A true artist creates art because s/he has to. Simple as that. Whether they are able to sell their work for profit matters little in the definition as to whether they are a true artist.
When making art, we cannot judge ourselves. The creative force is personal expression. It is what it is. When done with pure sincerity, it is what it wants to be–what it needs to be. I’m not saying that critique never needs to happen. If the art is being made for public consumption, than it is necessary to edit, refine, and improve the piece. But during the moment of inspiration, and the creation that follows it, assessment and critique only hinder the initial process. Art cannot come with judgment, just as vulnerability cannot come with force. Art can come out of judgment, however, in the way that freedom must always come from bondage. Art, just as freedom, comes as a rebellion, as a defiance against the accepted. It bursts out naturally, out of necessity. There are no rules. No walls. It just appears. It always does.
Inspiration cannot be planned or predicted. It emerges in the middle of the night urging you to find your paper and pastels. It reveals itself upon waking, when you illegibly scratch down the lyrics to a new song. The perfect punchline becomes evident while stuck in traffic. The poem surfaces while taking a shower.
Sometimes, after we have defined ourselves as “artists,” we expect the creativity. We set aside time for it. When it doesn’t happen, we disparage ourselves. At times, we may try to create something backwards–starting with what we think would sell to the public (perhaps even trying to work back to what needs to be said). Of course this doesn’t end well. Even if the public likes it, we are left unfulfilled and dissatisfied with the art and ourselves.
A true artist is a steward of her/his art. The chaperone that escorts the art from inspiration to reality.
Asking why artists create what they create is like asking a child, “Why do you play?” Even when art touches us and delights us, there are still those who ask, “Why?” The answer is, of course, “Because.”