Out of the blue the other day I got get an email from a German publisher offering a respectable fee for rights to use one of my paintings on a book cover!
” Büchergilde Gutenbergasks for your permission to use the painting named above for the cover (hardcover) of the book club edition of Sapphia Azzeddine, “Mein Vater ist Putzfrau”. Print run: 2,000 copies. Retail price: EUR 14.95. Publication date: 2nd quarter 2017 (April 2017).”
The title translates something like “My Father is a Cleaning Lady,” written from the perspective of a 14-year-old boy whose dad cleans a library at night.
The concept draft they sent for the front/back/spine design:
I responded: “After reading about Buechergilde Gutenberg on your website, I would be truly honored for my artwork to adorn one of your special Buechergilde editions! Your historic book club sounds like a wonderful grass roots organization of people who value not just the words and chapters in a book, but also the aesthetics…the presentation…the sensory satisfaction of holding and reading a beautifully crafted book.” (They then requested and I granted permission to quote my response in their marketing.)
I painted the portrait as a class demo when I was teaching a portrait painting class a few years ago. It’s one of my faves from my portrait painting period, so I’m glad it will receive a wider audience.
All in all, this has been a wonderful, serendipitous surprise! I look forward to receiving a few copies of the final hardbound book around May 2017.
It’s insane how much work goes into a piece like this! But I’m nearing completion of the individual parts — now to pull them all together. I like the burnt brown patina on the hammered metal eye surround, made from an old aluminum cake pan I got at a moving sale a couple days ago.
It’s hard to describe in words the drive I have to __________. First of all, what words do I use for ________??? I haven’t been able to come up with a concise descriptive term for it…I’ll try jotting down some candidate words & phrases, as fast as they come to mind:
follow the energy
freedom of expression
what I’m on the planet for ::: vocation
self image, identity, self respect, letting my inner artist out to play
expand vocabulary (of a particular medium) to the max
see what comes out ::: be surprised ::: off the wall
get lost in the *process* of making
let ideas run wild, sidelining the inner critic
suspending the cares of life for a little while, focusing all my energies in a positive/creative direction
Okay, that felt good to walk a circle around the urge and try to describe the salient aspects of it…but I can’t write all that every time I want to talk about “it” in a sentence…and I’m aware that this very act of trying to figure out words is robbing me of time I could be spending doing the actual thing I’m trying to describe, but I’m also aware of the value of putting my motivations into comprehensible form so I can better understand them and align all my inner energies in support of those goals…
I sometimes feel vaguely embarrassed/guilty about the intensity of the drive I have to indulge my inner artist. It seems to be asking for a level of priority that is impractical in relation to everyday life’s realities. It sometimes comes across as wanting to “do whatever I want” all day, every day, which is of course absurd.
It’s really not all that unusual, though; you hear it all the time from musicians, artists, dancers, actors who want to quit their day job and do ________ full time. In fact, I just saw a documentary in which a woman wanted more than anything to be a dancer, and then actually became the principal dancer in a national ballet company, but then got so tired of performing Swan Lake over and over that she quit to do her own thing: interpretive, self-expressive dance.
I deeply resonate with the following as well: In an interview with British artist Nicola Hicks, the questioner asks, “How do you balance life between living, working and loving?” and she responds, “I’m completely useless at it. I never feel I’ve got the paths right. The one thing that is never allowed to suffer is the work, which is a very hard decision to make, but I’ve found that for me that’s the way it has to be. If the studio work suffers there is no hope of anything else working. So other things have to be dropped. (…) All I know is, if you let the work go you have no hope, so there are sacrifices.” (excerpt from Flowers East: Nicola Hicks, The Pale Green Press, 1996 edition, ISBN 1 873362 315)
For the past couple years (up until recently) it’s been a struggle to get *any* free studio time, for weeks/months at a stretch. I chose to let other priorities take precedence. During those stretches, I literally felt like my life was on hold…which made me feel guilty, because I really have a good life! But right or wrong, it *feels* like I’m not truly living when I’m separated from making art (i.e., unconstrained studio time).
