Ask any artist and you’re likely to be told that they’re inspired by nature. It’s a given. Nature is full of wonder and for artists it provides an impetus to create. We see color, line, form and texture and it gets incorporated into our drawing, painting, and sculpting.
When Robin and I moved onto our 20 acres of woodlands, we immediately began sculpting the landscape by adding shrub borders, flowers and vines. We relied heavily, though not exclusively on native species in order to support an abundance of wildlife. Using the “architecture” of the rolling landscape and the tall trees we were blessed with, we’ve created habitat for more pollinators–bees, butterflies, moths, and birds. We’ve added water features for amphibians, reptiles, dragonflies and fish. Brush piles in various places in the deep woods provide habitat for mammals. It’s all good for the health of the environment.
A walk through the “yard” area (approximately 3.5 acres) surrounding the house and studios will give you glimpses of countless species of birds, lizards, amphibians, fish and mammals. The sights, sounds and smells provide a soothing experience of nature at its best. We can not help but be inspired to create work that embodies the balance, texture, colors and forms of Mother Nature. Our collaborative work is all about these things. It is a discipline based on meditation. From the crackled surface of the pond mud to the bark on the trees:
One of the most frequent questions I’m asked by visitors to our booth is how we come up with our ideas. I can tell you they aren’t forced. When an artist sits down to create something new, it doesn’t come out of thin air and it cannot be forcibly willed into being. Rather, several things must come together simultaneously and that creates the magic. For success, the groundwork must be laid and that means many hours and years of simply making—making work, utilizing tools, experimenting with mediums, drawing, painting, sculpting endlessly. Whether the end result each time is good or poor or great doesn’t matter as much as putting in the time. With that experience comes priceless abilities, obtainable in no other way. It is a growth that builds upon itself endlessly. In that process the artist develops the mental and physical tools necessary to bring ideas into the physical realm. It makes possible the transfer of something ethereal in the mind into an object in the “real” world.
Secondly, every person is a result of their own unique physiology and life experience. As an artist, everything you produce is a result of these two entities. All of your life experiences come together to produce the current you. There is no way around that, for good or bad. Every decision, every occurrence changes the person that you are. And your own unique physiology reacts to every decision and experience further evolving your mind and body. Therefore the art you create is a direct result of that life experience. And it is a reflection of your philosophy, whether you consciously realize it or not.
All of that process is necessary, but it’s not enough. Creating is not copying an idea you’ve already executed, or copying someone else’s idea. Creating is stirring the pot and dipping out something fresh. Of course you’re influenced by other artists. That’s not only inevitable, but actually a good thing. The key is to keep it as an influence not a replication.
There is a wellspring that is bottomless and it is within every person’s reach. Tapping into it is necessary for creative growth, but the connection can be fugitive. When it happens its magic. This is what I mean when I say it cannot be forced. It flows into your thoughts when you prepare the mind. You have to allow it to come forth into the “light”. This usually occurs in a relaxed state of mind—often when the eyes are closed and you allow unimpeded wandering. Day dreaming is not a waste of time as some would have you think. And often images come into my mind just before falling asleep. Sometimes it’s erratic, with a quick flash and then it’s gone. Other times when conditions are more perfect one can tap into a flowing stream of images and ideas. Getting those down afterwards in sketches and notes is crucial to remembering the gist of the idea as well as the specifics. And then you have the start of a series and more ideas will flow from that, if you return to that elusive universal flow of energy. We are blessed and it is important to remind ourselves of that.
I spent a lot of time thinking up names for our business blog. In the end I settled on A Paradox: Art-Life-Business. Perhaps poorly stated, it was meant to show that for an artist, there really is no separation of our art making, our personal life and the inevitable struggle to make a living from our art, so we can keep making more art. It’s difficult to be creative when you’re bogged down in worries. This past week is a perfect example of how wrapped up our personal lives are with our business.
Wednesday morning we left home for Reston, VA to participate in the Northern Virginia Art Fair, one of the A-list shows in America. We’ve been juried into it a number of times, most recently the past two years. Sales are usually solid at this high quality show, and last year was very good. Just after passing Louisville, Kentucky our van broke down. As we approached a weigh station (we have a box van to transport our sculpture and therefore are regulated by the federal department of transportation) we suspected trouble—at first it was only a slight noise coming from under the hood. Robin parked, went inside and the officer gave him a printout of local tow truck operators, and he recommended the nearest one. It was a quick diagnosis, the vacuum pump seized up, shredding the serpentine belt, causing the loss of our power brakes and power steering. The driver recommended two shops in the area that could possibly work on it right away. One declined but the other said they could get to it the following morning. After a night in a hotel, the van wasn’t ready to go until 2PM on Thursday. Had we not run into trouble, we would be nearly finished setting up our booth at the show. What to do?
Had it been a dozen or so years earlier, we would have driven on east to arrive by 1 AM, get a few short hours of sleep, be on the street by 6 AM setting up in a rush before the show opened at 10 AM. But we’ve learned that we don’t have that kind of stamina anymore. Heck, anymore we can’t even entertain or go out two nights in a row! I know I wouldn’t have had the energy or presence of mind to smile at potential buyers and carry on a sensible discussion about our work. That’s difficult enough for me under the best of circumstances. Having grown up nearly always alone, my verbal communication skills are extremely poor.
So we made the decision to cancel our participation in the show. We sacrificed our $750 corner booth fee. The Hyatt at the show charged us for the first night ($120) as their policy is a three-day cancellation period before this show. The tow was $228 and the repair bill was $891. Losing potential for sales, is a real hardship. The only good that came of it is that we got home to spend a few more days with our beloved Bull Mastiff, Harley. Read about that gut-wrencher on my personal blog, http://www.HeadingforAndromeda.wordpress.com
Books are the physical embodiment of knowledge and enlightenment, the teller of stories, the keeper of secrets, and ultimately the record of our history. These sculptural icons are our interpretation of this important cultural symbol.
Our little copper books are fun to make and delightful to many patrons. Each book is a 12″square of wood, clad with copper and then hand-hammered or embossed with texture. On each we make little books with copper pages that are bound together with silver wire and have a colorful backing. The pages are hammered on the edges and then usually embossed with an elusive script to add mystery. In the case of our newest ones, the pages are embossed with readable messages. The first new set is a Cosmos Series and shown here is the first.Other little books that go with this one say Moon, Star, Sun, Venus, Comets.
Robin and I are continuing our progression of the bentwoods, only now the surfaces are partially or completely clad with copper. The contrast of the metal surface with the painted crackled wood surface is very pleasing. This set also includes stainless steel chain, enamel on copper and hammered brass square rods with chemical patina
Many years ago, I began making bentwood frames for sculpture. The process involves making a framework over which a specialty laminated wood can be bent over the frame, clamped together and left overnight for the glue to cure. Shown here are a couple of the bentwood sculptures I did in the past.
More recently we’ve made some bentwood sculptures like these: