Lilith (Underdrawing Stage), oil on board, Damian Osborne, 2021, meaningful art
Lilith (Underdrawing Stage), oil on board, Damian Osborne, 2021.

 

How to Create More Meaningful Art — Part 1

by Damian Osborne

 

 

There’s usually a point in an artist’s life when they feel the compulsion to take stock of themselves and of their work, and to create more meaningful art. 

Life is full of endless distractions. Which can make it difficult to simply think clearly. Never mind trying to forge a meaningful path in your art career and create meaningful artwork.

With house and ambulance alarms constantly screaming, the neighbours’ incessantly barking dogs or their loud music, daily chores, kids (if you have any), and tedious social obligations; it can be difficult to find time for inner quiet.

That’s why, as an artist, it’s important to allow yourself frequent periods of introspection for inner nourishment, away from other people and worldly distractions.

 

A Culture of Anti-Excellence, Self-Portrait, oil and conte on primed paper, 2020, Damian Osborne, Creating more meaningful art
A Culture of Anti-Excellence, Self-Portrait, oil and conté on primed paper, Damian Osborne, 2020.

Getting serious about developing your artistic soul

At the time of writing, I’ve just turned 40. 

And it’s been a year of lockdowns and madness. A time of testing. A period of intense change and intense personal growth.

The unfathomable ridiculousness, corruption, deception and blind herd-mentality within our society has come to a pinnacle. And this can only mean a terrible crash to equalize these unbalanced forces.

Thus, it’s been a profound period of introspection, and a process of individuation.

Having no space to work in, and with endless home renovations, it’s been very difficult, as I haven’t been able to get any painting done for year.

The ‘energy’ has been really off.

So, I have come to realise, that sometimes a forced break can be radically life-changing. And rebirth you as an artist.

I feel like I’m only now starting to grow up. I’m sure people much older than me would laugh at this, but I am not talking about simply getting older, or the supposed wisdom that comes with age.

It’s more a feeling that I’m being guided. That I ‘sense’ a coming of age.  

 

Luna, home-made ink and silverleaf on paper, Damian Osborne, 2020, creating meaningful art
Luna, home-made ink and silverleaf on paper, Damian Osborne, 2020.

 

The reason for painting is something that I’ve been more focused on now for the last while. It’s a long journey.

Sometimes I have glimpses of that depth that I want. You don’t find it on Pinterest or Instagram. And it can be tricky when there are so many other influences around — from history and the present day.

So I’ve shut myself off for a while to go within.

Someone told me, that in the more classical artistic traditions, you practice your craft until you are 40 years old. You do not even begin to choose your style until after that age.

Then you set out to choose or develop your mature style. It may take a few years of trying many things. Because, as many professional artists, one should be producing almost 300 works a year!

So, you have to be able to do that many different works, be consistent and still grow within the style. Not easy.

If you were to see an artist’s mature work at the apex of their style; although the individual pieces may be very different, you would still know that they are by the same artist.

How, as an artist, could you know that THAT style would “hold” that many pieces?

For my birthday present to myself, I sucked it up and bought myself quite an expensive sketchbook, as well as some decent Nitram charcoals, handmade Rosemary brushes and also, paint-making equipment.

Because, if I’m going to take myself seriously, I want to be in control of the quality of my art materials as much as possible. And something is compelling me to make my own.

And so, if you’re still struggling to find your style or develop your artistic voice…

 

Draw in your sketchbook everyday

A decent sketchbook is probably the best investment you could make as an artist. (And a journal of course).

Don’t be afraid of that first virgin blank page.

Use your sketchbook to plan your paintings, record dream images, design compositions or explore imagery and your feelings. Think of it as conceptual tool. 

You can keep other sketchbooks, if you like, for drawing everyday random stuff (like people at a coffee shop or doing doodles) — and this is an important practice. 

But try to keep a sketchbook (or a special file or folder) just for your ‘serious’ art. A special book where you really get down and get deep, and use these concepts to fuel your paintings.

Try to draw from your imagination as much as possible. 

 

Lilith and Serpents, mixed media on paper, Damian Osborne, 2020, creating meaningful art
Lilith and Serpents, mixed media in sketchbook, Damian Osborne, 2020.

 

Paint/draw from your own life

As I said before, in Where Do Artists Find Inspiration?, I prefer to mostly take inspiration from my own personal life.

Your own life is completely unique to anyone else’s on the planet. And you’ll find an endless source of material to work from.

By paying more attention to your surroundings (the people, places, things, nature around you), as well as your inner world (thoughts, feelings, visions, dreams), your art will naturally become more authentic, investigative, exploratory and meaningful. 

And this is a big one: don’t compare your life or your art to others. Don’t try to mould the perfect façade in yourself or your art. Be real. Let your paintings be real. Your art is a reflection of you. 

 

Self-Portrait with Scruffy Beard, oil on board, Damian Osborne, 2020
Self-Portrait with Scruffy Beard, oil on board, Damian Osborne, 2020.

Meditate and pray daily as an artist

As artists, it’s important to take time to allow your mind just to drift. You don’t always have to be doing something.

Do nothing.

No little chores. No reading. No scrolling through your phone. 

This void that you create in your busy little life is a fertile place for the incubation of ideas, visions or epiphanies. It becomes a refuge from all the analyzing, planning and paranoia that is the daily domain of left-brain thinking.

As artists, we need to be functioning more from the realm of deeper consciousness and feeling.

Whether you are religious or not is up to you and that’s your personal journey. But we all know the benefits of daily meditation.

