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Who are you painting for?

This is an interesting question because its answer will have consequences on what you are painting and what goals you might want to set for your art. It might also help with how to react to criticism.

Let’s say you are just stating to paint for your own enjoyment, there is no reason to consider other people input because you might be in a learning phase and not ready to share your work. You might also need time to experiment and try different media and subjects, you might also need time simply to get better at what you do. Creating art can also be mainly for the purpose of self expression, or even a form of therapy (When painting I often find myself getting into a state that I think might not be too far from meditation.), this kind of art process is more centered on yourself and your needs than its perception by others.

Once you start sharing your work and becoming more of a professional artist, the situation changes radically, you start being exposed to criticism and money considerations.

Ignoring criticism might be an option but often sounds like excuses to justify your work. On the over hand, exhibiting your works puts you in a vulnerable position and I noticed that some people take this opportunity to put you down. I think it takes some courage to exhibit your work publicly.

White Coffee, mixed media on canvas
White Coffee, mixed media on canvas

Art is a language,  a form of communication, but it is also self expression.  You need to consider the other side to communicate. So  art being  somewhere between self expression and communication, I think one way to connect and share emotions with the viewers is to find the general in the details, the universal in the specific, so people have a way to connect to what you are showing them .

So you need to consider the other side, the viewers, when making your art, but then it is a fine balance because you don’t want to create your art only considering what the response will be, what sells or not, what other people are liking or not. The pressure of making sales is quite important for artists even more when they need to make a living from their art. Making art only in the perspective of selling it can quickly take off all the fun and motivation. In the art system as it is now, most galleries for example will expect production and consistency which might be a limitation to exploration.

Also I am quite sure being commercially successful is not enough to make you fulfilled as an artist, the case of Thomas Kinkade in particular comes to my mind. He felt bitter that he could not get recognition in the Art world even though he made a fortune selling his paintings and reproductions but was quite depressed towards the end of his life.

The ideal situation then would be an artist creating what he feels the need to  (self expression) and having positive response to his work (being able to communicate and share emotions  while making money. Realistically, I think a minority of artists manage to achieve this goal.

Is creating art with only your self expression in mind a self indulgent luxury? Or are great artists always uncompromising ? Do you think about what the response will be to your art when creating it?

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