Follow That Mouse

Not the famous mouse.

Early in my art career, I did a mouse painting for a show. It was very popular. Not only did it sell right away, but there were requests from a few people to contact them if I ever did more mouse paintings.

Excited by my success, I went to my home studio and started looking for mouse photos. I wondered if an acquaintance whose daughter had mice would let me come over and sketch them. My husband wondered what I was up to, and when I explained, he asked me, “Do you want to be Vancouver’s foremost rodent artist?”

After I stopped laughing, I agreed that I did not want to wear that particular crown. I went on with my regular art, which at that time was still life paintings. But I was reminded of the whole experience when I painted the neon mouse above, as a warm-up yesterday. There is always a temptation when we have success to follow it, to pursue what the market seems to want. But if you do this, are you always behind? The desires of the market change constantly. Many times I have had people fall for a painting that was already sold and say, “If you do another like this, call me.” Optimistically, I would produce the paintings I thought they wanted, but when I contacted them the answer was no. They were no longer interested or the colours weren’t quite right. This happened so often, I began to wonder if people actually wanted the original work, or they only wanted it when it was not available. 

I do take commission work these days, but only commission work where the client is serious and committed. Gone are the days when I toil away on spec projects. Because if you keep listening to the other voices in your head, and ignore your own true vision, the art will be a compromise. I create the paintings I want to live with, and strive to make each one as compelling as I can. You can never create work for hypothetical clients, but happily you can create work that speaks to someone, somewhere out there. Your paintings are perfect for someone, but you never know who that someone will be.