It’s done. As difficult as it was to come up with a satisfying composition for the heirlooms, the “engineering” of this Foundling proved to be much more challenging then I had thought. After completing this work, all that was left to do was the anxiety producing prospect of showing it.

They were pleased. Even a few tears of joy were shed.

They had been thinking about purchasing a Foundling for some time but when they realized that they had some family heirlooms looking for a “place to live”, they figured that I could build a Foundling for them instead. It’s difficult enough to make a piece, and even more so to create a work as a commission. Add to that, the parts to be worked with not only need a place to live but be able to live together as well.

As gratifying as it is to create, and as gratifying it is to have a work appreciated, it is even more fulfilling to have made a Foundling that has a history that, this time, is known.

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I am working on another commission with cherished family keepsakes: a little brass locket of a winged heart, a wooden Buddha, and two brass pins—a hanging purse and decorative flower. These are such varied and delicate items that I have concerns about putting these together and looking “right”.

How do I get them to “live” together as well as how do I highlight them so they don’t get “lost” in the overall work. Even the scale of the items present some difficulties.

I have decided to make a kind of triptych with each of the three boxes acting like a small stage for the keepsakes. This will bring them together and make each the center of attention. In addition, all three boxes have little wooden cups sitting on top of the boxes. These cups are basically just a decorative element but they also have a purpose. They can be little offering bowls so any other material can sit in these as well (these are not designed to hold much, perhaps a flower, but the idea fits very well with keepsakes).

Compositionally, I have never tried to have three separate boxes as a base for one Foundling but the people commissioning this work, Alicia and George, have total confidence in me and I have total confidence in listening to what the keepsakes are saying to me.

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I usually keep to a very limited color palette: dark brown and either brass/gold or silver. I have thought to try other colors but unless they are accents, they tend to overwhelm
the work.

I have used white to explore the many contrasts integral to these pieces but unless the white was attached to some natural element, like a bone or shell, the white breaks the illusion of these works having been created a long time ago.

Still, I keep coming back to new colors and have lately been curious about expanding the color palette to black. It not only gives me a new opportunity to explore the aesthetic I have been creating but keeps the work fresh as well.

Black would not be nearly as disruptive as white and my hunch is that the black would be much more in keeping with the history I am trying to create in my Foundlings. The above piece is in progress. The raw or faded wood has not been stained and I am only now trying to “engineer” how all of the pieces will fit (and stay) together,… and that takes time.

It is my hope that the wood, once it is stained my usual dark mahogany, would be evocative of my “studies in brown” while opening a whole new world of black. In this work I will have brass/gold but will have an ostrich egg as its focal point. It should be very striking.

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I have been traveling; England, Ireland, Scotland and Orkney. Everywhere I looked there was a sense of history. Not the kind that I create with my pieces but a real sense of history. Above, on the left, the Ring of Brogdar in Orkney. A ring of stones constructed before the Great Pyramids, more the 5,000 years ago.

Not only is there a much longer sense of history but I saw such beautiful ornamentation. It took my breath away. On the right, a detail from a mirror at the Blair Castle in Pitlochry, Scotland. Not an inch of space was without such workmanship.

I will never match the history or the details but I can be inspired by them.

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It has been a couple of months since I have created any pieces. Making Foundlings right now feels almost like a dream. It’s easy to get concerned that I have lost my creative muse. That somehow, I have lost my need to create new works or worse, that I have nothing “new” to say.

I have to remind myself that as an artist, I have created all of my life. From graphic design to my fine art work. From holiday cards to stained glass windows. This is just what I do. It is in my nature. There is also a “season” to creating. There are the “winter months” when my creative spirit seems to be hibernating and then there are the “spring months” when everything seems new and filled with possibilities.

It is easy to think that this process is about how many pieces I create or how well I sell but I think this misses the point. I have a need, or an ability to create. The external measurements like how successful people think my work is or how my work is received by critics is really only secondary. Indeed, even if all I did was work in the isolation of my basement workshop, never doing shows, never selling a piece, never talking to other artists, I would still need to create.

My experiences and my journeys, like going to Burning Man, for example, only gave me a direction to my creativity. Perhaps giving me a more focused insight into the contrasts of life and what my voice is. For this and other journeys I am grateful but I need to remember that being an artist is not measured by a number, or a review. I am not even sure that the measure of an artistic endeavour is based on how satisfied I am by something I have created. It is simply that I create. Sometimes all day, sometimes not in a while,… sometimes not in a long while.

Creating is not like breathing to me. It isn’t essential to my life in a literal way. It is, however, something that grounds me. Something that keeps me aware.

I do miss creating but it will return and I assume with new energy.

