Going back to go Forward

I’ve been watching a lot of woodturning and resin casing videos. Like.. a lot.

Back in college… well, let me explain my intent when going to college first. When I went, 17-18 year old me DREAMED of being a Disney animator. I wanted to tell stories and I wanted my work to be seen. When I realized I could be an artist some day I was 10 or 11 or so, and I was told about this vocational program in high school that I could apply to and attend part of the day that would help me into college, and fulfill my dream. So I  got in and went to that vocational school, and then went to college for the purpose of animation. In the course of two years I began to understand that I don’t quite have the temperament for that profession. I had too much I wanted to say, and when you do illustration work of any kind you have to morph what you do to the art director’s and the studio/client demands. Plus you have to be very competitive, which I am but not in the way an illustrator is. Before Disney’s animation studio shut down in the 90’s I met someone who used to work there describing how people would break into each other’s desk to steal and take credit for each other’s work n such. How studios would hire managers who would fire people working on the project only to bring in their own people. That kind of constantly fighting environment just doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t necessarily thing it’s a bad way to work if you thrive on competition like that, but I don’t. So that’s how I ended up in fine art.

If you’ve been reading this for a minute, you know already that my focus has been on painting. I chose that medium because I don’t need anyone else or terribly expensive equipment or studio space to create that kind of work. Most people who know me, even old friends see me as a 2D artist. A portrait artist. A one note. Sure I know how to handle different painting mediums and I can do digital work, but the stuff I have shown is singular.

And if you’ve been reading this blog for a minute you’ll also note I’ve been, generally speaking, frustrated and not very happy with what I’ve been creating. I’ve been sitting with this all year. Working on the ideas in my head. Testing waters in my sketchbook and slightly in the world only to find the idea or process doesn’t feel right or motivate me. It doesn’t help that this year especially I’ve had a lot of personal loss and have been severely depressed (which is something I keep to myself), and I may be having a midlife crisis as well. All this gets summed up in a single sentence “What the fuck am I doing?”

Well, sitting in one’s own shit forever never does serve. I think I’m getting to the point where it’s time to move forward again.

I would say to anyone who wasn’t me in my situation, that if what you have been doing doesn’t work, you should do something different. As me I know I can’t reinvent the wheel and start over completely from scratch. I can’t be anyone other than me, but I can expand that definition which should not be beholden to what anyone else thinks or assumes (including me) of what I am capable of.

And They say, if you’re in a rut, go back to what inspired you in the first place, which is something else I’ve been thinking about.

Before I went down this path, when I was a kid in school, I sculpted, played music, and wrote. I kept a sketchbook too (which I still have going back to the age of 8), and all those other what I would now call disciplines fed into what I was into making, and I was obsessed with making. Not for attention (although I did love getting attention), but because I had a world in my head and I wanted to record it. So I had whole narratives about this futuristic world that I would draw the characters to. I would sculpt them in plasticine too (an oil based clay that never dries, commonplace in schools) before smashing them to put the clay away to be used by someone else. I took piano, sang in choirs both in school and church, played choir bells in church as well, and just produced.

Of course I can’t go back 30 years, and I don’t want to as I don’t see myself suddenly becoming a comic book artist or musician. The moment I’m at right now is ‘can I use those other tools/skills to help inspire me?’ Because forcing what I already do isn’t working, so perhaps tripping the wires in my head by going ‘back to my roots’ might.

I haven’t really played piano or sang in choir since I was 15. I do karaoke now and then but that’s not the same as performing, and honestly I’m merely ‘ok’ as a singer. With piano, I was told back then if I wanted to I could have a career in it, and my choir director didn’t want me to quit, but I gave up both to focus on the visual arts when I started going to that vocational school. The class schedule wouldn’t allow for me to go to choir practice, and I felt I had to choose between art and music, and I was better at art. I also chose commercial art/illustration over fine art because I felt a pressure from my family that I had to make practical choices. What I know now is they didn’t and don’t know anything about the arts as a profession, and what can and can’t be an income stream, and as well meaning as they were and are, this is not area they can give me practical advice on simply because they don’t know the industry, and don’t have an understanding of how I work and why. It took me a long time to figure out that myself… and I’m still trying to figure out my place in a sense. So I muddled through to end up in the fine art division in college, where I tried everything I could that interested me. I took sculpture, ceramics, painting and drawing, the latter two holdovers from my focus in illustration which ended up being my minor. I really enjoyed ceramics, throwing pots and handbuilding sculpture, and casting from clay in sculpture class into cement and bronze. I liked welding and building forms too, and the only thing I wanted to try but didn’t because of time is glassblowing. Painting and drawing were my main focus, because I felt that was the most practical. If anything I could always make a portrait business I thought. My teachers in the other disciplines wondered why I was there since painting was my major… but what I wanted to say and couldn’t was I was there because I wanted to know, and I just loved to create.

So let’s jump back to now. I got interviewed for a memorial restoration job last week that I’m pretty sure I’m not going to get since I’ve been blown off for a second interview. My guess is the reason is I don’t have enough stone sculpting experience, and I don’t blame them for that. I was very excited about the idea of the job, which is something I never thought about looking into before. I’m a bit disappointed that I haven’t had my messages returned from the owner, but I am sitting with my feelings and thoughts, which brings me back to why I’m watching resin casting and sculpting videos.

When something isn’t working, do something different. Easier said than done, because what CAN you do that’s different? When the whole world offers a million different doors, which one do you walk through? So I’ve been researching, looking at the potential of making small resin casting sculptures and wall art, maybe making tiles and items for practical home use. I don’t have a kiln, but I can cast some things out of my home, and maybe that will lead to getting a studio outside of the house. It’s a potentially expensive investment and the materials are not cheap so hence all the research. This access to information wasn’t something I had 20+ years ago. I didn’t know I could cold cast bronze or make resin anything when I was in my 20’s in the early 90s’, and I’m a bit more open than I was then with what I can imagine to be possible. After Christmas I’ll be picking up some supplies and trying some stuff.

I have full expectation that what I’ll do won’t be great, but I have little to lose besides money and time. Even if it doesn’t become anything more than a hobby if it helps my mind bend to think outside of the box it will help with the painting. I find my creativity dovetails, when I explore one avenue it helps me think creatively in others.

I’m looking back at the piano as well, which again would be an investment in equipment. All I can remember and do now is scales and cadences. I can’t remember any of the songs, and I am very very rusty at reading. I just remember the basics, which I guess is as good a place to start as any.  I’ve been thinking of writing as well, something I haven’t done since high school. I expect I’ll be mediocre at both, which honestly keeps me from wanting to try even though I know that’s a silly way to think. If something interests us, we should do it even if we are terrible because it’s the process that’s the point, not the product. There’s also a concern about time… but then I remember I was going to school and doing homework back then while doing all of those things, and so I could be doing all of that now really if I was better at self regulating my time.

So, yes. In the very short term I’ve been dealing with practical matters so I can at least end this year on a reparative note, with the intention of gathering myself together for the next journey, whatever that will be. I’m looking for work, at least part time or several part time jobs. I’m trying to care for my mental health better, and am doing adulting things. I don’t do new years resolutions, but the end of year and the turn of the next does help mentally with change I think. So, push for change so hopefully I can come up with something more interesting to say, and maybe make better work.

This is likely going to be my last post for the year. If you got this far, gold star for you. Happy Holidays, and I’ll see you in the future.

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