No Compromise / by Chris Hall

Some good advice, maybe.

Some good advice, maybe.

I admit, I can be a bit thorny concerning my art, but for good reason.  And for all my life's difficulties, I can honestly say that because I've never compromised, I have absolutely no regrets to speak of.

Lately I have been asked quite a bit about compromising my art.  I can not compromise.  Today I saw an artist with a commissioned piece, completed for the owner of the PetSmart company.  It was an airbrushed piece on canvas of the PetSmart owner's fancy vintage car in front of a picturesque theater with a marquee that read, “It's a Wonderful Life.”  Total Hollywood glam.  Perhaps it is a “Wonderful Life” for the PetSmart owner, but if a “Wonderful Life” is defined by how many fancy vintage cars you can own and have portraits of, this is beyond many people's reach.  The artwork, while high quality and technically proficient, was a failure in my estimation.  It may have successfully stoked the ego of the PetSmart owner, but it has no real application beyond that.  When it comes to my art, I have no interest in giving people what they want.  People already get too much of what they want.  My concern in my art is for providing the world with what it needs.  Granted, sometimes the two overlap, but often times it does not.  

Of course it would be nice for me to make a living from my art, but not ever at the cost of my integrity or my soul.  Some have suggested to me that I should hide away my more provocative works from potential buyers who may be too sensitive to appreciate what I am trying to do . . . as if my work is something to be embarrassed about.  If someone is embarrassed by my work, that speaks more to their state of mind, their Puritan prejudices, than to my perceived depravity.  In this case, art is an illustration, not an act.  Drawing a crime is one thing.  Committing a crime is another.  There is a profound difference.  And besides, many of the things that I illustrate that may be considered a crime by the morality police, I argue in the contrary anyways.  I have nothing to be ashamed of.  I refuse to be made to feel embarrassed by my own work.  Perhaps they should spend more time looking at my work and learn . . . what I offer is nothing to be embarrassed about.  

But the world's needs are one thing; I also have my own needs, which are satisfied by making art.  Art is a guilty pleasure sometimes.  It can be a drug with withdrawal symptoms.  It is something necessary for me.  If I did not have art, live, breathe, think about art constantly, I suspect I would be an arsonist, a radical terrorist maybe.  Everyone benefits, whether they know it or not, whether they like my art or not, by my art practice.