One of the questions most often asked by customers is “what are you trying to say in your work?” and one of the most oft laid criticisms at the feet of artists is “it’s pretty, but it doesn’t have a point.” Both of these criticisms come back to a critical aspect in any art career, your point of view.
Point of view is more important than talent. I’ve seen the most technically proficient artwork in the world do nothing for audiences while a simple mixed media piece has brought them to tears due to its point of view.
Point of view is why you can tell Frank Miller’s work from Skottie Young’s, and Mike Mignola’s from Rob Liefeld’s. You might not like all of those artists, but you can tell their work apart from the pack the moment they put pen to paper. More importantly, their fans flock to their work because it speaks clearly to them.
In order to make great content, you need a strong point of view. You need a slant on the world. You need something that separates you from the rest of the creatives on the planet.
Let’s do a thought experiment. Think about Tim Burton for a moment. Now think of the kinds of projects that would be perfect for Tim Burton’s view of the world. Can you imagine a couple?
Of course you can. His distinct style has been developed in the public zeitgeist for decades.
That clarity of vision makes a good point of view. Tim Burton won’t be a good fit for 99.9% of movies, but point of view is not about that. Your goal is not to be on everybody’s list of candidates, it’s to be the number one candidate for the right person. Those projects you thought of, could you imagine anybody else directing them except for Tim Burton and doing as good a job? Probably not.
That is the power of a strong point of view. With a solid point of view, you don’t have to pitch yourself. Your ideal audience comes to you.
Point of view is the hardest part to nail down in a creative life because it takes life experience and practice to figure out. It’s why you need to make a lot of different things and finish them.
Once you’ve done a body of work, you can look back, think about your point of view, and figure out what it is you are trying to say. You can connect the dots much easier after completing several projects than you could before you began your work. Then, when you go to make a career, you can tell people exactly what you stand for and they can make a decision whether they want to stand with you or with somebody else.
If you don’t have a point of view, it’s a bit like making plain white socks. Nobody hates plain white socks and we all buy them, but we don’t care about what brand we buy. Most of us buy whatever’s cheapest. Every time we buy, we buy a different brand because we just don’t care about plain white socks. You don’t want to be plain white socks.
On the other hand, a point of view is like having the brightest, pinkest, dragoniest socks on the planet. They won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but those who love bright pink dragon socks will flip their lid and buy ten pairs. They’ll look through the designer’s collection and buy up all of their stuff. They’ll sign up to receive updates for when the new dragon socks come out. Nobody has ever signed up to find out when the next pair of plain white socks launches. That’s the power of a point of view.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a point of view yet. That’s normal when you first start out. The more you create the more connective thread you will find between your work, and the stronger your point of view will become. One of the reasons artists become more successful later in their career is because they’ve developed a strong point of view.
If you already have created a decent body of work, it’s time to look back on it and ask yourself, what am I trying to say here?