Of course I’m not saying all an artist should do is cater to what he or she sees as the market for his or her work. I’m simply saying one should not (at all) disregard those who could very well be a target audience. Oops… perhaps I’m a little ahead of myself.
One of the great things about being an artist is the freedom to create an express freely. Artists have something to say and I believe the world becomes just a little better of a place when an artist makes their statement through their art. Throughout human history people have felt an inner desire to express themselves through the visual arts, music, dance, the performing arts, literature and whatever other artistic expression might be out there. As a result there are temples that pay homage to those expressions. We call them art museums, concert halls, theaters, libraries and whatever other edifices that are created to present artistic creations. As one takes-in and enjoys what is presented in those temples, and since I’m a visual artist I’m going to not speak solely from that perspective (feel free to read on from your own favorite expressive disciplines perspective) here is something to keep in mind. Not all of the works displayed are a result of the artist freely making a statement or expression. Many of the works are the result of a commission. Many others, dare I say, are the result of an artist trying to make a living and catering to a particular market. What? This can’t be? What about artistic integrity? What about the artist baring his or her soul? Yeah… that’s only done by artists who don’t like to eat, have shelter, clothes and/or rely on someone else to provide life’s necessities to them… kind of like having a pet.
If an artist wants to create free expressions freely and independently, that artist needs to have monetary income. Period. The dirty little reality is that even artists need money, not just to survive, but to create. Fact is, even visual artists who stick solely to creating by repurposing found objects incur costs. If the costs can’t be met, the creations don’t occur. It really is that simple. Consequently, if one wants to live the artist’s life (and it IS a wonderful life) then one needs to consider deeply what one has to do to live it. Of course the artist can go get a job outside of the arts to have an income that will cover the standard costs of living, but that basically takes away from artwork-time while working and can leave one too tired to create after the work day. However another thing one can do is focus on the market for his or her particular art and cater some of his or her works for that particular market. (now go back and read my first paragraph… minus the last sentence of it)
Creating art that is targeted toward a certain demographic, is still creating art. “Oh but what if a friend calls me a sell-out?” That person is not your friend and evidently has no idea how you have a soul-deep need to do your art. Even those great Renaissance artists worked to gain favor of potential patrons in an effort to get their commissions.
When pondered upon, this whole idea of catering to a particular art market so more artwork can be created really is a no-brainer. Why bother taking up cyber-space with pontifications on something so basic? I’ll tell you why, humans (you and me included) need to be reminded now and again of even the simple stuff. Okay… full disclosure… I need to bring those thoughts forward from the back burner now and again and not lose sight of how important the simple stuff is. Case in point, I offer prints of my artwork and graphics in my EssexArt ABC online store. Just this week I realized there is a particular market for race fans who do a yearly pilgrimage to Indianapolis in May (Indy hosts the largest single day sporting event in the world during that month… if you’ve not heard of it you might want to look it up 😉 ). I post my artwork in my online store regularly and it recently dawned on me to create some graphics that appeal to race fans, for two reasons. One, of course I’m hoping they’ll purchase my products created specifically for them. Two, I’m hoping for greater exposure for my other artwork there (and indeed… purchases) as race fans browse in my store. There you have it. By catering some of my artworks to a particular market, potential benefits open for the rest of my artworks. This just makes sense to me.
By the way, I’m one of those Indy race fans to which I’m targeting my race fan products. I’ve been going to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway ever since I was a little kid and the bleachers were smaller and all made of wood. Yeah, I’m that old. 🙂
~ John Essex II is a retired art teacher, a two-time Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellow and an Arts Council of Indianapolis Creative Renewal Arts Fellow. He is also artist/owner of EssexArt ABC, LLC through which he keeps busy creating his own fine art, creates commissioned art, does caricaturing by commission and at special events, conducts private painting parties and is contacted regularly to play the bagpipes (yes… play the bagpipes). Essex also maintains an online print-on-demand store where patrons can acquire gallery quality giclée prints of his art as well as other products that feature his work.