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Burning Question

What brought me here today:

Two of the final pieces that I finished prior to leaving Finland were Honey and Bizzy. I used my 12 cm Little Lady doll pattern, with some modifications to create both pieces. These two dolls have slightly longer torsos, arms and legs. They also have multiple heads. Honey and Bizzy’s predecessor, Arete was given four heads. Arete and Bizzy have been purchased. Honey still waits for a home.

As an artist, I vacillate between keeping some of the inspiration for my artwork to myself, and feeling as though I must explain my artwork to potential buyers. Part of the reason for the later is that perhaps a person might have a connection with the same inspiration I did. Thus making the person a little more likely to maybe purchase a given piece of my work.

The flip-side of that kind of thinking, is that any potential buyers will look at me like I have two heads when I ineptly try to explain my artwork and it’s inspirations. Then walk away muttering something about all artists being incredibly weird, after not purchasing any of my artwork.

First, a brief recap:

I’ve written about how most of my artwork begins. Almost all of the time, I feel as though I get fixated on something specific. It could be an element like shape or colour. Other times, it’s something that I see in my environment, buildings, leaves, insects, fabric, etc. Sometimes, the inspiration is from my life. There are other forms or elements I get fixated on that I can’t exactly pinpoint, and only discover what they are and where they come from while actively creating the piece of art.

Motif, theme, inspiration:

Part of the mental fixation for me as an artist is that whatever I’m fixed on, it’s not enough for me to manipulate the fixation within my own mind. I need to explore it more within the physical world. Jim Dine is an artist who I admire who create artwork in several different mediums. He’s an autobiographical artist. His artwork is created around who he is and the life he’s lead.

There’s a fair amount of autobiography within my own artwork. I suppose I could argue that all of my private artwork is autobiographical, as well as therapeutic. For me, fixating on an idea, form, or colour, is how my brain works in it’s entirety. The major difference for me is that the art-side of my personality create art by fixating. The non-art-making side of me ends-up getting mired in quicksand, and nothing is produced.

Seriously, why so many flippin’ heads?

In a nutshell, I find stacking the spheres that will be the heads to be creatively satisfying. When I was teaching elementary school art, I had a sculpture lesson for younger students in which they created a snowman*. Crayola Model Magic clay was used to create the snowman. Each of the three spheres the students created were to be of different sizes. Large, medium, and small.

I think I loved this lesson as much, if not more, than my students. Creating spheres that were balanced in such a way so that they could stand on their own. I don’t know. It just never ceased to satisfy some unknown creative urge within me. I know this must sound strange. Please remember, I’m trying to explain something that is more than a little opaque to even me!

Take this strange love for stacking spheres of squishy clay, and add the movie Spirited Away. In it, there are heads that live with Yubaba, the Kashira. Of all the characters in this amazing film, I find myself fixated on a minor character that consists of three heads that roll around and do odd jobs for Yubaba.

Eventual outcome:

This is the point in the conversation with the potential customer when they look at me like I have two heads. I have about seven seconds left until they sigh heavily, say something like “Well…yeah…so…” and then walk away muttering about how weird artists are.

These people aren’t my audience. I know this. Believe me. I know this. I cannot explain my artwork to a person that is either unwilling, or unable to make connections between themselves and ideas from outside their own personal experiences.

Easy fix:

The answer to this could simply be, stop making artwork that’s too weird for people to understand or want. Then maybe you could solve your I’m-not-making-any-money-as-an-artist problem that you wrote about last Friday. It seems like the easiest of fixes. Right?

Kinda. A more accurate answer might be, diversify your creative output and online shop items. With an eye toward those untapped groups of potential customers. While at the same time, keep making the artwork that some people think is too weird, or makes their head hurt. But that’s a blog post for another day this week. Say, Friday?

So now what?

Better said, so now you know a little bit about why I, the weird artist, is so into making dolls with multiple heads right now because of a snowman lesson and a Hayao Miazaki film. That’s not all the inspiration behind the multiple-headed dolls. Just the ones that I felt okay disclosing to people that I may or may not know.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

*While teaching this lesson, I used the term “snow person” instead of snowman. Students were encouraged to make their snow person in any way they wished. For purposes related to clarity for the readers of this blog post, I used the colloquial snowman so that any English as second language speakers would know to what I referred specifically.