I have been creating art for nearly 30 years. Lately I’ve been thinking about what is the most important thing to me as an artist. I’ve always hated the word “thing” – It’s so generic. It doesn’t equate to anything of value. So in this case, the word “thing” is not what I meant to say. Let’s keep it as what is most important to me as an artist.
When I was a young man I believe I held recognition as a high standard of who I was as an artist. Whether it were art awards or just a classmate telling me how fresh my art was. The word “fresh” should give you a context clue of the era in which I speak. I was quiet – and in some ways my art was my form of communication and often times my validation. I played sports, but I was never the star on any team. I hung out with all types of students, but I was never the most popular kid. But it was something about art that made me stand out. With a pencil in my hand I felt like I could do things that nobody around me could do. There was a small amount of power in that.
In my 20’s I was introduced to the business aspect of art. Commerce was the topic of choice when I would talk to some older artist when trying to navigate the Chicago art scene. Well that’s not true. It was the topic of choice with some artist, while others nurtured me in different ways. At that point I had young children, and if my art helped pay a few more bills then it sounded good to me. But money had never been the driving factor of WHY I create. And truth be told, the recognition part had faded in my 20’s.
I totally understand the concept of business. I get that we live in this capitalist society. My mind factors in that portion of life – especially when I have a family to support. The love, the admiration, the money that comes infrequently – none of that is the force that MAKES me sketch everyday – think of paintings every minute – get excited about collaboration projects.
The other day I was tagged on a comment under a picture in Facebook. The picture was of someone’s front room in their home. On the far wall hung a piece of my art that stood prominent in place – anchoring the entire space. THAT is what motivates me a lot. I think THAT is what is most important to me. Every single piece of art I create, regardless of the size and dimension, it is a part of who I am. AND PEOPLE LIVE with these pieces EVERYDAY. I LIVE with these people EVERYDAY. I am part of hundreds of people’s LIVES through my art. In some case I start their day or stir some emotion or thought. What I created with my hands touches lives. How in the hell would commerce ever be as important as that? It can’t be. No award would ever top a painting hung in someone’s personal space that speaks to them daily. It’s not a mix-tape that you play for a few weeks until you get tired of the music. This is with this person for the rest of their LIFE…… and often times gets passed to their children. It is my legacy. Through the talent that God gave me, my physical body is here but a moment, but my mark is here always.