14 December 2008


When you create your art, who is your audience?

Is it only you? Your family? Friends? Is it for your online gallery in whatever form? Is it commissioned by a client? Is it intended for sale?

Does the audience matter? Does it affect your creative process?

I've been pondering some of these questions, and the recent OT regurgitation of old rants provides a good bridge to this topic. First, I'm going to offer a couple of comments on that post.

Recently, I've been encouraging anyone, including them, to publish your own calendar using any one of the numerous methods to get a calendar printed. So, they decided to comment on that. I'm glad they like to read here, but they don't seem to learn anything. I don't really expect them to. People on a crusade rarely learn anything that might harm their crusade.

I really liked this comment,

I guess Ken forgot that OT beat him to the punch by nearly a year. We put out our official Fractal Alternate Universe Calendar last December. We were proactive. We were creative.
Let's be clear, OT didn't create anything. They stole, by their own admission, the images from the 2004 Fractal Universe calendar and bastardized them with filters in an attempt to mock the actual calendar. They didn't print it. They didn't market it, other than by encouraging people to download the stolen images. They just used the exercise in a sarcastic attack on the Fractal Universe calendar. I'd hardly call that proactive. I certainly wouldn't call it constructive. It was anything but creative.
Or, most likely, Dr. Ken needs to heal himself.

But can he? The critic who rails against critics is still whining about us in both of his supposedly Zen-inducing, throw-your-complaining-down posts championing his self-help snake oil of calendar liberation.
I'm not in need of healing, but I do appreciate their concern. I guess it must take a professional writer to come up with such a nauseating sentence of the magnitude of that last one. My young daughters can write better than that. Perhaps OT needs some healing. Don't despair, this is the season of hope. If they leave Santa a nice plate of cookies, perhaps he will leave them a Fractal Universe calendar to help their mood this season. LOL!!

It's also clear that from a couple of comments to that post that there are others who share OT's disdain of the Fractal Universe calendar. That's perfectly fine. Everyone one is a critic and by no means all are going to like any particular image, calendar, etc.

But, there is a far more important issue in the larger scheme of things, which brings me back to the topic of audience.

Once you show your art to anyone, you are creating an audience. That could be for seeking praise, seeking critiques, seeking sales, and so on. But, you are creating an audience. Do you know your reasons for creating an audience?

The audience for the Fractal Universe calendar is the calendar publisher and their customers. They have found a formula that works for them and is profitable. They are creating a calendar for their audience. Their audience buys the calendar, and appears to be quite happy with it year after year. What is wrong with that? No one has ever given a satisfactory explanation that I've seen. There are only complaints are about how the images are solicited and chosen for it, and about the "quality" of the images chosen. Those complaints are irrelevant, but do provide for a useless argument for those who find them of some importance.

People who choose to submit images for consideration for the calendar are attempting to appeal to that audience. Is that wrong? Does that hurt fractal art in general? Are the artists who submit images for the calendar compromising themselves of their art by submitting to the calendar? Of course not. They are making a choice to appeal to that audience.

Anyone who shows their art to anyone else is creating an audience. It is only natural that artists like to receive positive feedback on their work. But, feedback from that audience may affect their creative process.

If you are seeking to sell your work, then you have two choices. Create what you want and try to sell it, or experiment to find out what sells and create work that has a better chance of selling. Neither choice is wrong. But, as an artist you have to be honest with yourself and acknowledge what you are doing.

I think one can accurately argue that if you choose the latter you are compromising yourself somewhat as an artist. But, if you are striving to make a living, then you have to appeal to your market. That may be altering what you really want to do. But, that is what any business that wants to succeed must do. There is nothing wrong with that. But, you must realize that is what you are doing.

The former may allow you to be more "pure" to your artistic vision, but you have to realize that what your vision leads you to produce may not be what your audience wants to buy. If you are really fortunate, this method will coincide with what your audience wants and your audience will grow. But, I think this is pretty rare.

Similarly, the BMFAC selected images for an audience. Again, you can participate or not. You can even complain about the process used to select images, and make up all sorts of issues with that process, some real and some invented. But, the organizers are the audience and they made the rules by which images were chosen. All the issues, real or not, have no effect on any individual as an artist. There is no harm done to any individual, or any art form in general. Any harm perceived is a figment of the individual's imagination who thinks he has been harmed.

I think the bigger issue is how any given artist allows their audience to affect their work. Do you allow critical feedback to cause you to run off and cry in the corner, as I've seen happen in various online forums when a critical comment is offered unsolicited to a newcomer?

Do you care, or does it affect you, if your images don't fit the audience for any particular contest, calendar, gallery, etc.? If you care, or if you are affected, why do you care or how are you affected?

