Art Versus The Artist

(sadly that title doesn’t refer to an amusing online video in which Michelangelo and his famous David have a boxing match to determine who has the larger penis)

When I was a kid, I made comics; they weren’t particularly amusing, and I didn’t show them to anyone outside of my year four comic-making group, an organisation made by me and my friends in which we would sit in at break times and draw impressively preposterous superhero comics that lasted a few months, but I found a lot of satisfaction in creating worlds, telling stories, and offering responses to things like my friends’ stories – considering I’m about to start an English degree, I’d say those things still interest me.

And in an attempt to improve my comic artistry – because I scrawled brightly-coloured heroes in panels long before and after this club rose and fell – I bought a book entitled ‘COMICS’, that taught how to draw cartoons and create stories foe beginners to experts; it’s from this book that I learned of the importance of sketching characters in pencil first. I’ve forgotten most of this book’s sage advice now, but one line stuck out to me in particular – ‘as an artist, you’re either selling yourself, or you’re selling your art’.

In practice, this means that, when you produce a piece of art, you are either trying to show off that art to the world, and make everyone fall in love with it as a single painting on canvas, or story in a book; or you are trying to show off your range of talents as an artist, and include plot-twists, romantic sub-plots, cliffhanger endings and all the other devices of a novelist, to show what a skilled and diverse writer you are. In this second model, the art is a means to an end of advancing the popularity and acclaim of the artist, whereas the art itself is the focus in the first example.

Of course, these ideas are very similar – a great piece of art will lead to its artist being well-known, and a popular artist is more likely to have their art better received by fans – but there is a subtle change in emphasis that I think is relevant to this blog. I’d like to think that I’m selling myself to you, not in a commercial, sell-out sort of way, but in the sense that my posts are intended to make you interested in me as a person and a blogger, so you come back regularly to check up on me, like a concerned aunt with none of the unwanted presents and demands to watch Saturday night gameshows on the BBC. I feel this way, I’ll become more of a person to talk to (because I am) rather than a producer of amusing one-liners.

But since my first ‘big’ (i.e. ‘widely-read’) post, Geographical Pickup Lines!, the majority of my views come from a list of twenty crass and dreary jokes that’s nine months old now; similarly, my Football Manager Pro Tips – Lower League Edition post, another relatively old one, gets far more viewers than even the great geographical one-hit wonder. These examples make me think that my ‘success’ on this site, at least in terms of sheer numbers of views, has come from selling my posts – i.e. making articles, intentionally or otherwise, that people consider and enjoy without caring about me as a person – rather than selling myself, as my more personal posts get nowhere near the number of views.

And I don’t really have a solution for this; I feel that to sell one’s posts, those posts must have interesting concepts, whereas to sell oneself, a number of posts must all be well-written and engaging, which requires a more technical skillset as a writer that I either don’t have because I’m not very good at writing, or won’t have because I keep this blog strictly as a hobby as opposed to a job or an obsession. As well as improving my writing technique to sell myself as a writer, I think I’d also have to improve myself as a person; ‘self-improvement’ is such a vague and subjectively-judged term that I don’t think I’ll ever succeed, and it’ll probably involve less cynicism and general bastardry, neither of which I forsee changing any time soon.

So am I doomed to be an unpopular blogger with popular posts, whose creativity is good for one-off laughs about geography, but is too much of a dick, at least in their writing, to ever be considered as a person?

Frak no! I was pondering these things last night, and would have ended this post on a note so depressing it would take a video of a pug literally being abused by Bowling Ball-Bag Bob beheaded to lighten the mood. However, in my efforts to stop being a whiny bitch, I realised that there are different ways of judging the ‘success’ of selling your art versus selling yourself; while it’s certainly true that art is successfully ‘sold’ if it is seen and appreciated by many people, whether you folks care about me as a person isn’t measured by the quantity of comments or followers to this blog, but by the actual words you use to talk to me. Without sounding too fluffy here, one meaningful comment is a much better example of you engaging with me as a person than a hundred views on a post about Football Manager tips.

This isn’t to say that those views are irrelevant, however; without fully grasping it, I’ve produced some posts that are to be interpreted themselves – the more comedic ones that can be read as one-offs – and more personal ones that are more about presenting myself to you than an amusing idea. So I’ll continue writing both kinds, alternating between posts for their own sake, and posts for the sake of getting to know me and, by extension, you guys where the content of the post is really just a means to an end.

I’ll stop having blogging existential crises now, and let you get back to your using of WordPress, where you can choose which posts you want to read, and how you engage with them.

Also, this post is over a thousand words and is quite self-important and whiny’; it feels like an old post from me! #throwbacksundays

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5 thoughts on “Art Versus The Artist

  1. That’s an interesting point that your most popular posts are your most “fluffy”. My most popular posts are definitely the ones that are extremely personal.

    In my opinion, you should write what you want to write. Art by its very nature is personal and you will be most happy writing what you want to write (whether that be selling you or selling your posts).

    Of course, I’m biased because that’s what I’ve been doing for a couple of years and I still wouldn’t consider myself a “popular” blogger. If I wrote posts to get views, I would never write them.

    1. Well your Colombia-living, English- teaching, adventuring life is far more interesting than mine – if I only wrote about things that happened to me I’d run out if ideas in about a week.

      And I will keep writing whatever I feel like, but I don’t try to write personal or general posts – I just pick a topic and run with it – so it’s pretty interesting to see how many of each kind I write, and people’s responses to them. Writing this post didn’t make me rethink how I’ll approach future posts.

      If I am gonna change how I write stuff I’d probably have to consider why I’m blogging in the first place – if I wanted crazy internet fame I’d probably cash in as the geography pickup lines guy, which I don’t really want.

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