It isn’t that I want to be intentionally anti-Commercial, that I want to produce art so-much-for-art’s-sake that it has no chance of being sold. Rather, I want to avoid creating art for the sake of money; I don’t want to be creating simply to sell it, because I need the money (which I do; don’t get me wrong about that), but to be creating what I am inspired to, to follow my heart, mind, & dreams – and then hope that others share my heart enough to want it hanging on their walls. (And then maybe enough that they’ll pay money to put it there.)
It’s difficult. Partially because I do need the money, so the commercial aspect, the idea that I’m making art I’m going to try to sell in order to buy groceries, is constantly in mind. When I get in the neighborhood of thoughts like ‘what can I paint that will sell?’ and ‘what sort of art do people want?’ I tend to get stuck. Like writer’s block, but for artists. Well, like writer’s block for writers whose block stems from not wanting to “sell out,” anyway.
I have no interest in freelancing, or in getting a job as an illustrator, designer, journalist, pro-blogger, or any other such thing. I don’t want to write the same book over and over again (ie: formulaic fiction, or process-wise, most non-fiction). I don’t want to paint/create the same image over and over again. I know, yes, verily I know, that these are core ways writers and artists are able to “establish” themselves and their “style” and to build a career. To build a base of buyers who want to read another one like the last one you wrote, who are comfortable with your art because although each swirly tree is different, they can at least count on you to still be painting swirly trees the next time they need something for their walls. And buyers would be nice. Repeat buyers would be even better (and I have a few), but I nearly never want to be painting the same thing I’ve painted before.
((Technically, my not-very-publicly stated policy on the subject of re-creating an original work is that the base price multiplier for each successive recreation doubles. I have a formula (an occasionally altered one, but fairly consistent for the last few years) which accounts for a work’s size and quality to determine price. It is intentionally tweaked to give quirky prices. I like them. But imagine for recreations that formula is multiplied by 2n (where n is the number of times I’ve been asked to reproduce the image). If created in quick succession, at the same size and quality, prices would quickly rise, say from $60 for the original to $120 for the second, $240 for the 3rd, $480 for the 4th, $960 for the 5th, $1920 for the 6th, $3840 for the 7th, and very quickly someone asking for the 8th copy is paying 128 times the cost of just buying something different instead. Luckily, people don’t often ask me to paint something I’ve done before – and when they do, I simply tell them how much it would cost & see if they want it that much.))
But it is hard even to paint something new, if all I can think about is wanting to avoid painting something that won’t sell, because the bills just keep coming, even when I have a couple of dry sales months. I’ve even been stalling a little, lately, in working on my next novel, which is intentionally an experiment in writing a formulaic (or at least recognizable) zombie novel – because although I’ve come up with a story I want to tell (and in my research of what makes a formulaic zombie novel fit, I’ve discovered that my novel won’t be as formulaic as I’d hoped… which is part of the problem), both writing a novel in reaction to people’s negative reaction to my last one (which is what motivated this experiment in the first place) and knowing before I start that my experiment will be a failure (ie: my novel will fail to be a cookie-cutter zombie novel, or to follow the ‘rules’ of commercial fiction) give me pause in pursuing it. Even though it’s a story I want to tell, a book I want to write.
I am having trouble both because I don’t want to write commercial fiction and because I fear my attempt to do so will be ridiculously far from that blasted mark. How can I be properly creative with this dark and complicated cloud of commerce always hovering over everything I do?