Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Authenticity Lost and Found

“Hello. My name is Don, and I have a logo.”

One of the common criticisms of successful artists (and those who want to be successful artists), is the admonition that somehow, in order to be successful in the world of business, we have to trade away our authenticity as artists.

                          (That’s me.)

“Serious (artists) would never consider such branding as anything but a sellout to their true pure artistic intentions,” said one Serious Artist, to me, recently. This person warned against any artist allowing himself to be made “into a brand, into a consumer product, into providing art fodder for the consumption of the mediocre …” As if one follows the other.

Maybe it does. Maybe mediocrity is all I can hope to shoot for in this otherwise successful art career. 

But then, maybe the work I have already completed, the work I am doing, and the work I still plan to do, disputes that claim.

If I create it, it is authentically mine.

I'll acknowledge that this is a concern to many who ride the narrow and brittle edge of some imagined requirement of authenticity in their work. But I have an answer to that concern:

If I create it, it is authentically mine.

I am aware of any number of forces that influence my creativity: ideas gleaned form my surroundings (conversations, walks around the neighborhood, various reading material, etc.); from my past (experience, education, childhood memories); suggestions from friends, family, critics and fellow artists; requests from the market (customers, clients, market research, seasonal trends); the results of actual, premeditated, focused research, & cetera.

To me, all of these are legitimate sources of inspiration. If ideas that come from any one of them (hopefully from ALL of them) lead to another piece of artwork that I can create authentically, in my style, to my standards, and ultimately to my liking, I see no difference in the quality of the source or the quality of the end product. Or, frankly, where it happens to appear in the marketplace.

Each year, in fact, I try to do at least one piece aimed specifically for the mass market, one created for clever content (whether the market agrees or not), and one just for me - to challenge and broaden my intellectual, imaginative, and technical ability (again, whether the market agrees or not).

Oddly enough, nowhere in the list do I find the approval of my fellow artists to be a major factor in the production of consistent, quality work. 

Perhaps there are artists who find themselves being overly influenced by one audience or another, critics or customers or even colleagues - or who actually choose to rely on others' advice for creative direction. Aren't they free to do so? 

Beyond my position as a potential consumer (or unless somebody asks), I see no reason to offer my opinion on their product or their process. 

The only one I am fit to judge, authentically, is myself.

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