I had sold “Satari I” last year. It had become a favorite of mine and like a child going off to college, I was pleased that it was starting a new life but sad to see it go. So I made a variation of it I call “Satari II”. It came together relatively easily and I was glad that it was similar enough to earn the title Satari II but differnt enough to not feel like it was a copy.
It is important in this piece to have a symmetry like a mandala. I struggled to do this and yet, the flower is off center, not by much, but enough. Usually I just try to remind myself that perfection is just an idea and that it doesn’t really exist. It is something I always aim for. In so many ways, the perfection I actually seek is in the imperfect pieces I use. A crack here or a stain there. Even the boxes themselves are usually not square. I see the beauty, as well as the human condition, in this short coming and yet, I wish this was centered a little better.
In this piece I am using a Christmas tree stand, a cultivator, rulers and an antique discus. How to get such diverse objects to live together? Certainly form is one part. Then there is texture, color and size but there is something more. Concept will give me a direction and a focal point is important but in the end it is only the balancing of these elements that ensure that they will live together as a Foundling and not as merely a combination of elements.
This balance is a kind of style and just as in some paintings you can see the hand of the artist, in my Foundlings you can see my hand through the balance I choose.
Art Expo / Solo came and went. It was exhausting, it was chaotic, and it was a challenge to get all of the Foundlings done in time for the show but in the end, it was a good show. I sold five pieces and made lots of connections.
The show is definitely worth doing but the act of selling, no matter how much recognition is gained by someone purchasing your work, you have to let go. You have to physically hand over a piece that you have lovingly, and sometimes frustratingly (see Now It’s Personal), put so much time and effort into. Yes, you tell yourself that these are your children and all you can really hope for is that they each find good homes. Yes, you can do that Buddhist thing and say that clinging causes suffering and yes, life is about letting go.
This piece, Daybreak, was finished just in time for the show. I was just getting used to seeing it in the morning, hanging on the wall in my home when I had to get it to the show.
Albert bought the piece. A really nice guy who I have much in common with. A very talented artist as well. And that was it. It was sold. Gone. I do try to remind myself that inspiring people with my work is part of the process and yet, I am disappointed that it is gone. At least it found a good home.
About a month ago, I talked about breaking a piece as I was just about completing it. I was determined to rebuild it. It took some time but I found a second glass shade that was supposed to be six inches in diameter. It turned out to be 6.125” inches in diameter. I had a friend Nick, who has a lathe, generously offer to widen the diameter. He did a perfect job.
I carefully took this piece apart and was now ready to fit this together again. This time adding felt to the frame, as a kind of padding, so the frame wouldn’t squeeze the glass shade breaking it. I really knew how to fit this together after putting it together the first time and struggling to take it apart without ruining it. I was getting very familiar with this piece.
I was putting this together, so proud that I had overcome this mishap and yes, with the last screw, with the last half turn, the shade broke again. I wanted to scream. Seems it wasn’t the frame that was squeezing the shade but the back cover plate.
I was very discouraged. Not a good mental frame of mind to try to put this together again but now it’s personal. I will get this together. It will take some time so I am likely to be in a better mood when I do try to fix this,… again. Now if I can only find another glass shade.
I have gone back to working in smaller sizes lately. There is something very precious about working in this size. In this piece entitled “Audrey”, there is a wonderful juxtaposition of ribbed patterns in the molding and the ribbed scallop shell.
I had thought that the only way to overcome a small size was to “over build” it, to make the work feel particularly solid, almost heavy. Doing this seemed to make sure that the small size wouldn’t make the Foundling look inconsequential. It seems that to have the interplay of a lot of patterns and textures creates a world that not only gives each piece an identity but more then makes up for its small size.
It has taken some time but I have slowly gotten the process of making these Foundlings down to a kind of science. After figuring out the aesthetic direction which sometimes takes days and at other times, months, I fit the piece together as I “engineer it”. Fit one piece together, take it apart. Move onto the second piece. Fit both pieces together, take it apart. And so on. By time I stain and prepare all of the pieces, when I finally fit, glue and screw all of the pieces, I don’t have to worry about if the pieces will go together.
In the final process, I give the screws one final half turn to make sure everything is secure and that’s when it happened. Literally, the last piece, the last screw, that last half turn… Crack. The white glass shade cracked.
Do I leave it as is, as so much of my work has cracks in it or struggle to take the entire piece apart; hope that I can get it apart; hope I don’t ruin it beyond repair and hope that I can get it back together again? All this, only after trying to find a replacement glass part that will fit.
