Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Martin the Raccoon - Study

I finished my first raccoon study for the children's story I am illustrating this year with my friend Tom.  Martin may not end up being named Martin, but considering that raccoon is the protagonist of the story, I figured I may as well give him a working name. 

Did You Disguise Yourself To Hide From Yourself?, 2012

This piece developed from raccoon's totem significance, being the master of dexterity and disguise, and what that may mean for a young one struggling to develop its own identity in the midst of developing into a transformation master.  How can you know who you are if you are constantly changing yourself to look and act like something else?  It's a common question with human adolescents, too, and one thing that makes the story timely.

In this illustration, raccoon has just discovered that he has disguised himself as fox, though because he doesn't yet quite understand his transformative powers, he is shocked when he sees fox staring back at him from the water.  He then sees us staring at him, and he looks back, either to ask us what we know, or to tell us to go away out of embarrassment.  Maybe both. 

(Unfortunately, my scanner is on the small side, and has cut off the right and left edges of the piece.)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Artist Liberation from Artist Oppression

My downstairs neighbors started blasting club music in their living room at 1pm on a Sunday, and I decided to leave my apartment and head for a coffee shop when I realized that the floor wasn't going to stop vibrating any time soon.  Obviously, I cannot cart all my art materials to a coffee shop, and in thinking about my neighbors hindering my ability to work on my art in the small amount of time I have outside of my day job, I decided to talk a little bit about Artist Oppression.

While this may be a foreign concept to many readers, it is a commonality that artists everywhere experience.  It keeps us in low-paying full-time jobs so we can pay our bills and have health insurance, or keeps us in unsatisfactory living situations in order to lower rent, eating poorly for lack of proper funds, and not having health insurance so we cannot go to the doctor when we get sick, etc.  We work and work and work to produce, but have few opportunities that pay us for that work.  We work for free.  We doubt ourselves.  We are not "normal."  Our profession is not "lucrative."  Yet we are encouraged to "keep [our] dreams alive."

Why is this?  Why are we encouraged to "keep at it" when everything we face in capitalism makes us feel undervalued, devalued and, ultimately, worthless?  It is because any society without art is a dead society.  People view art--visual and expressive (performing)--to view society, to get their attention out, to laugh, cry, and reevaluate what occurs within that society, how we live in our world.  In this sense, artists are the world's counselors.  We see things and think about the world differently.  We, through our creative work, epitomize humanness.  Our creativity allows us to move humanity toward full intelligence faster and more directly.  We can increase the speed at which the universe advances toward meaning and freedom, and we create new important complexities within the environment.  We facilitate new ways of being.  In this sense, the presence of the artist in the world is vital. 

My experience is that of every person I speak with about my art exhibiting some sort of distress pattern.  Sometimes I am lucky enough to have a person take a real interest in my artwork and what I am conveying with it.  Even then they cannot bring themselves to purchase an original piece of art.  When I say a piece of work costs $500, most people balk.  My question is this:  how much do you pay your mechanic to work on your car?  $65-95/hr?  How much do you pay your masseuse?  Similarly?  How about your plumber, your electrician, your therapist, your doctor?  An artist is no less specialized in their profession, so why should they be paid less?  At $500, a piece of art that I spend 10 hours on ends up paying me $50/hr.  That does not account for the cost of framing or materials.  What if that piece of art cost me 50 hours of time?  I'm then making less than $10/hr, all added up.  Heinous is not too strong a word to use here.  Most people do not think in this way.  They require that someone else endorse the work -- an agent, a gallery, a publisher, etc.  These things do not increase the value of the work.  The work is inherently valuable. 

Of course, then we get into the discussion of bad art/good art.  What is good art?  What is bad art?  Certainly there are techniques and studying that goes into creating work.  But I suppose my answer is this:  an artist who is aware of the world and how she functions in it, how she connects with it and other humans, and fights toward full intelligence and sustainability through her art, is an artist who will produce "good" art.  Does this play into artist oppression?  Maybe so.  But this discussion is at least a gesture toward movement out of it.