Acting versus reacting. That’s the creative conflict that’s been on my mind lately. I like acting. Acting on my own. What I mean by that is when I create things, be they stories, pictures, or anything else I like to come up with stuff on my own. I like to make stuff that no one has seen before. Of course I have influences and after all this time of human existence and people making things very little is new but I like to try. I like to create my own world and not react to somebody else’s.

By reacting I don’t mean being influenced by something or even aping a style but to make something that wouldn’t exist without another person’s creation. Usually a pop culture creation. Things such as reviews of movies or parody in general. A good example of this is the site that does thirty second recaps of popular movies reenacted with cartoon bunnies. It wouldn’t exist without it’s source material: the popular movies. It’s some pretty amusing stuff and I liked watching them but I have no interest in making something like that myself. Too much reacting for me.

I’ve been thinking about the choices involved with the things I make. Every artist wants to be able to make living from his art. That’s the dream. It only happens to the rare few and for the rest of us it’s a puzzle to be figured out. Except it’s actually not a puzzle nor is there a recipe to follow but admitting that it’s just dumb luck gives me nothing to do. It makes my choices and decisions null and void and removes free will. So I’m going to say success is neither a puzzle with a solution nor pure luck. It’s something in between. So that means that my decisions do matter (hey, I’m a dreamer).

The choice I’ve been pondering lately is the action versus reaction one. One of the short cuts to popularity is to react to something already popular. And popularity leads to financial success. The more people who know about what you are doing the more who will be interested in it and who will reward you financially. That’s why companies spend billions a year in advertising. To let people know that they exist in order to get popular and sell stuff.

I have a glass half full/half empty situation. Most of the artwork that I do is of a nature that it will probably not be popular. It’s a little too unexpected as it confronts the unknown a lot. As I’ve been influenced by comics and cartoons my art is made with a line and style that is familiar to people but the imagery is a little too odd. It’s not as comfortable as people want it to be. But that’s the way I want it. That’s what makes me happy and satisfied so that is what I do.

Yet still the influence of wanting to be popular and a financial winner rears its head. As I’m thinking about what to do next with my art I often think of projects that might somehow lead to popularity. They are usually reactive projects piggybacking on to something already proven. None of those type of projects have ever worked out for me. I get bored with them quickly and don’t do a very good job reacting to other people’s ideas. But at the beginning of them I think I can do it. I think I can divine what is popular and imitate it in my own project and create a success. Then it all falls apart. Popularity is not my strength. Being a weirdo is.

I think a lot of talented artists have this problem. What if your strength, what you do best, what you do well, isn’t appreciated by many people? That’s why most artists give up and go do something else. They played to their strengths, gave it their best shot, and nobody cared. They never figured out the puzzle that I say isn’t there. Popular culture passed them by without so much as a glance. It’s a tough world.

If I look around most people are quite willing to react rather than act. Every place I look are books, magazines, web sites, and whole TV channels dedicated to reacting to popular culture. People are quite happy to bask in the glow of and forever dissect their favorite movie or TV show. People devote their energies to them. They use their creativeness to live in a pop culture world that others create. I find this hard to do even when I want to.

So what is the point of all this? I don’t know. That’s why I’m pondering it. Should I try to be popular and make mediocre work? Should I do what my own weird self wants, do good work, and probably never be popular? My own weird self usually wins out but only when money is not too tight so my mind is not filled with Ralph Kramden get rich quick schemes. Those schemes never worked out for him either.