Knowing how tight a screw has to be is a very specific skill. I am not looking for perfection but I do want a certain level of quality. A crack that is largely aesthetic, adds to my work. A crack that makes a piece of glass rattle is just not acceptable. So I will take this piece completely apart and hope that I can get it back together. I never had to deal with this sort of stuff when I was drawing… I guess I will have to go for broke.
In my January posting I mentioned that I wasn’t very productive. That somehow, I didn’t have the drive but that I was confident it would return. It has. Since the beginning of January, I have completed seven pieces and two more are in progress.
My creative process is almost as much of a mystery as my journey through the “artistic, industrial complex”. Who’s advice should I take; where do I show my work; how do I show my work; what’s the best way to get wider exposure; how do I sell my work? The questions are endless.
I do find myself getting a bit jaded lately but I need to stay open and I need to remind myself that as much as I would like the wider exposure, or the sales, the actual goal is in the creating. My ego may crave the recognition, and my circumstances could really use the sales but in the end, it is the creating that drives me.
I am not religious. I can’t say that I am even particularly spiritual either but I have noticed that I am attracted to spiritual art.
I have travelled the world and would tend to be drawn to sacred things: Icons from Russia, Buddhas from Thailand, Tankas from India, and Incan Suns from Peru.
I have also taken my fair share of art history classes. And when it comes to art history, a large sampling of art does tend to be religious or spiritual.
It is, therefore, not surprising that I tend to reference spiritual elements, especially halos, in my Foundlings. I think this is less about a hunger for a spiritual awakening on my part then an understanding that there is much in the world that I don’t understand. Religion, when it is not teaching the “rules” of life, speaks to life’s mysteries. Sometimes with “answers” and sometimes with questions.
I do believe that the exploration of these mysteries are one of the keys to not taking life for granted. To be “awake”, to be “in the moment” is so important to having a full life. It is my hope that in some small way, my Foundlings, mysteries themselves, teach us to look at the world in a fresh way.
The holidays have come and gone and the new year has started. Having not worked on any Foundlings for over six weeks, it feels good to be working again. There wasn’t a crisis in my life nor was there any serious roadblock to preventing me working. The drive just wasn’t there. Although I created 15 pieces last year (including my largest work), it is all too easy to feel insecure by not having worked for so long.
I do try to remember that being creative is a process and like the tide, there is an ebb and flow. Sometimes I can push though a lull and pick up where I left off and at other times it is just best to take a break. As much as I want to believe that I have control over my creative process, it is actually more of a partnership. When we are working together we produce some of my best pieces. When I push but can’t find my creative side, the work suffers. The trick is trying to understand when to push and when not to.
Then there are the internal conversations. The internal critic that seems to seek any excuse to have a negative conversation. The conversations that suggest this artist pursuit is too difficult or that the work isn’t all that unique,… or that good. That perhaps this endeavor is nothing more then a narcissistic pursuit.
To make a variation of a common cliché, if creating good art were easy, good art would be common. Between the creative insight needed to find a voice; the technical skill that needs to be mastered; and the intellectual understanding that underpins most good art, the pursuit is difficult enough. The last thing one needs are negative internal dialogues.
The winter solstice has also come and gone and the days are slowly starting to get longer. This winter has been usually mild but it is still cold and damp. Spring is not far off and with it the thaw it promises. My creative block has thawed as well.
What is it about being an artist that makes us feel so vulnerable to criticism? Perhaps, as a group, we are not any more insecure then any other class of people but creating is a unique endeavor. With something like math, you add up the numbers, perhaps do it twice, and if it checks out, it’s “right”. Creating, without rules or clearly defined goals, all you can really do is try. But how do you know what’s “right” when you create? There’s nothing to “add”. No real yardstick to measure success.
Perhaps there’s a goal or an ideal that you strive for when you create with the understanding that you will never reach the goal you seek. Perhaps you strive to be “in the moment”, to create and not get in your own way.
In striking out on my own path, it was important to me not to use type, collage, and two dimensional images frequently used by Joseph Cornell. To avoid the criticism that I was being “derivative”. Avoiding elements, however, because “they have been used” is like not using the color red because it’s been used by others.
This piece is called Washington. Part of the thinking with this piece was not to avoid the surreal elements used by Cornell. To explore what these elements might do in a Foundling. How they would expand my creativity. Would the use of these elements, indeed be derivative?
I need to keep reminding myself, it’s not what you do, but how you do it.