Crash and Burn
Failure is an inevitable part of any learning journey, but just because it’s inevitable doesn’t make it any less painful. This journey has seen more than its fair share of painful failures, and I’m sure there will be plenty more ahead, but that’s totally cool. I would rather experience failure than play it safe any day. As a great artist once said, “Safety is the illusion that fosters tepid dreams. Those who are not willing to risk failure will never know greatness.“
“Safety is the illusion that fosters tepid dreams. Those who are not willing to risk failure will never know greatness.“
Ok, you caught me. No great artist actually ever said that I just made it up, but you know what? Feel free to quote me on it because that’s where I stand.
Some artists want to create, while others prefer to focus on the experience of making their art. The goal I’ve always chased is how to bring my art to the masses, and for most of my career, that’s pretty much what I’ve done. There are a lot of artists out there who might look down on that or even label me as a sell-out, but that’s never been a concern for me. Art is meant to be enjoyed, and I want my art to be enjoyed by as many people as possible. To me, that is one of the highest compliments an artist can receive. I made something, and someone appreciates it, falls in love with it, and wants to bring it home. Is there a better feeling than that as an artist? I don't think so because art is designed to connect with the viewer, and that kind of connection is truly the best connection.
You've gotta make something to sell something.
You've gotta make something to sell something, so I started making. Unfortunately, replicating the process proved to be a lot more difficult than I had anticipated, and not for lack of trying. With each attempt, the path seemed to shift and present a unique set of challenges. In the end, I realized that I needed to change my approach. I had come at this whole thing backward.
Once I realized that, I finally felt free to create, and that’s when things began to change. The gulper eel represents my shift in direction. It is where I transitioned from the thought process that each piece had to be replicated at scale.
Instead, I decided to focus on my art. Each piece would be an original, and any replications would be derivatives of that original. I realize that's hardly a novel idea and of course now seems embarrassingly obvious. It is the way many artists have done it for years, but for me, it was a turning point. I think my resistance to this “radical” new idea was centered on fear.
Letting go of fear
Fear is a funny thing. It can show up in ways that are difficult to recognize. My fear disguised itself as a way to minimize failure. If I could create all my art digitally and transfer it to the board, I could eliminate imperfections. That meant I could even mass produce with little to no risk. My art would be perfect, and my production would be perfect, and I would be perfect. An artist's bliss.
I held onto that idea for a long time before I realized that my fear was holding me back from doing what I really wanted to do, and that was to create. My goal from the start of this project was to feel the joy of free creation, and instead, my fears had narrowed the confines of this project to essentially a warehouse, mass-producing copies of flawless digital reproductions. it seems I had factored out the very soul of my art, and that wouldn't do.
Correcting my mistakes was a gradual process. Switching from digital to real live paint meant I needed to get comfortable with painting again. It had been almost ten years since I held an actual brush. Would I even remember all things I had learned over the years? As it turned out the answer was no, I needed to find my mojo again. Slowly but surely, I did just that.
I’ve heard bilingual people talk about forgetting a language when they stop using it, and even though I’m not bilingual, I suspect that my quest was somewhat similar. I’m not going to lie. Some of my early efforts were just terrible, downright abysmal, but as I became more relaxed with my creations, I began to recall many of the techniques I had developed over the years. As they became more familiar, I began to learn new ones and expand my artistic vocabulary. Who knew you could be artistic with a jigsaw? The fear I had been holding onto dissipated and became less and less of a factor. I stopped focusing on the techniques and started to focus on the art. The terror of an empty canvas, or in my case, board, was no longer a stumbling block.
My creations began to come from the soul and my deep desire to connect with my viewers. That makes me happy because that’s where art is supposed to come from. Along my journey, I've had people question my shift in direction. What is this all about? What are you doing? Why are you doing this? I thought you were more - fill in the blank.
I hope my first post Part 1: Making New Art. Discovering My Love for Painting on Wood has helped solve that riddle for some. Moving forward and shifting gears can be disruptive. Cultivating a new audience is an adjustment, and it takes a lot of perseverance. When people recognize you for one thing, and you start showing up with another, it can be confusing, and it takes time to adjust. I hope you’ll stick with me in my ongoing adventure as I discuss the merits of reaching new audiences in my next post. Go Big or Go Home. See you next time!