Audience of One

Photo: Plenty of Room for More

Those of us who are artists of any sort are mostly destined for one extreme or another: fame or invisibility. There are a fair number who manage to become something in between, of course, making enough money or garnering enough notoriety with their work to evade complete obscurity, but by virtue of that very existence in between, they too remain generally unknown by the broader world.

I have neither the skills nor the ambition to make myself successful in the business aspects of being an artist, so it’s a virtual lock that I’ll never be rich or famous, let alone both. That means, for me, that to be a success I must focus on working to please an audience of one. Even those who love and support and care about me have no obligation to admire and delight in my artistic output, and they can’t, without a large number of less-connected persons, make me a resounding financial success. My loved ones do seem to like my work, often enough, a fact that defies logic in its own special way, but that still doesn’t make those who adore me, singly or en masse, rich enough to make me rich, even if they sincerely wanted to own passels of my creative output, another reality which would not necessarily represent great intelligence or aesthetic taste on their part, even by my loose standards.

I can and do self-publish, and though that’s clearly an unnecessary and unbusinesslike indulgence, it makes the process of writing and drawing, painting and composing more entertaining for me and less of an invisible feeling enterprise. It doesn’t change the business end of the equation other than endorsing the probability that nobody in his right mind will pay me for things I’m giving away for free anyhow, but it motivates me to do something, anything, more than I might otherwise.

So where does that leave me? Knowing that I am working on my art, first and foremost, to please myself. I am and always will be heartily glad if and when others genuinely share my enjoyment and appreciation of what I consider my share-worthy artistic output. It’s a huge thrill when anyone deigns to spend actual, legitimate, government-recognized currency of virtually any national origin on the purchase of any of that work. But since the latter sort of happenings are rare as hens’ teeth, I will do best to enjoy my sporadic glimpses of small-scale fame when anyone expresses pleasure in my art, and the rest of the time, relish the process of production and any end products of it that I like, all as president, primary cheerleader, and sole permanent member of my own fan club, the way most of us artists are nature-made to be. Is that the sound of one hand clapping I hear, or did somebody just smack me to try to knock some sense into me?

24 thoughts on “Audience of One

  1. I am definitely a fan of yours….:)
    As a creative, I feel so fortunate to be able to pursue what I do …and as long as my needs are met…shelter, food, art supplies, etc. then I am one happy bunny.
    Have a wonderful weekend. xxx

  2. I’m one of those hapless folks that will readily admit that I know absolutely nothing about art. Quiz me about theory or history or global influence, and I will respond with a blank stare. However, park me in front of a piece of sculpture, or painted canvas, or multimedia installation, and I will find myself transfixed; immobile, immersed in absorbing the tiniest of nuances contained therein. I can, and have, spent hours studying a single piece. As I said, I know nothing about art, but I have a great appreciation for those pieces that capture my attention. In that way, I am someone who doesn’t mind saying when I see something I consider to be incredibly artistic. Therefore, I declare myself to be a lover of art.

    Forget what Webster calls art; for me, art is anything that elicits a response. Webster says that art is about creating beauty, but I’ve seen plenty of art that is not at all beautiful, yet it causes the viewer to stop and notice, and thus, becomes art. I’m grateful I’ve never been limited to what educated folks define as art, because all I need to know is whether or not something speaks to me. If it does, and it has something to say, then I’m looking at art.

    I’ve already expressed, a time or two, that I love your work. Not only does it delight me that you have multiple platforms in which you create, blending prose and sketch and photography and painting and poetry and all sorts of other avenues in which to begin a conversation, but I especially love that your work often contains tiny details that are incredibly subtle, and yet distinctly powerful. Your colorful works speak just as clearly as your black and white selections, and sometimes, even the most vague of suggestive sketches has much to say. It’s a real treat to have a single artist display such a diverse selection from which to choose. Some artists spend countless years studying the singular shape of a triangle, while others, like yourself, cast their eyes in every direction, gathering up bits of inspiration along the way.

    Visiting your blog is sometimes like partaking of a tasty smorgasbord generously laden with delectable treats. If today doesn’t tickle your palate, just come back again tomorrow. Either way, your appetite will be sated, and as you pat your tummy and murmur your appreciation, you already eagerly anticipate the next day’s tasty treats. I know nothing about art, but I know enough to stop and notice when art has come alive on the page.

    • I am humbled. Your generous and kind compliments make me hesitant to tell you that I think you’re actually very knowledgeable about art, since then it makes me feel like I’m bragging! But your process of perception-inspection-introspection-ingestion is, I think, an entirely apt way of experiencing and interpreting art, so I will instead congratulate myself on meeting your criteria for a worthwhile visit. And thank you, profusely.

  3. YES!!! This! Yes, exactly this, Kath. Living as I do in the land of cattle, science, forests, and oilfields, ‘art’ is to (too) many an anti-pragmatic waste of time. Get a business degree, jump on the STEM bandwagon, become a service industry entrepreneur, shuttle children from carefully supervised event to carefully supervised lesson: all of these things are acceptable uses of time, out here. But art? Writing? Stories? Only if they make money, garner some fame, generate some notoriety. Art is something that ‘real’ businesspeople support with funding to improve their companies’ PR outcomes and that retirees take up to pass the time.
    I used to draw, loved to draw. I once sat down to sketch an old broken down barn and found myself sun-addled and heat-drunk some hours later, but with a drawing I believed to be good. Ditto pen and ink. The fluid precision of it, you know? Anyway, I stopped drawing because I needed to get a ‘real’ job and left that skill behind me. I tried to leave writing behind me, too. I’m so grateful that I failed at that. 🙂
    I write for me, because I need to and because it’s what I love. I post my writing for other folks to read for reasons I talked about earlier this week, and I sent my last project for agency consideration because I do still dream of one day seeing my work on a bookstore shelf. But the writing, my art, it has to be for me, for my audience of one. Maybe it is unprofessional, and maybe it’ll never earn me any ‘real’ money. But I’m okay with invisibility. My impractical, unprofessional, non-pragmatic, time-wasting, lackadaisical life’s passion draws a little less ire that way. 🙂
    I love your work so much, Kath. Never stop, okay?

    – D.

    • What can I do but acquiesce, when you ask so prettily?? Same to you, and more of it, Desi! We just might have to find a way to collaborate someday, even. Meanwhile, it means so much to share our stories here with each other. I look forward to every chance I get to read your work, visit inside your amazing brain and heart, and be inspired by your work and words.
      Many hugs right back atcha!


  4. Art is personal. Each piece will touch a different person because it somehow connects with them. I think it would be very hard to second guess what the public will like and try to create for popularity. Cliche, but I think one needs to stay true to themselves when creating art!

  5. Kathryn, you have expressed in words what I have struggled with for so long. While I would love to make money with my ‘art’, I know that isn’t the reason why I do it. I do it because I must. Even if no other person sees or appreciates my work, it must be done. I do not crave the fame or limelight. Be assured, your audience far exceeds one, as do the number of your fans!

  6. What? You mean we’re not going to get rich from our art? Next thing you’ll be telling us there isn’t a Santa Claus. Oh, what disillusionment!

    The title of your post reminds me of Thoreau’s statement in “Civil Disobedience” that “…any man more right than his neighbor constitutes a majority of one already.”

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