ve got some ideas but you’re struggling to convey your emotions and values properly.

Whatever it is that has brought you to this article, relax!

We’re going to be answering all your questions next. Just make sure to stay tuned until the end so that it can all be explained properly:

How to Make Art More Meaningful? A Step-by-Step Tutorial

Sometimes, the problem is not that you don’t have a story to tell that will make your art more meaningful. The problem is that something goes wrong in the creative process that locks up your inner world and makes it difficult for any personal meaning to appear.

If that’s the case with you, you can follow the tutorial below! It will teach you how to create more meaningful work step-by-step. This will allow you to reveal your artistic voice more easily!

Step 1. Reflect on Your Intentions

Before anything else, ask yourself, why did you start creating art? What are you looking to find in your own work?

Different perspectives lead to different results. When it comes to your own artwork, of course, your own perspective is the most crucial.

Art that is meaningful often stems from memorable experiences in an artist’s life. They extract their emotions, values, beliefs, etc. from their own life to create art that can resonate with their audience.

reflect your intentions

And so, if your goal is to create art that is more meaningful, everything starts with you. What are you passionate about? What story do you want to tell the world?

If you want to create meaningful artwork, ask yourself these questions before you start your daily practice. Even better, spend time to get into the habit of keeping a journal until automatic writing of your intentions becomes natural!

Step 2. Identify Your Inspiration

Once your intentions are clear, it’s time to use them to extract inspiration that can create meaningful work. It’s up to you to explore this on your own.

But, to provide a general idea, you can draw inspiration from meaningful experiences that have touched you, which may include the following:

  • Personal Life
  • Literature
  • Music
  • Nature
  • Other Artists’ Work
  • World Issues

Step 3. Develop an Art Concept

 

develop an art concept

The next part of the creative process can be said to be a bit retrograde. That is, once you’ve chosen your idea, what you have to do next is to trace the spark of creativity back.

This is so that you can develop your ‘intention’ or ‘art concept’ more clearly. You need to make it clear what story you want to tell with the idea you’ve chosen. It’s also time to start thinking of how to make your inspiration come to life.

In conclusion, it’s time to make a plan! Even if it starts with rudimentary scratches on a page. Make use of your creativity to the fullest and don’t let go of any ideas!

Step 4. Choose an Art Medium and Style

Next, take the general concept you came up with and start the visualization process.

Maybe the picture of your ideal composition is still blurry in your mind. It doesn’t matter!

choose an art medium and style

Take it slow and be patient! First, decide what medium and style you want to use. Basically, decide whether you want to paint an oil painting, a watercolor painting, a mixed-media painting, or so on. Also, what level of realism do you hope to achieve? Photo-realism? Abstract? Somewhere in between?

Now’s the time to move forward bit by bit. Art that is meaningful requires a lot of time and patience to create. It may be days, weeks, months, or, even, a few years. So, take your time when deciding. There’s really no need to rush.

Step 5. Plan Your Composition – Sketch Ideas

Once you’ve picked a style and medium, it’s time to start making art!

Of course, we’re not telling you to go straight to battle. We’re still in the ‘planning’ stage. Right now, all we advise you to do is to brainstorm some ideas through some rough sketches.

sketch ideas

For this, prepare some drawing materials and get ready to burn your brain. But don’t worry. Just like the previous step, you don’t need to be in too much of a hurry.

If need be, go visit a coffee shop to relax or spend some time to experience nature. Even if you can’t draw out more creativity after the fact, letting your body and mind relax enough to move on to the following steps will be very useful!

Step 6. Plan Your Composition – Infuse Personal Meaning

Next, perfect the sketches that you came up with by infusing them with more personal meaning.

Don’t make this matter too complicated. It’s just a matter of refining the original sketches. It can even be as simple as taking apart some elements, motifs, etc. from two different sketches to make a new sketch.

Step 7. Plan Your Composition – Evoke Emotions

Similar to the previous step, the next thing to do is to refine your current compositional sketch.

This time, the focus of refinement is on mood and feelings. Both yours and your audience. Again, it’s all about making small changes. For example, if the feelings you want to evoke are sad, then you can consider blue or grey color schemes.

evoke emotions

Step 8. Plan Your Composition – Target Your Audience

Truly meaningful art depends a lot on the perspective of your audience.

Now’s the time to take into account how your audience will perceive the ideal artwork in your mind. What elements and principles can you add, remove, or alter to allow your audience to perceive what you want them to perceive?

