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Dear Readers,

Sometimes I talk about people’s work, or about things I’ve enjoyed. I’ve never been paid by anyone for talking about them. I don’t think I could draw an ad for pay, either. Even working on  commissioned piece is very difficult for me. That means I have to sell my own work enough to pay my bills, keep the site up, get more pencils, and cottage cheese, and coffee. Sometimes I am motivated, I make a lot of things and I post them and I hope people will buy them. Other times I see nothing but a pile of unwanted work next to my drawing board and become discouraged and write about other things instead; it’s hard to make more, when there’s already what seems like too much that isn’t great enough for anyone to want as their own.

I have a rough time working to specifications- for tattoos, I can get into a certain frame of mind. I can look at the person as the canvas- and I can see what will fit that canvas, what good parts of their personality I can express, how I can solve the problem of making something fit the specific engineering of their form. My cards used to say, “Bring your soul to the surface”, and I feel like when I do my work well that’s what happens for the wearer.

But to draw on paper, paint, and work in any other medium, it’s just impossible most times to make commissioned pieces. I can’t imagine that piece being worn by the buyer. It won’t be everywhere they go for the rest of their life. It’s not going to be  part of them, part of who they are, like a tattoo would be. That person isn’t the canvas. The canvas is the canvas. So while I may find their desired idea really moving, very inspiring, I usually can’t grind it down to shape the same way. I almost feel as if my hands are trapped in some form of cage, beating against the bars to draw anything BUT what the request says I must. If they love green, my hands itch to pick up the red pencil.

I can’t help that.

With ads, though- I mean that’s like not even someone asking for something meaningful, something moving or inspiring. It’s asking me to trick people into buying shit they may not need, and NOT the kind of stuff-they-may-not-need that is paying for my cottage cheese and coffee. Stuff that has nothing to do with me, or things I care about. I’ll show my work and sell my work because I have to, I have to get it off the table and out the door or I lose heart completely- I don’t have any reason to sell corn chips, cars, dresses, shoes. I have been asked. I just can’t bring myself to do it; I don’t hate my work enough yet, I’m not impoverished enough. I may eat ramen for a month but spec work, and ad work…I just can’t. It’s not a matter of choice or choosing not to sell out, although I like to pretend it’s my ethics talking- it’s now won’t, it’s can’t.

I have tried, and my hands and mind and eye rebel and won’t let me do it. Then I miss the deadlines, and I have to write to guys in suits and inform them that I have failed, and I return their money, and they never ask again. It’s terrible, it breaks my heart for them. It does.

I have no hate for, or feelings of superiority over, artists who market other people’s profit with their work. I see it as a sort of necessary evil for some, and a propagandist’s skill for others.  And there are those of us who won’t, and those of us who can’t. And of course those of us whose work is completely unsuitable for use in that way. You can usually tell who is who by how new the tires on their car or the soles on their shoes, are. And by whether someone brings them their cottage cheese and coffee on a nice tray in their nice hotel, or whether they drag themselves into a cramped kitchen to fetch it themselves.

I had no real reason for writing this, there’s no recent event that spurred it- I’m not suffering, trying to work on a specific piece, or any more broke than usual. But there it is, it came to me and had to be out.



Artists who take money for ads poison and pervert their songs…Corporations are hoping to hijack a culture’s memories for their product. They want an artist’s audience, credibility, good will and all the energy the songs have gathered as well as given over the years. They suck the life and meaning from the songs and impregnate them with promises of a better life with their product.

~Tom Waits