Memento Mori, oil on board, Damian Osborne, 2020. Painted with my own home-made pigments.


How to Create More Meaningful Art — Part 2

by Damian Osborne



In case you missed it, this is a continuation from How to Create More Meaningful Art — Part 1 on habits I’ve been trying to stick to in my deepening quest to create more meaningful art. 

Recording and painting your feelings — keeping a journal

This is a tough one. How do you create artwork purely from your feelings? This can be a very intense habit which forces you to tap into some deep shit. 

We like to try and stay in control of ourselves and our feelings. Although, the rational mind’s concept of being in control is really just illusionary. Sometimes pulling back the curtain can become quite a scary experience. 

Sometimes we may think that we really don’t feel anything at all. But this is also an illusion. 

Again, this is where the strange power of getting in touch with one’s subconscious through art or writing can open up major doorways of inspiration and perception. 

Allowing yourself to do automatic writing in your journal (such the daily writing practice espoused by Julia Cameron in the Artist’s Way), or automatic drawing or painting, can help you to break free from creative and emotional blockages and create more meaningful art. 

Writing down your feelings can help you to examine them. Painting them on a canvas may result in a rather abstract work. But if this is done with authenticity, it can take you and your artistic journey in a totally new and visceral direction.

Music is a very powerful conduit for channeling strong emotions.


Keeping a journal, more meaningful art, Damian Osborne, 2021
Keeping a journal is an important way to explore and record ideas. Even though I can hardly read my own handwriting.


Get deep — explore your shadows

This is something I’ve been struggling with. Delving into your shadow nature can be terrifying, or just plain depressing. Nobody wants to face the crappy parts of oneself.

Much of our shadow-sides are the unseen parts of ourselves; the unconscious aspects of our nature or personality we might be ignoring or be oblivious to. It is called the shadow for this reason. 

Each one of us is an extremely complicated being, not easily explained by our pigeon-holing modern culture of trite and vacuous ‘improve yourself’ magazine/blog articles, and perfunctory social niceties.

The shadow is a reaction to all this bullshit. It is part of our deeper self. It’s our anti-social behaviours. Our not-so-nice-guy personality. Like the seismic tremours below the surface of the façade of everyday life.

As Jung said:

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

Tapping into the darkness of our shadow nature can be source of rather powerful and meaningful art. 

We can use the shadow as fuel for our art by going into the stuff that scares us, upsets us, or simply annoys us. It could be cathartic to get it out on canvas. It could be life-changing. 


Year of the Fool, conté on paper, Damian Osborne, 2020, more meaningful art
Year of the Fool, conté on paper, Damian Osborne, 2020.


Read soul-enriching books — the works of the visionaries and great thinkers

To get deep, you have to think deeply. And what better way of cultivating your mind (and your art) than by reading the works of iconic thinkers and the Classics.

It’s a life-long journey.

You may wish to begin your philosophical journey in a more structured way, beginning with, as is usually recommended, Plato’s Republic. (I particularly like the allegory of the shadows playing on the cave wall as the illusion of our reality.)

Or you can allow yourself a more exploratory route, instead of dryly following a set reading list. It’s up to you. 

Personally, I believe in following one’s instincts and reading whatever you want to. There are many ways of learning.

And just because an author or book is popular, doesn’t mean you should read it or that it’ll be of any benefit to you. Let your subconscious guide you. 

Reading about the world’s mythologies is an inexhaustible stream of inspiration for an artist because it deals with the universal archetypes, emotions or daemons of our species. 

I also recommend reading about the lives of the Old Masters. It’s interesting to understand what it was that inspired them, how they worked, and what they were trying to achieve through their art. 

We all have our personal internal journey. And the practice of nourishing the intellect does not belong solely to the world of haughty left-brained academics. (Of course, some academics are well-balanced and extremely humble.)

Art often adds its own contributions to the dialogue that goes beyond the use of words. 

Unfortunately, we live in a world where it’s acceptable, or even cool, to be dumbed down and not actually think for ourselves. The media does all our thinking for us. And who do you think really controls the media? 

So don’t be like the herd. Make sure you invest in yourself. That’s THE most important investment you could ever make. Invest in cultivating your own mind.

