Among the million criticisms launched at Against Me! when they started to get popular was that all of their songs were about playing in a band or (more generally) the music industry. I thought it was a bummer when they forgot how to write catchy, engaging songs but didn’t mind those lyrical themes so much. But part of me is bothered by this piece in that same kind of way. It’s a little too self-referential / on-the-subject-of-art/business for my taste. Or maybe I’m just embarrassed by the sentiment or the vulnerability. It was my second time selling at a street fair-kinda thing, nobody was even stopping to look at my stuff, and I was getting a little down in the dumps. Eventually people did stop – and laugh, and compliment – and come back with their friends to show them certain pieces that they really liked, but no one was really buying anything.
I knew all along that I shouldn’t need validation from anyone or anything outside of myself, but it took me a little bit to realize that – if that’s what I wanted – the positive feedback should have been enough for me to feel validated in that way anyway. After all, if the lack of sales was actually about me (or, more specifically, my art), what would that mean? What would the explanation be? It would be that my pieces weren’t good enough to sell. Which would mean that if I wanted to succeed, I’d have to make “better” art. My pieces though are authentic, honest, and expressive. A lot of them are also funny and some of them even look cool as well. Even if I didn’t know that myself, I can tell a real response or compliment from a bullshit one, and plenty of people have told me as much and genuinely meant it. I could have been peddling unearthed/never-seen Picassos, and (unless they had his name on them) I probably still wouldn’t have sold much more than I did that day. Or maybe if I had been selling technically proficient portraits of TV characters, I’d have sold everything I had. But that would have been bullshit because that’s not who I am and it’s not what I do.
So this painting is about the emotional triggers I was struggling with before I took the time to really reflect and figure it all out. When I finished it, I was too embarrassed to even add it to my display. And I’m still a little embarrassed by it, but that’s okay (just like everything else).
This statement was written in May, around the time the painting sold. An 11½x12” print/poster is available in my store.
Here’s a later-period Against Me! song that I think is every bit as good as anything they’ve ever recorded.