Friday, September 5, 2008

Art Inspiration, Impatience and Intuition

I posted an update of my latest sculpture on my website WIP and personal art blog yesterday and thought it might make a good general topic on the three I's of art; inspiration, impatience and intuition.

Inspiration is what an artist thrives on. It's exciting to have an idea and be eager to run with it. It's important to work on things while they're fresh but you can run into trouble when you're hurrying and get impatient.

It's a common thing among can't wait until the paint is completely dry and lift a little of the last layer off,  you get involved and end up smudging your graphite and lose the white of your page or you pop a piece in the kiln before its quite dry. The difference between great and average work can lie in the fact that an artist wasn't patient enough at some stage of the creation process.

Sometimes you can rework a piece and fix your errors but it's important to have flow, so over-working is never a good thing. It may be better to re-think the problem and approach it from a new direction. This is where intuition comes in. There's a saying if you do the same thing over and over again you can't expect a different result. So approach things from a new direction...usually your work will give you a clue for the solution and creativity can take over...sometimes it leads to a better overall cohesiveness. 

Most importantly don't box yourself in with thinking a piece has to be exactly what it started out to be...the act of creation is an on-going process, leave your mind open to the possibilities and use things to your advantage. Trust your instincts.

Strange note....Grasshoppers use spit!!!! Yep, saw it myself when looking at a giant one crawling up my picture window. It seemed to get stuck with no it stuck its front feet (?) in it's mouth and took a couple more steps til it got stuck again and repeated the action. So you got it here first folks, grasshoppers use spit! 

The Artist's Mailbox...solicitation

When I first started my website I got excited anytime I got a contact notice. Aha, Someone is interested in buying some of my artwork! These days I give a little sigh because I know that maybe one of out a hundred will actually be a customer, most are some type of solicitation.

Marketing exposure is an important part of selling your artwork but there's a lot of questions you need to ask yourself when invited to join it an online gallery, offer of publishing or even an art show.

The most important question is if it will cost you money. Some expenses for marketing are to be expected and worth the hit on your budget. But most solicitation has the sending party's interest in mind first and foremost. 

Keep in mind that online gallery type places have expenses of their own...servers cost money. But ask yourself what are they doing to actually give you exposure to possible clientele. Just giving you a place to show your work is not enough, you can do that yourself with a little research on website building and search engine rankings.

Publishing is another far I've only seen come ons.  I've had my work in artist magazines and the invites come from either the publishers or someone who wanted to use my artwork to help sell their product...I didn't get paid, but I got great exposure and it was free. Any artbook of great artwork is going to concentrate on name artists and the publishers absorb the cost, not the artist. 

And art shows...this is just personal opinion but the majority seem to make the most money from entry fees. Think how many artists submit...the odds are slim that your art will place. When I decide to enter I only go for the name shows that truly are a benchmark accomplishment if you place. I really check out the judges to see what kind of work they lean towards and see if my work fits in that niche. I also research past winners to see what caliber of work makes the cut. 

When you're a starving artist every penny counts. Be wary of something that offers the moon while reaching in your pocket.

Note...speaking of mailboxes, I got my Robert Genn Weekly letter today and it seems there's a new Golden acrylic line out there with an open drying time. I don't use acrylics often but having worked with oils for so long I can see the possibilities.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Art Mediums and Expression

Yesterday I went into a little about using concept in your artwork, today I'd like to touch on different mediums (materials such as oil paint, clay, acrylics, etc) and how they play their part. 

In the artworld, both amongst collectors and artists themselves, there is a certain snobbishness over what value certain mediums have. Oils seem to dominate the painting world, bronze the sculpting arena and johnny-come-lately artist mediums have to fight for recognition. 

I like a challenge and am a firm believer that the medium should fit the expression. I've played around with art all my life but my first serious foray involved airbrushing. I didn't want to do motorcycle tanks or t-shirts, I was inspired by Radu Vero's Airbrush: The Complete Studio Handbook and wanted to be the first recognized fine artist airbrush painter (yeah, yeah...we all start big in our heads). 

Unfortunately my health was compromised by fibromyalgia and I was advised to not do airbrushing anymore due to the strain from the repetitive movement. From there I moved on to oil pastels. I had quite a lot of success with this medium but then I was introduced to Paintstiks (I'm the poster named Dyin) when Jack Richeson & Co. Fine Art Materials contacted me to test their product. 

