What’s the point of art?

Pieter Bruegel the Elder - Hunters in the Snow

What’s the point of art?

What’s the point of painting and drawing?

I ask the question because having adventures in art is my new hobby and I’m wondering if it is worthwhile.

1) What’s the point of art?: Consuming art.

The fist thing that pops into my mind is: pleasure, enjoyment

People like looking at pictures and paintings.

Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Elder.

I remember as a child seeing some prints of paintings by Brueghels Elder and Younger and being fascinated by them.

Is the point of art enjoyment?

Flemish Fair by Pieter Brueghel the Younger

(public domain image)


Is the point of art to stimulate our imaginations?

Pieter Brueghel the Elder – Hunters in the Snow

(public domain image)

There’s so much going on, so much to make you wonder, so many possible stories. Where are they? What happened on their hunt? It doesn’t look very successful. The people on the ice look like they are having fun. The shop/pub with the fire looks a little run down!

The paintings made me wonder, and that was an experience I enjoyed.

Another enjoyable art experience that sticks out in my mind was when I visited the Salvador Dali Museum in Figueres, Spain.

Salvador Dali Museum in Figueres, Spain.

I didn’t really like Salvador Dali’s art.

But I was in Figueres and I was intrigued.

Outside there are strange surreal sculptures that get your attention and make you think “Uh!?”.

Is the point of art a funfair for the senses?

Dalí Museum in Figueres by Inyucho on Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

I went in feeling cynical ….

The building itself is interesting, it’s old theater that was renovated by Dali to be his home and museum. It is very quirky. There are carvings/casts of bread covering the outside of the building. On the roof are huge eggs that form crenelations, it’s like some sort of weird surreal castle.

I wasn’t very impressed.

I walked through the door, there were some sketches displayed, I wasn’t very impressed, I had an artistic friend who could do better drawings than that!

I walked around, there were some sculptures that were more interesting.

Then there were other paintings that I found pleasing.

In the center of the building is a vintage car, a Cadillac, with mannequins and plants inside it, there’s a mechanism which you can pay so it rains inside the car (to water the plants?). That made me laugh! Behind this is a beautiful looking sculpture (a Michelangelo reproduction),  it is amazing to look at but it has a tractor tyre thrown over it. How contemptuous! How disrespectful!

Then there’s the huge image at the back of the theater of a pixelated Abraham Lincoln. You can’t see it properly unless you look through a sort of telescope, a reverse telescope that makes it look further away, and thus brings it into focus.

Then there’s a room with the Mae West’s face made from a sofa and curtains that you have to view from a platform.

Art that can fill you with awe.

And it goes on in this way intriguing you, annoying you, making you laugh, making you frown.

Then there’s his personal collection of old masters, these are works of art that are really good! That can fill you with awe.

I came out having had my thoughts and feelings taken in all directions.

I didn’t have any knowledge of the significance of any of the works in the museum but it still left a strong impression on me.

It was like a visual funfair.

So that is how I have enjoyed art on one level: looking at it, responding to it.

That was one of my strongest and most memorable experiences of really being affected by visual art.

And since then I’ve enjoyed looking at art. I think I have been more open to it.

How can art have such a powerful impact?

With the Breughels they are interesting to look at and made me wonder.

At the Salvador Dali Museum the impact was because I responded to the pieces of art in different ways, and the cumulative effect was powerful, it was an emotional response.

It had sort of emotional resonance: I felt like I was being stimulated into different, and sometimes conflicting feelings and emotions and that fact itself caused further changes in my feelings.

I came across this description by Jordan Peterson

“I was in …. Museum of Art in New York…. I was in this amazing room, it had all these priceless paintings from the Late Renaissance hanging in it…. each painting worth, who knows?…..  priceless paintings…. the room was a shrine, and it was full of people from all over the world, who were looking at these paintings….  and you wonder what all these people are doing coming and looking at all these paintings…   … one was a painting of The Assumption of Mary, brilliantly composed, people looking at it, and I thought what are they doing? They don’t know what that means, why are they looking at that painting? Why is it in this room? …. Why is that painting worth so much? And the answer to that is we don’t really know, it happened and they’re sacred objects in some sense, and we gaze at them in ignorance and wonder…. and the reason for that is that the unknown shines through them at us, in partially articulated form… … that’s the role of art. …A real piece of art is a window into the transcendent, and you need that in your life because you are finite and limited and bounded by your ignorance and your lack of knowing.”

A bit more profound than my Salvador Dali Museum experience! But similar.


I find it fascinating the power that art can have and I want to explore it more in my blog, in my adventures in art.

2) What’s the point of art?: Doing art.

You can also enjoy art by doing art.

I’ve learned that over the last year as I’ve tried to learn some art skills.

When you get absorbed in what you are doing you can get into a very focused state which, for me, feels sort of meditative. I like that when I’m focusing on one thing and other thoughts and worries take a back seat. And then at the end of that period of focus you have (hopefully, sometimes) something you’ve created and can be proud of.

That’s why there’s art therapy, probably. Mind you I can also get very frustrated and tense when I’m doing art and it isn’t going well, so it’s also possible for it to have a negative effect on my mood, but most of the time when I put some music on and relax into it I enjoy it.

This second reason is the reason I like doing art, I like the mindfulness of the process. And at the end I have something that I’ve created, and sometimes I like that creation.

And that’s good enough there’s no need to worry if the end product is meaningful or even good, at the end of the endeavor,  I’ve tried something, I’ve been focused, I might have learned something, and I might have something I like, and possibly other people will like (maybe, one day, if I improve my skills).

3) What’s the point of art?: Communicating with art.

Art is used a lot in communication: cartoons, illustrations, information, advertising, marketing, propaganda, design.

These are all very good reasons to pursue art

I’m not at that level, and that’s not really my goal, I’m just doing it for enjoyment.

4) What’s the point of art?: Meeting people.

This was a surprise to me.

I was expecting it to be a solitary pursuit. And it is to a certain extent, but you can do classes and join sketching meetup groups and they can be good fun and you meet people and make new friends.


I have had doubts about art and artists and doing art.

In a world with many problems I’ve thought that it’s a trivial and self indulgent pursuit. And artists can be so full of bs!

For goodness sake Mike is it my job to solve the world’s problems with my hobby!!!???


Question: Why am I getting so hung up about doing art?

Answer: It’s my new hobby, I don’t want to be wasting my time, I want to do something that’s worthwhile.

Just do it!

Just do it because you enjoy doing it.

Like going for a walk, or sitting in the sun, or singing a song.

For me:

The point of art is relaxation.

The point of art is mindfulness.

The point of art is sociability.

The point of art is creativity.



Posted on: March 28, 2018