This is a post about popularity and art. Or I guess I should say, it's a post that is against it. I like a lot of soul in my art, I'm as critical of others' work as I am of my own. Perhaps I should have been a critic....but needless to say, I expect a lot from people who call themselves "artists".
One thing I expect, is for them to not sell-out their muse. What do I mean? Well, take for example selling one's art. Do they pushpushpush the selling part, and not the actual making part? Self-promotion and having a ton of friends (whom will support any kind of crap one decides to pump out), while useful for some, gives me a bad taste in my mouth. I would rather, MUCH rather, people have a discerning eye, and be honest, or comment because they truly feel something about what I am saying through my work. Not because they have to, not because they are my friend, not because they want to kiss my ass, not because I am so 'popular' and 'nice', not because I need something from them in order to fill me.
Fan pages on facebook (for artists) are another thing I detest. I think it's pretty self-important, pretty egotistical, if you think you need more 'fans'. I really think that's sad. Is your art based on your own merit or are you just running a popularity contest? Are you trying to reclaim your status in high school (or God forbid, grade school)? Or were you never popular, and you need to claim that to make your miserable life feel more full....of 'fans'? The risk one runs with fans, is an ego the size of Texas. I'm against fan pages, I think they are an indication of someone feeling needlessly self-important, and/or having deep-seeded self-esteem issues. Fans have no business interfering in the artists' mind, let's look to the much reviled (imo) Damien Hirst for an example of fan interference. For him, it seemingly boils down to making money, not increasing talent. It's false, either way.
Is the work about making you feel better? Does it help your mood? Then, by all means, don't punish it by trying to sell and promote it automatically. This will undoubtedly result in the loss of your muse, and it will be your own fault. Good thing you have those fans to fall back on, even if your work is crap....? Hm.
The most brilliant piece of writing I have found on this subject in quite awhile. Nick Cave's letter to MTV in 1996 (here is a portion)
"...She comes to me with the gift of song and in return I treat Her with the respect I feel She deserves - in this case this means not subjecting Her to the indignities of judgement and competition. My muse is not a horse and I am in no horse race and if indeed She was, still I would not harness Her to this tumbrel - this bloody cart of severed heads and glittering prizes. My muse may spook! May bolt! May abandon me completely!..."
There is no "trick" to being an artist. If you are an artist, I strongly believe that your muse should live in your soul and veritably beat on your chest to get out. And, She will not be based on what is hip and new in the ridiculously biased "art world", or based on what will catch someone else's "consumer-searching-for-a-product" eye (eye-candy, if you will). No, She lives only when you, the artist, is real, and truthful, and free.
If I had it my way, I'd be your classic "weirdo-hermit-living-in-the-woods", just doing my thing, just painting, but alas...