Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Reconstructive Criticism

I was having breakfast the other morning at a local Missoula haunt called the Catalyst.  On the walls were silk screened canvases of the images from the opening credits of the ever classic "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly".
I posted this image on FaceBook and had a number of responses from students regarding the theme song and the "OoooOooooOooooOooooOooooo Wa wa wa" we all know and love.  Well those folks who have ever taken a class from me know that this is no ordinary song.  This is the song I always play at the end of class to indicate that it's time to drop what you're doing because a class critique is about to get underway.
Here's a photo my friend KD took at ArtFest...Nail Fetish Bowling Pins Critique:
She also took this photo from our critique in Oaxaca during Day of the Dead a few years back.
I gather the class around and look and talk about all the work.  I go through every single piece of art, finished or not.  I make sure every single student is involved in this process.  Now I know the term "critique" sends shivers down some peoples' spines but my critiques are a bit different.  In this forum I focus on the things that "work".  It's about encouragement.  It's about letting folks grow by learning how others resolved their artistic "issues".  Of course I mention things that might help the student grow, but I believe that most things can be approached from a positive more effectively than a negative.  My goal is to encourage people to embrace and create art...whether professionally or otherwise.  I truly believe if everyone did some sort of art form, the world would be a better place.  A good many of my students are trying to find their creative side again after years of career or familial duties, thus, my goal is to try and welcome people back into the art world.  There is plenty of room for everyone.

Now contrast my critique sessions to those in Art School; truth be known though I loved critique day.  It was fun....sort of...sure it could be painful but I would say that it was the thing that I truly gained the most from my college years.   Thinking critically about work...what works...what doesn't...why it doesn't and who are you to say that about my art you !%@#%&#@!!!!!   Ahhh those were the days.  Yes it is true there were times when feelings could get hurt.  Of course, back then me and my fellow students were a bunch of twenty somethings that were totally convinced that we would be the next Picasso or Van Gogh.  New York galleries would line up for us...limos would await....rose petals would shower our every endeavor...bubble gum on the bottom of my shoe?  My new series of work! Brilliant!  Genius!  It's no wonder the Profs were so harsh on us.  They needed to rattle our cages a bit, if for know other reason than to prepare us for a bleak reality that awaited us after graduation...a tiny percentage of artist make a living off there skills.  Ouch!

It is a sad fact but true...I struggled for 15 years before I became fortunate enough to earn a living doing what I was trained to do.  I'm not the bajillionaire that I expected to be, but, hell, it's a big deal to make any sort of living doing art.  Back then, the years were spent bar-tending at night and creating art in the day.  Galleries, and exhibits when I could get them, but mostly work and struggle. It was hard but it was not without reward.   I grew...I learned...I honed my skills...I blended Margaritas.
I'll tell you an interesting story...about  or 7 years ago I was getting home from an evening of mixing Martinis and Manhattans.  I walked across my yard to my studio.  This evening I was feeling a bit melancholy, a bit low.  I had been in an internal struggle about whether to give up on the art thing.  I had struggled and struggled but nothing ever seemed to click.  I was tired of the fight, I was tired of being poor.  I was considering going back to school for something...though I had no idea what.  Above me a starry sky glowed bright bright bright.  I just stared upward.  I remember how amazing the sky looked.  I could see more stars than I could ever remember ever seeing.
 At that point I knew I had to make a decision to make: either I needed to go down a different path other than Art or I needed to be okay with my struggle.  I either had to reinvent myself or I needed to say: "I'm going to follow this artistic path wherever it leads. If I'm ninety and still struggling then that is what I must do, but I must be okay with it"  In other words, no regrets.    I recall thinking this and deciding that I would ride out the artistic life.  I decided that mostly because I knew that if I chose the other road I would always wonder "what would have happened if....".  I knew the "what if" would have driven me crazy.  I knew I would have been haunted by it until the day I died.  The interesting epilogue to the story is that within a year I was sustaining myself as an artist.  I recall getting home from my first year of teaching ArtFest.  I broke down into tears to my then wife Cindy.  I had finally found something that eluded me for so long.  I had finally arrived. I can't help but think about what would have happened if I chose the other path.  Now it is true someday I may be faced with more crossroads like I did on that starry night.  No one knows where this life will take us, but I know that I am blessed that I have experienced what I have experienced so far.

Art is an amazing force.  It is the closest thing to magic I know, and perhaps the reason that I am so determined to run those critiques in every single class is because I want more magic in the world not less.   I want more folks to find the value of their creative thoughts.  So the question, is since my goal in the crit is to focus on the "Good".....why the theme song "the Good, the Bad and the Ugly"?  Well the long and the short of it is...sometimes you have to do something simply because its cool...and that theme song is pretty darn cool.  Plus it's pretty hilarious to watch the last minute panic with that song playing in the background.  So with that I leave you with an inspiring bit of amusement, The Ukelele Ochrestra of Great Britain and there rendition of "the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly".

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Something Rotten in the State of New Hampshire

Something has gone wrong in New Hampshire....something dreadfully wrong.  Was it Mercury in retrograde? Perhaps it is the because it is Tuesday the 13th... or maybe it was the raven I saw that was the size of an eagle...then again it could have been the strange green meteor...all I know is there is something wrong with the children in Portsmouth.  Here's a clue:
And this:
There is definitely trouble brewing...
So here is the evidence...
A lovely Autumn day in the quaint New England Town...
or so I thought...
Then my world was rocked by this horrifying spectacle...
Oh it gets worse...demon children everywhere!
No matter where I turned...there was another...
Well...I'm locking my doors!
I'm already a bit this is going to help. 
Beware....take care...beware...take care!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Santa Clops is Coming to Missoula

I often get asked whether I teach classes in Missoula...well it is true that I occasionally do but not very often.  Coming This Holiday season I will in fact be teaching in Big Sky Country.  What will I be teaching you may ask?  What sort of Holiday experience could I possibly create?  Well  I'm teaching a class called "Orna-deMentia".
Here's the skinny:

Well “Ho Ho Ho” and all of that stuff.  It’s beginning to look a lot like Xmas, but then again it was looking that way in early August when the Holiday items started to go on display at Michael’s Craft Stores.  Now it’s really on the way and I have to tell you a little secret…move a little closer…move a little closer…I’m not much of a Seasons Greeting kind of guy, now if it involved vampires and werewolves I’d be all in…but cute little snowmen singing Burl Ives songs just never flipped my cookies.  This got me thinking…I can’t be the only one who wouldn’t mind a bit of subversiveness added to the Holidays.  So I’m proposing something Polar Opposite of the North Pole, something a little off kilter.  A class of making Orna-deMents using found objects, weird thingies and discarded toys.  Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?  Get ready for Santa Clops or perhaps Santa Claws and his friends (I mean fiends)…bwa ha ha ha ha….I mean bwo ho ho ho ho! 

 I've created a little series called the Polar Opposites...Santa's Evil Bro...Santa Clops..wreaks havok...yee haw!

How to attend:

Where: Zootown Arts Community Center235 N. 1st St. W., Missoula, MT 59802

When: Saturday, December 4,  10am - 5pm
How Much: $70
Why:  Because you're looking for something trippy to decorate your tree with 
How to Pay: Head on over to PayPal

email me at:
See you there

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Squiddly Diddly Sketched out Monday

Hey everyone, 
Sorry for the delayed Sketched Out Monday.  I'm getting ready to head out East for Art is You and then Vermont, not to mention the Color Fans are doing great...thanks everyone.  They are being shipped out as we speak.
So in honor of Squiddly Diddly...a favorite childhood memory I offer up a few tentacled goodies...

Even on land you're not safe