The Museum of You


For most of the history of mankind, mankind had little time for Art. People spent all their days just trying to survive, tilling the soil, tending to their herds, struggling to turn raw nature into subsistence.

Then we invented machines that could do a lot of that work and time opened up a bit. A hundred years ago, ordinary working people were finally able to afford musical instruments in their home, then they could buy radios, cameras, televisions. For the first time they actually had time to entertain themselves and to look for the beauty around them. Not just the beauty that they saw when wiping their brows and peering over the handle of the plow at the setting sun, but time to go to museums, to watch films, to listen deeply to music just for its own sake.

Of course, people have been making art for hundreds of years before this. But they’d been making art for the select few, those very wealthy people who had the time to enjoy it and pay for it. Royalty, then the rich burghers, and of course the church, art to tell stories to those people who had the time to come into the Cathedral on Sunday, and to be appropriately wowed and cowed by the display of gold, marble, and fresco that showed the true history of God’s works here on earth.

Artists used to be hired to perform, hired like gardeners, footmen, and stableboys. But since industrialization, being an artist who created works for his own satisfaction became possible. Artists could paint what was in their minds, could paint the things that they chose, humble subjects, everyday things, accessible beauty, and then those works could become commodities and be sold to those people of means who could afford them.

And the number of people who could actually be artists was limited. Being an artist has always been a struggle, a self-selecting profession, and very few people manage to survive. Rembrandt, Vermeer, Mozart, van Gogh, all died penniless. Ironic because the economics of the art world means that there are always limits to the amount of product available, limits that drive up prices, and generate profit for someone. And as today there are more wealthy people than ever, the limited supply of art becomes more expensive. That’s why these days we see record prices for art, for art that was created centuries ago but also art that was created last year. And we see certain people creating tighter and tighter markets for certain artists’ work, therefore those prices escalate, artificially. We are reminded time and again that art is to be made by Artists, by trained professionals, but certified by the establishment. The rest of us don’t have talent worth cultivating, can’t make anything of value.

But what about the rest of the emerging middle classes? What about all the other people who have moved up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and for the first time are able to afford art and entertainment in their lives? They bought movie tickets, import recorded music, and the technology with which to enjoy it. And they bought museum tickets, tickets that now cost $25 or more. Access to museums full of art that was originally created for people far wealthier than them, people who did not share great art with the great unwashed but kept it behind their high gates and guarded walls.

What do you do if for the first time you have the leisure and the disposable income that will allow Art to fill a part of your life, a part that wasn’t available to your parents or your grandparents and ancestors before them? Well, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to afford any of the art made by professional artists these days. Long gone are the days when one could travel to Paris and buy the work of the young Picasso for a few pennies on the dollar. Even today’s Picassos are already out of reach. Today there is simply not enough art being made by the system of Galleries and professional Artists to satisfy the needs of the more and more people who want and can afford art in their lives. That’s by design of course, making sure that demand will rise by artificially suppressing supply.

But there’s good news, for all of us who now have the time to make art a part of our lives. Because we don’t need to invest in the works of art that has been credentialed by the art establishment, we don’t need to look for art that is been marked up by Galleries, or bona fide by museums. We don’t have to believe the limitations of the established wisdom that identifies art made outside of the system as outsider, naïve, amateur, hobbyist, inferior. We may have just a little bit of spare change or spare time, but we don’t need to invest tens of millions of dollars in order to have beauty in our lives.

Instead we can start to value the art that appears in formerly blank sketchbooks, on empty canvases bought at the local art supply store. We can find inspiration by doing a Google image search. We can find instruction by looking at YouTube or enrolling in an online course.
The wonderful thing about the world we live in is that we all now have the time to appreciate art and we all can be free to make it for ourselves. You don’t need to buy into the same conceits that ruled the art world for all of those years, namely that artists were journeymen to be hired by the rich, the value of their work artificially inflated by critics, gallerists and curators. Know that we are free to take our leisure time and do what our ancestors did — till the soil, sow the seeds, and reap the rewards of homegrown art. Art that we can give as gifts, swap with our neighbors, share in our communities and enrich our lives. If we make it, it is good. It is a reflection of who we truly are —not passive shoppers or customers — but an inherently creative, expressive and productive species.

We are now entering the time of art with a small a, not Art that goes under the gavel and hangs in the hallway of billionaires, but art that is of us and is therefore infinitely more valuable to you and me.

We’ve moved from a time of no Art to a time of consuming Art and now to the time of creating art.

Have you gotten with the times yet?