Step 9. Refine As Needed

Although we’ve listed out the steps to follow one by one like this, you don’t have to stick to it entirely. If you feel like there are changes that need to be made based on the previous plans — by all means! Feel free to go back and refine as needed.

Step 10. Reflect… And Create!

Once all the changes to the compositional sketch are complete, take a look at it one more time. Solicit some feedback from trusted peers and mentors if needed! You can also get some advice from art communities or read a blog post to review on things you’re uncertain about.

Painting is actually just a part of an artist’s life. A larger part is spent experiencing and understanding the world. The more you see and the more you know, the better!

PRO-TIP! If you want to see an example of a similar creative process to the one above in action, you can check out @AlpayEfe’s vlog above where he talks about how he composed his proudest masterpiece of the year bit by bit.

5 Strategies That Can Help Make Your Art More Meaningful

Now that you’re familiar with the process of creating meaningful art, it’s time to talk about some strategies that can help smooth out the process!

Strategy #1 Record Your Inner Artist World

The first strategy! Keep a record.

Artists lives are naturally full of color and inspiration can be sparked at any time. No, seriously! Whether you’re out there enjoying the beauty of nature or stuck at home doing daily chores, creativity can come knocking.

Anyway, the key point of this first strategy is to create a record or archive from which you can draw inspiration and experiences at any time. This record can be in written form, spoken form, or video form (e.g., you can keep an Artist Diary Vlog like @Ellis Wooley on YouTube.)

As an added benefit, when your inner artist world is looking particularly dark one day, you can look back at your old thoughts through these records and unleash your creativity once more.

Strategy #2 Identify Your Unique Artist Voice

Sometimes, meaningful art is not about experiences or values. Your artist voice or artist style can tell a unique story of its own. That is, it tells the story of your journey as an artist. Which, as you might expect, can be more meaningful to your fellow art lovers than anything else!

Even the process of experimenting to find your unique artist style can be said to be its own story. One with natural great twists and turns!

For example, the famous Mexican painter Frida Kahlo has always claimed that her art is a reflection of her reality, but the elements and composition of her artwork are definitely far from ordinary. It can even be said to be the complete opposite — more specifically, you can describe it as irrational, strange, and magical all at once.

Such a unique style is certainly very meaningful to many artists who love her work. Not to mention the fact that many of her works questioned conventional gender roles and completely overthrew the way women were depicted in art. Her strong artistic voice made many women at the time acknowledge her as a great symbol for their cause.

So, don’t think too little of identifying your inner artist’s style and voice. Just like Kahlo, your unique style and voice may be the key for you to step away from the ordinary and become extraordinary.

Strategy #3 Seek More Inspiration

If you reflect upon your experiences and still can’t find meaning in your art, then the problem may lie in your feelings or lack of passion.

What do you feel when looking at your own art? Does it touch your feelings?

seek more inspiration

If not, then maybe what you’re painting is not memorable enough to you.

In which case, what we recommend is that you go out and seek inspiration actively. Put another way, go on and experience life!

Whether it’s spending time exploring nature, signing up for a class with other artists, spending time with your family and friends, etc. Ground yourself in reality and allow yourself to be inspired by the scenery and people around you.

Strategy #4 Communicate with Other Artists

Previously, we mentioned how helpful it is to witness the growth of artists through the changes in their art style over time. This next strategy just borrows from that vein of thought. Basically, what we want you to do is to learn from other artists directly through communication.

After all, looking at the same piece of art, two people may very well see or sense two completely different things. In the same way, the meaning interpreted from a single artwork can be completely different.

communicate with other artists

Anyway, what we want to say is … Maybe the key to your current lack of inspiration is that your vision is too restricted.

Just like how looking at an object for a long time may lead you to miss important details. Relying solely on your interpretation of art can very well trap your creative soul. To avoid this problem, it’s important to open up your horizons and establish long-lasting connections with artists who can relate to what you’re experiencing.

Strategy #5 Study Art Across History

Last but not least, it’s time to increase your knowledge reserves.

Whether it’s through studying art history, visiting museums, critiquing the works of fellow artists, etc. What we recommend you do is to study art that you feel is meaningful and then analyze why you think that it is so.

This strategy should help you understand what makes a piece of art truly meaningful.

5 of the Most Meaningful Paintings in History

Speaking of studying artworks, when you look back at famous artworks throughout history, you’ll find that what is considered ‘meaningful’ is very subjective — it all depends on the different concepts of viewers.

