Artists, I suspect, are particularly prone to the negative promptings of the inner judge -- or perhaps it's just that it's easier to notice them. The judge HAS to engage, because every choice we make in the creative process is essentially a judgment: should I try this line or that, photograph from this angle or that, sing the note this way or that?
We have to remain open enough to let the creativity flow through, but that makes us vulnerable to the judge as well. And I personally add to that, when I am preparing for a specific exhibit, "Will they accept this if I do it this way?" and of course THOSE decisions, because the gallery needs to make money, are in turn based on their own answers to the almighty question, "Will it sell?"
It's hard not to be cynical and assume that "Will it sell?" is at the bottom of lots of decisions on all kinds of levels. You can imagine BP execs trying to figure out what to say about the mess in the Gulf: of course their question is "will it sell?" Will it sell to the public to keep them from boycotting? Will it sell to the government to lower the reparation costs? Will it sell to the stockholders?
In those cases it would have been nice if the "Will it sell" question had been considered a little earlier in the process. But for me art is the most fun when "Will it sell" doesn't enter into the picture until REALLY LATE in the process -- which is what happened with this image. It started out as a silhouette of a piece of a dried arrangement against a screened window -- which I noticed because the current exhibit I'm working on is called Patterns. But the image itself didn't seem all that distinctive a pattern, so I was thinking of scrapping it when I realized I liked the curve of it. What if I replicated the curve? The joy of Photoshop is that I can play with ideas like that without investing a lot of energy and time.
So I tried that, copying and rotating the original image until this larger pattern -- which I really like -- emerged. And then I thought it needed some red. I tried the simplest thing, putting a red star in the middle, and it was only then that "Will it sell?" raised its ugly head. Nope, I thought: the star is trite. I want a Japanese character in there.
I tried typing one with the various Kanji alphabets that seem to be available on my computer, but that didn't seem to work. So I went browsing around some Kanji sites looking for something pretty and appropriate to insert at the center, and found this character, which supposedly means soul. How appropriate, I thought, to put soul at the center! I liked it, and like the look of the results.
So in this case the "Will it sell" question paid off in a deeper meaning to the image, allowed me to hear and feel the heart of the work I was doing in a new way.
Which just goes to show that even the "Will it sell?" question isn't all bad: in exploring the answers, we can broaden our creativity and even our openness. Especially if I remain conscious of the truth, which is that the first person who has to buy into my results is, well, me. If I do this, how will I feel about it; how will I feel about me? And who is the "I" that HAS those good or bad feelings? Because the I that's judging may not be just a judge, but a conscience. Is the voice coming from the head, and accusatory? Or from the heart, and encouraging; "You can do better." If we're lucky, it's that soul voice at the center, holding us steady on a course that emerges out of connection to the Divine within, above and all around us.
With luck, when BP asks "will it sell?" and the answer at so many different levels is "NO!" it will force them to take a deeper look at what they're doing and how they're doing it, and find some new creative solution to the problem of providing energy.
With luck, ALL of us, having seen the devastating effects of our profligate over-dependence on petroleum products, will begin to question our daily choices. Do I NEED to make three trips into town today? Will it sell? Do I NEED to buy vegetables and fruits that are shipped to my store from ridiculously far away places, or can I buy local produce? Will it sell?
What decisions are you making today? And is your soul buying that you're keeping the broader needs of creation in mind? If not, how -- and where -- will you look deeper to find a more thoughtful answer to the questions?