I was introduced to XTC by a classmate of mine in art school. I remember her putting Nonsuch on the communal boombox we had in our studio. I think she had Oranges and Lemons too. I fell in love with the band quickly and soon, my music library contained every single release by the band, including the releases under the name The Dukes of Stratosphere (that I had to track down on tape from an Indianapolis used records shop). I needed to hear everything. Everything.
The song “I am the Audience” is one of my favourite XTC songs. I’ve always thought of it as a declaration of my personal creative rationale. I create for myself, first and foremost. I am the one with the idea, or the instinct, or the inclination to create a thing. I am doing this for my own amusement, therefore, I am the audience. What ever I choose to create is done so because I deem it worthy of my time, energy and thought.
As pretentious as that sounds, for me, it’s the truth. The flip side of that is, my work is unfinished until another person looks at it, and brings their own lifetime of thoughts and experiences to my artwork. Each person sees something a little different. I may be the first audience, but I will hardly be the last. My experience as the creator is so much different than that of the future audiences.
I recently watched a documentary about David Bowie and the last few years of his life. There was a snippet of an earlier interview in which he stated that he believed an artist should create the art that they want to make, and that when an artist makes their art for someone else, the artists true intent or vision is lost and the artist is not happy with the end product. The artist, the creator needs to remain true to themselves and their own individual purpose.
I know that artists and creative people need to sell their artwork to live. That art school training that I was getting at the Herron School of Art was as a graphic designer and illustrator. I always thought that it was strange that the other artistic disciplines thought of us as ‘sell outs’. I imagined that the painters and the sculptors wanted to sell their artwork and be able to support themselves by doing what they loved to do, just as the graphic designers and illustrators wanted to be creative in their chosen medium and be able to pay their bills as well. I suppose this has something to do with the rather skewed view of the artist as professional that some people have.
I am not having to, at this point in my life, sell my artwork to in order to pay my bills. I have done this in the past, and it’s one of the reasons I’m not a working graphic designer or illustrator anymore. I’m not good at having people tell me how to create or why to create. The longer I did it, the more mental and emotional damage ate away at my insides. As much as I love graphic design and illustration, I’m just not well suited psychologically to do it professionally, and that’s okay. I’m happier teaching art and making my own art. It’s much better fit for me.
Last week, I sold four dolls. I had not intended to sell any of the dolls that I have recently been creating. I don’t feel like I have the mental or physical bandwidth to devote time to such an endeavour. I’m making the dolls that I want to make, they way that I want to make them, in the time that I want to make them. “Yeah, but you just said you sold four dolls!” Yes. I sold four dolls. The buyer is someone who has purchased dolls of mine in the past. She didn’t make me feel like I was under a deadline. She didn’t make any demands about colours or styles of clothing. She saw four dolls that she liked, asked me the price plus shipping and then bought them. I made enough money to buy some more materials and tools so that I can make more dolls. There’s a nice symmetry to it. Make a dolls. Someone likes it. Someone buys it. I take the money and get more things to make more dolls.