Most of time, life is pretty boring. We go through our lives, through our day to day procedures, and very little changes. Sure, each day and each week have their little ups and downs. After all, I did just eat a Snickers bar and stub my toe, at nearly the same time. But for the most part, life normally lies on a somewhat predictable path.
Creating art works the same way. As an artist, I have procedures to work on the book covers I do for publishers, or the ink art pieces I like to do, and even with my larger paintings. I gather all of the many ideas I have for art, and generally try to produce things in a consistent manner each week.
Sometimes though, a big event comes along that can really shake up the things that you do.
|Originally published by Apex Book Company, May 2012|
Now, this can be anything, any sort of big change. Maybe you are going to have a child, or get married. Maybe you are moving, from one house to another or even across country. In my case, I have a massive art show and convention (the Spectrum Fantastic Art Live show later this week) that I have a booth at, something that can change much of how I do art and survive as an artist (and as a breadwinner).
When artists have huge changes in their lives, the events that they know are coming up, they can react differently to them. Whether it’s good or bad stress, at the end of the day those huge events can alter an artist’s perspective and their work.
Let’s say, you’re going to have a child (no, not for your dinner entree). You are starting a family, and you are reevaluating what you create as an artist. Being an illustrator for children’s literature, maybe things won’t change that much. Being an illustrator for a horror-porn magazine, maybe you’ll think about changing the things you create.
But should artists change what they do in a situation like this? Are artists denying the fundamental truths of who they are by changing what they create to suit a new situation?
Take me for instance. The convention that I’m heading to is one largely of fantasy and science fiction illustrators, and maybe some horror illustrators. The vast majority, from looking at many of their works online, work in the beautiful modern realism that defines illustrative art right now. Even I do nearly all of my digital art in a similar, though more horror-driven, way.
But in getting ready for my booth, and for my portfolio review onsite as well, two ideas have crept into my head. First, the fear that I don’t fit in, that maybe my styles aren’t similar enough to the market. Facing this huge event, I’ve been looking at creating new pieces of art that, while similar to my style, are far closer to what they might be looking for.
Secondly, I have a number of pieces (like the one on the right) that are nothing like the illustrative art that many of the other artists have. It’s a wild piece, barely representing anything but full-on horror. My inclination is that I leave this piece, and all of the others like it, home. That I only bring the ones that would fit the market.
Is my reaction to this large event, that can really change everything in my career, correct? Is there even a way to say that any approach is right or wrong?
I could certainly create a number of new pieces that are more along the lines of the current crop of fantasy artists. I could also avoid creating new pieces, and bring what I consider to be my best pieces in the hopes that they can see my abilities with what I have already.
As for the booth, I could leave the other styles of art at home. No inks, no acrylics or mixed media, but only bring the digital prints of the art that I would think fit in best. Or I could bring the full gamut of all of my styles (only the best of those, of course), and make more of a statement of who I am and what I do.
I’m not necessarily sure there’s a straight answer, or that either approach is off kilter. But I do think it’s important as an artist, whether getting ready for a huge show or a life-changing event, to sit back and think about the things they create.
Life changes can alter an artist’s perception of the world around them, and thus alter their art. Absorbing those changes is important, as is deciding how those events will affect the things that artist’s do. In my case, especially in the fury of creating more art for this show, I’ve come to realize that my style is quite broad.
Artists have to at least consider the big events coming down the way. The changes made, or even not made, will make more sense as you put more thought into it. Being unready for a big event can throw off everything you do as an artist, and could stop your artistic momentum in its tracks. The decisions made are unique to each artist and each situation, but they are least must be considered.
In my case, I don’t want to limit myself to a single style, so I’m bringing all of the styles with me. I’m a tinkerer, so I’m happy to create new pieces in the standard illustrative style as well. I’m hoping that those who visit my booth, and who I show my portfolio to, appreciate that.