New book asks, Why do artists make art?

What drives people to make art, and what keeps them going once they start? Why I Make Art: Contemporary Artists’ Stories of Life and Work (Atelier Éditions), a new book by Brian Alfred, explores these questions and many more. Alfred is the artist and teacher behind him sound and visiona podcast featuring interviews with artists and musicians from all over the world. Why do I make art? Taken from 30 podcasts out of more than 300 Alfred podcasts to date, conducted between 2016 and 2020. From skateboarding to statelessness, and from painting to performance, the variety of influences and practices covered on book covers show that the industry’s motivations Art is as numerous as the artists themselves.

Alfred is a highly perceptive communicator led by his insightful questions and warm personality sound and vision Guests to unexpected and poignant places, like absurd childhood memories and poignant revelations. Although his book lacks some of the podcast’s spontaneous emotional charge, his meticulous and brief articles show that the author is a talented writer and editor who seamlessly combines the words of his artists with a thoughtful analysis of their work. In no small feat, the book summarizes the artists’ multi-faceted, sinuous spoken stories into vivid, interconnected narratives that draw the reader in.

Dominic Fong, “Are you going to keep singing?” (2021) Oil on linen, 94 x 78 inches (courtesy of the artist)

Part of the book’s appeal comes from the artists’ many entry points into their respective fields. American abstract painter Misha Mohammadi turned to art after a successful career in neuroscience. Irish artist Helen O’Leary’s artistic awakening came after drawing cows on her family’s farm with blue chalk. Another advantage is learning about the deep meaning that art carries in the lives of these artists. Heather Day explains that for her art “was something where I could come up with my own rules, my own questions, and answers too.” Luis Fratino likens his concentrated state while drawing and painting to a spiritual practice. Alfred is also an artist, and this shared identity clearly encourages interviewees to be honest and open with their doubts, challenges, and joys.

Crucially, Alfred’s subjects often draw wonderful connections and offer insights into art and themselves when they look back on their lives and work. These moments – learning from our predecessors – are useful to any artist and reader. “It doesn’t matter what the output is,” says Austin Weiner, “reserve the judgment for someone else.” James Sienna assures us that work long enough, and “your audience will find you.” In chapter after chapter, Alfred’s artists assert that making a life of art is difficult, but it can be done. These tips and wisdom will make the book worth coming back time and time again.

Publishing page shows Amir H. Peasant by Brian Alfred, Why I Make Art: Contemporary Artists’ Stories of Life and WorkAtelier Edits, 2022 (courtesy Atelier Edits)
Jules de Balincourt, “The New Arrivals” (2021), oil on panel, 65 3/4 x 65 inches (courtesy of the artist)
Page spread showing Vanessa German from Brian Alfred, Why I Make Art: Contemporary Artists’ Stories of Life and WorkAtelier Edits, 2022 (courtesy Atelier Edits)
Devan Shimoyama, “The Abduction of Ganymede” (2019), oil, colored pencil, dye, sequins, collage, glitter, and jewelry on canvas, 84 x 72 inches (courtesy of the artist)

Why I Make Art: Contemporary Artists’ Stories of Life and Work By Brian Alfred (2022) Posted by Atelier Editions It is available online and in bookstores.

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