How to Make Art.




About: My name is Randy and I am a Community Manager in these here parts. In a previous life I had founded and run the Instructables Design Studio (RIP) @ Autodesk's Pier 9 Technology Center. I'm also the author ...

Art-making is one of the easiest and most lucrative of human activities.

A finished work of art can be exchanged for many desirable things such as food, shelter, sex, fame and money (which in turn could be used to purchase food, shelter, sex and fame).

So, it is understandable that you might want to know how to make art.

In the steps that follow I will share the wealth of my knowledge.

Randy Sarafan is full of credentials. He is a virtual Fellow with the FAT (Free Art and Technology) Lab and was a Resident Artist in the R&D OpenLab at Eyebeam. His works have been in museums and galleries. For a number of years he has been the proud owner of an $80,000 art school education.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Justify Your Existence.

Before you can make art, you have to understand what art is.

A breif history:

Western art has a rich history, arguably dating back to ancient Greece. Of course, since visual artists historically have toiled with their hands, Greeks viewed painters and sculptors as we would today view cabinet makers; skilled laborers. In an attempt to get laid more, eat better and party with the Popes, artists in the renaissance reinterpreted the role of visual artists in antiquity to elevate their position in society. From here, western visual art was kind of like a snowball rolling down a hill of loosely packed snow. In short, it started an avalanch of rationalism that eventually landed upon abstract expressionism (think of a canvas painted white with a slash in it). Three hours later, when we finally dug Jackson Pollock out from under ten feet of packed snow, he was somehow still alive, but very pale and slightly braindead. We now called him Andy Warhol. He, along with a number of other avalanch survivors, created postmodern art. This lead Marshal McLuhan to proclaim:

"Art is anything that you can get away with."

This will be our working definition of art.

I can attempt to justify this definition by going on and on about death of the grand narrative or by poorly paraphrasing "The Practice of Everyday Life," but I'm not going to.

Remember, our goal is not to justify our definition of art itself, but to justify our creative (or non-creative) efforts as art. This is easy to do because "Art is anything you can get away with."

Step 2: Getting Away With It.

How do I get away with it?

This is the easiest part! If more people understood this, we would all be artists!

To get away with it, all you need to do is:

1) Tell people it's art with a straight face. Never let on otherwise.

2) Determine some sort of theoretical basis and/or historical context for the creation of your work. If anyone ever question's the integrity of your work, quickly refer to its theoretical basis (no matter how silly or ill-informed it may be).

3) Context! Context! Context! Remember, a shovel in a museum is priceless. A shovel in your garage is a shovel... unless...

4) You tell people that the shovel in your garage is a priceless work art and act accordingly. It's important to always be self-righteous and hold your ground.

5) (optional) It always helps to make something utterly useless outside of its own creation. If your art starts having some sort of social use-value or benefit, then people will have trouble believing its art and not something more practical, such as, for instance, a shovel.

Step 3: Chicken or the Egg.

Once you understand the principle of artistic creation, the next step would be to actually make art.

There are two ways to approach this:

1) The more modern (and still very popular way) is to start with a medium (i.e. painting) and then to create something along an ideological theme.

2) The more post-modern approach (and my usual method of creation) is to start with a an ideological basis and then select the best medium for illustrating that point.

For instance:

Artist 1) I am a female artist who always works with charcoal. I decide to respond to the purity of the female form by creating a drawing of a naked woman.

Artist 2) I am a female artist looking to respond to the purity of the female form. At first I consider making a charcoal drawing of a naked woman, then I explore the possibility of sculpting a placenta out of macaroni noodles and, finally, I decide the best course of action is to make a plaster replica of my right breast.

Arguments could be made for each approach, but I would venture to say, that in my opinion, approach 2 is better since it is easier to justify. Approach 1 has some very real conceptual weak spots which could be exploited by careful historical analysis.

Step 4: Now Make Something.

Once you have determined what artistic medium you intend to use and what the artwork is to be about, you are finally left to do the grunt work; producing the actual artwork.

For instance, with Tazer Tag I wanted to illustrate that people would forego their own personal safety to inflict pain upon others. To do this I created a tele-tactile game of submission and fun. In short, I made a game in which player can give each other varying electric shocks dependent on proximity to one another.

When I was done I put it in a gallery to prove that it is art.

Step 5: Self-promotion-a-go-go

After having created a work of art, it's then important to tell everyone you know (and many people that you don't know) just how great and historically significant it is.

Inform all of your friends of the creation of your new work.

Inform all of your enemies too.

Submit it for inclusion in gallery shows and exhibitions.

Create a buzz about it on the internet by submitting it for consideration on a number of influential blogs.

Contact the press!

Talk about it ceaselessly at every chance you get.

Step 6: Reap the Benefits.

If you have done everything right, you will be eating well, sleeping indoors and having lots of sex with people who not only respect you for your genius and talent, but also respect you for your incredible wealth and fame.

You are now an artist. Keep making art.

