I am an artist and I CAN'T make the same thing everyday.
(For this blog post when I say 'style' I could be referring to medium used, genre featured, or artistic choices that make a body of work look cohesive.)
Like so many artists, I see beautifully curated Instagram accounts, matching behance pages, and Kickstarter campaigns of books filled with an artist's work with all their art done in the same 'style.'
And as I fumble around the internet for approval, I just get burned out having to create the same style people 'liked' before. In fact I physically and mentally can't do it. Because it is EFFING BORING.
So why do artists do it? Why do so many artists create a signature style? (Or they 'niche out' as the hip kids say!) I truly believe some people can be happy doing one style their entire career but I bet there are a ton of artists just like me who hate doing the same thing over and over again.
So again I ask, why do we do it?
Do we try different styles and get discouraged by the lack of audience reactions? Do we think 'that work isn't good' just because it didn't go viral? Or worse... do we judge the work based on whether it sold or not. It is almost taboo now as an artist to create work that can't be used again as some sort of income. Such as passive income from prints, images printed on items for sale, selling the original work, or creating some sort off body of work that can be sold in a book or other format.
This has historical precedence when you think about it. Whole genres of art are based off artists recognizing what their audience wanted/expected and then learned to create in that style. You could argue that whole movements such as pop-art or surrealism started as commentary on the art discourse and then artists recreated that style based on supply and demand. Artists went with that 'style' because it could be sold while it was popular.
As a career artist you could say I am a sell-out. I create art with a specific goal of being paid for it. I do graphic design 40+ hours a week and it is basically the same web banners, brochures, and fliers every time. And this art pays the bills. But does that mean my other art isn't good because it rarely sells? Is my defining piece going to be a Girls' Life cover I did in ten minutes because it went viral? I even had people reach out to me and layout a plan how I was going to 'redo' something every week just like the Girls' Life cover and that was going to be my 'style' I would be known for. The idea made me feel sick. But I also felt sick and slightly lost knowing that no one 'liked' anything else I had ever created more than that one ten minute project.
There is a great deal of shame associated with unsold work. You hear stories of artists who never sold work and then in dramatic fashion, burned it all to the ground (a former boss of mine actually did this). I have taken my artwork to many shows and haven't sold a single print. Like skeletons in the closet I actually have a gallery in my closet. Work I created that no one wanted. I hide it away and like so many other artists I simply don't talk about it. Like it is somehow a failure.
And here is the disgusting part... why am I ashamed of artwork I created that made me happy? Who did I make it for? Did I make it for me because I was curious and had passion to create and broaden my skill set? Or... did I make it to get 'likes.'
If you make art that nobody likes you are forgetting some HUGE aspects the work has:
- You like it. You can say you hate it and it isn't good but first ask yourself about where the hate comes from. Is the hate you have for the piece only the lack of response from others?
- It isn't the job of art to be 'liked.' Its only job is to be created and exist. And just by you making it, you became a better artist.
I don't think this inner struggle will ever be solved for me as long as our society expects cohesion in work. But for every perfectly curated Instagram profile, there are those of us who can't keep to a 'style.' Think of Pablo Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, and even Cher (she changes her 'style' whenever she feels like it). They are known for so many things, and above all, they are known as GREAT artists. They follow their passion and are not known for one 'style' but for an entire lifetime of creative work. I would consider them far more talented than artists only known for one style. If you make all different kinds of art... be proud of it! You are a true renaissance soul and that is an amazing gift. Please show your different work even if no one 'likes' it.