The Mixed Blessing of Selling your own Artwork

I wear several hats currently. I am a Curator at Shavasana Gallery & Café                             ( http://www.shavasana.ca ) where I curate the artwork of other artists who have chosen to exhibit here; I double as the proprietor/barista guy at the very same Café…selling a few cookies and squares, making a mean cup of daily Saltspring Dark & well-received espresso drinks; and, when time permits, I wear a three-pointed creative hat, or Tricorne, which comprises my efforts as a writer, musician and artist.

I’ve always had some trepidation giving myself any one of these three creative titles, and am not completely clear what it takes to make it so – public appreciation? having income from one’s efforts? If so, I guess I can now make a legitimate claim – I’ve made a few sales of my own artwork lately which – as I have discovered – can be a mixed blessing.

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(Cernunnos  – https://clayandbone.com/portfolio/cernunnos/ made his way to an appreciative home this past summer)

When one writes or makes music, it is usually a product for mass consumption. You don’t write a book or create a song for one person (hopefully) and it is, therefore, not quite as personal as when you sell a piece of your own art. Art is truly unique in nature and is almost always one-of-a-kind – when it leaves your studio, home or personal collection it is truly gone. That piece of you, that thing which you have attempted to express…is gone, and it can be truly bittersweet.

This is one reason why establishing a fair price for a piece of art can be so difficult – the selling price should compensate for the loss the artist feels and should not be sold for less. fullsizeoutput_1154

(Although I have not included my line of necklaces on the Clay and Bone website, I have a series of them which I hope to make room for soon – this piece, which was made from beads used by “Bear” – a pipe-carrier following the shamanic path. It was my personal favourite and it too departed this summer)

The third piece which sold this summer – to a dear friend visiting from the Gatineau – was a departure from my usual mask & necklace making activities. The local Mayne Island Arts Council came up with a concept for a community Art Show – titled “Art in a Book” (or some such thing) which involved either making an art booklet, or, in my case, making art inside a hollowed out book which I had in my possession. Check it out:

( All Roads At Any Time, art in a book… All Roads at any Time

This particular piece has significance for me as I have an intention to work further with the message: “All Roads at Any Time” which I find -from personal experience – to be an apt metaphor for life…

Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria

When I first saw his face my immediate thought was – I must tackle this as a mask project. Look at that moustache, those steely dispassionate eyes and puffy dissolute face. For me there was something compelling about his face and I felt a need to try and recreate that in clay. Certain aspects of  “The Archdukes” lifestyle though, provided an ironic justification for wanting to see his head mounted on my wall sporting a set of Fallow Deer antlers…

If not for the widely-accepted thought that his very public assassination by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip precipitated the start of World War 1, he may have remained a more obscure footnote in history – carrying on with the self-indulgent life of a member of the Austro-Hungarian royal family. That all changed on June 28, 1914 when he was assassinated, with his wife Sophie by his side, as they drove through the streets of Sarajevo in an open and unprotected sedan.

But it wasn’t this pivotal historical event that compelled me to proceed with my mask project. While doing a little research into other aspects of his life I came across this tidbit in Wikipedia:

“Franz Ferdinand had a fondness for trophy hunting that was excessive even by the standards of European nobility of this time.[11] In his diaries he kept track of an estimated 300,000 game kills, 5,000 of which were deer. About 100,000 trophies were on exhibit at his Bohemian castle at Konopištē…”

How is it even humanly possible to kill 300,000 animals in one lifetime? Archduke Franz Ferdinand Carl Ludwig Joseph Maria was evidently a pathological one-man extinction event and he deserved to be mounted on a wall with  sporting a beautiful pair of antlers in honour of the unlucky 5,000 deer that fell prey to his insatiable murderous hobby. I began to draw, prepare the clay and commence adding facial details:

 

Once the facial details bore an acceptable likeness to my subject I allowed the clay to cure for a week or so

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Following successful firing in the kiln (always a bit nerve wracking before it comes out in one piece) I began the process of painting The Archduke – layering shade and shadow:

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Until I felt pleased with the final outcome.

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Personally, I think that this may be my best creation to date. There is a definite evolution in my skill level and attention to detail. Not that detail and lifelike realism need to denote higher quality in a piece of art. Creativity and expression can take us down many roads, but I am pleased with this effort as it does reflect – quite closely – what I was setting out to achieve. 🙂

If you are interested in purchasing “The Archduke” it can be yours for $685.00, by ordering online through the Mask Gallery (on this website) or by visiting my studio at: www.shavasana.ca

 

Rinpoche

It is late November 2013 and I am ensconced in my new studio on Mayne Island.  Daylight Savings has kicked in so the days are short and becoming cool. November is “shoulder season” in the Gulf Islands, the tourists have gone home, weekenders and part-timers and other fair weather friends have vacated, the locals are winterizing their cabins and the peak summertime population has plummeted by 60%. It is slow, and I am soaking up the tranquility and feeling of decompression that I get each Thursday when I arrive by ferry from Vancouver to open up my studio.

