client work can stretch your creativity

When you create on demand, you have to throw away so many variables:

  • choice of format or shape or material
  • your personal tendencies
  • infinite time

Client work gives parameters. It inspires creativity because it limits it through format, budget, or time.

And I think that's why I've always kept at it. In the beginning of my career, client work was a way for me to give structure and form to my creativity. It's a way for me to give purpose to my skills, that so often seem to drift and wander through the air like smoke, then vanish, like vapor.

The challenge of a fine art commission comes from size restrictions, subject matter, medium, and timeframe or deadline.

The challenge of a fine art commission comes from size restrictions, subject matter, medium, and timeframe or deadline.

Creating on-demand also takes the romance out of the artist's life. I become a craftsperson. I become someone who makes, rather than an archetypal artist-leech on society. It gives me a disciplined pattern of life: I getup, I make, I do more, I sleep, I get up, I make. Repeat.

It's an outpouring of yourself, every single time. It almost never gets easier. But if I can think about it like it's a job, it does get easier. If I can get up and make myself accountable to the day--to just move the work forward in some way, as if I were creating a project for someone else...

The challenge of photographing a wedding comes from restrictions on time, location, weather, and more.

The challenge of photographing a wedding comes from restrictions on time, location, weather, and more.

...that's what it takes. It takes a certain amount of getting outside yourself in order to make progress. You have to sit outside yourself and be your own boss--but a nice one, of course. You have to be accountable to yourself... but you have to be a challenging, nice boss. You can't let yourself off, but you're also not a slavedriver.

I've seen firsthand how client work can propel someone into wonderful patterns of making. If you're determined enough, you can absolutely make wonderful things happen with your client work. If you can keep up the pattern of getting up and doing one thing every day, it will truly change your life.