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The Artist's Dilemma

>> Thursday, December 23, 2010

The theme of this blog has really been focused on my outdoors adventures and my nutty pets, with a few other odds and ends thrown in.  I haven't yet really talked about any of my artistic ventures since they don't fit with my "theme", but heck.  Screw the theme.  Art is on my mind.

I've always done creative things, as long as I can remember.  I can't seem to help myself.  If I'm not drawing or painting, I'm writing, snapping pictures, crafting, sewing, decorating, or wrapping things in some sort of decorative way.  Case in point: my Christmas.

During holidays, my basic wrapping compulsion comes to the fore.  My husband says I'm incapable of wrapping anything with less-than-Martha-Stewart flair.  In a way he's right.  I get such a kick out of wrapping that I get carried away.  Each package has to be just so, with ornaments tied on and an abundance of luxurious real fabric ribbon.

I do more than just crafty wrapping, though.  The last two years I've done our holiday cards.  Last year I just sort of doodled a design with markers, and I wound up liking it enough to turn it into cards and send them:

This year, I got inspired to do something that took a little more talent and work, and spent a morning with paper and pastel pencils.  I knew I wanted to draw a bird since I love birds and they seem relatively holiday-ey, but discovered quickly that I had to find a photo to work from.  I can never create images of critters out of my head because something just winds up a little off.  But, I eventually got it.  Here's the work in progress, and end result (forgive the quality of the "work in progress" photos, which I took with my Blackberry):

I'm rather tickled with it.  It actually looks like a bird, and a relatively graceful one at that.  My husband printed it on some lovely Crane's paper, and voila!  This year's holiday cards (which totally went out late, but never mind): 

Whenever I do any kind of work of art that I like, I think about doing something more with my art.  I am frequently asked whether I sell my paintings, drawings and photographs when people see them, and all I can say in response is that I think about it but never get around to it.  Part of the problem, though, is that I'm not sure exactly what I want my "signature" style to be.  Do I focus on photography?  Drawing?  Abstract painting?  I'm not even 100% certain I know why I believe artists need to have one sort of signature style (or at least a primary one), but all I can say to that is that artists generally do.  It's hard to take someone seriously as an artist if s/he has too many things going on.

I did a series of large acrylic abstracts a few years ago, and actually had a gallery lined up to do a show of my work.  Only trouble was, the rule for that particular gallery was that every one of my pieces in it had to be for sale, and a couple of my favorites were definitely not for sale.  I needed to do more in the series to have enough for a whole show, but never got around to it.  I ran out of inspiration for that series - it needed to develop further so I didn't feel like I was doing the same thing over and over again, and that magic transition never happened.  I keep holding out hope that it will, because the pieces I did do were popular and I enjoyed doing them.  I sort of allowed myself to get drunk on the rich liquid colors, and painting them was almost a spiritual experience.

Here are a few (again, forgive the photo quality - my old old digital left much to be desired and did no justice to the colors and textures).

"Greenhouse Afternoon"

"Jellyfish Light"

"Stream and Pebbles"

So, painting abstracts, is that my thing?  How neurotic is this:  I'm afraid to commit to painting abstracts because I always fear that people will think I only do abstracts because I can't do anything representational.  But the truth is, I do love drawing, and even representational paintings, too.  However, while I am technically fairly competent at it, I am never convinced that I manage to do enough with the composition and background to make my drawings really, well, artistic.  "Accurately drawn" ≠ "artistically moving".  I think if I worked at it a whole bunch more I might get there, but it would definitely require some dedicated effort.  And of all the types of art I do, drawing can certainly be the most exasperating.

And then, of course, there's the photography.  I like my photographs, and have taken a handful that I think are artistic and very appealing.  I happen to do a lot of photography and exhibit it more than anything else I do, just because of the nature of photography and social media (this blog and Facebook, mostly).  I get quite a number of requests from people wanting to buy prints, and it would be fairly easy for me to do some prints and some greeting cards, and sell them in local arts and crafts venues.  But I haven't yet done so, in part because with my 6 megapixel camera my reprinting abilities were a little limited, and in part because I'm terrified of getting pigeon-holed as a photographer.  Zillions of people out there are great photographers, and while I love my photos, I'm no extraordinary photographer who stands out from the pack, and truthfully I'm not sure I feel as moved by photography as by painting and drawing.  To me those things seem more like art, in part because of the more extended creative process involved in each piece.  On the flip side, though, it is easier for me to get good photos that would make decent prints and cards because I take photos whereever I go.

The end result?  I have no idea what I'm doing.  I'd love to sell some stuff to, if nothing else, generate a little extra revenue to support my expensive artistic habits.  But my indecision and neuroses are holding me back.  Do any of my readers sell any art?  If so, what?  Tell me about the process that led to taking that plunge.  I need some inspiration to get me out of my rut.


Carol December 23, 2010 at 6:32 PM  

Why not do it all? Love the must be nice to be so talented.

Ellen Rathbone December 24, 2010 at 7:31 PM  

Your creativity and talent seem to have no bounds. For what it's worth, don't allow yourself to get stuck into a slot - explore all your inspirations with abandon!

Happy Holidays!

reneé December 30, 2010 at 6:05 PM  

i like your abstract pieces-there's a lot of motion and dimension.
i can completely identify with your concern over "style". i think it's a pretty common worry with artists. my opinion is that it is based, whether we acknowledge it or not, in the idea that only a certain thing will "sell" or be "popular" and we need to aim towards that "market" or "audience". while that may be true, that isn't very satisfying...or maybe even maddening, to the artist them self. after all, art is something we do for ourselves first.
i firmly believe that nurturing all of your creative interests and styles is important because you never know where it will take you. plus, all artists' styles grow and change over time.
when you sell work, things are different...then you need to focus certain styles to certain markets...but don't ever limit yourself!
(wow...what a diatribe...can you tell i've pondered this topic myself many, MANY times?)

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