December 2, 2010

The pain of a professional custom portrait artist

Actually, using the word of "pain" is not enough to describe my "suffering", "agony" would serve the purpose better.

As I put it in my profile description: "a professional artist by misfortune", I engaged in art career not by my choice, but my parents'. Even though I knew art was not my best choice, I was too young to fight with my parents. I was determined to change my career ages ago but very unfortunately, at this middle age of my life, due to many reasons (mostly my chronic health problems) I have not been able to accomplish this seemingly not so difficult task.

I don't necessarily "hate" art, but I do hate doing art when I have no inspiration. And since I understand that my inspiration is not for sale, and may not be sold, I believe that art should not be my profession. However unfortunately, I did something against my belief - spending 6 years doing portraits by commission. Even though I made my customers incredibly happy but deep inside my heart I knew I was in misery.

The pain of doing "professional art", especially custom art, is that as an artist, you are not in freedom of choosing subjects and forms. For 6 years I had to make living by copying people's faces, and was driven to the edge of being crazy numerous time! Almost every compliments such as "looks just like photograph" was like a sharp knife stabbed right into my heart.

Be fair to myself, not only I made the likeness close to 100%, I also made most of my portraits as artistic as I could. But still, the process was boring and life wasting.

I am in peaceful mood now by doing art education, and be able to have a slow pace of life which allow me to rebuild my health. Once a while I would receive emails from my previous customers asking me to do the portraits for them. I usually decline their requests very politely, but occasionally I decided to do some just for money, or, for save the desperation of kind customers. However as soon as I did it, I felt that "agony" of wasting life again.

I should never ever do it again, no matter for what kind of purpose (unless some magic happens one day that I would feel the fun of just copying reality, which is not likely at all)! Art, is not meant to be "customized", and "likeness" is not the purpose of art.

*The portrait of the boy was done during the 1998 Christmas, when I just learned to do pastel portraits. It remains my all time favorite. Guess I had some passion to do this by then.