Saturday, October 24, 2009

One Gal's Brush Off is Another Gal's Kick in the Butt . . .

After my last session with Jim two weeks ago, I was so encouraged, I continued working on the preliminary sketch, trying to flesh it out with color, adding a few of the images and the words so it would be ready for his collage once he completed it.

But Jim didn’t show up at our schedule meeting this week, even after I called to make sure he was going to make it and even after he said absolutely he was.  And then he didn’t. (See previous post:  Maybe He Just Isn’t That Into Me . . .)

In the past, when I’ve been ‘stood up’ by Jim, I’ve been so deflated, I’ve either just stayed there in the studio puttering around doing a lot of nothing, feeling sorry for myself; or I’ve taken photos of old work to remind myself that I am a successful artist and have been creative in the past; or I’ve organized the mess which sometimes but not often makes me feel better; or as a last resort, I’ve munched on stale energy bars waiting to see if that would get my creative engine revved up. Mostly, that never happens.

Yesterday, surprisingly, I spent only five minutes feeling like crap – feeling rejected once again. I went to that psychological place for only five minutes and then I just said to myself, “F--- it. I don’t need this guy to get this project going. I have enough to work with right here.”

And that’s exactly what I did.  For three hours.  Uninterrupted.

It was creative bliss.

Instead of waiting for Jim to make his collage, I took the images he would have used and put them in the preliminary sketch as I saw fit.

I don’t know if this will be the final configuration, but I’m beginning to like how it’s shaping up.  To be honest, when I do my own 2D work, I rarely if ever do preliminary sketches.  I take images I want to use and begin working right there on the good paper or canvas, creating as I go. But this project seems to need a first draft, so to speak.

What I did in the studio yesterday may not be anything like the final draft.  But today, it feels like a good start.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Maybe He's Just Not That Into Me . . .

Yesterday, after trying since August to get this project up and running with energy, enthusiasm, and genuine interest from my client, Jim, I was brushed off the second week in a row.  Jim called the studio five minutes before he was to arrive to say that he had tripped over something on his way out the door and now his knee was hurting and he didn’t think he could make it.  OK, does that sound like a legitimate excuse or one you would make up if you really didn’t want to be somewhere you promised to be?  He didn’t show up a week ago either because he had a bad night with no sleep.  That’s an excuse he’s used before and one I can certainly understand, being that he’s still going through physical therapy and does have residual pain.

Maybe I should have read the book “He’s Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys” before I started this collaboration? Maybe I could have bypassed all the emotional ups and downs I’ve had in the past couple of weeks if I had realized from the start, I needed to understand this, in fact, may not be just a client/student relationship. Maybe this is a guy/gal relationship with all its vagaries?

Or maybe not.

The beginning of October was truly exciting for me as the project began to take shape.  Jim came that first week with more images for us to use and seemed to be really taking great interest, after not showing up the week before due to physical problems. I commended him on how well he looked, using only his cane and not the crutches he had used the last time I saw him.

But since our meetings were not as regular as I had hoped they would be (we hadn’t met twice in a row yet), I was wondering if maybe he had just lost interest in being so involved in the project? Or even though he was four and a half years out from the accident, maybe all of this reliving his life –what he was, what he’s lost and what he’s gained - was becoming too psychologically painful for him? Maybe his sleepless nights before our meetings were more about this than his physical pain? 

So I asked him point blank if he really wanted to continue working toward creating his own personal collages to be used in the piece. I assured him that I didn’t want him to feel pressured into doing this and that I felt confident enough to work with the images he’d collected to finish this on my own. He assured me this was a wonderful project for him and absolutely, he wanted to continue.

Taking that at face value, I decided to try and hook him even further by starting work on a compositional preliminary sketch of the ideas we had bantered about verbally. That was a wonderful day in the studio for me - getting out my prisma colors, acrylic paints and just having at it on a 6’ x 3’ piece of white butcher paper. It always gets my creative juices flowing to start drawing and especially drawing large.

When Jim arrived the next week and saw this sketch up on the wall he seemed not just pleased but even more enthused. We talked about my vision and how it would manifest into a finished piece. We looked again at the pictures and words he had collected, the ones I had put on the handmade paper I plan to use to, in order to imagine how we'll place them in this new composition. 

And as he was leaving, I said to him, “OK, next week we’re going to start on your collage.  I think we’ll only need a couple more sessions to get your part done.”  He agreed, with a smile and a handshake. As he left, I was already looking forward to our meeting the next week.

I haven't seen him since.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Good, The Bad and the Iffy About Commissions . . .

It’s not that I’ve never been commissioned to do work before. After all, I just finished a number of clay commissions recently, the biggest being the porcelain vessel for Scarlett. One of my first was when my dear neighbor who had 6 kids asked me to do a set of bowls for her family. I was delighted to oblige. She picked the clay body – porcelain - and left it up to me to do my signature glazing. She was so pleased she then asked for plates and then mugs. No problem, especially when I explained she shouldn’t expect them to be exactly the same. My favorite line has always been, “If you want perfect, you can buy it at K-Mart.” To me, the beauty of being ‘handmade’ is being able to see the hand of the artist.

This is also not my first 2D commission. One of my favorites was when I was given an old photo of my friend Deborah Harding’s grandparents and created a very beautiful, somewhat mysterious piece, which she loved. Then, I made two different pieces and let her choose the one she like the best. Of course, the piece was only 10” x 12” so this was not a problem. And because I was left to create the work using my own aesthetic sensibilities, again this project was never riddle with anxieties I’m feeling now.

This is a new ballgame. And it seems like I’m making up the rules as we go along. I’m working with Jim on a very large piece – a triptych which will end up being 6’ w x 3’ h – and not only using his images but also trying to work with his limited visual concepts. He is certain he wants to have a phoenix as a symbol in this piece, not once but twice. Can I manage to take two phoenixes, one spilling out his old life into a horrific motorcycle accident and then the other, rising up into his new life holding all that is and might be, without it seeming too cliché? I certainly hope so.

My idea of having him create collages to be used in the piece at first seemed like a good one. And I have to admit the time we're spending together, sitting side-by-side, collecting images and words and talking about this life that we’re working to visualize into a cohesive art piece, is incredibly important for each of us. I’m learning so much about this young man and what it means for him to be alive after being given little chance to live out the night when they brought him into the hospital after scraping him off the highway. And each time he comes to the studio with other pictures from “before” and tells me the stories behind the pictures, I can see him relaxing into the process and getting more and more comfortable with me.

But this comfort comes with a price. The price is his becoming more involved and little by little taking ownership in the making of the piece.  So where do I draw the line between his vision and mine? I’m in uncharted waters now and can only hope in time, I’ll find a compass.