11/20/2013 05:16 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Art Started When I Stopped Caring


My war with creativity began in my early 20s, when I started my first rock band. In the beginning, I was just into this pure thing, unaffected by what anyone wanted and just flowing musically with my whims. My crowd loved what I did and they came to see my every performance. If I was a niche performer, I had no idea what niche I fit into -- all I knew was that I was doing my weird thing on stage and people were paying to see me. If anything was cooler than that, I didn't know about it. A packed house and the ability to sing and play music as soon as it came to my mind was what I called a blessed existence. I loved it, and my people loved it.

And with people, came more people -- the kind that wanted to take me to the next level. And with the next level came the kind of thinking that involved change, compromise and structure. I had the potential of being a star -- so they said -- and the machines started chugging out ways for me to rise to the top.

With my peculiar low voice, it was suggested that -- even though my unique voice was my trademark -- perhaps I try ever so slightly to make it sound a tad more feminine, so that I wouldn't confuse anyone. The mass, I was told, doesn't like feeling confused so it might be a good idea if we could slot me as female right off the bat. And while we were there, I was told to fem up my appearance just a wee bit, you know, so that the mass doesn't reject me for looking too much like a - what? A boy? Then, just to 'guarantee' my flight into superstardom, it was suggested that I write hit songs, as opposed to those rebellious artsy rock-cabaret numbers that kept me down there, straggling along with the other wastrels.

Hits. I was told to write hit music. Instructed to write formulaic songs and told that was the only way I could "make it." Being commercial, writing for the masses -- it became my reason for living. Yes, it was killing me, but I believed what they told me; I was destined for superstardom and the only way to get there was with hit records.

That's where it all fell apart for me. Oh, I did try. I tried so hard that I lost myself. I fought so hard to include themes I didn't quite believe in and lilt my voice just enough to make me sound like I did -- I slimmed down, got styled and photographed, wrote lovely formulaic tunes that didn't push too hard, and I toured, promoted, sold, interviewed, shook hands, uttered the words, "Thank you very much," to crowds and individuals. And one day, as I stood in my gold leather rockstar boots, I thought to myself: I no longer exist, and this -- all of it -- is no longer any fun at all.

My entire life has been spent trying to make money off of my artistic endeavors. You will never catch me saying that money is for sellouts; I'm all for financial security, and if selling out is the way to go, sign me up -- my rent is due. On the other hand, there is that part of me that goes into full throttle red flag mode when I feel I'm doing something that isn't authentically me. As an artist, I've come to know that being authentically me is the only thing that actually makes any of it worth while for me, financially speaking or not. Now, as a painter and an illustrator, I will happily give you anything you want if you are prepared to pay for it -- that's commerce and respect. That's called putting food on the table, and nothing is wrong with that.

What is wrong, for me, is trying too hard to please too many people with my art. I learned that the hard way in the music business.

As someone who is compulsively creative, the last thing I want to do is judge myself by other people's standards. Yes, they pay, but no, they do not live my life and I really, really want my life to be -- once again -- authentically mine. That means, I paint what I want, how I want, when I want, my way, my choices, my approval and above all: I can't and won't care what anyone thinks of it. If they love it, great. If they don't, great.

I cared so much for so many years that I honestly think I deprived myself the artist's life that I always wished I was living. This is all I am -- an artist. It's what I do 24/7, and just about nothing else. Do I care what the masses think now? Not any more. What I do care about is sticking to the idea of not caring in order to create things of beauty.

The minute I stopped caring was the minute the world poured out of me and onto the canvas. It was and is truly an uncanny experience. While the world is out there having dinners and cocktails, seeing movies and being social -- while my daughter grows up and my body grows older, there I am, painting in my studio, day after day, night after night. This is what I do, and I do it because I don't care what anyone thinks of me anymore. I do it because I love it.

People who buy art fall into three categories, to me; those who want an investment, those who want art to match their decor, and those who are genuinely moved by the imagery -- so much so, that they will purchase it in order to have that experience on a daily basis. Those who buy my art, do so to have the experience. I am a fantasy artist who creates a sort of dark folk art. My portraits tend to be of aliens, gorgeous men, Goddesses, friends, angels, demons, weirdos and supernatural beings.

Knowing I can affect people with imagery means a lot to me, which is ironic, because the only way that can occur is if I don't care to begin with.

As a blogger for the Huffington Post, I am encouraged to share my wares, and so I shall do so in this blog. How fortunate I am to have this venue, my gratitude is through the roof. Thank you.

As a creative who remains true to herself through thick and thin, I too tend to live the stereotype of 'starving artist'. While I'm all for whipping up a logo design for a client or a digital illustration for a magazine, I won't be painting those landscapes or quaint village scenes that everyone tells me I should in order to make money. It's not that I don't want to, it's just that I'm a portrait artist, not a scenic artist, and by creating art that I'm not comfortable with, I'm then doing something I don't want to do. If fitting in means doing what I don't want to do, then I don't want to fit in. Because caring about fitting in is what kills the art in me.

So, if you are interested in my art, if you are moved by my images, then check out the slideshow. You want to support an artist? Well, I'm the real deal. Contact me at with all inquiries.

Have a look at my slide show below, and thanks.

Dori Hartley Paintings, Pastels and Prints