Its 5 am and I am writing this blog post on my MacBook - how's that relevant? Well (this is a bit of stretch) one of Steve Job's famous quotes was "real artists ship". By this he meant (my interpretation) that it was all very well being creative but if your work was not seen / enjoyed / shared then what was the point?
"Real artists ship", Steve Jobs, 1983
Now Mr Jobs was a complex character and undoubtedly has left an incredible footprint; very few of us have not been touched in some way by the work that Apple have done (for better or worse). The accessibility of technology has helped creativity and creativity helped create technology.
As an artist the most difficult piece of work that I sold was my first piece. I had a reluctance to let things go, was concerned that with more years and development my work would change, that no one would want my work, that no one would buy it. The usual artist anxieties!
When I create a piece I do so, not with the end goal of selling it, but because it is something that I want (or need) to make. It is also fair to say that the creating is a struggle a lot of the time - I currently have three pieces 'on the go' - one has taken over a year, the other around 8 months and the third one hasn't got past the sketching phase yet. I will complete these (they are all very different) but I find that the creative process takes its own time.
Back to the 'real artists ship' theme. When you are a printmaker you invariably have a lot of prints laying around. Take for example, when you make a reduction print - the actual printing process means that you have to make all of the prints at one time. This is a gamble - what if the work doesn't turn out as you have planned, or the alignment between layers isn't perfect, or if no one wants it? You have committed time, materials and effort to have 30 copies of something on a shelf.
The simple answer is to create only things that you know will sell. We all know of artists who excel at one genre - you know the ones, their work is invariably stunning but you can walk into a gallery anywhere and go "oh, that's so and so". This is not a bad thing but it is just something that I don't aspire to be like that and I am not 'wired' like that. My portfolio is expanding into a few different areas, yes I have the birds (I love my birds) but I am adding to this with work that I hope will inspire conversation. Arguably, though, I have stuck to one genre - I still love linoprinting.
The need for artists 'to ship' is worthy of more time and discussion - arts are universally under-funded; this means that if you are relying on art sales as your sole source of income then you have to create 'what will sell' in order to eat. The question of how much creativity that this may stifle is one for a broader forum than my humble blog.