Do you know what I’m especially good at? Coming up with projects that have absolutely no commercial potential whatsoever. That was my revelation for the week. Well, maybe I’ve known that for a while but it hit me again recently. I can find things that I like to do and can do well. I’m a good artist. But to come up with things that other people not only like but would be willing to pay for is a whole different ballgame. I’m not even talking about having the business skills to pull some kind of money making project off. That’s a different conversation. I’m talking about the basic vision to say to myself, “Yeah, this is something people might like. I think I’ll do it”.

It’s the “This is something people might like” part that I can’t wrap my head around. Not in the sense that I don’t think people can like my work but in the sense of putting other people’s likes about a piece before my own. I’m not motivated by what other people like. Some creative people can see what’s popular, put their own spin on it, and put out some nice work that the public embraces. Look at all the art and commerce involving Star Wars, Harry Potter, Batman, and every other pop culture character out there. Good, bad or indifferent there is lots of it. I’m not talking old museum art but new fangled populist art. Custom T-shirts, toys, prints, posters, and the like are what I’m talking about. My work is hardly elitist but nor does it embrace pop culture.

I bring this up because of some of the paintings I did over the Labor Day weekend. They have their origin in some paper I bought last year. I was ordering art supplies online and as I often do I threw in a few cheap extra items that I thought looked interesting. One of those items was a pack of about fifty sheets of five by seven inch watercolor paper. I often do small watercolor paintings that size so I decided to try some of that especially cheap paper sight unseen. What did I have to lose? It was about five bucks for fifty sheets.

When I got the paper along with the rest of my supplies I had no idea what to do with it. This paper had a surface that was rough. I mean really rough. I like cold press watercolor paper which has a rough surface but this stuff was way beyond that. I’d compare it to something but I’ve never seen paper this rough. The best I can do is to say it reminds me of crumpled up toilet paper. Much thicker than T.P. but the surface looked about the same as if you crumpled a piece of toilet paper and them smoothed it out with your hand.

I couldn’t draw on this paper with a pencil. I couldn’t even draw on this paper even with a thick tipped and juicy marker. The paper just had too many peaks and valleys to move a drawing implement across and have the line go anywhere near where I wanted it to. I tried various techniques over a few weeks and then gave up and put the paper on a shelf. There it sat for months and months until last weekend. That’s when I was at the end of my rope with projects that I had been working on. I had been working on some things for a while and couldn’t get any of them done. My focus and concentration were gone for whatever reason. I was stalled. So I pulled out that paper and just started using it.

Since I couldn’t draw on it with any kind of consistent line I embraced the inconsistency. I grabbed one of my brushes. Not even one of my good brushes but one that’s a bit worn out and no longer comes to a precise point. I dipped it in my black ink and started drawing. I often draw without a preconceived image in mind. I let the brush hit the paper, make some marks, and then see where that brings me. I started drawing character sketches of whatever face I saw on the paper. I let the line be rough and inconsistent. I went with the flow. It worked and was fun.

After I made a drawing in black ink I went and got my containers of watered down acrylic paint. I mixed them up this winter for a new painting technique that I was working on that never went anywhere. They’ve been sitting around waiting for me to do something with them. Red, orange, yellow, and blue were the only colors I had in that form so that’s what I used. A limited color palette can often be freeing. I painted the color on loose and rough just like the ink drawing. I liked the results. I liked them so much that I kept on painting more of them.

I ended up making twenty of those small rough paintings. I made twelve of them on Labor Day alone. I couldn’t seem to stop myself. I wanted to see what I could come up with next. It was fun. I posted a few of them on Instagram and a few people liked them. They were nice. But they had no commercial appeal. Sure it’s hard to sell paintings under any circumstances but odd little paintings are extra hard. And I’m good at odd little paintings. I’m good at finding the strange little things that come from the edges of my mind. There are people who like such things too but many many more people like a clever take on a drawing of Darth Vader.

This was all going through my head on the days that I was painting these. I like them. I think they are good and worth doing. Yet I had to console myself because hardly anybody else will ever care about them. But don’t worry, I came up with a whole scenario where I’m just not appreciated in my own time and future generations of people will, for sure, get me and wonder why no on in this time did. It’s a good thing I’m a legend in my own mind.