Monday, June 21, 2010

Who are you Creating For?

Are you creating for someone else? Some outside entity whose stamp of approval will suddenly make your life meaningful and perfect? While as a commercial illustrator or concept artist, we definitely have to create for other people. Clients set the standard of what content they want, what the characters are wearing, the time, place, date, etc.

That said, in the end you have to create for yourself. Yes, you have guidelines to follow, rules you can't really break, but in the end, we should all strive to create for ourselves. Because it is when you put your full heart and soul into something, that's when you'll find something that works.

Every time Monkey has painted for himself, throwing planning and thumbnailing and color studies and just painted 100% for himself, good things have come about it. The first painting he sold in a gallery was a painting he did more out of being frustrated with his day job than because he really wanted to paint something that could sell. The only piece he ever got into the Illustration Spring Show was a piece that he threw together in a night, painting furiously and driven for six hours.

When you aren't being yourself, people can usually tell. Granted, there are people who do very well at disguising who they are, but in the end, why would you ever want to be someone you're not? Now we're not telling you not to experiment - we LOVE to experiment with styles, themes, moods, subjects, etc. But when it comes down to it, whether we like it or not, there are certain things, certain moods, certain topics that for whatever reason deeply resonate with us.

Monkey acknowledges that octopi and squid are super trendy and everyone paints them and everyone does stuff with them - but for whatever reason he's super into tentacles and squishy cephalopods. As much as she tries to paint other things, Seal always comes back to trees. If she's painting a character, lo and behold she'll figure out a way to paint some trees into the background somehow. This is just who we are. Our most effective pieces are often the ones that we do instinctively, where we let our years of studies and training run in autopilot while we fervently try to get something out onto the canvas or onto our computer screen.

Beyond selling paintings or getting awards is the personal satisfaction of knowing you put a piece of yourself into that work. Regardless of the external outcome (recognition, fame, money, etc.), know that being true to your inner artist is really what's important.

Critiques of your work are important. Other artists' advice can be invaluable, but if you always listen to whatever anyone else has to say (without judging it's actual merit), you'll be stuck playing a game of catch up where you'll be changing your art to fit people who, most likely, are never really going to be that into your art. Why let the downers and naysayers get you down? A critique is one thing (take it into account and see if you think it's actually valid), but comments like "I just don't like it" or "Hmm, that just looks funny" aren't helpful. There are people out there who are so into what they don't like, they probably have forgotten what they do like. Stay away from these people like the plague, and make art for the person who is (or who should be) the most important person: you.

In the end, you may not always have a choice into everything that you create, but if you find yourself struggling with a project for a client, try throwing in something for yourself, and you'll be surprised in what turns out. Don't listen to the naysayers and critics - as long as you are creating for yourself, who cares what they think? So it's time to ask yourself: who do you create for?

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