Look, we all have the same image of the artist: driven to create by their internal demons, expressing their soul through their artwork, bringing the intensely personal to life. And I firmly believe that it's true that if you want to create art - not even "great art" but just "competent art" - then you have to establish a personal connection to what you're making. Otherwise it's more like "craft" than "art," if you follow me.
It's the elephant in the room.
That being said, the subject no one wants to talk about is whether or not you consider your audience when creating your art. Or to what extent you tailor what you are creating for the audience. The consumer, not to put too fine a point on it.
Even if you don't create art with the intention of selling it, you are still creating something to be seen by the world. Unless you destroy your art the instant you create it, or hide it from the world like a secret diary. (Can these things be considered Art? That's a discussion for another day.)
This kind of thing leaves a bad taste in many people's mouths. In fact, I can hear my 20 year-old self rolling her eyes and calling me a "sell-out" just for talking about it. But consider this: a stand-up comedian like Chris Rock or Louis CK will test their material relentlessly. Before something goes into their act, they will tell the same story 50 different ways to 50 different audiences, gradually honing it down to the purest essence of itself, cutting out everything that doesn't land, until they are satisfied. It's an exacting, painstaking, painful process, but that is how great comedy is made. Great comedians spend thousands of hours tailoring their works based on audience response.
Why should your art be any different?
Of course, in some ways, comedians have it easy. The goal of a comedian's art is to make people laugh. If the goal of your art is to make people consider their own mortality, it's not as easy to read that from an audience. Laughter is an obvious tell, and standing on stage in front of an audience makes you exquisitely attuned to every nuance of the audience's reaction. It's harder when you're (say) creating a painting that will be bundled together in a gallery show.
One wants to use caution with this kind of thinking, though. Take it too far and you could end up the next Thomas Kinkade.