Some sculptures have a history and one of our newest ones is a perfect example. We made “New Beginnings” and finished and signed it New Year’s Day 2014. I never quite felt satisfied with it. We rarely showed it in the several years since. But just recently we did and someone liked the concept, but in different colors and with the “waves” horizontally positioned. Se we removed the orb, the stainless, brass and copper. I’m using those elements on another backplate, in a different color palette for them. In the meantime, I’ve used this backplate and made a new square and added an enamel on copper orb. The old version is here and the new version is below it. The new one will be shown this weekend in Highland Park at the Port Clinton Art Fair. It’s called “New Beginnings/Solar Flare”.
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.
The clay calls to me. That’s how it’s always been, since I was little, playing with the mud, making pies and things. That feel of the wet clay is powerful. That you can make something awesome from it is the seduction. I’ve been on a lifelong journey though I’ve not always recognized the path. Often it looked to me as though life was just happening and that there wasn’t any meaningful way. Like a bunch of unrelated incidents loosely clumped together called “my life”. At other times it seemed that events were taking me on a course I didn’t want to traverse. But I can see more clearly now. That is the blessing of age. I’ve followed a course that has a goal and all of the steps before have been necessary to bring together the skills and experience and philosophy and wisdom to accomplish my purpose in this life.
Though I had always had a close connection to the landscape and nature, I had little regard for environmental issues before my late 20’s. And even then it was more a sense of the power of nature and an appreciation for her beauty. It wasn’t until I discovered The Gaia Theory, the way of indigenous peoples, Jungian archetypes and Joseph Campbell’s theories that I began to see a connection to be made with my art and what I deemed important in this life. As the years went by, much of my work reflected these studies. I painted mythical landscapes and made mandala-like sculptures inspired by sacred geometry and celestial bodies. Sprinkled throughout were anguished self-portraits, lucrative design pieces for the wall that made it possible to care for this sacred land we call home and studio, and most recently boats and nests and books wrought with symbolic imagery.
But still she calls to me. The goddess speaks to me through the clay and it’s clear now what I can and will do. It all comes down to the most pressing issue of our time, namely the environment. We are destroying the natural world at an increasing rate to fuel our consumer mentality. To ignore the fate of the planet at this juncture in time spells disaster for life on Earth. To act now in a responsible way is all that truly matters. And quite simply, my purpose, the reason I was born into this life was to help awaken people to the crisis. If I can alter the mindset of a few people, I will succeed in doing my small part, and together with other artists and teachers and scientists we can save the planet. The Earth Goddess is the soul of our living planet, of which we are a part, and she’s calling to us.
So while I will continue to collaborate with Robin making boats and other mixed media sculpture, I’m squeezing time in here and there to play in the mud. I began a new clay figure recently and we’ll see where it goes. I’ll post more as she moves along.
As always, the lives of artists get’s incorporated into their creativity, often with surprising results. Everyday and not so everyday occurrences get fed and sucked into the cabled nerve from which grows our art. These experiences or bits of information are actually the building blocks of our creations. But this I can tell you, the easel and the workbench is where the crafting of the painting or sculpture gets done. The art is born outside the studio.
As we’ve stated in the past, we are inspired by the boat shape as a sculptural form because of the deep meaning associated with boats as the symbol for the spiritual journey. Each of us takes our own path through life and into the next. As our paths are so very different, then our attraction to a specific boat’s shape, size, details and color also varies. We see that in the spirit of each boat we design and make. Here’s a sampling of our latest. See the details on each boat on our web-site, under collaborative work: www.WolfCreekStudio.com
“Amber Ark” She’s sleek, chic & a world traveler
“Yellow Dugout Canoe” Vessel for the loner’s journey
When it comes to making art, not all pieces are equal. No matter how long you’ve been creating, the process is never the same, the results are not predictable. Copying something is one thing, creating something new is entirely different. So Robin and I have been working on a series of sculptures around the theme of books. Books and art are full of meaning and it seems natural to us to combine the two to play off of each other. Back in June I made a backplate in a crackled finish that I painted to resemble a gaseous star galaxy, not unexpected from me since much of my work the past 15 years or so has been inspired at least partially by our place in the cosmos. Resting on it I placed three “tablets” with copper books on them. As soon as Robin saw the finished piece he immediately said, “Oh, it’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!” I loved it and thus it was signed an named so.
We took it to Ann Arbor and it was well received, but it didn’t find a home. However, on Labor Day weekend in Chicago a lady asked permission to take a photo to show her husband. She later called and asked us to bring it by. The house was full of people celebrating a birthday. There were oohs and ahs over the piece, not only because it is beautiful, but the home it found was perfect in every way. The lines, the colors and the materials meshed with and complimented those in the beautiful room it now resides in. We couldn’t be happier with the results. But people make a story and this couple is very special. He is in hospice, and “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” is his metaphorical roadmap.