I’ve been in a funk before, it’s part of being an artistic minded person. But this is the longest to date.
Recent years have been very good with significant progress made in the studio, but most importantly in the shear joy and satisfaction there.
One thing I did right was to embark on a project to create one hundred serious art works. That has given me a goal to get past the “why” of creative inertia.
Why does anyone paint, draw, carve, write, or perform? The weekend dabblers have their joy, but those who want to do these things more often really must have either a reason or mindless passion. It takes money and time. Like that girl friend who is worth every penny and every minute, there comes a point where a decision must be made: courtship for the sake of courtship will not end happily.
I knew I would one day paint more often than weekends and evenings and that it would have to earn it’s keep. Artistry can be spendy, to the tune of over $3700 for a gallon of Holbien Cobalt Blue, bought in tubes. It’s an exaggeration to say that’s the only choice, or that you’d buy in gallon quantities. Windsor Newton would only be $1600, but house paint is closer to $20.
The point is, it’s expensive.
It’s also time consuming, and for people like me, life consuming because I think about creative things most of the time now. After the kids left the nest, I allowed myself mentally to turn artist. It’s no joke: artists must see the world through their own set of lenses just as engineers do, or chef’s or ironworkers.
Last year I found myself in a situation at work. You may have heard that the difference between an attorney and a prostitute is that there are some things a prostitute just won’t do. Looking at the situation closely and considering the implications led me to conclude I must sever my employment with that company if the matter could not be resolved. I’m not an attorney, there are some things I won’t do.
Rationalizations could justify the matter, but it didn’t work with me.
Suddenly my art, which had been on the ascent, took a nose dive. All my inspiration dried up as I fretted over the new reality that this talent would have to carry me financially because I would be out of a job. So rather than evaluate each concept that excited me in terms of it’s artistic merits, I asked myself “but would it sell?”
I’ve tested this sort of questioning with the works of the ‘big boys’ and that should have cured me. Whatever I’ve evaluated would have gotten the thumbs down despite that the artists were all financial successes.
Early Tangerine Dream music and others well known strike me as non-starters when I evaluate their specific output. Obviously I’ve been wrong. Picasso was right not to have consulted me. Likewise Paul Klee, Jackson Pollack, and Bill Gates. This reminds me about those who offer me their free opinions.
I wouldn’t have painted some of the subjects of Ilya Repin such as his “convicts pulling ships up the Volga” scene, and yet Repin was Repin and he told his story his way. One must be one’s own flavor.
I like Repin’s paintings for the most part.
So I should be suspicious when I look at my oevre to find it lacking. Not that I discredit the quality of the pieces, they’re very good. But I look at them and think that the world will congratulate their existance just short of the exchange of money.
So I started second guessing everything.
My models are the prettiest in the world and perfect for what I do. They’re good people to boot. But the advice I get from the non experts is that ‘girl art’ is not going to make any money.
I live in the prettiest part of America, and do landscapes, but not many. I have no idea who would buy my stuff.
My car art is as good as any I’ve come across.
But I have no idea how to put any of this into the homes of buyers and have no experience with the marketing that would make me viable.
So instead of painting, I’ve been busy ruling out every concept before it can gain it’s life in the studio. “Not good enough. Not sellable. Not unique.”
Then I remember the intoxicating joy of carrying forward a simple painting idea through it’s complexities and stages and the satisfaction of making something beautiful stand where nothing like it ever had.
Seeing no resolution at my workplace and after summing up the historical basis for believing none would be found, I went to the boss and told him I had to quit. I only wanted to know if he preferred to have me escorted out the door or if he wanted a few weeks to train a replacement.
There are many things for which I have a demonstrated knack, but quitting isn’t among them. I failed.
It wasn’t a ruse or a desperate act, quitting. It was a practical answer to something with no other realistic conclusion. The boss promised to make changes and I believed him.
Meanwhile, the funk has remained through what have been the historically most productive months of the year. Winter is wonderful for art creation. The yard isn’t growing, people aren’t demanding my presence at outside events, and it’s too cold for people to want to set anything up. Summer can be almost useless for art, at least for the hobbyist, because there are so many demands on one’s time.
The previous owner of my property constructed a garage so he could restore Chevy Nomads. That should be my studio. But until I get my Lotus roadworthy, that room will house the reconstruction. Yet another distraction from serious art!
I must disassemble the chassis to repair and recondition it, put it back together with new bushings and bolts, and go through the systems to bring them all up to snuff. Brakes will be entirely replaced from the master cylinder through all the lines. I was going to rewire it, but probably I only have to replace every connector and a few errant wires.
Back to the issue though, my head has argued with my heart about what course to take about whether to paint this sort of picture or that. But art is an inspirational creature, so I know I have that wrong. The results speak loudly: when I painted what I loved, I painted well. When I’ve deferred to my intellectual management of creativity, the result is no paintings. The intellectual management, it seems, is the tool of navigation once the course has been set, not the decider of that course. I got it backward. Of course, advisors aplenty like to chime in and none are the experts they present themselves to be.
This brings me to Leah, my main model. She’s also the oldest of my grandchildren.
We decided to do a sculpture. Maybe a bronze, maybe something else, but at the first it would be rendered in clay. That’s the most practical.
I got some modeling clay after reading up. She had an idea for the subject and we did some looking around till we found a plastic horse to copy.
Months ago we began, but all we had until this weekend was the base of the wire frame she will build the clay form around.
I think it’s ingenious. I drilled holes in a square of outdoor pressboard where the feet touch. Wire was pulled up through them to start the form, and then the board was fastened with deck screws to some fir the same size. Pressure from the screws holds the wire fast.
Leah spend the greater part of Saturday building the wire form and she made excellent progress.
I had to stay out of it, only jumping in to show her ways of solving certain standard problems that could derail her.
She did excellent work and stayed keenly engaged till the clock demanded we stop. Without that, we’d both go till we drop.
She will return again for another round, and another after that till she’s made the sculpture to her satisfaction or given up.
I hope that we can make a mold of it and then do either a cold bronze replica, or do a plaster reproduction from which to make a durable mold. Maybe we can send that to a foundry for a casting.
This reminds me of what brought me this far. I didn’t fret over whether an individual piece would make people reach for their wallets. I just created it. We certainly don’t wait to have children until future employers commit to hire them. We do our best, enjoying the process of raising them, then launch them to succeed under their own power after all we can do to make them viable.
Leah isn’t worried about anyone buying her sculpture. It’s fun and educational. It’s time with grandpa.
I think it’s good to go back to doing what I was doing when it worked and create the art that excites me rather than calculatingly generate someone elses imagined dream.
Then, it will be fun again. Art is joy. Everything else is work.