Am I making art or content?
I don’t know if this is all in my head, but I’ve been observing over the past several months that people are really tired of posting content. Perhaps this is only within my network and what I perceive to be fewer posts and stories on my feed, but it makes sense to me. After a hyperactive period of churning out content during peak pandemic times, we are exhausted and have come to the realization that the content hamster wheel has become the new 9 to 5 enemy. Maybe, the 9 to 5 was actually pretty good(!)
Yesterday one of my favorite Youtubers struthless uploaded this mini documentary on how creativity has become reduced to content creation, which I watched with many nods of affirmation—highly recommend you watch it above. In the video (around 9:12) he points out two big problems of primarily focusing on branding and audience size that go hand in hand with content creation:
Experimentation becomes a risk to one’s biggest asset (aka the brand).
Creativity has now been trained to suit an algorithm.
Despite already knowing this and having decided that I don’t want to make art “for content”, I find that I renege on my values and end up making things that I know have higher potential to be liked and reposted. I rationalize to myself that I can do something to please myself and the algorithm (news flash, this rarely works out). I have not been making art for myself except for some bits and bobs in my sketchbook that don’t really feel “like me” either. This is partially by design since my focus lately has been on making commercial portfolio pieces, but it is still demotivating and even painful.
I’m realizing that when I’m creating for art directors, clients, or a social media audience, I also need to preserve some energy to create for myself. Something that goes beyond doodles or observational sketches and is fully in service to myself, without consideration as to how it will be perceived by anyone else. Struthless mentions a “one for me, one for them” strategy that I’ll be trying out—for every piece you make to serve someone else, you also make one just to please yourself.
Thanks for reading through a bit of a melancholy post—I’ll count it as something I wrote purely for myself, but hope that it will also provide you some reflection or clarity! If so I’d love to hear from you: how do you think of your art as part of or separate from content? Is it important to you that you create for yourself, and how are you making sure you’re doing it?
As a friendly reminder, my shop is still live with some punch needle goods, prints, and paintings! I’ll be closing it in two weeks, so please check it out before then. As a thank you for being a subscriber, feel free to use the code CYOOSUBSTACK for 15% off all items.