Thursday, May 5, 2011

All Things To All People? Not!

One of the things you learn fairly quickly as an artist is that not everyone is going to like what you do.  It's probably the most difficult thing for creative people to deal with.

The fact is that most of us in the "arts" are emotional people whose creative life is a vital part of who we are.  I've been involved in the quilting/art quilting world for a while and it's an interesting place because there are so many levels of "artists" and so much insecurity about what is and what isn't art.  One of my quilting blogs has to do with putting yourself out there and accepting who you are and what you do.  Not everyone is going to be a great quilter who will win big show awards and be on the cover of magazines.  Considering the huge numbers of quilters and the relatively few magazine covers and big show awards, the odds are not in your favor.

As to what is "art" and what isn't, who knows?  I know I don't and I don't mind admitting it.  To me, it's like beauty, it's in the eye of the beholder.  For me being an artist isn't about winning big awards or being published or even selling your work, it's about how big a part of your life it is.

My entire life I've been a creative person.  As a child I would envision something in my mind and then try to recreate it.  I actually destroyed a brand new dress in kindergarten because I was inspired to paint a picture of a lamb and was so excited about it I forgot to put on an apron.  I always say to people who are questioning their "artist" status that if they "have" to do it, if it's a drive within themselves, and that they'd do it even if there was no chance of any praise or other reward, then they can consider themselves an "artist."

OK, so now you're an "artist," what does that mean?  It means your life is going to be full of joy and heartache, and probably more difficult than your average bear's.  I envy those who can spend their free time lying on the beach because for me that's an uncomfortable thing, and it's not just because I'd scare the kids in my bathing suit.  It has to do with my need to spend every moment I can creating.  Life is short, but when you have all of this creative drive, it seems even shorter.   The saying "so many men, so little time" can be translated into the artist's world as "so much I want to create and so little time to do it in."

Getting back to my original thought of how it's impossible to be all things to all people.  It is, so just get over trying.  I know it's hard to be critiqued and mocked and ridiculed.  However, if you become too sensitive to that kind of attack you may pull back and not do your best work.  You can't worry about what other people think.  Remember what I wrote above, if this is something you are driven to do, you have to do it for yourself and accept that not everyone else is going to "get it."

Take my word for it, even after many years of doing this kind of work I still get a twinge of pain when my work is critiqued.  As a professional graphic designer it happens all of the time.  After a while you go into the situation knowing that whatever you create is going to be dissected and turned inside out by people who have no idea about what it takes to do what you do.  This is when you have to take yourself out of the equation and not take it personally.

The fact is you cannot be all things to all people, there are people who are going to love your work, some who will hate it, and some who don't care one way or the other.  It's especially true when you do something with political overtones.  The other side will pick it apart in any way they can.  The poster that appeared in the "Palin Poster Wars" was dissected and discussed and destroyed by people on all different sides of the political spectrum.  People who liked Sarah Palin didn't like the Sunburst behind her head because it was like the Japanese flag, and then there were those who thought it was a religious icon, or those that didn't like the colors, or her face, or, well, you get the message! 

The fact is that when you're doing political art, if it's being talked about, you've accomplished your mission.  You've started a conversation, and in the case of conservative artists, we've chipped a little away from the left's stranglehold on our popular culture.

So, get out there and create some art!  Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations usually need people who can help them with graphic and website design.  Volunteer and contribute.  Art has the capacity to create great "hope" about it!


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