The Paintstiks in turn led me to the use of classic oils, I got a nice break from the Jack Richeson company and got a supply of Shiva oils to work with. I thought I'd found my medium for sure once I got through all the learning phases of color mixing and technique. 

And then one day (partially due to health) I was just done. For a year I did nothing art-wise (gasp!). I felt I had hit a wall. I loved oils and I loved portraits but I was doing nothing original with them. I swore that I would not pick up a paintbrush (never even considered another medium) until I had a new approach. 

I got to this new sculpting medium in a very round about way. I'd seen some fancy sugar work on the Food network and wanted to see how they 'blew' and modeled sugar. This led me to a link on Cold Porcelain. I tried making my own but I didn't see myself making flowers ad infinitum  and the stuff really wasn't very forgiving for sculpting. 

A few years ago a friend of mine got into firing her clay pots in the ground and was getting a lot of breakage. Just for fun I'd sculpted a 'kiln troll' for her using plumbers epoxy. I had a horrid allergic reaction to it and it made me a little gun shy. But after the Cold Porcelain attempt I thought I'd just play with some Sculpey, not expecting much from it. 

Now, let me tell you....polymer clay is as johnny-come-lately as you can get. The good work you see out there is in jewelry and doll sculpture and even I had associated it with child crafts and cutesy knick knacks. 

I researched and it seemed like you needed to get the 'professional' stuff to do anything worthwhile with it, but once again...wrong! I don't advise using poor materials as a medium. But even though polymer clay is considered plastic, it's actually vinyl and vinyl is durable and therefore the medium itself is not a poor material. My point is that Sculpey so far has done anything I've asked of it, so I don't necessarily have to go buy the specialty stuff. Like most mediums, it just takes patience and experience to master. 

So, I've used different mediums to express what I needed to and what it comes down to is that for myself as an artist there's no sense in being a medium doesn't matter if it's a popular medium to other artists or collectors. What matters in the end is if the art itself is of value and that's what I'm working to find out. 

So mediums have a big role in expression, and even if the discussion boards have endless debates on mediums and it's hard to get the recognition that you feel your medium deserves, keep at it, it's the end results that count and I do believe that if you put your heart and soul into something it will find its place in the universe. 

Expressing Concepts in Art

The definition of concept in Webster's dictionary is an abstract idea...a stray thought in the mind of an artist that immediately is seized on to develop. When I was oil painting my concepts were a lot more about technique than subject matter but now that I'm sculpting, the images in my mind have changed to more of a three dimensional format.

But before the image there's a my case it's a title for my Jammins'© characters and then an image forms that fulfills my concept of the subject. The thing about art and artists is that we interpret things in a million different ways but the whole idea is to express our own point of view in a visual context. I pretty much think that the success of an artist depends on their ability to get their own vision to click in the minds of those that see their work. 

My approach to this is to take a title and approach it in a literal, humorous way, and form is my hypothesis.  Some artists are into deeper conceptualism and many great art movements have evolved from their concepts, such as minimalism, surrealism and abstract art

All this sounds pretty highbrow but the truth of the matter is that artists are compelled to create. Some artists find their conceptual path right away, but a lot of us move from subject to subject and even change mediums throughout their career, trying to find that voice that combines their obsession with point of view. 

Sometimes the art itself is what solidifies how you my mind I've always had a quirky little sense of humor (some call it smart-ass-ed-ness) and I've always followed my own drumbeat. In my one of only two art classes ever taken , Intro to Art, we were asked to create something mechanical in nature with clay. My thought was; here you have a material that you can create any fluid form with and we're supposed to clog it all up with precise man made measurements. I thought it was crap and so my mechanical contribution was a crap factory with a conveyor belt of little piles of crap coming out of it. Funnily enough I got an A for it. My point is that long ago, in a crude way, my art was trying to tell me what my point of view was. 

Somehow along the way I got lost in trying to learn to do my craft well. My technique improved but my subject matter was, well, pedestrian. Now I'm doing something that appeals to me, that I truly enjoy doing and I'm confidant that there's nothing out there quite like my end product. Not sure I can call it 'fine art', but despite the whimsical content I do try to bring my best game and the important thing is I'm creating from my own concepts. 

