Creativity is subjective. “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like” – could be applied to a Bateman masterpiece or a black velvet reproduction from Walmart. This overused adage also applies to literature. It’s an excuse for a multitude of sins including a distinct lack of artistic ability as well as just plain bad taste.
So how does one decide whether their creation has any artistic merit? For me, if it don’t sell, it ain’t good.
Of course I to put it out there. I’ve offered my photographs to the public through various venues including retail stores, websites, flea markets, Craig’s List, and most recently stock photo sites – you name it, I’ve tried it. My writing’s been sent off to agents, publishers, magazines, newspapers as well as posting it on various websites and now self-publishing.
Then I wait.
How long I wait depends on how patient or delusional I am, or both, at any given time. If nothing happens I may withdraw, I may persevere. I use to call it a “learning experience”, but now I understand that phrase as a euphemism for failure.
I’ve rationalize my lack of success with all manner of excuses – I’m ahead of my time; misunderstood; not commercial enough (a good thing?); the economy is in the dumps; the weather was rotten; the stars were misaligned; or, like Van Gogh, who only sold one painting in his entire life, my genius will be appreciated once I’m gone.
Six new photographs of mine were recently shown at The Metro Theatre Lounge Gallery. Theatre-goers could view my work prior to the show and at intermission for the entire run of seventeen performances. The Metro is a good venue. People who attend are inclined to the arts and have the time to take a look, unlike a coffee bar gallery where all you want is to get your latte and leave. The box office for that production was 1621 and I would imagine at least 1,000 patrons visited the lounge at least once.
There were no sales, nor any enquiries regarding my photographs. According to my own philosophy, there’s only one conclusion.
The reason I take this uncompromising approach to my work is so I’ll continue to strive to improve. When I look at my first public offerings, in either photography or writing, they were so awful I cringe even now as I think about them. Had I continued to assign any of the above excuses to the lack of response to these works I wouldn’t have attained what little success I have.
I’m still determined to create something good enough to overcome all the obstacles – real or imagined. What I lack in creativity I hope to make up in part with perseverance and the ability to learn from past mistakes and failures. There’s no shortage to draw from.
Until then, I can appreciate (and marvel at) the success of others while I keep honing my craft and perfecting my eye. It’s not about money. It’s about my passion for what I do and recognition from my contemporaries whom I respect.
Nietzsche said, “Art is the proper task of life…”, and that may very well be the case, whether it sells or not.
Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs