Tuesday, November 29, 2011


"The Last Time I Went Fishing"

I've sold another encaustic piece, and it's bugging me.

If you're one of the 2.3 regular readers of this blog, you'll know that this is not normal behavior. Usually when I sell anything, I'm thrilled. And of the encaustic pieces I've had up at Local Color over the past year, the ones that have sold are the three that I think are the best. Sure, it's been a little hard getting used to the idea of something selling and then going away forever--with photos, at least you get to keep the negative, so you always have your favorite pieces--but my painter friends have helped me get my head around that.

What's bothering me is the fact that I've been working in encaustic for a bit less than a year. My work is all over the place. I'm still experimenting with techniques, trying out different approaches. I've at least limited the pieces for sale to those that had an actual conceptual underpinning, the pieces that at least felt the most like "my art" to me. I guess I believed, on some level, that the approach that "worked the best" would be the one that would sell. But each piece that has sold has utilized a completely different approach. It's all still experimentation with technique and form.

"Textures of Fall"

It doesn't have a clear point of view; it hasn't yet become my work.

This is unlikely to make sense to any nonartists out there. You're probably thinking, "you made it, so of course it's your work." That's both true and not true. I made it, yes. It is something I handcrafted and brought into being. But it's missing a consistency, a voice, a recognizable connection with me, an ability to see and portray and represent and comment on the world in a particular way that is not nominally mine, not superficially mine, but emphatically and unarguably mine. In photography, I recognize my work. I capture an image, review it, and immediately know if it's "mine" or not. I have not reached that point with encaustic, although I can feel it getting closer. I am already far enough along to recognize that certain techniques and approaches are not for me, even as I'm working with them.

But there are still things I haven't tried that I'm not sure about. I'm drawn to more three-dimensional approaches, to integration and representation of natural elements in a more elegant way than I've seen in most mixed-media approaches. I'm interested in subtle markmaking and fascinated by the process of revealing surprise hidden elements by using heat to draw back the layers of wax. I'm interested in pure abstraction, and I'm interested in approaches that are near-replications of more formal painting techniques--something I've quite literally never done, largely because I doubt I have the patience to learn. (I made a noble attempt at watercolor painting in graduate school, and it lasted all of one academic quarter--I couldn't get past the total frustration of not being able to master techniques fast enough to transfer what was in my head onto paper.)

"Hope is in the Body"
The encaustic pieces that have sold include one inspired by (and implementing) oil painting techniques, one inspired by mixed media and graphic design, and one textural abstraction. All three of these pieces meant something to me, they "felt" right when I did them and I made myself stop touching them the instant I "knew" they were "done." From that perspective, I am content that they are art, and are a reasonable representation of me. But at the same time, I worry about that lack of a clear point of view. Maybe its absence made the work less encumbered and more accessible to the people who purchased it. But I have a hunch that those pieces could all have been stronger, more impactful, had the point-of-view been clear and consistent, even if the techniques were different. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter to the people who bought the art; they liked it, it spoke to them, they found it worthwhile and are happy to have acquired it. But it will always matter to me ... because artists are just like that.


Michelle said...

Yes, I agree, artists are "like that". But, I think we sometimes sabotage our own creativity when we dwell upon, and fret over the notion that everything we do needs to have a distinct point of view, or represent a "coherent body of work". As you said, the works which sold spoke to the new owners in some way, so they bought them. They now own something you created, and that's a great accomplishment, isn't it? I often ask people what attracts them to my work, and the answers I get have nothing to do with my body of work or my singular perspective about what I create. They are moved by the sculpted face, or they love the juxtaposition of the colors I've chosen, or the piece just makes them feel happy. And to me, all of those responses are valid, and affirm that I'm creating something of value. Does it feel that way to you, too?

E. Marie said...

Michelle, yes and no. I'm glad when people like my work, but I feel like I'm cheating myself when I don't have a clear idea that I'm working from. I don't expect the average viewer or the potential purchaser to "get" what makes this work mine, although it's not infrequent that someone just looking at the work will in fact feel the conceptual underpinning coming through. I understand that having a POV is a significant issue for me and my satisfaction with my work, and at the end of the day, that's what will help me continue to improve. Thanks for commenting!