I used to spend a lot of time in art forums and a common theme was' artist's block' and  
I think I finally have an answer to that... 

It's not about the next subject (ie: 'What do I paint/sculpt?') and it's not so much about inspiration from outside sources such as reference material (that's just to help out with the mechanics of an idea). It's about seeing what is in your own mind and translating it. 'Point of View' is not necessarily your statement of a belief system or aesthetic, but just your own unique way of imaging (imagining) things in your mind. 

And to my mind that is the definition of art...a visual expression of an artist's mind view. Whether it's done well or not...well, that's a different topic!

Today's art link is about MC Escher who had a very unique concept and embellished it throughout his whole life. And if there's not enough of his artwork there to make you happy, you might try Jill Britton's Escher Gallery  . 

Monday, September 1, 2008

Keeping your Art Links Organized with Google Notebook

 I really need to keep things organized if I want to accomplish anything with my artwork, website  or blog. One of the most useful tools I've found to date is Google Notebook . 

The notebook works with any browser, but only IE (not V7) and Firefox will work if you want to add a Google Toolbar or mini-notebook according to the download system requirements. I'm using Safari and although I'd like to use those tools I will wait for Google to update to my system as I'm quite happy with it. This means I have to bring up my notebook and manually add links to my notes, but with the toolbar you can just right click on any link and add it to your notes.

But none the less I've got a pretty good organized notebook. I've created four notebooks so far:

Pertinent Links and notes - these are links that will have relevance to posts I plan to do in the future, along with notes about what I wish to comment on

Notes for blog topics - self explanatory but will help me remember what I want to include in the topic

Posts to Upload to Blog - yep, where I'm writing this so it's ready for tomorrow's post. I can also jump ahead a few posts if I wish and just copy and paste or upload them when I want. 

My Sculpture title ideas - I constantly have inspirations for new pieces. At the moment I have only six pieces ahead but I've restrained myself from getting too far ahead of myself. This is much better than scribbling in pencil on a scrap piece of paper and really keeps my ideas organized :)

I can link any phrase to a reference link, add labels to any note I make so I can find it later. I surf the web a lot looking for obscure blogs and references,  and just throwing them into my favorites gives me a huge list of sites that I can't remember what they're for...this really simplifies things.

I discovered the notebook before I started this blog, just to play around with, but now I don't know what I'd do without it. 

Interesting site for the day: Laputan Logic  geez, what isn't covered on this site? art, science, mythology....a lot of very cool and interesting topics. 

And for those of you in the Seattle area, please check out my friend and wonderful artist, Barb Noonan's upcoming shows...


Monkeying around

Did a little web surfing on modern netsuke artists this morning and ran into a couple online articles by collector Robert O. Kinsey. 

The first is a collection of monkeys totally in love with that Gibbon by Alex Igunatius...those arms are wonderful.  

The second article is a listing of contemporary netsuke artists and examples of their work. 

When I started to play around with Polymer clay netsuke art was my inspiration. Even though I am modeling clay vs carving wood or ivory, it is the playfulness and skill that draws me to the art. I'd say of the four pieces it is my interpretation of Leapfrog that carries through most on this idea.

Although it is small at less than 5 inches square it is nowhere as small as the thumbsize tradition of netsuke. I am in awe of some of the talent these carvers have...put a knife in my hand and I'd probably cut my thumb off :D

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Can you keep a secret?

Well, I can't!

 I had made my little cellist Jammins'© as a surprise gift for my mother, who at the young age of 85 is still playing in concerts. I'd carefully kept her away from my website but sent her a link to this new blog, totally forgetting that I'd put a photo of my new sculpture on site. Doh!

I had just installed a new free hits counter with lots of great traffic stats on my sites and when I saw one from the town she lives in I figured it was her, so called and said 'Well, I guess you know about your little gift.' Well, double Doh!...she had seen it but was not one to assume it was hers so I couldn't have yelled out the secret any louder. 

I've added a new feature at the bottom of this blog...Art Site of the Week. Some will be artists I know, others that I've found on the web and liked their work. Hope you'll go take a peek. 

I'm enjoying the weekend off but have gotten a start on my next Jammins'© character, titled Touch the Moon. I'll be putting up a WIP (work in progress) on my website next week. 

Here's a partial drawing I did of Boots                (the greatest Chow Chow in the universe). I just love how his face looks when he's sleeping in this position!