For a much more eloquent discussion of the topic of Audience, read the Luminous-Landscape article on the topic as it relates to photography.


Keith said...

Thanks for writing this, along with all of the other OT rebuttals that you have written.

Creating for a specific audience is hard to do. You find yourself wondering what they are thinking instead of what you like to do. It can be hard to find a balance.

xovery2 said...

I have read Orbit Trap for some time, and I find that you consistently misrepresent opinions expressed there. Maybe it is your obvious hatred for that blog that causes you to argue more emotionally than logically.

Orbit Trap's main complaints against the fractal contests center on how they are run. Both contests are managed unprofessionally because both give special preference to the editors and judges assigned to jury the contests. Such a practice is not an irrelevant point. It's true that the contest directors can do whatever they want, but Orbit Trap rightly asks whether what they are doing is grossly unethical. This is a legitimate inquiry and does not seem to me to be either a case of whining or complaining.

I don't mean to hurt your feelings, but I also found Orbit Trap's parody calendar to be very funny and more creative and definitely more proactive than the calendars you are pushing.

Ken said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ken said...

xovery2 - If you hurt my feelings, I would delete your comment and ban you from commenting, like OT does when they encounter disagreement.

Actually, I don't dislike OT as much as I dislike their methods, tone, and tactics. They have some interesting and thought provoking articles. Their highlighting of particular artists is particularly interesting to read. Their writing style and commenting style leaves much to be desired at times, but that is largely my preference, though I know of quite a few people who agree. And, I very rarely respond emotionally. I take the time to make logical and consistent arguments that refute and expose the errors, falsehoods, and lies that OT has presented as fact in the past. That is primarily why they don't like me and several others who they have banned from commenting.

If I have misrepresented their opinions, by all means please detail how I have done so. If I am in error, I will correct the record. I think you should note that OT has routinely lied about me, which I have detailed extensively. They have never detailed where I have lied about them or misrepresented them. I apologize when I'm wrong. OT has never admitted or apologized when they have been shown to be wrong.

I know what their arguments are about the calendar and BMFAC. I have posted detailed refutations of their arguments, misrepresentations, and lies about both the calendar and contest. If you haven't read my articles on those topics, please do so before commenting further on them or defending OT.

I've said repeatedly that there can be valid arguments made against the BMFAC. But, OT's method of personal attacks puts little validity behind any salient points they may make.

Arguments against the calendar are just silly. But, I am curious, why do you find stealing and modifying images more creative and proactive than creating your own calendar from your own images?

Doesn't it make sense to create your own, either individually or collectively, if you have issues with one calendar or another?

I do appreciate you taking the time to comment. Please do so again if you disagree. But, please be specific if you think I'm wrong or misrepresenting something.

Keith said...


I am amazed at the blind faith that you have in Orbit Trap.

Do you know how it feels to be publicly accused of being "grossly unethical"? It isn't funny. Orbit Trap has been publicly calling my integrity into question for over a year now. Terry Wright's sarcasm is nothing but mean spirited. Any hope of a "logical" conclusion was lost a long time ago. For this issue there is nothing left but anger and hate.

If you want to see another answer (other than Ken's) to this "legitimate inquiry" then read this. If what I have written does not satisfy you as an answer then I promise you that you will never be satisfied because there is no other answer.

WelshWench said...

How odd that someone who has "read Orbit Trap for some time"; only joined Blogger this month and has no public profile should pop up to disagree with you on this post, Ken.

I smell a sock puppet

Dzeni said...

Keith, thanks for a thought provoking and well written post. I certainly create art for an "audience" of sorts. My audience is my blog readers, the guys at flickr, my family and buyers over at Shutterstock.

For the Shutterstock stuff, I break the work down into the background and the clipart and sell them separately. That way, I get more downloads and designers are free to modify the "raw ingredients" of my art as necessary (provided the don't break SS's TOS).

I'm not really a "calendar" type person but my local Jewish Community commissioned a blue spiral for the front page of their Calendar (or Luach) which they had printed and then sent to all their members. I guess that's a start.

I too would encourage people to get their work "out there". Shutterstock is a good way to do it if you don't mind selling your work and having others use it / change it to meet their needs.

A small run of calendars makes nice Christmas presents and I have printed off a series of blank greeting cards which people seem to like.

Before people do get their stuff published, it does pay to figure out who the audience is and what they are likely to appreciate. The only way to figure this out is to experiment. Starting small and seeing what works is a good learning exercise.

As for OT, they are like a bad train smash. Can't look at it, can't look away either. They have flamed me often enough that I suspect Terry has a crush on me and has not yet worked through it. That's my story and I'm sticking to it :)