Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Framing the Issue

Tied up a creative loose end (of which between the state of my cluttered studio and mind makes for a veritable yarn factory) that also finally realized my ultimate vision of a piece started a while back: the "Peaceable Kingdom: Alaska" color panel was reincarnated and submitted to a show. Well, sort of realized, I'll get to that part in a bit...

Patterns of Influence is the second-biggest juried exhibition in Fairbanks (after the 64th Parallel) and is hosted by the Fairbanks Arts Association. The theme this year is "Elements of Change," is open to all media, and will be up until February 27th. When I dropped off my submission there was already over a hundred entries, which is less than half the past records but still much better than the feeble turnout for the last show.  
*Update: according to the gallery coordinator there were a grand total 118 submissions, of which 60 were selected. I'll post more details after making the First Friday rounds and include samples from some other artists' work as well. 
More melodrama notes and commentary on process below the fold...

A fortuitous encounter with a fabulous and amazing new artist in town, Kendra Mack, led to an opportunity for having the panel printed up on canvas, which I'd never had done before (hat-tip for the favor - and look forward to seeing a bit more on her work here sooner than later). The colors came out super bright with rich tones and smooth gradients, nice solid blacks: plus the way-cool little touches of texture from the substrate. I attempted to accent the highlights with faux brush-strokes by lathering on acrylic glazing medium, but a tipping point was reached where it began dulling the finish a wee bit too much, so the overall effect turned out negligible, unless one gets up real close under the right sort of lighting.

There always seems to be a bit of childish glee at watching one of your creations pull a minor phoenix: I'm not so jaded to not get a secret thrill out of seeing a work appear in a different creative context. Not to mention the prospect of the cartoon barbarians invading elitist Ivory Towers inside the Trojan Horse of a more legitimized, acceptable medium. Probably wouldn't be a cartoonist if "getting one over the establishment" wasn't so much damned fun. And regardless of whether the casual observer misses the allusion (i.e. doesn't "get it") it's still funny to look at - not that different from the artist, come to think of it.

Speaking of "fun," over the course of prepping this piece (and arguably every other one done to date and all the ones still to come) it fell short of originally envisioned expectations due to a series of speedbumps over technicalities. Fell for the classic oversight of forgetting that standard 8x10" frames cut off 1/4" all the way around, which left me flummoxed after taking the print into the shop to test run some frames. Since at this stage of the game and with a deadline looming, I didn't want to start over with a resized print, so my tech support partner counseled purchasing instead an 11x14" frame and stick in an 8x10" matte (which actually had to be a double matte with the inner frame removed so as to circumvent the above-mentioned cropping). Grrr... what a fiasco, but I was convinced by that the new addition might actually help foster an impression, at least a veneer of professionalism, and dare I say, maybe a modicum of taste? Still had a good sulk afterwards over having to have in it the first place, but as it turned out, right she was.
Also pulled a crafty Faustian bargain registering with just to get a 50% off coupon: worth the indignity as I scored a super-cheesy, garishly ornate and totally appropriate frame, all for thirty bucks.

 Still, compounding this new configuration was the fact that the print was also now at a different, non-proportional size - a slight subtle squish to scale so as to fit the vertical axis, which I'm gambling will go unnoticeable without side-by-side visual reference to the original. Nothing drives me more batshit crazy than seeing work that's obviously been shoehorned to fit some predetermined dimension in a layout - it never "looks right." And here I was voluntarily doing to this piece, which was rapidly morphing into something that was not meeting expectations. Oh wahhhh...

But putting up with and persevering despite all the innumerable obstacles is the de facto price of doing art: play the game, you pay the fee (and fill out the requisite paperwork and pick out all the hairs from under the glass). All these last-minute stresses can unfortunately add up to an insurmountable hassle for many artists who either opt out of the exhibition circuit, pay someone else to do the dirty work, or just give up entirely entirely. That's the discerning qualification between a successful artist: more often than not it 's a simple matter of obstinate perseverance, all the while navigating the minefield of minutia inherent in obsessive craftsmanship, and pole-vaulting over mouse-turds. It's analogous to the functional definition of what makes for an "A" student in my art class: I've repeatedly flunked some of the more talented for the simple reasons that they don't attend class or turn in work on time.

The gallery director made a great offhand response to my dour comment on how I'd be "back later to pick up my reject," saying something  to the effect that "we don't reject work here, we just make it possible to resubmit pieces to later shows." That's a healthier attitude than my habitual self-patronizing one: the expect nothing/be ready for anything mantra. Developing a thicker skin and not taking rejection so personally is a natural outcome of long personal experience in repeated jilts, and passing them off with blithe self-assurance that "it's not me it's them" is also the hallmark of disciplined confidence, maybe the classic unrecognized genius, or a tad bit of narcissistic personality disorder - the phrase "egomaniac with an inferiority complex" can describe more than a few artists. But seriously, it always comes back to the humbling relative reality you're never as bad or as good as you think you are: I just reminded my students in advance of their upcoming first critique that "there's always going to be somebody better/worse than you." So when you finally get "The Call" for either acceptance or rejection it's a coin-toss either way: not much sense in wallowing or whoopie-doo, and the folks I admire the most will be back at the proverbial drawing board nomatter what the outcome.

Another convergence of exposures in multiple mediums: simultaneously appearing in a gallery, in the newspaper and on-line. The creation of an art-object from something that was first drawn two-dimensionally, then converted into digital format and then in turn brought back into a print (then back again as a posted jpeg) is an interesting full-spectrum evolution.

"No one blames themselves if they don't understand a cartoon, as they might with a
painting or "real" art; they simply think it's a bad cartoon." - Chris Ware


  1. I love the phrase "Egomaniac with an inferiority complex"
    Great post, Jamie!

  2. Thanks - though I'm not referring to anybody *I* know personally... eh