If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, did it really make a sound? If an artist creates a piece and there is no audience to see it, was it really a piece of art?
As artists, we have to remember how unarguably important our audiences are. Without an audience, our work serves no purpose. Without an audience we have no one to share our stories with, no one to communicate with, no one to inspire. It’s a sad place for an artist to be, and it is a REALITY for too many artists who choose to IGNORE their audience.
I’ve seen too many artists say, “Well, I don’t know if THEY got it, but it made sense to me!” Artists, I have something to tell you – and you may not like it at first, but hear me out. If your work doesn’t mean anything to anyone else, they probably don’t need to see it. It doesn’t matter if your work makes sense to you, makes you feel a certain way, or expresses your deepest thoughts. All that matters is whether or not you can GIVE something to your audience through your art.
This is the difference between making art for yourself and making art for your audience. When you create your work for your audience, you must focus on what you can give the people in your audience or what they can take away. It’s not about personal gratification. If your work is being made for other people to see, it can NOT be created with only yourself in mind. The storyline, emotions, and concepts have to make sense to other people. It’s not about appeasing and entertaining your audience; it’s about making their experience worthwhile.
The REAL people in your audience don’t care how you feel. They care about how you can make THEM feel.
So, if you want to make a piece inspired by your recent break-up, that’s fine. But you must put in the work to make that concept communicate with other people. YOUR emotional connection to the subject doesn’t automatically determine that your audience will have the same connection. The audience’s connection to your work comes from the care that you take in creating it. And that’s one of the beautiful things about art! As the artist, you get to craft every moment of your work. Every decision you make about the storyline, the emotional expression, the movement, the rhythm, determines how your audience will (or won’t) connect with your piece.
Your personal experiences and emotions aren’t necessary in creating a powerful piece of art. The audience will never know whether the piece that is in front of them is a story from your own life or a story you made up. What the audience WILL know is whether or not you were able to make them FEEL something with your piece. You could make a piece about an event in your life. Or you could make a piece about something you’ve never personally experienced. The amount of work you can create is infinite.
So take the focus off of yourself. Take the focus off of self-expression and personal gratification. The work you create as an artist is about what you can GIVE to the people in your audience. So give them a new experience, a new point of view, inspire them to make a change in their lives.
Our job is to be anything but self-indulgent. Our job is always to give.