Figure Portrait and Animal Sculpture

Monthly Archives: April 2016

What you make and what you do

dollar billA side effect of making art is that it produces rare objects that are hard to copy well, much like a dollar bill. Thus, they make excellent currency. Like any currency though, they’re only valuable once their rarity and authenticity can be guaranteed. Rarity means you have to be able to guarantee the quantity available won’t change quickly and flood the market, so preferably, the artist should be dead, to make the best currency.

Even authenticity is mostly random. An authentic dollar is more valuable than an authentic monopoly dollar, even though they’re both the same thing, because it’s harder to reproduce, but mostly because we agree it is. A Renaissance painting of Zeus is worth more than a painting of Zeus from 1997, likewise, because we agree it is. There’s no real reason beyond that though. We like the story behind the older one, but that’s about it. Stories aren’t valuable. You can’t do much with them, but we like them, a lot. So we agree that they’re worth a lot.

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The Blank Slate

2013b-02I’m shopping for a new tablet to use with digital media today.

Technology has never made as many things as easy as they are right now. While it’s a popular idea to say that smart phones create social disconnection, or that porn creates sexual dysfunction, it’s a silly idea too. Disconnection and furtive sex have always been part of being human. The behaviors aren’t new at all, but the magnitude is. You could bury your face in a book at the dinner table 100 years ago, or secretly look at erotic etchings while your husband was away in town, but the book would eventually end, and there were only two etchings, and neither one was very good. Neither one was a crafted, never-ending flow of sex promising to show you (but never let you touch or possess) everything you want. Once, we chewed coca leaves for a little boost of energy. Now we’ve got pure chemical cocaine, which is tougher to turn away from, or get self-awareness on.
Still, as much as that disturbs me at times, I see it as each person’s individual choice to keep using or not… sort of.

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Into the Wild

2010a-50A friend once asked me to talk to his teenage son who wanted to lead a creative life, not go to college or get a job, but instead, go on an adventure, not to stay safe, but to really experience the hardness of life, and experience amazing, dangerous things.

The son told me his favorite book was Into The Wild, and that he wanted to emulate Chris McCandless. “That’s the book where the guy risks his life and goes into the Alaskan wilderness and lives off the land, right?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “I want to do that. I want to do exactly that.”
“And then he starves to death in an abandoned bus.” I said.
“Yeah,” he said, “but I just want to do the first part.” -j

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Love your work

2011a-28People will tell you they love your work, if you put it out into the world.  This made me feel great about myself, until I noticed that people will say they love anyone else’s work too. Even really terrible, unlovable work. It’s easy to find people who will tell you yoru work is great. It’s much harder to find people who love your work enough to actually purchase it, or support you in making it, which I think, really, is what we’re hoping they’re saying when they say they love what we do- that they’ll help.

If they felt love, they’d help, but chances are, they don’t love your work, even if they say they do. It’s more complicated than that.

Being any kind of creative is a fairly pitiless path to choose for yourself. You will probably not be taken care of emotionally, save for by a very precious few, and probably not rewarded financially for a long time. You should know this going in.

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New Site Is Up

CaptureThe new (5th incarnation) of this website is up and running as of April 28th, 2016, and has changed quite a bit since the HTML 1 site I wrote at University of Michigan computer lab back in 1994.

New features this time around- more fancy accordion menus, and a new blog. My writing has had a good following on facebook for a few years now, and it seems like time to expand into new platforms. If you read this, I hope you enjoy what you find here.

j

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Good Money After Bad

gatheringtreeA few years ago, I went to see “The Avengers” with a girl I was seeing at the time. “I guess I liked it.” she said later on the phone, “I just couldn’t stop thinking about what a waste of money it all was. Like that’s MILLIONS of dollars that could have been spent to help a lot of people. It just seemed a little silly.”.
Last year, I was commissioned to design my first big public fountain sculpture “The Gathering Tree” for Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. All told, the budget ran to about $650,000. Again, as soon as that number came out, people began making blog posts and commenting online about what a waste of money that was, and how many other, more deserving projects could have used that money.
It’s a popular idea these days, that art and entertainment are frivolous somehow, and not worth the money.
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The Odds

Photographer: Ralf Roletshek used under creative commons

Photographer: Ralf Roletshek
used under creative commons

In the business of being an artist, let’s say that creative success is just an odds game, like playing roulette, and you need to spin a red 9 to win. Let’s say that, because it’s true.
There are two differences:
1. The roulette wheel will change size depending how good you are. If you are terrible at your craft, the wheel will have thousands of numbers on it. You might still hit nine, but probably not. If you’re really good, it just has one through ten. If you’re amazing, it’s just red or black.
2. You don’t actually have to pay anything when you lose your bet, but you still collect when you win. This is amazing. Sure, you will have wasted the time it took to play, and people might look at you funny when you lose, but there is no actual loss- just an emotional one. You can choose to toughen up and play again.
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How To Make It As An Artist

5caitie printcropHere’s what you do:
You just make something

You do it now.

It might be good. It might speak to people, make them think. It might touch them in ways they didn’t know they could be touched. It might take a little piece of you and show it to someone else, who will realize for the first time that they aren’t alone.

It might make people think and feel more than they wanted to feel. You might leave them awake at night, grinding their teeth, haunted, and cursing you. When the sound of their grinding teeth drifts back to you, through your open window on cool autumn nights and fills up your dreams with the beautiful, terrible realizations you released into the world, then you will know that you have made something great.

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