Throwback to my art from 13 years ago this month. At 15 years old I was just as obsessed with likes on DeviantART then as I am with likes on IG today. Not much has changed except now I'm afraid to even draw dragons and aliens because I did that when I was a teenager, so lame right, pfffttt...
I had the distinct feeling when I was a teenager that nobody took me seriously. My art teacher, my parents, my pastors. I was dismissed for being too angsty, too dark, too melodramatic, for asking too much of the world and it's people. I was always told I would (or got the feeling I was expected to) grow out of it, whatever “it” was. Whether that perception had any basis in reality, it was an overarching theme in my teenage years. It's carried over to now, at age 28, and I'm afraid to draw what I really want to draw because I'm terrified that it's not going to be taken seriously.
I mean, dragons and aliens and fantasy and sci-fi nerds are always the butt of jokes, always considered adolescent on some level, but heck, Game of Thrones has captivated the grown-ass adults in this country, so obviously SOME PEOPLE still like dragons. But also, have you ever seen a dragon painting at a fine art gallery? (If there are figurines of wizards holding crystal balls with “Made in China” on the bottom of them in the same building, it does not count).
I'm caught between worlds right now, on the cusp of finishing "The Artist's Way" and realizing I'm at a crossroads. Do I go down the "serious" road of being a "fine artist"? Or do I go down the "silly" path towards the stuff I actually like? Comics and dragons and aliens and crazy character designs and floating islands and the deserts of Tatooine?
You know, nobody told me I couldn't do both, either.
Don’t ask me why there was ever a divide between “fine art” and “illustration.” To me, it’s the same as the divide between “sacred” and “secular.” Those of you who have grown up in certain religious settings will understand me here. Trying to separate things by distinct categories never really worked well with humans, because things can’t really be divided up by truly objective measures. We’re all making up definitions of categories as we go so we can put each other into boxes, into weight classes. The heavy hitters (the “fine artists”) can’t be in the same competitive pool as the lightweights (“illustrators”). The analogy falls apart there, because I do understand how categorizing things can be useful, but here’s the crux of my comparison between “fine art and illustration” with “sacred and secular”:
One is not inherently better than the other.
In fact, they can’t be separated. Not really. They’re cut from the same cloth. God blasphemed Its own dang self when It made us in Its image. What can be holy? What isn’t sacred? What is fine art that doesn’t evoke some communication? What is illustration without craftsmanship and mastery?
We live in a world where not only can we not leave things alone and we MUST categorize and define everything, we then go so far as to insist on assigning a value to the categories we’ve sorted. We do this everywhere, all the time, I really don’t need to start citing examples, but I will: race, body size, gender, income/career, education, address, etc etc etc... Every aspect of life is sorted and measured in human society. In this case, 9 times out of 10, the “fine artist” is given the prestige, the higher value, over the “illustrator.” And for some reason I realize I desperately WANT that prestige. But why? What would prestige get me anyway?
Whatever the dumb economic reason is to preserve a status quo that is broken for most of us, I don’t want to play by those rules anymore. If I want to put flippin’ dragons into my paintings, I will! Or if I don’t, I won’t! (Dragons are actually hard to paint and I’m actually a pretty lazy painter). If I want to put an alien on a desert landscape instead of a space girl, I will! (I mean, that one’s not much of a reach, in fact, it’s kind of the natural progression of things, don’t you think?) If I start painting portraits of orcs (not a bad idea, actually) and everybody laughs at me and wonders why I can’t go back to painting pretty pictures of the desert (or wonders why I have to put those space girls on them at all), who the fork cares? If I want to start making comic books and never pick up a paint brush again, I WILL!
I’m a relatively young artist at age 28. But then again, 28 is like 758 in Internet Years. So sometimes I feel pretty old when I realize I’m just now figuring this out: I can do whatever the heck I want with my art. It’s MY art. I have the luxury of not needing to depend on it for my income, either (which is a whole ‘nother issue I’m sure I’ll tackle in another post some day in the future).
I don’t need to be taken seriously to make art. YOU don’t need to be taken seriously to make art. Take your own damn self seriously. Everybody else can go eat snot. Byeeee!
P.S. I still love my Space Cowgirls series and I never want to stop. Please represent me, Fancy Galleries. K, bye 4 realz.