To prove this point, we’ve listed some of the more famous oil paintings in history below:

1. “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci

 

the last supper

During the Renaissance Era, art was often used as a way to educate others by opening up their thinking. “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci is one of the best example of how they were able to accomplish this through symbolism.

It depicts the scene of the Last Supper of Jesus and his Twelve Apostles. Specifically, the moment after it was revealed by Jesus that one of his apostles would betray him. Leonardo arranged the composition in a way that reveals the truth through hidden symbolism in meanings.

For example, if you take a closer look at the figure of Judas, his future as the traitor was revealed in several ways:

  • His figure is lower than the other apostles, suggesting his timidity.
  • The money bag clutched in his hand contains the silver he was paid to betray Jesus.
  • His left hand is outstretched, showing that he was left-handed — which, back in the day, was a symbol that he was a person rejected by God or one that brings evil or bad luck.

In conclusion, even if you put aside its obvious religious significance, Leonardo’s “The Last Supper” can be considered a very meaningful art piece by virtue of its ability to tell such a complete story. Especially one that invites the analysis of many artists even to this day.

2. “The Scream” by Edvard Munch

 

the scream

Evoking emotions is one of the most crucial aspects of creating meaningful art and “The Scream” by Edvard Munch, can be said to be a great example of this.

If you don’t look at it too closely, “The Scream” can be said to be very simple in composition. That is, it really doesn’t look like much, and the same figures and background can definitely be replicated by even the youngest of art talents.

Despite this, it has been able to touch many artists throughout history because of its ability to evoke feelings of anxiety in those who view it. The dark and anxious tone and mood are expressed cleverly with colors and style that are very discomforting to the viewer, making it an ingenious work of art that has significant meaning to the art world.

3. “The Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh

 

the starry night

“The Starry Night” is now considered one of the most famous paintings of all time. But would you believe it if we told you that Vincent van Gogh himself didn’t really think much of this painting throughout his life? No, to be clear, he thought it was a complete failure in art!

So, what hidden meaning is there that makes this artwork capable of withstanding the test of time? Well, there are several ways to answer this question.

One would be the fact that it acts as a vessel of Vincent van Gogh’s turbulent art journey.

For example, Vincent van Gogh only ever sold one painting during his life (and he sold it for 400 francs — which is only equivalent to 1,900 US dollars today!!). But now, he’s become one of the most recognized painters of all time — with his “The Starry Night” painting selling for hundreds of millions!

Another answer can be found in its unique style. Vincent and his brother Theo were very critical of it at the time because it was quite radical and too far away from reality.

But it’s exactly this expressive and abstract style that has attracted and touched many viewers over the years. The way the shapes flow throughout the composition naturally and the vividness of the colors give off a sense of completeness that is impossible to forget!

4. “Guernica” by Pablo Picasso

 

guernica

Next on our list is “Guernica” by Pablo Picasso. This masterpiece was painted in response to a bombing of a small town called Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.

At the time, a three-hour-long bombing led to many defenseless civilians dying. As a result, Pablo Picasso was commissioned by the Spanish Pavillion to paint it in support of the anti-fascist cause at the World’s Fair. Later, it was even taken on a tour across European capitals as a powerful anti-war symbol.

In short, “Guernica” holds both historical and political significance by telling the chaos and horrors of war at the time.

5. “Impression, Sunrise” by Claude Monet

 

impression, sunrise

Last but not least! Let’s talk about “Impression, Sunrise”. This beautiful masterpiece that brings about a sense of peace and tranquility made a name for itself by setting the stage for the Impressionist Art Movement in the mid-to-late 19th century.

Before that time, most artists followed the traditional views of reflecting the world in realistic detail and using art to tell grand stories.

However, with the Impression Art Movement came unique masterpieces that are characterized by visible brushstrokes that give the impression of form in the midst of unblended color and dramatic depiction of lighting.

The Bottom Line:

Compared to the lifespan of a work of art, artists’ lives are truly too short.

You can’t imagine the influence of your own creativity in the future. Even the simplest experiences, transcribed onto canvas in the form of art, can touch the hearts of others in ways that you may never have imagined.

If you think about it that way, maybe you’ll feel more at ease.

BUT, if you’re still not comfortable with letting things happen naturally, here’s a link to a New Masters Academy course for creating meaning in art that we recommend you check out!

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