Four motivations in artwork, with notes:
The meditative ‘third pass’ of pencils/inks/design and the abandonment of art too late. This is a rabbit hole, bear with me: Art is never finished, it’s abandoned. Commissioned artwork is abandoned early because your eye is always on the clock. Fine artwork is abandoned late because Art. The first pass with pencils is just laying out the image, like a developed sketch.. The second pass is finishing up the pencil part of the drawing. Then the first pass with the pen is getting enough lines down that you can erase out the pencils, and the 2nd pass is finishing the drawing. The first pass on the computer is getting all the graphic elements together, and the 2nd pass is wrapping up the graphic.
I think of the 3rd pass as being the wholly unnecessary going-over-again of pencils, pens, or computer work for the love of the artwork. It’s usually in that phase that you fall into the timeless, mindless meditative state that’s like the zone for athletes. Like being deeply lost in thought on a long boring drive. The money part of art leaves you and your skill just does the thing, you just watch your hands work. It’s beautiful and amazing, and a big part of the reason artists do what they do. These artworks are much more likely to glow.
The amazement and appreciation of people who view the artwork… This motivation is tricky because everyone around you (except your significant other who is sick of your shit) is nice to you about your art. Compliments, for the most part, are more about the relationship between the artist and the complimenter then they are about the quality of the art. The only compliments that really count are from enemies and children, or when you are hiding under a rock somewhere nearby and hear an honest opinion. Which is why Galleries should have duck blinds. The highest compliment of all is a stranger buying the artwork with Money! I fly high when a stranger buys arwork off a wall without my pitching them, without them being my grandma, without them caring one bit less if I get hit by a truck. It’s beautiful and amazing, and a big part of the reason artists do what they do.
Money (sad trombone, womp womp) because it’s necessary… although any financial sense whatsoever is a detriment to pure artist-hood. If you have financial sense you’ve long before become interested in something else. For those of us to be lucky enough to not mind destruction just over the horizon, a big paycheck buys time: during that time it’s possible to take a risk on creating artwork that might or might not sell… which means diving into the meditative third pass, above, and unique and interesting art challenges, below. (As opposed to commissioned artwork, which is safer but less exciting). An artist become more stable and secure by *not* being motivated by unique and interesting art challenges, in fact if you can avoid unique and interesting art challenges as a motivation then financial life becomes much, much easier.
Unique and interesting art challenges. It’s awesome to level up! So you put your dog portrait portfolio together and got a bunch of work from friends and neighbors, and then amazingly, strangers, and it’s become clear that you can knock out a couple dog portraits a day and voila! Financial security! Steady work! The admiration of your community and a place in your tribe. And then something inside of you goes “Drawing fur has taught me all kinds of things that would apply to my own artwork” and off you go over the deep end again, lost in the world and unemployed, rudderless except for your Godzilla ego, which says “I’M AWESOME I SHOULD WRITE A BLOG”