Audience Dismissed: Keeping Your Head to Yourself

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I’ve designed hundreds of skateboard graphics over the years—some good, some bad, many really dumb. Curiously, the one pictured on this page has outsold the majority of them. Very little thought went into this particular graphic; I just envisioned the concept and very quickly knocked out an illustration. By no means did I think it would go on to become a top seller, but the drawing and accompanying text made me laugh, and that was good enough for me at the time.

moms bong board

Knowing that this board struck a chord with the audience has definitely made me try to bottle its lightning and recreate the magic. The results? Complete failure. Any attempts to lean into this specific humor and/or imagery have fallen flat. Why? Because I was creating in a head space with my audience in mind, and that’s a terrible launch pad. Your best work will always come from following your instincts, creating something that you personally wish to see in the world, not what you think other people are longing for.

As an artist, it’s really difficult to not play to the crowd. Let’s say you make 20 paintings for an art show—one of them depicts a baby hedgehog, and that’s the only one that sells. The temptation is to create 20 baby hedgehog paintings for your next exhibit, right? But then what? Are you going to exclusively paint baby hedgehogs for the remainder of your career? That’s depressing (although probably adorable). Make whatever excites you and try not to worry about how it will be received by the viewer. Ultimately, if you’re pleased with what you’re creating then you have achieved a certain level of success. Okay, I’m going to hop off my soapbox now and go Google “baby hedgehogs.” Holy crap! They’re even cuter than I imagined! Maybe do paint 20 of them… —Michael Sieben

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