Stop apologizing

In a rare moment of Twitter necessity, I posted this the other day:

tweet by dave conrey on December 20, 2018

Now before anyone gets all up in arms, I know at least a few people who do drip paintings, and they can be pretty cool. There's also some really pushing the medium, making some amazingly psychedelic works of art that deserve to be hung on gallery walls, but let's be honest—most don't.

There are some who are making drip paintings just because it looks fun to do. Right on, keep doing what you do, but once the novelty wears off, what will you do next?

There are some that make drip paintings because they're an entry-level way to get into abstract art. Once you've mastered the technique, how will you expand your horizons?

And then there are some who make drip paintings because they see how much they attract attention on Instagram and Pinterest, and only keep making them because anything else they post doesn't get nearly the same amount of engagement. What will you do when the bottom falls out of the trend?

Before I go any further, this post is not a rebuke of drip paintings. It's also not meant to take shots at people who are experimenting with different mediums and styles, trying to figure out who they are as an artist. Some of those people may go on to produce some amazing works that sell for tons of money.

As a matter of fact, if you're selling drip painting canvases for $50 a piece at your local craft mart and having a blast doing it, then get down with your bad self.

My opinion on what other people should do with their art carries very little weight, but there's one segment of the drip painting population that I don't appreciate—people who do it because they think it's what they should be doing, and only keep doing it because it's popular.

Trend hoppers happen, and they will continue to be a part of the art world until the end of time, but if you happen to be one, I would like you to ask yourself one question. Are you doing it for love or for attention?

If you're doing the art because you love it, then please allow me to get the hell out of the way. However, if you know in your heart that you're only doing the work because of the attention it brings you, what do you think happens when that attention goes away?

Called to serve, again

I had a recent wake-up call with my work. I came to the regrettable conclusion that everything I did was made only to satisfy my own needs. Whether it was video, the podcast, a blog post, or a social media update; everything was me, Me, ME. There was very little "you" in the equation. Some individuals may have gotten value from what I shared because watching someone go through their own struggle can lend perspective and clarity, but for the most part, my participation in this creative world over the last few years was self-indulgent.

My attention graph was falling, dramatically. I was losing views, losing followers, and fewer people commented on my work. I didn’t resonate with people, which for me, felt like death. Not because I desperately craved attention, but because I've always felt like my purpose on this planet is to be a light in the darkness for other creative people.

When I first started on that journey, things were progressing well, but I let myself get into a rut with the work. In order to feel better, I started to chase indulgence wherever it led me. Unfortunately, it led me into my own dark hole. Someone else had to come shed their light to help me out of the darkness.

I was lent some wisdom from a few different voices that helped me remember my purpose—to be the beacon for others. Whether that's lending words of encouragement (or a swift kick in the pants), some practical instruction on how I make what I make, or conversations I have with others that help light the way; my purpose is to serve.

Be more bold

Being reacquainted with my purpose has been enlightening, but also a lot of work in itself. It's going to take me a bit to find my rhythm again, but I've already found a surprising bonus.

If I'm purpose-driven to shed light, and I do that in the blog, in the newsletter, on the podcast, or on video, then I can make whatever art I want, but it has to be bold.

no more boring art by dave conrey

I made that piece for this post. Notice that it doesn't say, "bad art." That's because bad art happens. This piece may be bad art, but it's not boring. It's loud, it's obnoxious, and it might offend some people, but its voice is clear.

There are creative people out there right now who are making something because they feel it's exactly what everyone wants to see—and that's boring to me.

Yes, I want people to watch my videos. Yes, I want more people to listen to my podcast. Yes, I want more people to read these blog posts, and so I will do my best to fill them all with content that serves the purpose. In the meantime though, I'm going to make art that pushes my boundaries, breaks my own rules.

Of course, if the basis of your creative business is to sell enough to continue putting food on the table, then so be it. While you're doing that though, what else can you make that tests your own limits? What else can you create that shows the world that you're far from done exploring?

Bob Ross' purpose wasn't to paint fluffy clouds and happy trees—it was the help you paint fluffy clouds and happy trees. He painted those things because it's what made him happy. Whether you love or hate his work, he mastered his style, and along the way, he helped inspire hundreds of thousands of people to paint their first landscape.

When I think about the scope of Ross' work and the impact he had on the art world, I feel like a slacker, but I still have time. That doesn't mean you're going to find me, week after week, teaching you how to paint happy little skulls with radically distressed typography. In fact, I don't know what I'm going to paint next, but whatever it is, it's going to be bold.

I’m brash, at times obnoxious, but I’m not going to apologize anymore, at least not where it comes to my art. I was given this voice for a reason, so I can’t imagine it was meant to be diminished. So I’ll make the art that speaks my truth, and at the same time, be bold in my service to others.

Won’t you be more bold with me?