Today I want to talk a little about being an artist.
I have been a professional for 25 years. When I started, the goal was only to be able to make a living from doing illustration. Next came, that I wanted to be able to make a living from doing fantasy art. After that I became obsessed with the idea, that I should paint for Magic and DND. After each milestone reached I set a new one and through a lot of practice and gifted with a tunnel-vision and tunnel-mind, I reached the next one and the next.
I think I have been lucky in never doubting that I could reach the next milestone. Pushing down thoughts that I do not want is something I am extremely good at. The able to focus on one thing, and ruling out anything else, is really good when you want to be a painter.
But what I have thought a great deal about lately is how and what defines me as an artist and what it has done to my art.
Here goes: I think it is important to define for yourself why you are an artist. What is it that drives you to this line of work?
I can only talk from my own point of view. Over the last five to ten years, after I reached my youthly set milestones. I have discovered that what drives me is the recognition. Fame, to be honest. But not for the sake of fame. When I paint a fantasy painting I am producing a scene, an image, that I have made up in my mind. It is a little slice of my personality and my ideas. I am painting a bit of my mind and put it out for the world. If I get one like or praise; good. If I get a thousand; even better. It means that people like me. That they like ME. I put very little barriers between my artwork and my personality. Not out of free will. That’s just how it is. So, I more or less create illustrations to show a piece of myself, to share a bit of my mind and ideas and hope that people likes it.
That’s it. That is what drives me.
Going deeper I can see that it is actually just a way for me to carve out a little space in the world and trying to find a reason why I should matter. Okay; it sounds hollow when I write it. But here is how it affects my work: Taking the previous mention definition of myself as an artist as gospel, I do not paint for money. The clients need and opinion is not the most important thing for me. Keeping deadlines is not the most important thing. Speed and volume in production is not important. That being said; I try to do what ever I can to solve the assignment and keep every deadline, but when the choice comes of delivering now, or make a better image I think better image is always my choice. Because I want to show a piece of my mind: I want to show you a unique little story that only I could have told. And to do that I need to be at my A-game so that my story is told as precise as possible. In the end I am doing it for me. I am doing it so that I can be happy with myself. I am doing it to share ME.
It means that I sometimes blow deadlines ( But I am honest about it and ask for permissions to work longer on a painting ) It means that I often rework sketches or half done paintings if I think I can do better ( But I tell the art director beforehand and make sure its doable ) And it means that I strive to reinvent myself and try something new in every painting, in order to improve and raise the bar, for myself.
Because the other very important part of it is also that I need to act as a professional to be able to work for the clients that I like: In order to reach the widest audience I of cause need to keep a certain level of professionalism. But in my mind I am doing it all for me.
It means that I often sketch and sketch and resketch at the thumb stage of a painting in order to search for something new. I am very critical of my own art, especially in the inventing part of the process where I work on composition and design. But it is because its not just another painting for me. It is yet another chance to proof myself. The next painting is yet another cobblestone in the little island called Ejsing. Its a little kingdom with a moody Ruler, but the borders are open for everyone.
In the end I think I have become a better artist in defining these ideas. in describing for myself what I am and why I do it.