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#44 - The Case For Just Making Things That Please You As An Artist

Warm-Up Drawing Exercises

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Last week, I wrote a letter in which I argued that you should keep your audience in mind when creating a product.

Well, this week, I shall explain why you should completely ignore everything I said in that last letter.

You choose which of the two is more applicable to you.

To start with, you don’t create good work if you don’t “feel” it.

To give you an example, before PracticeDrawingThis, I had the idea to make book illustrations. I found writers willing to try it out, and they were romance novel writers. The collaborations were fabulous! So I lunged into romance illustrations. While I loved reading their stories, and they were well-written, “romance” is not the thing I am inspired to draw day after day.

And that started to show in my work.

And it started to show in the numbers. The follower count stagnated.

You won’t do good work if you don’t feel it.

And then, why was I doing it? PracticeDrawingThis is the following account I tried.

The applause gets you stuck in one thing. You can’t experiment; anything new you try will not be as good, and you won’t get applause. It is better to work in private and to let your work grow. Let it bloom! See what it wants to become.

If you do your own thing, eventually, beautiful things form. Also, consider that if you have a large body of work, that volume also makes it more impressive. People will eventually start to see the beauty in your work just because of the sheer volume. They get to figure out what you are trying to do. Think of all the quirky artists you admire. They have large bodies of work, allowing you to peruse their work and “get it.”

If you keep doing the same thing, day after day, you will not enjoy it anymore. And isn’t that why we got into art? Because we enjoyed drawing? Then why make it into something we don’t enjoy doing?

Consider Cézanne. Not allowed to put his work in the salon des artistes, where you had to be if you wanted your work to sell, he went out on his own, trying something new: trying to figure out how to get “design” back into a painting now that they could paint outside. The lighting was very different from that in a studio.

We still know his work and not the commercially successful work of his contemporaries who made one after the other painting of a reclining nude because that sold so well.

I feel like Cézanne when I make my sketchplays: can I figure out how to make all these wonderful theater plays easier to read without putting a lot of effort into visualizing things that are not in these scripts?

If you create for an audience now, you will make things that work well on social media. Congratulations, no one will be able to enjoy your art ten years from now when everything has moved to some three-dimensional Uberverse.

When you are making art you think the market wants, you are second-guessing, probably based on what is already there. You will be making things others are already making, and you will compete by trying to make more things, better things, and competing against people who are making things closer to themselves.

In contrast, if you make the things you want to make, at least you are happy. Return to the list of reasons I posted last week for why people would buy your art. Really look at it.

Is there any single item on that list that would not apply? Is there any reason people would not buy your art if you made it to please yourself first-most?

No. No, there is not.

If you make art solely to please yourself, people might still buy it to 1. hang on their walls, 2. be inspired by as an artist themselves, 3. support a friend, 4. own as a status symbol, 5. help them get a job at a big comics publisher, or 6. help billionaires avoid paying taxes.

Your work will be better because you were excited while making it, and the chances are higher that they will buy your art.

It’s a false dichotomy!

If you want to make art that others will want to buy, the best bet is to create art that you make for yourself first!

Because if you love to make the art, the results will be better, and others are more likely to enjoy your work.

The thing about making art you think the market wants is that it eventually becomes soul-destroying.

And the results won’t be that good. And other people will not like it that much. And what would be the point?

You may remember my letter from two weeks ago. It should not surprise you that I will continue making sketchplays, although no one reads them now.

As mentioned in that letter, I found out that things to do with simplified three-dimensional volumes are popular, and granted; I was tempted to think, “right! That’s it then! simplified three-dimensional forms it is for me then, until the end of time!” And it would make me happy for a few weeks. But not for the rest of my life. But I’ll probably do more of those.

I get a lot from these letters which I write for PracticeDrawingThis. As someone said somewhere, and paraphrasing here, you write not to say what you want to say but to find out what you want to say.

I struggled with choosing between writing letters for PracticeDrawingThis and making sketchplays, and writing these letters helped me structure my thoughts on these matters.

The sketchplays are about the stories I want to tell, and this letter is about me figuring things out along my creative path.

I hope they also gave you food for thought!

Writing these letters is helping me create better sketchplays. It’s again a dichotomy. I don’t have to choose. I can do both. I need to do both. The one nourishes the other, and vice versa.

And incidentally, and this is for another letter maybe: write! Keep a journal where you form your thoughts on the things you experience.

In short, make sure you make art for yourself first-most and understand that it does not preclude reaching an audience.

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