And stop watching mindless T.V., reading the obvious mind-controlling and dishonest news, or endlessly scrolling through your social media platforms.

There are far more interesting ideas to be had; to picked from the Tree of Knowledge like ripe fruit.


Read soul-enriching books — the works of the visionaries and great thinkers, Damian Osborne
Books I’m currently busy with: just reread Goethe’s ‘Faust’, struggling with Hobbes, about to start ‘Homo Deus’, and doing a lot of dipping into books on Alchemy.


Spend time communicating with nature

As an artist, it’s important to find ways to feed your soul. And nature is certainly the greatest work of art in existence. You can always look to nature for pure inspiration.

Make a habit of walking on the bare earth as often as possible. This is a very ‘grounding’ exercise, as the charge built up from daily EMF radiation exposure is able to dissipate. 

Being in nature gives us a respite from the everyday life of crowded places. A respite from the meaningless existence of our modern society; the mundane lifeless urban surroundings, the rat race, the ridiculous mini-dramas projected onto us by other people, our media and our culture, and the notion that there isn’t any bigger picture or purpose to it all. 

I feel that if people actually paid attention to the stars above them, we could be in a very different world. 

Or should I say, if they took the time to be moved by the stars above them — to be able to look unflinching into the sphere of eternity above us — then perhaps we wouldn’t be running around like blind little vermin feeling separated from the world, or trying so desperately to hold onto our illusions.

Nature forces us to examine our lives and our selves. Being in nature can be a reality check. So look to nature if you wish to create more meaningful art, and you’ll find the answers therein.


Birch Tree, graphite on paper, Damian Osborne, 2020
Birch Tree, graphite on paper, Damian Osborne, 2021.


Be comfortable with being alone

When you are comfortable with keeping your own counsel, a lot of personal changes and processes are allowed  to take place. 

When you’re not distracted by other people, and you start slowing down the internal dialogue, your creativity becomes more authentic and distinctive. 

You’re no longer interested in what other people think of your work. You’re not comparing yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’re not part of the crowd or at the forefront of the latest artistic trend. You don’t care about fitting in.

You don’t care if you’re ‘relevant’ or not. People who worry about being relevant are shallow and ridiculous. 

Being comfortable to walk your own path and explore your own authentic artistic direction, is a major factor to creating more meaningful art. 

Studying and understanding the Old Masters and how they contributed to the historical narrative or the artistic dialogue is important. But a dry, academic appraisal can often detract from the art itself or the intensity of the artist’s experience. 

Art is about feeling. Not just words.

If you’re too worried about where you fit into history, you’ve missed the boat. Because you’re already a part of history. All the history that came before is a part of your present life now.

So just paint your story and don’t try to be like anyone else. And leave the voices of the future outside your studio.

In fact, if you’re really in the zone, your art will feel like it is imbued with profound meaning — meaning for you — and all ‘the voices’ you hear in your studio, start exiting one by one. 


Self Portrait, Year of the Fool, Grisaille Stage, oil on board, Damian Osborne, 2021, more meaningful art
Self Portrait, Year of the Fool, (Grisaille Stage), oil on board, Damian Osborne, 2021. Beginning stage of a new painting I’m busy with, using my own hand-made paints which I grind from semi-precious stones.


Think about what is most precious to you

To create art that is meaningful, you have to consider what is meaningful to you. 

If you were to write a list of just 10 things that are the most meaningful to you, what would it say? 

How could this be an inspiration for your art? What does this tell you about yourself?

This is when you have to dig deep and think about your life. Creating meaningful art isn’t for the vacuous or faint-hearted. 

If you wish to be a serious artist, you have to wrestle with angels. You’ve got to put the work in. 

And it all starts with a sketchbook and journal.


Pandemic Sketch and Swallow, charcoal and silverleaf in sketchbook, Damian Osborne, 2021, more meaningful art
Pandemic Sketch and Swallow, charcoal and silverleaf in sketchbook, Damian Osborne, 2021.



Thanks for reading and please tell me your thoughts on what makes art meaningful. Did I miss something? If you’re an artist who’s searching for meaning through your art, let me know.


Check out my latest series of works The Sirens.


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