I have been busy updating my website and artist material. Not that they needed to be updated but I am looking to redouble my efforts to pursue galleries, museums and artist opportunities. These are the tasks that take place behind the scenes. Just as it never occurred to me that being a working artist also meant handling shipping, it never occurred to me that this meant writing letters for submissions, looking for artist opportunities and even planning strategically where to apply and what pieces to submit.

I have done Art Expo for five years now and I am thinking that I need to expand. I am not sure that I will be labeled and “Art Expo” artist if I don’t expand my exposure but in growing my artist career, it is clear that I have outgrown showing in libraries and restaurants. This does show growth but it is still all too easy to get frustrated with the slow pace of opportunities and especially with rejection letters.

Never-the-less, I still have the courage of my convictions. I stand by my creations and after 15 years I am proud of what I have created (mostly) and what I have accomplished. The path is still not clear but I am grateful for the advice and help I have received from Marie, David, Kathy Chris and Almitra.

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I have talked about the Brimfield Antique fair before in these writings. It’s a huge event held three times a year in the town of Brimfield, MA. The town has fields and fields of antiques. From beautiful furniture to miscellaneous parts (like this bin filled with old watch faces).

Finding the “ingredients” for my Foundlings involve spending time. Lots of time. I spend time looking for that “perfect piece” but I also spend a lot of time, waiting for when that fragment will find its way into a work. I have had parts in my workshop, sometimes for years. There are other pieces that come back to the studio and they get used right away.

What is true in art is so often true in life. Life is filled with choices and sometimes the results of these decisions happen quickly but at other times, these choices bear fruit  years or even decades later. So I take my time knowing that the decisions I make, will have outcomes that are largely unknown to me at the present time. I never know if these choices will work out but I always take my time. I consider it, time well spent.

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Brad_front_72dpiCYMKThe Art Expo / Solo NY show has come and gone. On the plus side, I sold four pieces. As exhausting as it is to be “on display” for four days, I do get a lot of praise for my work and get to meet a lot of people, including artists. I really do enjoy talking to other artists, whatever their chosen medium is and whatever their skill level. It is so inspiring to meet people who are on a similar path what is basically a solitary pursuit. On the negative side, this is a expensive event, it’s a complicated and crowded location, and did I mention exhausting? I owe so much to Marie as she is the true logistic and strategic “brains” of the operation. I really couldn’t do this without her, and her Excel spreadsheets.

There are so few places for independent artists to show and a major draw of this show is to make connections with gallery owners, art buyers, and other people in the art world, from art magazine publishers to curators. I do hand out plenty of show postcards and business cards and I try to run down every lead but rarely do they materialize. I suspect this is a bit like dating. There are lots of good will and positive intensions out there but finding relationships that “click” are few and far between. Still, in the words of Winston Churchill, “Those who dare, risk defeat. Those who don’t, ensure it.”

So I will keep plugging along and ifI do my best, I will at least have a body of work that I can be proud of.

Oh, and this is Brad. A new piece that sold,… it didn’t stick around very long.

I set up for Art Expo/Solo tomorrow. Like a road race upon seeing the finish line, I usually pick up the pace to sprint to the finish. Likewise, I have picked up the pace to complete as many new pieces as I could for the show. It’s been exhausting but gratifying.

I have this running debate (forgive all of the running references) with myself about the type of pieces I should create. Make what sells, or make what my creative instincts guide me to, whatever the direction. Not that these are completely different directions. I do like to create classically “beautiful” work but I don’t want to merely do “pretty.” You can photograph a flower. The subject is pretty so you get a “pretty image”. Pushing yourself, you can photograph a flower but still have a voice and something unique to say.

“Portal” came together very quickly, just in time for the show. It is pretty and I think it will sell. I am not breaking any creative new ground here but it was a very satisfying process. I will be proud to show it but it always saddens me when new work sells. I always hope they will stick around for a while.

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It’s done. It’s heavy (about 50 lbs.) and it does come apart. I have to unscrew the gold frame part behind the head and I can then remove the bust of Zeus. Then I can unscrew the brass cap nuts, on either side of Zeus and the “shelf” comes off.

Coming apart in three pieces makes this much easier to transport and easier to hang. The best part, it doesn’t look like it comes apart.

I still get concerned about how heavy this is and the fact that being able to come apart does suggest that this could come apart,… when I don’t want it to.

Never-the-less, I am very happy with the piece and I have almost a month to spare before the Art Expo show in New York this April.

We will try hanging my smallest pieces next to this large piece in the hope that the big work makes the smaller ones look smaller and the smaller pieces make the bigger piece look even bigger. Should make for a more dramatic effect. We shall see.