There is a bit of a bit of a paradox when it comes to who is a true artist and what is true art. There seems to be a general consensus that true artists create from within, and let their creativity and inspiration guide the piece. We generally tend to think that people who make art for "fun," but have another job to pay the bills, see art as more of a "hobby." It's only when your art is sold, by you or a third party, that someone is truly considered an artist. And if you have ever tried to support yourself by selling your art then you know it's not an easy task- it's one that actually requires extreme determination and business knowhow. Even if you are an artist who has a gallery sell your artwork, that gallerist has to see your work somewhere, and that somewhere required you to put yourself out there, to "sell" yourself and your work to someone.
How is it that true artists are specifically not supposed to create their work for the sake of selling, and yet we only define a person as being an artist if they sell their artwork?
We recently had this discussion with artist and ex-designer Borbay, who has successfully managed to represent himself by running his art like a business. Based on our conversation, I concluded that it's almost a dirty little secret that you must be business savvy to be a career artist, because that contradicts the romantic image of what an artist does. Of course, you can sell your art, but the story must be that the creation of the piece did not come with selling in mind. After all, it's your soul, your story, your unique perspective that you've expressed on the canvas. And wouldn't that be tainted if you were creating it specifically for the next person with enough cash in hand?
Once you become well known enough, companies may try to capitalize on your visibility by purchasing and promoting your art with theirs. We liked Borbay's take on this- again, it's a business, and those who pretend it isn't are full of crap. Those who create art and sell it are doing so because this is the life they have chosen, because they like to create, and they want to live off of the fruits of their labor. So, though the artistic community might shun someone who sells their paintings to big pharma for, let's say, a new herpes cream commercial, as a "sellout," the very shunning of that person is arguably the biggest farce of all.
Is it possible that that rush to judgment is more a reflection of the hidden agenda of all artists that they want to keep hidden, rather then showing that artist is a purest? Selling artwork to big pharma is too obvious. Maybe a small coffee shop in Williamsburg, that's ok. That still fits in with the status quo. But pharma is corporate, and artist hate corporate. And yet, the goal of many artists is to create and then have as many people as possible see their work. And what better way than to get your art out there then on a national campaign?
The same question comes up in music all the time. An indie artist sells out their song to a commercial. But isn't the point of an artist to create and share? More people hear your song if you're on a commercial. Again, if you want to create simply for the sake of creating, then it might be disingenuous to sell it at all. But then you risk being labeled a hobbiest, and that might be even worse than a sellout.
Check out more of Borbay's work at Borbay.com