Content, by Wendy DeRaud

Now that I’m wanting to draw, paint, write, whatever kind of creative activity I want to practice doing, I have to ask myself this question: “What do I want to say?” or “What do I want to be about?”

My husband Mark has always painted amazing paintings, but his work is more about what they mean than painting just to paint something beautiful.

Once, a woman offered to pay him $1 for a painting she felt was offensive, so it would be taken down. That was before Mark explained the meaning of the painting, at which time she conceded and let the painting hang. Here it is. It's probably offensive to you too!

This painting is called Body of Death, and it has a story behind it, which I'll explain later (I know you're curious, right?). But believe it or not, not only was this painting sold, but others have wanted to buy a print. That's because it had meaning to the buyer.  


"Rites of Lilith", 1945, Mark Rothko

“It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints as long as it is well painted. This is the essence of academicism. There is no such thing as good painting about nothing.” Mark Rothko 

Painting or making any kind of art with meaning doesn’t always have to be literal or figurative. Such was the case with Mark Rothko and the Abstract Expressionists. Rothko intended his work to be especially rich with meaning, mystery, intense emotions and isolation, with concepts that were rooted from various religions and ancient mythical themes. He rejected, “Art for Art’s Sake”.

“Art for Art’s Sake”, was the English version of a French slogan from a 19th Century French philosophy adopted by the avante garde in the 20th Century bohemian art world. It was a social construct and mostly an academic attempt to disengage artists from the responsibility of saying anything in their work, that their work should stand alone, devoid of any meaning, piety, morality. 


But I believe that kind of modern art has failed miserably because the artists themselves, what is in their hearts, in their very being that wants and needs to be expressed, has been divorced from the work, which says that the artist doesn’t really matter. We really don’t connect with art that doesn’t have the fingerprints of the artist in it, the brushwork that makes a painting, “painterly”.

I believe a painting of a landscape or a flower can be just about its beauty. Beauty is enough. But there is a reason why that particular image touched you and moved you to paint it, draw it, write about it.


The more we as humans are intrinsically involved in our art and are wanting to say something, the more the art can connect with other humans, affect change, restore hope, even bring healing.



No matter where you are in the development of your artistic self, you may want to search your heart and find out what you want to say, what you care deeply about, what you think others need to know about you or about a subject matter you believe is important. Who knows who may be touched, moved and affected for the better by your art?