The difference between a good artist and a great one is:
The novice will often lay down his tool or brush, then pick up an invisible club on the mind’s table and helplessly smash the easels and jade. Whereas the vintage man no longer hurts himself or anyone and keeps on sculpting light. ~ Hafiz
I wanted to put my head through my drawing table today. Despite the end results and the delight I see on the faces of collectors, being an artist isn’t easy. Some days I just want to throw in the towel. But then I remember there isn’t anything else in life that I’m remotely interested in doing. Nothing else makes my eyes light up or stirs my soul like creating art and seeing others creating art. I’m fascinated with the imagination, artistry and creativity. I’m the type of person who wants to see the concept art and storyboards for a movie more than the actual movie. I want to see and know how things are made not just marvel at the finished results. So this spirit of art and creativity is just in me through and through but it’s not always an easy spirit to live with. Sometimes I wonder why I couldn’t have been someone interested in numbers and went off to become an accountant? Or something a bit more, dare I say…practical. But that just isn’t how I was made, so I guess I’ll just keep sculpting light.
It’s the last day of March and I’m going to do something I rarely do; rant.
My rant is about artist’s statements. Who reads these things? I ask because whenever I come across advise for artists on how to gain more exposure and look more professional, it’s always suggested to write a wonderful, indepth artist statement on your background, explaining why you create, what inspires you, what are you trying to express and how you do your work. This sounds great and all, but who are the people who want to know this stuff because I’ve never met them.
I’ve been selling my art seriously now since the summer of 2015 and honestly, not one person has ever asked me “So, what inspires you?” No one has ever directly asked me, messaged me, DM’d me or tweeted me “What are you trying to convey with you work?” Matter of fact when it comes to the artists whose work I absolutely love, I don’t even think about these things, their work just captures my attention and if I want to see more I try to find out whether they have a blog, Twitter, Facebook, Instragram account or a mailing list. And that’s it. I’m not wondering, “Hmmm, I wonder why this artist creates?”
When people do ask me questions they’re rather practical questions like, how much does this cost, do you do commissions, can you draw my dog, do you do tattoos or can you make a t-shirt? I even have analytics that track engagement on my website and about twice a year somebody clicks on my About page and surprisingly that’s more than my FAQ page. People generally just look at my work, buy something, sign up for my newsletter or leave.
So this leaves me to wonder, who are these people who read artist statements? Artists are always encouraged to create a statement but who reads these things and who actually cares? Are artist statements still important in this digital age where people can just follow your work online or subscribe to your mailing list? Maybe because I’m an independent artist who deals directly with the people who buy my work that this doesn’t seem to play a big role or appears all that important. Maybe if I was pitching my work to galleries it would be useful. I really don’t know. Maybe somebody has some insight to this, which I would welcome any enlightenment on, but for now, I have this seemly arbitrary About page on my website that tries to answer all these questions that no one ever asks.
I took a brief break from working on my “Eagle” drawing to carve up this gift for a friend of the family. This will officially be my last carving. Although I really enjoyed doing these, over the last year my enthusiasm has waned and my focus has been more on my drawing, which is what I want to be known for. To add to making this decision was the challenge of getting the materials.
I don’t keep carving materials on hand due to space hence the need for ordering which I only do when I get a request or whenever I feel like doing carving project.
Originally this gift was supposed to be a 12×12 mandala. Michael’s nor Amazon carry 12×12 linoleum blocks so I have to order them from a wholesaler. So I put my order in but after 2 1/2 weeks of being in the dark on my order for the materials from the wholesaler, I ended up having to cancel and make different arrangements. Apparently they didn’t have the supplies but wouldn’t bother to let me know that. At this point I had to inform my customer, who had already put in a down payment on the project. Fortunately she was flexible and chose as a second option the “Peace, Harmony & Love ” design of Chinese characters I had on file. I was relieved because I hate to disappoint people and plus I knew I could easily go to Michael’s and pick up supplies. So I went to Michael’s the next day. They were out. 😖 Talk about immediate frustration. So I checked Amazon. One 5×7 linoleum block on Amazon cost twice as much as it did at my local Michael’s store. It was ridiculous. Luckily the Michael’s website had access to the inventory to all Michael’s within a 50 mile radius of my zip code. So online I was able to find a Michael’s that had the supplies I needed. It was a 30 minute drive away. I was able to get the blocks but it was on my drive back that I realized I didn’t have enough enthusiasm or interest anymore to go through this kind of ordeal again just to do a carving. So that’s when I decided that this would be the last one. And frankly, I’m happy about my decision because honestly my heart is in drawing and that’s what I want to focus my energy and attention on. 😌
Some of the most delightful things in life happen without a plan.
I’m not one for planning much. Growing up I used to hear adults talk about how you need a plan for your life, otherwise you’ll just wander and accomplish nothing. So I tried to make plans for me life. Eventually I would either forget them as soon as I figured them out, run into something that would cause me to change course or find myself feeling rather stifled by what now feels more like a restraint than an actual plan. I eventually came to the conclusion that planning was over rated. Having a plan doesn’t guarantee success in life nor does it guarantee failure if you don’t have one. I feel that so long as you have a general idea or direction you want to go in you’re good and you can just figure out the details along the way. But I get it, not everybody can live like that.
To me, not steering the course of your life too strictly allows room for delightful little things to happen along the way that can lead to new and exciting things or much needed personal growth. If you look at nature there’s no detailed plan for the course of life. Seeds fall where they may, vegetation springs up wherever it can and the cycle of life flows continually in the general direction towards that which brings about living.
So I’ve been most frustrated with this stamp carving lately. I’ve been finding myself lacking in ideas and feeling disappointed in the progress of my skills. But today, without planning to, I just sat down and started carving. I had nothing in mind and at first I felt a little apprehensive. I did something small, a lotus blossom, then an OM symbol, a figure in a meditation pose and then three hours later I looked up and saw that I had also craved some cherry blossoms and Chinese characters. I guess my mind had sunk back into the recesses of former designs I had done before and found comfort in tackling something I was already familiar with. What transpired came to fit neatly with my Hummingbird stamp and an interesting layout formed. Being nitpicky as I am, I see that I’m gonna need to redo the Chinese characters and the cherry blossoms but for something that happened completely unexpectedly I like how this came together. 😊
Sometimes life can be a bit…odd, to say the least.
I have this art box, which pretty much looks like a plastic tool box for art supplies, that I’ve keep since the 90s. It’s stuffed with all sorts of things, pens, erasers, pencils, exacto blades, glue, watercolors, pretty much all the stuff I’ve experimented with over the years. So today I went rummaging around in it looking for some watercolor pencils I knew I had buried in this eclectic mess when I came upon this rock, which clearly looks like it has a pictogram of a rabbit on it. Obvious at some point in my life I either got this rock for some reason or someone gave it to me. I just can’t remember from where or from whom but I suspect it either came into my possession from one of the pow pows I’ve attended throughout the years or from that little Native American shop in South Bend I used to frequent some time ago. Either way I find it rather peculiar that I would find this little thing at a time when I’m just now getting over my issue of being creeped out by rabbits. To cause my eyebrow to raise a bit more, just last night I was researching black American folktales, when I got to reading about Br’er Rabbit and now here, I find a rabbit in my art box. Is this a sign? I have this saying that if something happens once or twice, it’s a coincidence. If it happens three or more times, you need to stop and pay attention.
I’ve now given the rock a permanent place in my Sacred Space. 😊