Illustration by Ahmara Smith

Artists naturally believe in the importance of art. Audiences that consume art have a similar appreciation for the importance of the craft, but somewhere along the way you’ll find people who are thoroughly disinterested and even dismissive towards the profession as a whole.

Working on your own terms seems alien to people who hold down consistent and grueling schedules for their jobs, so it’s easy to imagine why someone who does physical labor full time would be averse to the idea of a sporadic artist’s schedule. They would see the act of getting up after dawn, and working at a desk drawing, or on a computer as easy and unproductive in comparison to carrying cement blocks for 12 hours a day.

I’ve had several conversations with friends, acquaintances and family members where someone, older than me, with more responsibilities and a more demanding job took pleasure in making a tongue-in-cheek comment about how I didn’t get up as early or do as much in general. A good portion of the time this is just a good-natured jab and nothing else, but this kind of comment does make me think about it.

Art is an ancient human form of entertainment and communication that is an integral part of the evolution of culture. It’s arguably necessary because of how it affects the way people live, but at the same time it is technically a non-essential activity. I can’t help but acknowledge the fact that growing food, mending wounds and building infrastructures seems more necessary and important than creating something for entertainment purposes.

It’s hard to immediately defend the comparison of writing to working on-call as a doctor in the sense of difficulty or necessity, but the more you look at it, the more art can be justified in its necessity as a profession. It’s difficult and necessary in a different way. For one thing, those doctors need something to enjoy when they go home and unwind so they can be more efficient in their jobs.

There isn’t much an artist can do about helping someone having an aneurysm on an airplane, but they make things that provide a reflection of our culture, entertain us and help us understand more about being human. Art is intertwined with sophisticated communication and what it means to be conscious.

I have my own doubts at times when I realize that I might be getting away with some kind of glorified scam in doing this. The fact that I’m pursuing a career in art makes it seem like I’m escaping the grind of a nine-to-five existence. This is partially true. I might be escaping the norm, but I am committing to an entire other world of hard work that is far out of the normal scope of someone who works in medicine or construction.

It might appear that art is a non-essential field, but the utility and difficulty of it is only reinforced by its longevity across the span of human evolution.