18 thoughts on “The Museum of You”

  1. Fantastic post Danny. I’ll be keeping this to remind myself to support local artists and most importantly create myself.


  2. My first art gallery was my children’s.Their first discovery of crayons’ moved on to finger paint and of course the occasionally wall mural. I’ve kept most of their art for years except the murals. Now I have another generation of art, my grand children’s art. Now decades later my children and grand children hang up my art. I must try the wall mural. I don’t know how well that will go over. Maybe I won’t use finger paint and crayons, but then again, why not?


  3. Great piece, Danny. Very concise historical view of art. Now we have some leisure time to create art at a reasonable cost. Using online courses or community college classes can broaden our horizons in art as well. Joining meetup groups such as Urban Sketchers can be a fun way to make sketchbook art and meet people as well. Well done, Danny. Keep up the good work.


  4. The next stage will be art as a human function. We must as a society start to see daily art practice as essential functioning- like brushing your teeth, cooking, exercising. Maybe one day we’ll be able to take it for granted, assume that everyone makes art of some kind: draw, sing, sculpt, write, any of the usuals. That is the world I want to live in.


  5. blimey – how many hours did you go wrinkley in the bath thinking all that up!!! I am still creating art and thanks to that ability I am now two and a half years sober after years of addiction and its insanity. Being able to sit and create wonderful colourful paintings has got me through some really difficult emotions and your encouragement by example has helped keep my confidence in what I am doing going. Yesterday I got a phone call about my electricity bill – yes on a sunday – and they got me so angry as theyve messed it all up and now instead of being upto date with all my bills I now owe £300.00 and as I am skint that does feel like the end of the world. I felt sick and awful – I picked some roses that were hanging over fences in the street and came home and painted, by the time I had finished I didnt feel sick and instead felt really proud of myself. I still owe £300.00 but I feel okay!! As soon as I can organise myself I shall get some of it photoed and online and would love to show it to you. I often say art saved my life and I really really mean it. Big love to you xxxx


  6. And of course in the “Art” category, there is what I think of as the Emperor’s New Clothes thing: some of what the galleries are passing off as Art, using psycho-babble Artspeak that really means nothing but the sound of moving air, is really just glop! If it is something that looks like a paint spill or a drop cloth or a wiping rag, is it really Art? Not so much. It is, however, good marketing and good luck and good income for its maker and the galleries the sell it. The rest of us can strive to create, because the act of creation is what fills the soul.


  7. Great post!! Yes… art is all around us, in everything we see. It doesn’t cost a penny to view the best artist of all time… Mother Nature… and she doesn’t even have access to all the pens, paper, and paint that we do.
    From a simple line drawn in crayon on a piece of paper… to an entire wall of colors… EVERY ONE is an artist!! Go out there and PAINT YOUR WORLD!


  8. This is all very true. Quite frequently I’ll meet a first-time art collector who will say to me “this is the first time I’ve bought a piece of original art for myself.” These are often people who thought that fine art was something only for the very wealthy. Not so, anymore. Nor are galleries the only places where people can make those purchases. The people who purchase from me want art that evokes a memory, speaks to them, makes them feel a positive emotion. Modern technology means the boundaries between artists and potential collectors are dissolving. Art is more accessible than ever for everyone to enjoy.


  9. I love what you’re saying about how time has changed our relationship to art, especially to creating our own art. How do you think creating art is changing our relationship to time?


  10. Danny, give me one million dollars (while I’m not drawing) and let me hang around with some of the other rich, but awful boring, decadent and frustrated people in this world and you would find me very unhappy.
    But my real situation is:
    You will find me almost penniless, but I’m DAILY drawing :
    and so, you anyway will find a mostly happy guy! 🙂
    You know what I mean?

    Thanks for your inspirations!
    – Matthias


  11. Brilliant, inspirational post. After reading it I went and painted a half-eaten melon in my kitchen. Which doesn’t sound much, but it got me out of a vague depression/malaise that had inexplicably been hanging over me all morning. Thanks to you and your art!
    Jane (Provence, France)


  12. Your book– Everyday Matters changed the way I thought about doing art all my life. I had always been frustrated because what I drew never looked exactly like what it was. I no longer worry about that. I just simply draw because it brings me so much pleasure. So it doesn’t look exactly like my dog or my house or my grandson. I am putting a good memory on paper. I love using pen and watercolor pencils. I feel a measure of success with these materials. I tell everybody, you can draw, just try. Thanks, Danny for how you gave me so much confidence.


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