Monday, July 02, 2012

Changing Art, Changing Times: Part Three: Treading a Path

After two years of intensive creative production, I was beginning to lose connection to my artwork and its purpose.  I struggled to keep up with the demands of a very attention hungry society, while adding in own insecurities of being viewed as relevant or worthy within such an atmosphere.  The communication and focus required to produce both paintings and sculpture became harder to maintain because at the heart of this was the growing belief that in the end it didn't matter because I wasn't sure I had faith in what I was creating.  When I could muster the energy to sit down and work, I struggled.  I felt awkward creating what once felt liberating.  Sometimes the very idea of sitting down to work made me feel leadened.  Feeling this way about my art led me to mistake society's misunderstanding of art and the service it can provide as validation for my doubts. To continue in the direction I was headed threatened to set me back or even destroy my relationship to art and my self permanently. I believe this devaluing of my art and myself as an artist contributed to the dis-ease of mind, body and spirit that I was experiencing.  I knew I had to come up with a plan that would allow me to continue doing the art that fulfilled me and make a living.  After several months of contemplation I have begun to lay the groundwork for a new direction.

The first phase of my plan is to withdraw a good portion of my artwork from the wider public.  

From this point forward, I will be cutting back on and limiting the visibility of my paintings.  For those who are interested in continuing to follow or support my paintings access to my work will be through a private blog (  To gain access to the blog will require a monthly donation in an amount determined by the subscriber.  The contribution can be $1, $100 or $1000 a month. It doesn't matter how big or small the amount.  I believe this will help to diminish the problem of piracy, since I will have control over who has access to images of my paintings.  Not only will this will save precious creative time by eliminating the need to regularly check the web for copyright violations, but, more importantly, it will ease the pressure on myself as I reconnect to my painting practice.  Since I am a slow painter and enjoy the process of seeing the work emerge as I create it, I may only create a few pieces a year.  I am not certain what will manifest, but nothing authentic will emerge.  Painting is still a very powerful, personal and soul-nurturing process for me, but if I don't give it the space it needs to recover from the strain I have been putting on it, I believe I will lose it.  Prints of previous paintings will be made available through the Print-on-Demand service I currently use for a limited time and on a rotating basis.

Secondly, I will be focusing my public work on needle-felted sculptures.
Black Bear Needle Felted Sculpture (detail)
I have found that the sculpture work satisfies a balance between creating work that provides income and still possesses spirit and meaning to me without the risk of image piracy.  Few, if any, are going to use images of a three dimensional sculpture to create products such as t-shirts, prints, or other materials.  If someone wants to put the image on their website, I would still like permission, but it's not likely going lead to a huge loss of income. Additionally, the materials used to create the sculptures are more environmentally sustainable than the painting materials and most of it is purchased locally. It is not perfect, but it is much better. 

I believe that we are going through a transition in regard to how the public relates to and interacts with two dimensional art.

It is not a very healthy relationship right now and it hurts the artists who are trying to make a living from their work.  I believe there will come a time when people find a respect and meaning for two dimensional art again, but it might not be in my lifetime.  I have found that there is still the potential for three dimensional objects to be respected and held sacred.  That is not to say there is rampant materialism going on.  However, it has been my experience that more people can view a sculpture and appreciate its value (beyond money) than those who can do the same with a two dimensional work such as a painting.  I want to nurture and grow this connection to art before it is completely lost and I believe I can do this through my sculpture.

Creating needle-felted sculptures of animals satisfies a sense of purpose and meaning in my work .
Custom Pet Portrait Sculpture
Celebrating the joy and love that people have for their companion animals, both alive and deceased, through the creation of Custom Pet Portrait Sculptures offers an unexpected joy that I have not experienced before.  This has lead me to begin exploring what humans can learn through connecting with animals.  What might this relationship teach about ourselves, the world we live in, and how might nurturing this relationship improve the lives of all? I have planned that this fall I will begin presenting sculptures based on this exploration and will also be offering, similar to my Custom Pet Portraits, Custom Totem Animal Sculptures. 

I have not found a solution to all the problems.
Polar Bear Needle-Felted Sculpture (detail)
My change or sharpening of focus is not the only, nor is the best way for other artists. Artists are a diverse group of people with diverse talents and needs after all!  But I believe this is what I need for the time being.  Treading a new path for my art career is not a overnight project.  It is a process that will require constant evaluation and course correcting.  In this time of great transition, it will require a continued practice of trying new things, overcoming obstacles and seeking opportunities--basically the same as what I have been doing all along.  However, I will have to maintain a balance of producing work that supports a living and doesn't turn me into a machine of production. I believe it is important to keep the spirit in my work alive.  I still need to work on better valuing my work and my role as an artist in society.  People still need to be educated about art and the services it can provide., especially for a society in transition.  A method or practice that allows artists and art collectors to exchange work for a sustainable living that doesn't have to be solely dependent on money exchange still needs to be explored. Artists still need to pay for supplies, pay the bills, buy groceries and pay for healthcare afterall. I will explore and share my thoughts on these possibilities in the future.

I will share my observations and discoveries as I continue to work on connecting to the authentic artist inside and merge spirit with creation.  As scary as it is to narrow my focus to primarily needle-felted sculpture work, I am also sensing this as a necessary and powerful step toward my future as an artist and a contributing member of society.

I hope you will continue to enjoy following my adventures as I begin this new and focused direction of art, spirit and life. 

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All artwork, photos and text © Copyright 2005-2012 DoAn Art (Antony Galbraith) unless indicated otherwise. All Rights Reserved. Any downloading, copying or use of images on this website is strictly prohibited without express written consent by Antony Galbraith.

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