Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Make Good Art

Sad to say, I hadn't heard of Neil Gaiman until meeting Jeff.  Jeff is a big fan of his and I am now too.  I have not read nearly as much of his work as Jeff has, but I've enjoyed what I have read.  Also, I thoroughly enjoy listening to him read his own books in audiobook form.

A few years ago, I came across his commencement speech to the University of Arts in 2012.  I still like to go back and listen to it now and them.  I think that everyone, particularly anyone involved in art and being creative, should listen to it.

Here, I'll help:

(For a comic version of part of it, that the title of this post comes from, check out Zen Pencils)

I am, particularly as I get older I think, plagued by something..  well, I'm not even sure what to call it.  It's a strong feeling that everything has to be "just right" for me to do anything.  I have to have all the knowledge, all the supplies, before starting a project (and often it seems like I don't have everything, so I don't start - main problem: I'll never know enough).  I do love that, in the modern age - thanks to the Internet, we have an endless supply of information and resources at our fingertips.  An unquenchable thirst for knowledge is something I learned from my Granddad and I strongly feel that we never stop learning.

However...  information overload is paralyzing too.

Before the Internet, if I wanted to make something, I just did it.  I might use a picture or two out of a book for reference - or I might not.

Back then I made a lot of cool stuff!  Without the world of reference material at my fingertips.

References can be paralyzing.

Let's take horses for an example.  I really want to start sculpting horses and doing (and finishing!) more drastic customs (one of my favorite things).  I've been trying to learn more about anatomy and how to do things right ("right" is subjective, making things even more murky).  I keep telling myself that I don't want to start until I know more.... and more...  just a bit more...  then I'll start...

Of course, rationally, I know that it's ridiculous to think I can learn to do something, without DOING it, but... a lot of days, here I sit.

A few times I've started on a big project, only to find out partway through that I messed something up - due to lack of knowledge when I started.  The Epic, but stagnant, Stagecoach project is #1 on that list.  So what do I do?  Finish the project with the flaws?  Start over?  Abandon ship and work on something else? (last one being my answer to date)

Those experiences have led to this "I need to know more before I start" downward spiral.

Another "concern" (as if I need any more) is that I'd really like my "art" to be marketable.  Sure, I have had dreams of supporting myself by doing the things I love to do - who doesn't? - but I also don't want to be living in a house that's eyeball deep in things I've made, or feel like I'm doing it all for "nothing".

In order for certain things to be marketable (ie: model horses and related paraphernalia), certain standards "should" be met.  For live showing: accuracy on all fronts, and so on.

Arabian costumes are a HUGE interest of mine right now.  Well, they have been for many years, but I've really kicked it into high gear over the last several months, researching and collecting supplies to make them.  As another example of my problem: I've read that certain colors shouldn't be used (pink, for example).  So, I try to keep that in the back of my mind (with 5 million other facts) when making plans.  Of course, anyone paying attention might remember that my very first full costume IS pink, but there's a reason for that - more on it later someday.

Of course, there are pink costumes and presentation sets out there - I've seen 'em!  Not everyone is interested in showing - or accuracy.  Maybe someone really likes pink and doesn't care if it's "accurate" or not.  Maybe if I create a custom horse who's anatomy is wonky - but someone likes it anyway - that won't matter as much as I think it does.

Recently, I think I came up with the "solution".  I told a friend that I think the answer is to just make whatever I want to make.  When it comes to sales - marketing, and so on - if people like it and want to buy it: great!  If not, at least I made something that *I* like and, hopefully, learned something in the process - in order to make the next thing even better.

Sounds great to me.  Unfortunately, as is often the case, knowing a doing are two different things.  After years (!!) of making excuses, it will be hard to change.

I really want to make good art.  I know I'll have to make some crappy art first.

Above all, I just need to make some kind of art.


  1. I have that problem, too. Having been raised by a family of "prepare-ers", I don't have a lot of experience with just DOING something. I do know how to talk about and think about and research doing things! Ultimately when it comes down to my art, I know that I will do a much better job if it is something that I care about, as opposed to trying to make every detail technically correct. Or, and especially, working to meet someone else's standards. I agree with you, if someone else happens to like what I do, great! If not, at least I made something awesome and I had fun doing it.

    And to be honest, 99% of the time, the things that I put my personal mark on are much more popular than the things I try to make to appeal to the masses. Go figure! But I know there's always going to be this struggle. Right now, I have to deal with the mental block of "well, I will do stuff when I get my workspace built and everything set up perfectly". But that could still be half a year off!

    1. Ohhh yes, the "setting up the workspace perfectly" block. I'm very well acquainted with that one too. It's been an ongoing battle for years. Most recently I caved and actually hired a professional organizer. She worked wonders in my messy studio room, but we didn't quite get the whole thing finished in the allotted time. It was on me to finish it up and I, er, haven't done that yet... I too am very good at preparing to do things, not so much apparently at actually doing them. I really, really want to work on that...

  2. I love MGA. I have the book version on my desk as I type.

    I can't find the quote :( but an artist has said that we are drawn to what we love & admire. Therefore, our heads are full of beautiful images. It's hard to get reality to match. If you will pardon me quoting myself, again,

    FWIW, I vote make what you love. It probably will be the most interesting & therefore the most commercial. If not, you're happy.

    Make Good Art!

    1. I sometimes think I should just give up on the model horse stuff (for whatever imagined reasons) - again - but a quote I often refer to is the one that says something like: "Never give up on something you can't go a day without thinking about." For me that's the model horses, not just horses in general - though obviously I'm obsessed with them as a whole. When I see a picture of a beautiful horse, I don't usually think I'd like to own that horse (sometimes I do), but instead I think I'd like to make/paint that horse.

      Now, to actually make/paint more horses!

  3. Also, thank you for the Zen Pencils link. Big fan of web comics. Always looking for more to read.

    1. You're very welcome! I stumbled across his work a couple of years ago and I love it. His blend of inspirational quotes and his artwork is wonderful.