Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Who Do You Want To Present?

I think I've had a bit of a mid-career-art-crisis on my hands for the past year or so. I'm not sure what triggered it, but looking at everything I can really see it clearly. I started veering from doing my favorite art. I took experimenting and exploring a bit too seriously, until that became my focus rather than a sideline interest.

Then recently, I started questioning if I was doing anything right at all! Maybe I shouldn't be doing this, or that or maybe I should have been doing that other thing all along...

Now, I realize some of this is because my future is completely up in the air with the potential big move, and not having any solid information to go on since February. It's enough to drive anyone crazy. But still, art has always been my core, and without it I freely admit that I don't know who I am. Or... maybe I'm just significantly less without it.

While I was spinning about wondering what to do, I had to take my daughter to a doctor's appointment. In it, I had to explain what I did and of course when you say you're an artist a lot of assumptions are made - usually in the negative. Here, they imagine you macrame planters or use those paint by numbers kits or paint plaster items from your local craft store. If you're lucky, they assume you paint red barns and cows (because that's ALL the tourists want up here, and tourism is the main business in Vermont.) Mostly though, they assume you're doing the junk, the pot-holder-kit and sell it at a craft show thing. So, I always feel compelled to pull out an example of my artwork when the censure starts (and it ALWAYS does.)

As I was pulling out one of my post cards, I realized something really important.  You know when you have one of those epiphany, lightning striking you in the head moments? It was one of those. I didn't want to pull out a picture of some random fairy, or my fast doodles, or little quick pieces, or really even my new digital illustrations (although maybe one or two of those would have been OK... except it would have been digital, and there is something about that which is still clouded in "less than" because it's not traditional art. My own perception included, even.) I wanted to pull out Tea Time, or my Queen of Hearts (which isn't finished, but I hope will look awesome.)

Tea Time, 16x20 acrylic on stretched canvas


I wanted to pull out some of my bigger abstracts...

Phase, 18x24 acrylic on stretched canvas


Basically, I realized there is art that I am proud of, and then there is art that is just... filler. Not exactly stuff I would want representing me.

I don't mean this in a business sense. I think all artists have good work and bad work. Epic work, and tiny little fluff pieces. But I think there is a line where an artist can get caught up in the amazing production of some artists coupled with the demanding marketplace, and think they need to churn out as much as possible. The result is more fluff and less substance, and more - when we don't invest part of ourselves into our deeper work, it all sort of falls flat.

It all comes down to deciding who you want to be as an artist. If someone meets you and finds out you are an artist and want to see some of your work - what are you going to show them? What pieces over the past year are worthy of that moment? Have there been too few, or are you bang on course? On the flip side, are you ONLY producing work that is deep and presentable like that? That can actually be a problem too, because as artists we have to leave room to grow. Growing means exploring new stuff, making mistakes, and even failing. So, there ought to be some really not-so-great pieces that you don't want to share too.

I've been thinking, and I figure the balance is probably ideally around 75-25%. 75% artwork we would present as our work, and 25% fluff and waste. Now, if you're a slow painter like me, that could be more about time spent on works rather than production. So, 75% of your time spent on work you value, 25% on fluff and waste. Room to grow and experiment, room to discover something new, but not enough to drown the real work worthy of your personal investment in it over your lifetime.

I realize that I have been reversed as of late. I'm probably 75% fluff and waste at this point. Oops. I mean, crazy as things have been, I can look back and see what happened. I get it. But it's not acceptable. This is not the artist I want to be.

I realize it's as simple as being asked "What do you create?" and the answer for yourself is what you would present that person with as your answer, and then looking at how you've been investing yourself and your time. I think this is a question that probably needs to be asked frequently. Maybe every month? Maybe more? As much as it needs to be to stay on track, I suppose.

I haven't been asking that question, but I hear it now. I realize the value in it, and how off track I have gotten by not considering it as time progressed. So, I think I'm finally back on track. I have some untangling to do in my studio, but it can be done.

1 comment:

Magic Love Crow said...

Good for you getting back on track! I have to admit, I have been going through this for the past couple of weeks. Sometimes, I just paint fast, to get new art in my shop. I don't want to do that anymore!
Great post ;o)