Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Feedback of Art

Butterfly earrings by OxArtJewelry - Large, Medium, Small & Petite

We hear it every day in the world of commerce. " New and improved! You spoke; we listened. Designed with our customers in mind."

How can the artist compete in the commercial world, when we hold ourselves to higher, more personal standards? When our goal is quite the opposite of seeking mass appeal, or discovering the lowest common denominator in the creation of our works of art? These are not simply products that we are producing! They are adventures in abstraction, color, texture, space. They are personalized expressions of our passions and our sensibilities.

Several weeks ago I received a request from a lady who had admired a pair of earrings from the butterfly collection that I had listed on Etsy.  She thought they were gorgeous, and knew they would add luster to her jewelry selection. However, through experience, she had learned to never buy an earring that weighed more than 5 grams. She asked what these earrings weighed (they weighed in at 7 grams), and if they exceeded her limit, would I be able to make her a similar pair within her constraints?

Years ago I had abandoned commission painting of portraits and murals precisely because I never liked the idea of creating art that needed to conform to the expectations of others.  Still, this request offered a different kind of challenge: wearable art must be - before all other considerations - wearable.

In order to reduce the weight of these earrings to 5 grams I would need to trim the pieces by 29% in some combination of size and thickness of enamel.  I had never taken the time to really understand the ratio of copper to glass.  Would I be able to cut the weight 30% by cutting the size 30%?  I discovered it’s not that simple.  After considerable experimentation I now offer 4 sizes in my ‘butterfly series’ with the ‘small’ weighing in at 5 grams and the ‘petite’ version under 5 grams.

I can truly say my lighter versions were “designed with the customer in mind” without feeling like I have compromised my artistic perrogatives.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

On the Origins of Innovation... and Art

A recent study suggests that innovation consists of five separate processes: associating, questioning, observing, networking and experimenting. Sounds reasonable enough. But what about art? Is it the same process as innovation?

Let’s do a thought experiment. We know that the mind has tremendous powers of logic, coupled with the ability to synthesize diverse concepts. Given a sequence of numbers 2… 4… 6… it predicts 8. Given the knowledge that protons and neutrons pair up to make atoms, the mind can easily extrapolate all the elements in the periodic table. Nothing artistic here.

But when the mind is afforded knowledge about evolution and genetics and the role of DNA, using all of its powers of reason and logic, it is unable to predict the existence of kangaroos. Why? Because kangaroos and giraffes are accidents of nature, produced by unpredictable mutations.

As it turns out, nature wields her artistic brush with her eyes closed.  She relies on happy accidents in order to innovate. Does the creation of art require a similar unpredictable serendipity?

Anyone who has ever worked in watercolor knows that we often rely on similar “happy accidents” for interest and texture in an under-painting, a sky or the foreground.  We flood the paper with colors letting the water and paint do its own mixing.  A “bloom” is created when a wet stroke is placed alongside a nearly dry area.  Pigments, water and watercolor paper must cooperate with the artist’s inspiration for art to happen.  Have you ever finished a piece and wondered “how did I do that”?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...