Why do I Make This Art?

My favorite quote is by German artist Gerhard Richter, who said:

“Art is the highest form of hope.”

When I was a freshman in college and studying art, I developed Schizophrenia.

My whole life became a frightening nightmare, and as time passed, I lost hope. The art classes I was taking at the university didn’t help either—they didn’t seem to have any meaning for me. They didn’t touch me emotionally but seemed like the rest of the artificial world, which I could not relate to.

I switched my major from art to Psychology to figure out what was happening in my brain with the severe mental illness ruling my world.

All during this time, I was constantly drawing, but I was in deep emotional turmoil.

When I finally graduated with a degree in Psychology, I thought I would study art therapy because it would combine psychology with my love of art.

I went to an art therapy graduate program in Vermont, and on the first day of class, we learned something that would influence everything else in my world:

We learned ” Free Drawings.” To do a free drawing, one doesn’t think or premeditate what one is drawing—one’s hand takes the pastel or whatever medium, and the hand automatically draws whatever comes out. The mind doesn’t plan or think—instead, the unconscious is in charge. I loved drawing this way.

Often, I would be so excited and in the energy of it that my oil pastel would rip the paper. I didn’t plan anything in advance–my hand knew what to draw without thinking about it.

I had to leave the art therapy program because of my schizophrenia symptoms, but I had learned the most important thing for me as an artist: the way to do Free Drawings.

I had learned to trust my unconscious, so I stopped planning drawings and paintings and trusted in the Universe to express whatever was true and needed expression.

I realized that it was vital for me to dedicate my life to making art, so I went to art school and got a MA in Drawing and Painting and then a MFA in Pictorial Art.

For me, art is not about making a pretty picture. It needs to be honest.
Beauty is essential, and beauty it is not always pretty. Beauty is honest.

So honesty and beauty are essential values for my work. And my work must be authentic; it comes from deep in my soul.

Like the quote earlier, art brings me hope because I reach deep into the beauty and love of the Universe and express what I find there.

So I have to make this art because it is genuine and calls deeply into my soul, which needs expression. By making art that expresses what is true, I find hope!

Meghan JM Caughey, MFA