I’ve written a fair amount on this blog about the (self indulgent?) seemingly monumental struggle it’s been to rearrange my life just to free up a few minutes or an hour or two per day of unconstrained studio time — in the hope that someone else out there might identify with my experience, and find encouragement to keep on keeping on!
The grand plan — to build up an inventory of finished crows/ravens to free up an hour or two of studio time each day to make whatever I want to make — is working! Crow orders help provide a good ba$e, allowing me freedom to experiment with mixed media sculpture.
It continues to amaze me just how difficult it is to carve out time to sculpt! So many competing demands…each day is like out-of-control whack-a-mole! (But at least I have lots of hammers now 😉 )
On the positive side, it’s *so* encouraging to have my reward (free sculpting time) only hours away (“if I finish these six crows/ravens, and these five errands/tasks, then I can sculpt!”) instead of months (building up inventory of around 150 finished crows/ravens) or years (whole house remodel spanning 2014/15/16). This may be about as good as it’s gonna get…we’ll see…I’ll continue to stave off outside obligations, and continue to find efficiencies in daily tasks, to scavenge as many extra minutes as I can for free sculpture time each day!
This entry likely won’t mean much to anyone but me…but part of the purpose of this blog is for me to be able to look back at where I’ve been…so I want to document/celebrate this major accomplishment: Today I caught up on crows/ravens! It’s a goal I’ve fantasized about for years: to get ahead of the game by filling all my 11 inventory boxes (one for each design) with nicely burnished, ready-to-ship sculptures. Today I finished! I now have a “cushion” of around 130 finished pieces to shield me from the tyranny of the urgent.
Why is this a big deal, you may ask? Well, previously when a large crow/raven order came in, I’d have to stop whatever I was working on and spend the next several days or weeks on non-stop casting, burnishing, shipping. Often the gallery who placed the order had waited until they were completely out of one or more designs, so there would be urgency to get the order out. And whatever self-expressive project I might have been working on before the order came in was all but forgotten…momentum/energy dissipated. But NOW, I’ll be able to ship right away; and to replenish my inventory I won’t have to suspend my self-expressive work but rather can spend two or three unharried hours a day on crows/ravens, with the remainder of each day FREE to work on fresh, experimental artwork… Guilt Free!
This new system also gives me an easily definable stopping point: full boxes. Once they’re full, I can make whatever I want — all day, every day! (and did I mention, Guilt Free?)
Let’s see…this will be the free-est I’ve been since…well, for many many years…decades?!?…or maybe ever. It’s been a long struggle toward freedom, and I’ve aged (considerably) in the meantime, but I’m really looking forward to getting back a sense of play, exploration and experimentation in my work!
After a year of voluntary banishment (see previous post), my inner artist is now finally re-inhabiting my corporeal body! My goal was for this to happen by April 15, so: mission accomplished. Glad I did the remodel, glad it’s over.
First fun project: figure out how to make lightweight, break-resistant goat horns from non-toxic materials, for a faux taxidermy wall sculpture. The photo shows some of my trial & error steps toward a solution:Note the principal & interest bar graph…kind of a non sequiter you may think…but an online interest calculator seemed as quick a way as any to generate a logarithmic progression, which I then used to mark off the lengths of horn segments on left. That was fine for two dimensions, but how to get sweet compound curves in three dimensions? So I then messed around with stapling a paper model, thinking I might be able to make horns from three cutout pieces of sheet metal or similar, joined along their three common edges. But I wouldn’t be able to freeform / fine tune the curves if the sheet material were pre-cut…so combining the two ideas — segments + three shared edges — led to my favorite idea so far: solid segments joined by three flexible edges (hand carved wood segments with wire struts). Whether or not I ever actually use this particular idea, the “getting there” is a perfect example of my favorite part of the process: conceptualization > exploration > experimentation > discovery!
