I've been thinking about this lately. I started this essay, umm, almost a year ago; maybe this time I'll finish it.
I don't do much in the way of visual art these days. In the last year or two, I've been a bit more productive on the art front, but I'm still much more dedicated to my writing than my drawing.
I think that's in part because I don't like my own drawings very much. Almost all of the art that I've done in the last five years, good or bad, was stuff that I did for one of the following reasons:
1) Practice, so that one day I would be good at it and could make things I liked
2) To illustrate a concept (drawing one of my own characters, or a setting, so that others could see what I had in mind)
3) Random doodles, mostly to pass time
4) For someone else
There's a very small category of pictures that I did for me, because I wanted to look at them. One of those, a poster-sized outline of a rearing unicorn, was destroyed by wear and moves. Another was inspired by Ursula Leguin's The Tombs of Atuan. I liked it all right at the time, but I don't any more.
I can't think of any others. Oh, wait: there was one called "Sunbathing" that I liked, of a fire-haired vixen bathing in the glowing plasma of a sun. I sold the original of that. The pencil sketch that I did of Kirilyr, the tyr of Sychi, almost fits into this category. It was technically "illustration of character concept" but I liked it enough to frame it. I've thought about scanning it anew and doing a digitally colored version, but I haven't gotten up the energy.
I haven't given away all that much art, at least not originals. I've done several pieces for my mother, usually for Christmas presents, mostly of her pets. I did illustrations for Level Head and Lady Anne as gifts last year. In the same style as the outline of the unicorn, I did an outline of sandramort's cat for her. (It didn't suit the cat as well as the unicorn, but as I recall, Sandy liked it).
I've done a lot of character sketches for other people, almost all of them for free. The drawings of Ocean's Edge's avatar, or for Snadra Tayler's journals, or of Sythyry, just as a few recent examples. I like doing artwork best when I know I've got an appreciative audience for it. If I know someone will enjoy seeing the result (and especially if I know they'll get some use out of it, as with LJ icons) then I'm much more likely to do it.
And that's where "Art wants to be loved" comes in. I need someone else to love my drawings and my paintings, because I don't. They're my orphaned children, created and cast off because they are not good enough. Abandoned and forlorn, they wonder why they were ever born, and I wonder why I spent the time in making them.
This wasn't always true. When I was a child, I enjoyed paging back through old sketches, looking at my work. Even in college, I took some satisfaction from what I'd done well in an illustration. I didn't just focus on "This isn't aesthetically interesting" or "this isn't what I wanted it to be." This is one of the main reasons I continued to draw as hobby, for a long time -- because I'd figure I would be glad to have the pictures to look back on later.
Now, I guess I enjoy looking at some of my pictures, some of the time. But more often, I look at them and think, I wish ....
With my writing, it's different. I nearly always enjoy reading my own writing. Even Prophecy has a lot of parts that I love. Even the manuscripts I wrote in my teenage years, and which are largely dreadful, remain near and dear to my heart. But the best example is Silver Scales, which I've read through in its entirety more than a half-dozen times. Having an appreciative audience helps a great deal, in encouraging me to write. I'm sure I wouldn't feel the same drive to work on it if I didn't have friends encouraging me with each new post.
But ultimately, I am writing this story for me, because I want to read it. I did no focus groups to determine what other people would like to read. I didn't pick it because it was deep or meaningful or thought-provoking. I chose to write it because I love it. I don't tell each entry "you meander too much" or "you're not good enough". Instead, I enjoy them for whatever good qualities they have.
I guess this is why I've written something on Silver Scales every day for the last couple of weeks, while I haven't drawn anything since I finished the last icon for Sandra Tayler in January.
I wonder if I'll ever learn to love my pictures again?