When I finished my Artists In Jackson portrait project, I wrote a lengthy piece on some lessons I learned from the work. Part of that, “Thinking About Your Audience,” was a reflection on how I think about who’s going to care about what I make:
If you’re well-connected and well-known, this may not be such an issue for you. Your art may already have an audience. But if you’re a first-timer like me, this audience stuff matters. I didn’t want to make something and have it flop.
In other words, who do I hope sees this?
Now, that doesn’t affect the actual portraits I make. Those are all mine, with no thought on what’s “marketable.” Style, subject, composition – that’s all me.
But when I bundle all these things together, I do think about who will be interested. When I’m done, who do I send this to first?
Part of me feels like a “sellout” for thinking that way. After all, should it matter who sees what I make? Who cares if it’s “marketable?”
For one: me. And for two: Many of my projects have a community focus. If I’m highlighting local artists, say, or people with fun hobbies, then I want to make sure those people are recognized by their communities, big or small.
I get some benefit out of that, sure. But so do the people I showcase. “Here,” the project says, “look at these folks who are just like you and do something interesting.”
For the portrait project, my audience was both my hometown and the artistic community within Jackson. For my Albion Anagama documentary, the audience was the Albion community and the ceramics community, plus alumni from Albion College.
Yes, the stuff I make matters to me, first and foremost.
In second place is the audience.