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The Column icon The Column: Issue 46

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The Column is a monthly feature that explores the world of creativity and aesthetics.

Selling Products and Making Art
Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable

The software company that I helped found is flourishing. I earn a respectable salary and work flexible hours from my home. I am in a more fortunate circumstance than many a creative professional. My work prospects are good as the company continues to grow and develop. I am however far from satisfied with my achievements. Here's why...

Commercial Creative

My work as Creative Director is challenging. I create graphics which are used on the company web site, develop help files, and create promotional and presentational materials. I've also developed and regularly update the site as well as working with programmers to improve the design of our software. In addition I communicate directly with customers, and as one of three company Directors, am also responsible for strategic planning and management. In summary, my paid work is varied, challenging, and has taught me a tremendous amount about the way the commercial world operates.

The focus of all my activities in my daily work is to sell products. The products I help develop and sell are generic utility software programs which have a broad target market. Your work may be in a different field, but your general focus may be the same in that in some way, directly or indirectly, what you do contributes to the sale of a product or service.

It is important to me that I consider the products I help produce as having value. Our software helps protect the user from data loss and makes their computing experience more efficient so they have more time to focus on their priorities. Many products or services which are developed and sold are not so genuinely useful.

Despite appreciating the value of the products I help develop and the high sales the company enjoys, the creativity I use in developing products is of far less significance or importance to me than the creation of art.

The Vocation of Artist

At forty three I changed course from producing art to working more extensively in the commercial field. Before I elaborate on my reasons for so doing, I should state that I view the art world as much a commercial context as the material world of the high street.

I draw a distinction between the vocational artist whose need is to produce work with the purpose of expression, communication, and enrichment, and those that develop products with the primary intention of selling them in a marketplace (the "career", or "commercial artist").

The art world does not create works of art - educational and governmental institutions, commercial galleries, art agents and administrators, publishers, and the media. These organizations and individuals promote and sell art products according to the often dubious taste of critics and elite opinion makers.

As to the reasons for my change of emphasis from the purest world of the artist to the focused development of commercial products, my move aims to archive my goal of fulfilling my creative potential independently. To do this I require economic stability. I have long since made the decision that my creative output will be published freely at AbleStable and other sites. This gives me the freedom to be creative without the burden or concern of relating economic success with the art I produce. As someone who has no patronage I have sought to achieve my aim with the software company I helped found.

Towards Success

It is a challenging journey and I often feel that which defines me as I most desire is often pushed aside by the demands of my commercial work. I appreciate how so many succumb to the daily drift from the artist's vocational calling. Money and comfort are such significant distractions that I have no doubt many would-be artists never make it past the temptations of the material world.

Those close to me say I should feel proud of what I have achieved with the software company. I would rather they were impressed in what I achieve outside of the commercial realm. Economic success is of far less value to me as producing work which seeks to inspire and makes people feel and think. Only then will I be satisfied with my creative achievements.


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Authors background
Mike de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®. Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music composer, photographer, print and web site designer, and author. Mike is also the Creative Director of 2BrightSparks, a software company.

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