Besides the physical, mental and emotional benefits, it can also open up channels of powerful inspiration and insight that you can express through your art. 

In that liminal state, when your brain slows to Alpha/Theta wave frequencies, a well spring of creativity, visualization and intuitive inspiration can be tapped into.    

In our modern world, which is leaning more towards the scientific, the rational, the atheistic, the ego and the material, we put far too much emphasis on left-brain thinking, at the cost of the deeper spiritual and creative world of the right-brain. 

I may be over-simplifying here, but the left-brain is really just part of our ego consciousness that sees and operates in the daily world within a very narrow band of awareness. It knows only a facsimile of reality.

We need this categorizing, limited view of reality in order to do our daily tasks without becoming overly distracted by the vastness of the Universe and our connection to every single thing in it.

The left-brain consciousness feels the separation of things; the separation of the Self from everything else. 

Conversely, the right-brained consciousness is our spiritual, artistic and intuitive nature, that in a sense is more connected and in-tune with what reality really is. The eternal moment. The sea of consciousness. 

Through prayer and mediation, we are able to stimulate right-brained thinking and illuminate our consciousness. We are able to tap into the Collective Unconscious. 

Scientists and the academics are prone to limited left-brain thinking and tend to sneer whenever Jung psychology, the collective unconscious or spirituality is mentioned. 

This is really just the sign of the times we are living in, since the Age of Enlightenment. But when discussing quantum physics or the powers of the brain for example, scientists are stumped. 

I’m going to have to leave this topic and move on because it is too vast for the scope of this blog post. But suffice it to say, that I find my personal spiritual/internal journey closely parallels my artistic journey.

And only now am I beginning to understand things from a broader perspective — this current Zeitgeist of scientific intellectualism — our history, our direction and our unconscious potential.

And while that may be the backdrop, personally I feel that the most pertinent thing I could do is to go deep, explore this trail of richness through creating more meaningful works of art, and offer them to the world. 

I guess if you’re getting older and not getting any wiser, something’s not quite right. 

 

Memento Mori, charcoal on paper, Damian Osborne, 2020, meaning of art
Memento Mori, charcoal on paper, Damian Osborne, 2020.

Close your social media accounts and reduce screen time (digital detox)

I’m just going to say it. Social media is mostly bullshit.

Yes it has some benefits if you have a massive following and you’re selling paintings through Facebook or Instagram or whatever everyday. But for 90% of us, I don’t think that’s true.

Besides, the reach or engagement is close to zero now. Unless you pay.

And the number of social media gurus and hype around it all just kind of pisses me off.

Social media distracts us from reality and digs into our studio time. We also end up comparing ourselves and our art to others, maybe even just subconsciously, and this can be really dangerous.

Yes, scrolling through your feed, you may say that you’re just looking for inspiration from other artists. But how much of that ‘inspiration’ do you really need. How much is really beneficial? Be careful if you’re doing this everyday. I don’t think that’s right.

Most of the art and the posts are so goddam fake anyway. It’s all ‘Look at me. Look how awesome I am!’ 

I’m not saying one shouldn’t be looking for inspiration from other artists. I think this is actually important. But I believe it should be 99% you painting/working on your art and 1% checking out other people’s works.

It’s just distraction and leads to procrastination. I get more dopamine from being at my easel painting.

Phones have become an addiction that rules our lives. Going onto Google to find answers for everything, also becomes an addiction, instead of using your own God-given brain to think about things yourself.

Besides this, people (especially the intuitive sort) are beginning to wake up to the dodginess of social media platforms — the mind control, surveillance, social/cultural engineering, data mining and censorship of these Big Brother companies from Silicon Valley and China. 

I don’t really care what people think of me. I want Socialist Totalitarianism and the Google Brain as far away from me as possible. Maybe you think I’m just a paranoid android. 

The times are a-changing. 

I know this is a blog on a screen, but after reading this (haha!), consider putting away your phone or laptop for a bit, refresh your eyes, straighten your back, and go for a walk in nature or do at least 10 minutes of relaxed meditation.

Then see which habit/activity feeds you more. 

 

Janine Working on Laptop, pen in sketchbook, Damian Osborne, 2020
Janine Working on Laptop, pen in sketchbook, Damian Osborne, 2020.

 

Record and draw from your dreams

Dreams contain valuable messages and visual information from the subconscious. Making a habit of recording your dreams in a journal or though your art can really help you understand the deeper parts of yourself. 

Is that not what meaningful art is?  — A portal into a deeper way of seeing or ‘knowing’?

Sometimes an artwork can hit you in the gut. But you’re not really sure why.

Dreams and art can communicate to us beyond the use of words. They can be powerful emotional triggers (such inducing Stendhal syndrome) or illuminating experiences. 

Dreams are often quite obscure and difficult to understand. This is because the language/logic of dreams is not easily understood by our quotidian left-brained thinking.

And dreams are so fragile and easily forgotten upon awakening.

But ironically, they can bring much clarity into one’s life. They show us the things we need to face; our desires, our shadows, and even perhaps our personal meaning.

 

Polaris and Crucifixion, charcoal in sketchbook, Damian Osborne, 2020
Polaris and Crucifixion, charcoal in sketchbook, Damian Osborne, 2020.

 

 

Continue on to How to Create More Meaningful Art — Part 2

 

2 thoughts on “How to Create More Meaningful Art — Part 1”

  1. Hey Damien , great stuff brother, I think I can relate to most, Nice to see some of us are on the same page. Hope you can find the time and space to create I love your work and your passion, a real artist, thanx.

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