My return to freedom won’t be like stepping through a door, but more like fording a wide stream; because I need to make more than 100 crows/ravens to replenish my exhausted inventory and for gallery orders, which will consume the majority of my energy for the next four to six weeks. But “after that” … (I’ve been promising myself “after that” for so long that it’s hard to believe I’ll ever arrive, but I’m clinging to the likelihood that I will…)
Hopefully I can find an hour or two for experimentation here and there even in the midst of crow-making.
Overall, I’m very aware how fortunate I am, and am living my life immersed in constant gratitude.
I miss me! About a year ago, Jackie and I decided to remodel our 1950’s ranch house. We got bids. They were outrageously astronomical! Several years’ worth of income! So I talked my artist self into going on sabbatical for a year so I could use my one and only corporeal body to do the remodeling myself, with the ‘carrot’ that after that, my artist self would then be free to make art for years to come — and in nicer digs.
My goal all along has been to give my body back to my artist self by tax day 2016. That deadline is approaching, and I’m optimistic I’ll make it.
(I’ve been keeping up on crow/raven orders for Etsy and for several galleries & shops, but other than that I haven’t been making *any* self-expressive, experimental work.)
I put my Etsy store on ‘vacation’ (hah! some vacation) a month or so ago to help maintain my sanity as I tackled remodeling our main bathroom. We gutted it to the studs & subfloor, removed old wiring. I cut a big hole in the exterior wall, open to the backyard, to get a one-piece fiberglass shower unit into the room…yes, it was as crazy as it sounds, but it worked…plus now we have a nice new much-bigger-than-was-there-before window where the hole was! We did spit-baths for too long, but now the new shower is operational, I installed new floor last week, and had first flush of new toilet yesterday! Progress.
The bathroom is the last biggie on my list. Completed list items include: all new kitchen with lift-up cabinet doors, all new deck with cable railing & aluminum decking, new flooring throughout house, a dozen or so new electrical circuits, air conditioning (the house had none before), two new picture windows & new patio slider, all new plumbing clear to the street, all new roof/gutters, septic system repaired, plus many tangential projects.
When I do return to self expressive artmaking, I’m expecting it will be in sculpture, not painting. Probably mixed-media sculpture — combining what I’ve learned by working in several different media in past years/decades. I’m really looking forward to returning this ol’ body back to my artist self, and seeing what we’ll make.
Recent experimental new direction / playing with new (to me) materials / letting my hands just make / my inner boss demanded non-toxic (for longevity of the artist), break resistant (to reduce stress of shipping, reduce packaging materials needed for shipping, reduce cost of shipping), light weight (for ease of hanging on a regular ol’ nail), and fun to work with (to keep that capricious inner artist dude reasonably happy…high maintenance fellow, he is!).
I experimented with making boat shapes (precursors to ears) of several different materials/recipes/sculpting methods/armatures/glues and so on until I arrived at a combination of materials and methods that resonated with me (and met my inner boss’s criteria). I didn’t know exactly what to do next, so I just “did something,” thinking it might serve as a support for something else, but I ended up liking the supposed “undersculpture” so much that I didn’t want to cover it up. So I didn’t. And I put it on Etsy, and it sold! (Thanks B.A. in Texas!) The customer says she loves it, and that it looks better in person than the photo. Even my hard-to-please inner boss had to agree that this experiment was/is a success.
I have a second wall rabbit more than half done, but the holidays are looming so I’m being a good little deferred gratificationer and making ravens, crows, and more ravens so I don’t run short of them…but if/when I get caught up sufficiently on them, I look forward to continuing my experiments with faux taxidermy sculptures.
Above is the sketch that made me want to make a sculpture of it. I’m old enough to be amazed by the pageant of digital tech — it seemed like magic to draw this with just a fingertip on a touchscreen Chromebook! This was the first project where I did all digital (rather than pencil on paper) conceptualizing. Kind of sad in some ways, but liberating and fun in others.