I don’t know why anyone would have a problem with it, but commercial art is cool.

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N.C. Wyeth — Title Unknown (I just like this one.)

All right, I do know why some people would have a problem. Working with clients can be ghastly. I remember saying these exact words to one guy one time, “Look dude, I’m not your art dog.”

“But I’m paaaaying you,” he whined while amazingly managing a smug smile, thinking, no doubt, that he’d just laid on me an argument for which there could be no possible riposte.


“You’re not paying me enough to **** your ***.”

“WELL! If that’s your attit…”

“It is. This deal’s off.”

So there’s that.

But most clients are much less demanding and far more appreciative, more appreciative by far and far more generous than your average gallery goer. You see, when you do commercial art, you’re helping someone else.

Usually, you’re helping them make money. That’s translates into money for you.

And the fact is, you really don’t get away from asshole customers when you do fine art.

I remember well another customer who’d commissioned a painting of Irises, giant, in a pseudo Georgia O’Keefe style that suited my temperament at the time. But she kept wanting me to change the colors after it was done. I accommodated her twice, but when she had me look at her bedspread and insisted I match it I said, “Sure.”

A couple of days later I invited her over to see the piece. It was quite large, four feet by two feet. I had it out on the patio on one of my steel display easels. It was a lovely patio too, a grape arbor overhead and in that summer, verdant.

“But you haven’t changed it!” She huffed.

“Oh yes. Watch!”

I tossed the half quart of alcohol I’d prepared, ready, and with a quick flick of a Bic, caused the painting to burst into lovely blue flames — just the color of the flowers on her bedspread.

I’d considered gasoline, but the alcohol, while not as spectacular, had the right color of flame. Also, one can put alcohol out with water. (I had some nearby.)

I laughed as she screamed, “You crazy bastard!” while running off.

It was hilarious. She actually waved her hands in the air.

Ironically, that incident helped my business because she talked about it so much around town. I got a reputation as a “real artist.”

But client stories aside, the thing that attracted me to commercial art was that I generally liked the commercial stuff I saw better than the so called “fine art.” It seemed that fine art had been usurped by a not even middling amateurism while commerce and industry continued to insist, get, and put forth a higher standard of craft. I consider those gorgeous N.C. Wyeths in my beloved pre-teen books, like Treasure Island, The Deerslayer, and Robinson Crusoe and all those fabulous Frazetta covers of all those Edgar Rice Burroughs stories and I think, “The artsy fartsys are just smoked and they ain’t man or woman enough to admit it.”

So now I’m illustrating a book — back to my origins and the work that most inspired me. I’m now using a computer to cut and paste different drawings together because only the printed result matters. There’s no cheating. There are only results. Too much time spent burns the deadline.

I’m happy with my art. I like drama, excitement, and action in art. I’m bored to tears by what I see in the fine art scene, and speaking of tears, if I never exhibit in another gallery for the rest of my life, I will shed none.

One could do worse.

Commercial art is a blast. It’s fun to make. The best of it always transcends the original purpose of the commission. There’s a lot of money to be had, and I do like to make, as the French say “fun tickets.” Lot’s of ’em. You have a lot of freedom. I have no idea how commercial art ever got looked down upon by fine artists. Sour grapes, I suspect. Does anyone else have a clue?