My “business model” was still quite loose and embryonic – studio space for some of my art and writing projects, a little additional art on the walls from various sources, and a self-serve coffee and tea bar with tables where people could hang out with a drink, use the wifi and chillout. I’d been open to the public for a few weeks, slowly getting to know some of the braver souls who were curious about my new space, and filling my spare time with creative projects.

During these early days of opening up the studio/gallery/café my hours were filled with a myriad of engaging business oriented tasks, and I was also starting to turn my attention to the backlog of art projects that lay before me.  I had a considerable amount of material for a series of paganistic necklaces which I wanted to produce, and was beginning to sketch images for my next series of masks. My first inspiration after this 2 or 3 year mask-making hiatus was “Asian Woman Red”…I began researching and sketching femalefaces of asian descent with a mind to coating the finished product with a red glaze. Early sketches of Aung San Suu Kyi’s face morphed into a Female Wood Nymph… fullsizeoutput_14bb

and then ultimately the delicate and wise Tibetan Monk – Rinpoche – which mask # 3 became.

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Although this return to mask making at my new studio did not immediately give me “Asian Woman Red” I was happy with the result as my hands gave birth to this new mask I would call Rinpoche, (which “is an honorific term used in the Tibetan language. It literally means “precious one”, and may be used to refer to a person, place, or thing–like the words “gem” or “jewel” (Sanskrit Ratna).”)

Here are some pictures of the early, pre-firing process:

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I find that during the mask making process the clay can have a life and direction of it’s own and will provide characteristics which were not necessarily intended at the outset (perhaps this is a function of my skill set :), Rinpoche has arrived and his features and demeanour do not call for a red glaze – Asian Woman Red will come later – here are some pictures of Rinpoche as he looks today:

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Boko – The Influence of Events

(This is another instalment in the retrospective I’m doing for this website on the 10 masks I have – thus far – created)

It is 2010 or 2011 and I have moved – twice – since creating Túatha, the prototype for my series of masks adorned with antlers. Five years have elapsed and I am now living in a house in Kitsilano. Much has transpired since Tùatha was conceived (https://clayandbone.com/2016/12/13/death-mask-troubled-dreams-on-the-road-to-clay-bone/ )…and I feel the stirrings of the Muse. I’m still heavily engaged in the drinking process and have set up a “man cave” in the garage on our property. I’ve recently rediscovered the second set of antlers which I purchased at the same time as those which adorn Tùatha and have found – much to my surprise and delight – some remaining clay which was quite readily resurrected with a little bit of work and water. The man cave would serve as my studio where I would create my next mask based on the attached image of a shaman from Togo in a voodooistic trance.

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Admittedly, this mask, with it’s white eyes and indeterminate expression has a slightly malevolent look. To me it seemed perfectly suited for the set of antlers which I had in my possession, and I was determined to depict it in clay.

As is true of all of my masks since Boko, I begin the process by creating one or several rough sketches of the subject. I find that this gives me a better feel for the shapes and contours that I will be trying to recreate, and gets me in touch with how the antlers will best be situated. It also allows me to create a larger image from which to work, and provides a copy that I don’t mind getting wet or stained during the messy mask-making process.

      

For the first several years of its life Mask #2 (as Boko was first known) remained nameless and unadorned. It began as a fairly simple reintroduction to the mask making process after a 5 year hiatus. I applied a dark brown glaze to try and match the skin tone in the picture, attached the antlers and let it sit until I opened my studio on Mayne Island, several years later. While on Mayne, I had a chance to reflect on this mask and had been influenced by events in northeastern Nigeria, where an islamist/extremist group named Boko Haram had been committing atrocities. I named him Boko – after the group – as a tacit recognition of the evil which can reside in all of us.

The picture to the right (above) was created on Mayne Island as I searched for ways to bring more human detail and life to Boko. The three face depictions have different examples of sub-saharan face paint that I gleaned from online research. I ultimately settled on a variation of the face paint example on the bottom left which is from the Wodaabe tribe – a small subgroup of ethnic Fulani nomadic herders in the Sahel. The variations of brown paint shown above were used to give more character and detail to the original glazed mask – especially to highlight Boko’s lips.  The final result can be seen here: