It’s not easy coming up with a new idea. Every year, when you hit the show circuit again, your customers want to know “what have you got that’s new?. Bless their little hearts. You make what you know will sell, but you’ve made so much of it the fun ended a looooong time ago. The urge to flex your artistic muscles and create something that will wow the crowd looms ever larger. “If I only had the time!” I grouse. “If only I didn’t have to make more of This Stuff, I could concentrate on making Real Art!”.
There is low tolerance for griping in the studio, so most of the petulance takes place in my head, not cast about in actual conversation. I think about the works being done by by artists who actually take time to research their projects…who Go Somewhere and Watch Something and Sketch or Make Maquettes…you know: do it the proper way. I sit at the computer and Google stuff.
I have fantasies of packing up some clay and a box of tools and driving to the zoo. I sit under a shady tree, don my official sculpting beret, and go to work. The sculpture progresses beautifully (this is a fantasy, after all), and a small crowd begins to form. They are mesmerized by my nimble fingers, and soon word spreads throughout the zoo that an Artist…a Sculptor, is making an amazing <insert name of animal>, and the crowd swells to such proportions that a television new crew arrives! I, lost in my creative process, am unawares of the hub-bub, until a reporter begins to question me about my process. I answer demurely (I am a humble artist, not the chest-thumping, self-promoting kind), and the crowd is enthralled. I finish my piece, spontaneous applause breaks out, I pack up my wares and head for the car after signing a few autographs. Upon returning to the studio, I create my masterpiece, referring to my maquette so assiduously modeled earlier. Sigh.
I rouse from this daydream to the reality of making a dozen cheese plates with a dozen frogs on them. I also have half a dozen tiles setting up in molds, and a small group of rude Mood Rabbits hanging out on a square of drywall at the end of the table. Sigh.
The way I have resolved this is to make what I need to make to pay my bills. That I can pay my bills by making stuff no one really needs is a huge victory. Most of the work is not exactly earth-shattering in its artistry, but it is honestly made with care to detail. Occasionally I make what feeds my soul, and occasionally those things sell, but it is the little stuff that keeps me afloat. For this I am grateful.
Artists who can support themselves with their artwork are heroes in my book. Whether it’s a cheese plate or a sculpture…it’s all good.
“What have you got that’s new?”
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I love the dream of sculpting at the zoo. What a beautiful thought.