I often talk about Art, I’m not an Artist even if other people arbitrarily assign that identifier. I prefer to say that “I make stuff”. Stuff, that isn’t important to me. It’s not the thing I make, it’s the process of making it that I enjoy. I’m capable of all the mediums and whether I’m ‘good’ at any of them enters the debate: Is ‘Art’ mastering a craft? I don’t think it is but there’s plenty of disagreement to be had. I often use ‘Artist’ very tongue-in-cheek, a way to mock the way Art is treated and defined. Maybe I just never outgrew that child-like quality about it. You grab your crayons and start scribbling away, when you’re finished maybe you say “Look what I made Ma!” and then completely forget about it and move on to the next thing. Art is serious business!
When I was in high school I took some art classes as electives for the easy credits. Man, talk about taking all the fun out of making stuff. Art History, and Art Technique, that’s all it was. One of my drawings ended up awarded and hung in the Library. It wasn’t for me, or the student body for that matter, it was really for the teacher to say “My Pride, Look What I have Taught!” It was pretty much a stolen piece. When I asked for it back, I was told that the piece would remain in the Library. It was pretty lame and it attributes to my attitude about Art in general as well as discerning learning from education. I did end up stealing the thing back and burning it in a bonfire. Fuck all that noise. It’s not the first time I’ve destroyed what I make, and it certainly won’t be the last.
The concept of process gives other creative people reason to buck. They’re ‘Artists’ and that’s pretty important to them. Never has been for me. Running tandem is the idea that in order to qualify as ‘Artist’ it’s your life’s work. Work? Isn’t that a process? Other artsty types would hate to think of what they do as a procedure. It’s too mechanical or it’s just not special enough. It doesn’t stand out. It doesn’t increase the value of their craft.
Some think of it in terms of a ritual object, or a carrier of a person’s essence. It’s their very own unique fingerprint on the thing. Painting, drawing, sculpting, et. al is a craft and what makes it ‘Art’ is the shift in perception it causes, in other words the effect it has on the viewer. It would seem that the object requires a viewer and measured results in terms of impact to make it ‘Art’.
The need to create is like an itch to scratch. Other people describe it as a vehicle for an overfill of emotion. It accounts for the outcome of what is made. It’s the opposite for me. I don’t need to feel anything particular to create, only the impulse to make something drives it. It’s during the process that my mind wanders, it can often be quieted, which can be a relief. It’s a busy little thing that never shuts up. Maybe it even invokes an emotional response. I never really know until I’m engulfed in it. Can’t say I’ve ever cried or have been consumed by joy. It’s just play time.
Recently I was trying to decide what to do with all my left-over bead stock from other projects. Acrylic Beads are cheap and light and I had quite a bit on hand. I thought about melting them down to make sculptures, I wasn’t really sure so I started researching for Do-it Yourself projects using beads. I came across a kid’s project that reminded me of when I was a child and would melt crayons on my light-bright bulb to make wax drip paintings and melt the pegs to make abstract 2-D designs. Just melt them in a pan and make sun-catchers, easy! Why didn’t I think of that? Is it because I have no genius of my own?
Even if thousands of other people have melted down beads and made sun-catchers from them, every person’s go if it will be different and somewhat unique. Uniformity tends to occur over time when anything becomes trendy. Even as a painter, the subject of the painting can be found across styles and eras. A flower. A piece of Fruit. A portrait. Not exactly unique. It’s the way the flower is painted that may make it stand out from the thousands of other painted flowers. I guess that’s the idea when people talk about painting as a carrier of expression and unique marks.
Embarking on the project was fairly simple. Collect all your supplies, throw shit against a wall and see what sticks. In my case, I figured out pretty quick that some beads don’t melt as well as others, and some require different temperatures to liquefy. I had all these really big ideas about what to embed into the plastic but what came out of the oven wasn’t what I expected. I sorted beads by type and narrowed down which were ideal for the thing I wanted to make. Process.
Aside from using up bead-stock, I also wanted to hang something different on my kitchen wall. A dozen different things (including some of my paintings) had been there and I was never really happy with the aesthetic of it. As a result there’s a dozen or so small nail holes in the wall and I didn’t feel like filling them or painting the wall to smooth it out. I really hate to house paint.
Acrylic will melt at 400 degrees but it also smokes and stinks up the whole house. This procedure occupied my mind and my space. Once I got the hang of the mechanics, I was just aiming for a decent flow of light and dark pigments that would blend in with my color scheme. Maybe that’s the ‘Art’ part, who knows. People can argue about that if they desire, I just like to experiment and make stuff.
I used up all the stock I had and even went out and bought a few bags to fill in gaps of space. I was using some old pie pans I was going to get rid of anyway but it required a lot of beads to fill in and complete the round shape I was after. The idea was to get rid of beads but I was enjoying myself so I bought some more. Just to melt and hang on the wall. Ooo la la, I must be an Artist!
Each set (I baked 2 at a time) took about 20 mins so after about 4 or 5, I was about done with the whole operation. I aired out the house, boiled some cinnamon essential oil for the smell and picked it back up the following weekend. I kept about a dozen for myself and gave (3) away to a friend as a gift. I took a few photos, I also like to look at things I make through photography. The mind plays tricks on you and you can think something is so friggin’ great when you have it before you then look at a picture and think it sucks. I don’t know that it’s the photo that alters my perception but rather just gives me another angle to view it from.
I often feel that way about the way I apply make-up, or how some clothing isn’t all that flattering to my figure. What was I thinking? Or, more accurately, What was I seeing? Hamhocks for days… That’s what but fuck it, I still like leggings and finger paint.
Last couple of days I’ve been messing around with charcoal. Talk about process. Shit just keeps getting weirder and weirder. It’s not finished, it’s a work in progress… Not sure where I’m going with this but it’s been interesting.