This isn't quite done yet, but is oh so close. I wanted to document it before I potentially ruin it with the tatz. So for now all you get is a crappy cell phone pic. >:)
I've been thinking, and writing a lot since that last post on the last commission work I did (and thanks for the encouraging words, they really do help). I want to write about my business approach to art and how I'm going to make a living doing what I love, and possibly get a conversation going with anyone else who even has an inkling of this desire, or is already doing it. I want to protect my passion and compromise the integrity of my work the absolute least amount I possibly can. In order to do that I have to watch out for scarcity mindset, I need to be secure and feel like I have enough in order to not try and squeeze in little intentions or compromises into my work.
Things like, "uh oh, I need x which costs y, by time z, how can I make this painting appeal just a little more to the right person so that it might sell sooner or for a higher price?" That's not why I make art, I make art to share beauty. I've been thinking a lot about my direction and where my motivation comes from and how important it is to have a clear goal to go towards. Very much the 'driving across the country at night' analogy, where you don't have every road and every turn mapped out in your head before you go, but you've got a set of headlights illuminating what's in front of you, and you follow the signs as you go. But in this case it's more making sure you've got the damn headlights on at all, it really feels like I'm fumbling around in the dark at times. A huge part of it is not getting paralyzed and taking the courageous initiative to step forward.
In the past, getting into art, my sights were set on fantasy game art, because that's what I saw online and thought looked like the absolute coolest, tightest shit ever. I made the very straightforward connection that hey, these guys are doing this work for game companies, if I want to do this for a living and make awesome art, then that's what I've gotta do. SIMPLE. I've also been hugely influenced by seanwes and his breakdown of how to make money doing what you love, mainly: client work, products and teaching. He talks about how client work is one of the quickest and easiest/straightforward ways (do work, get paid) to make money with your work. As I got better over the years and started seriously comparing my work to what I was seeing out there, I made the decision to go all in on client work. Spamming my portfolio out to any email I could get my hands on. I could go on to talk about the process of getting work etc... but I want to talk about why I don't think I like doing client work after trying it for roughly three years. A huge reason was trying to rely on it when I got so few offers coming back. I was also awful at scheduling and aligning the jobs well. So what would happen is jobs would overlap and I'd get crippled by the weight and pressure I'd put on myself.
I wonder if this has to do with how I formulate ideas for my own personal work and how that process carries over to forming ideas with a client.
But when I'm in the brainstorming stage, even before I lay anything down in any physical shape or form, I've got an almost complete image in my head. I want to know how every little detail is going to look and why, and its extremely fun when it's just me and I get to play with every little notion. I don't question myself so much as an authority on whether or not my choices are good. I think this is because of the context I'm making those choices in, and that context is exploration, fun, curiosity, beauty, impact, sharing a moment etc... Trying to wrench up mood, atmosphere and emotion for the sake of communicating and sharing direct experiences and thoughts that are going on from my first person perspective. When I'm creating from life experience and inspiration like music, that's when I get the best ideas and make the best work.
For some reason when making something for someone else it just throws a wrench in the works. I think one of the biggest factors is the context is different, and there's a lot more pressure and seriousness (it's work more than play) around what you're making and when I'm in this context that's when I start to question my own authority and second guess myself, wonder if who I'm doing it for would rather have it this way or that, or just start basically asking them to make the piece by offloading the creative decision making to them. The whole impetus and drive and origin of where the creativity and motivation for making it is coming from a different place.
Another challenge I have is feeling guilty for making what I want. I have a strong sense that I need to be of service to society in some way. I feel a duty to put my skills to work for others, but doing what I love, for myself, is probably the most impactful way to actually give to others.
I may just have a higher learning curve when it comes to doing client work and I'm still loosely open to doing it, but then I think about fine artists and they just make what they want and that's it. They probably don't even question whether they need to do that at all. It's odd that I feel this pressure that I should be able to be good at doing client work. Maybe it's the art climate and environment I formulated all my sensibilities in: deviant art, cghub fantasy freelance/studio stuff.
So what I've been thinking is I need that clear direction and goal to go towards like I did with client work. Even though I didn't like it, didn't make a lot of money, that is when I did the most and learned the most and failed the most. Failure is learning what doesn't work so you can narrow down what does. My friend and I have been talking about this and I'm realizing how important this approach is. The idea that before you act or do anything you have to have everything figured out perfectly and know you've got the right choice, and then execute it. That's not how you figure out what the right choice is. You figure out the right choice by making lots and lots of wrong choices. And you WILL fail, and much more than you succeed at that. But its a game of narrowing down, not precision calculated sniping. The analogy would be something like you've got a weird organic squiggly sculpture hidden in a huge block of sandstone, and the only way to get it out is by shooting it with little .22's. Every bullet is executing a choice and 90% of them are going to dud into the sandstone, some might even ricochet and hit you square between the eyes (those are the real spectacular failures). But the fastest and best way to figure out what the hell is even in the stone is to shoot the most bullets everywhere at first. Maybe some big choices can act as a sledge hammer or something. Then you can start to narrow down where the thing even is in the stone (you may find a creative outlet that you really enjoy) and eventually you find out it was a barrel money all along. Holding and rotating the object in your hands is like knowing exactly what you love doing and how to live comfortably with it. That's the goal, find what you love doing, share it with others and how to live sustainably.
What I want to do now is take that drive and direction I had for client work and put it into products and teaching, but mainly products at first. Things I'd love to make and sell but haven't yet (or at least haven't sold much of): charcoal drawings, bronze sculptures (some aesthetic and some even functional: book ends, oil diffusers, incense holders etc...) oil paintings, resin casts, prints, t-shirts, etching prints, etc... The big challenge with products that's different than client work is the up front investment in making something like a t-shirt or bronze cast. They cost more money to make. So that's what's risky about this and makes me a little nervous. But I'm gonna go for it.
My biggest worry right now with going hard on pushing products is I have virtually no demand for anything I have. Maybe that's due to marketing, but I would think my work would speak for itself. I'm really hoping that once I have actual stuff out that people will want it. Here's to hoping that's not putting the cart before the horse too hard.
One thing I'm very passionate about and really want to help others with, and this is because I want it so dearly for myself and struggle a lot with this, is to be able to get your ideas out and express yourself as accurately and fluidly as possible. For your ideas to not be compromised by either lack of technical skill, lack of inspiration, or other constraints like doing it for work.
So this is really a big open ended thought dump and I'd love to hear what anyone has to say on the subject of making a living doing what you love. Whether it's personal experience, what you're struggling with, or advice if you're already straight killin' the game slayed up forever.
Thanks for reading!