The Instructables Book Contest

Participated in the
The Instructables Book Contest

Be the First to Share


    • Art Skills Challenge

      Art Skills Challenge
    • Make it Move

      Make it Move
    • Teacher Contest

      Teacher Contest

    98 Discussions


    10 years ago on Step 5

    The idea of marketing your work and getting press is great and can become a necessary part of an art practice, don't forget that most journalists know nothing about art and are usually just filling in the spaces between the advertising and a written press release makes it even easier for them! There is so much crap about movie stars/starlets in the media it just recomments on the standard of the media. I would be suprised if this work was featured in any specialised art magazine, but hey im ok if im wrong

    5 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    hmmmmmm went and had a read of your outlook on the matter and not quiet sure how that relates to my comments but thanks for the read. I was commenting on your "how to market yourself in your instruction spiel" and agreeing that anyone can send their art work press release into editorials and that there is a big chance it will be listed/commented on or reviewed. Lets not get precious here, we all know that any industry or activity has a standard way of progressing through the accepted channels that produces a dialogue negative or positive that is then put out to the general public. I think their was a scientist in earlier comments disecting the way he plays the game. I think that contemporary art has the capacity to be so much more than art before (this includes using the Internet as a vehicle for expression) Clearly you randofo are a product of your environment and are not producing rembrandts why the hell would you! You are clearly a white middle class young male that has art school training and are well on your way to ticking the boxes even before you showed us how to on Instructables, go forth and create it doesn't matter if we are watching!!! Keep it up


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Hey don't get all huffy and puffy! I think that as artists we don't need any help in creating the stereo type that most non artist imply upon creative thinking. Anyone who goes through the necessary steps of navel gazing through undergraduate emerges a little cynical but don't discount that journey. Any individual that exhibits: in any art gallery be it a snooty NYC gallery or on the sidewalk or a student graduate show is fundamentally striving to touch, move or inspire. "Do what you love the money will follow"


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I sent you that link in reference to this:

    There is so much crap about movie stars/starlets in the media it just recomments on the standard of the media. I would be suprised if this work was featured in any specialised art magazine, but hey im ok if im wrong

    My goal is not to be in a specialized art magazine. I'm not making art for the "specialized art" world.

    I rather my artwork be a one paragraph blurb between a small-town sex scandal, Hannah Montana and a cat chasing a bear up a tree, than in Artforum. I am not making art for Artforum and have no use for it.

    If my goal for making art is to widely disseminate and exchange ideas, then I can do it myself on the internet and virally through "lower" forms of press that actually reach the audience I intend to find. Of course, the problem with stooping so low is this is not a sustainable way to survive (without quitting the day job), like you pointed out:

    Lets not get precious here, we all know that any industry or activity has a standard way of progressing through the accepted channels

    I think this is where you and I fundamentally differ. I have no desire to be part of the art "industry." The standard channel for art is pretty bleak and elitist. As an emerging artist, your only two real ways to make a living at is to cater to a bunch of rich collector twerps (through the gallery system) or rely on the generosity of corporate patrons (directly or through festivals). Clearly, there are rules that have to be followed if you want to play this game and it is not a fun game to play.

    However, if as an artist, you assume that everything you produce is at a loss, then you are free to produce whatever you want, for whomever you want and display it where ever you want. Assuming that you are making art for the masses, this makes much more sense (as opposed to making art for the masses and then groveling at the feet of art patrons for a scrap of meat). I rather have notoriety in certain sections of popular culture than small circles of the art establishment because I feel this will ultimately be more valuable. Of course, the obvious shortcoming here is that no one has figured out how to efficiently monetize mass notoriety, where as, the art world, has already solved the problem of monetization. However, I think it is only a matter of time before this problem is effectively solved and the art world (and most "art") as we know it is rendered irrelevant.

    Perhaps you can read this and say I don't fully practice what I preach... but this Instructable is nonetheless what I learned hanging projectors in snooty art galleries in NYC...


    9 years ago on Introduction

    What a glorious write! And a profound insight. I laughed out loud, not only at the instructable, but also at the indignation it fostered. Art is, and always will be, in the eye of the beholder. And the creator.

    1 reply

    11 years ago on Step 5

    Finally! The TRUTH is told about modern art! I've always said that in 100 years people will look back at the art of today and say: "People Were Really STUPID and GULLIBLE back then!". BRAVO for telling "art lovers" to STOP worshiping STUPIDITY just because these "artists" have the balls to call whatever they throw together as art. I'd like any of these people try to produce anything close to what real art is... like a Rembrandt.

    4 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I agree people have the truth out now i can start making art by the way i'm a starter so my password is $tpoland so bye


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I think we con't explain painting with words. It can only explain with a brush and a piece of paper.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    sir i really love painting,need hints to devlope myself.


    11 years ago on Step 1

    Aww, man, I thought this would be funny. I learned this crap in school. And why are you so obsessed with sleeping indoors? Freak.

    We have a "be nice" comment policy. Please be positive and constructive with your comments or risk being banned from our site.
    We have a "be nice" comment policy. Please be positive and constructive with your comments or risk being banned from our site.

    1 reply