I Think My Art Is Trying To Kill Me

These paintings are starting to drive me nuts, and attempting to complain about it makes me sound crazy, or worse yet, like a muse-ridden artiste.

I cannot figure out where these things go. I didn’t know when they were rabbits with masks, and I wasn’t entirely sure when they were odd blobby things with masks–although the cut paper collage kinda worked for those at least–and now that they’ve morphed into strange tall spirits with masks and vague animal correspondences, I have no idea at all.

This mostly just taught me that it didn't belong here. The lines may be too hard. I think these want to be softer and scratchier. Or something. I have a horrible fear it will turn out to want to be scratched and inked on lithoplate, and then I'll bloody well cry.

The question of where something goes is about half “what background do I put it in?” and about half “what world does this belong in?” and I am not close to answering either, except that I keep finding what doesn’t work.

Which is progress of a sort, but it tries my patience sorely having to figure this out by trial and error, and I am not a terribly patient person. I want to grab them by their long robes and shake them until they tell me where they belong, but of course they don’t have mouths and would only look at me with vague bemusement, and anyway, they’re too tall and also they’re drawings, which puts something of a damper on things.

In my less sensible moments I start to wonder if the problem is that they don’t talk, and so are incapable of telling me where they belong, and I toy with this idea until I realize that it’s, y’know, batshit insane.

This is too much like art.

Generally speaking, I’m an illustrator–no, stop, I know some of you are about to leap to my defense because you think I’m putting myself down, but hear me out. Illustration is fine. Illustration is “I have this idea and I draw a picture of it.” I am illustrating these various weird little worlds or tidbits or vignettes or ideas, and that is fine. I am all about that. I don’t know when “illustrator” became a derogatory term–frankly, I usually introduce myself as an illustrator when people ask “What do you do?” because if I say “artist” they get all kinds of bizarre ideas, whereas “illustrator” implies that I draw things that look like what they are and can do it to a deadline and people give me money for it.  And as this is, in fact, what I generally do, all is right with the world.

Being an artist is not better than being an illustrator.  Scrape this pernicious belief from your mind. Being an artist is a broader term, the genus, if you will, and “illustrator” defines me nicely in time, space, and employability. Artisticus illustratrus. And this is fine.

The nice thing when you’re drawing a thing that looks like a thing is that you just keep going until the whole surface is covered and the thing looks like itself and then you do a little more fiddling with highlights and stop.

These things, though…jeez. The whole evolution has involved a lot of beating of head against walls and sketchbooks and lots of sketching, which is annoying because I hate sketching.  I do it dutifully but without enthusiasm. But I have drawn dozens of these things, in variations, some of which fail utterly and some which work (and why does that one work when the hands are so different than the rest, but that one fails, which looks just like all the others?) and they sort of want to be scribbly but maybe it’s not the right sort of scribbly and I scrawl backgrounds behind them and none of the backgrounds really fit but there’s something to these blasted creatures and they seem to matter so I can’t stop.

I am aware of how this sounds. Believe me.  I despise all this froofy artist mystic bullshit, because it’s dreadfully unnecessary and just makes decent people think they are Not Cool Enough To Make Art.  This is not how painting usually is for me–usually I curse over the shape of the hand or the nose or the chicken and if I am struck with that palpable a sense of Not Working, I give up and move on. I do not agonize over my art. My artistic suffering involves sore thumbs and gold leaf on the dog and getting sick of drawing little dragons and occasionally dropping Masonite on my foot.

All this maundering about these baffling, infuriating creatures with their blank little faces makes me feel like I’m drifting out of my normal species into something else–Artisticus fruitbaticus, or Artisticus takingselffartooseriouslyus and there are far too many specimens of that out there already.

….screw it, I’m gonna go take a nap.

  • reply Chris ,

    have you tried sticking them in gearworld?

    (yes, I know “hey, put it in that thing you always used to put things in and I haven’t seen in a while and would like to”…but still…I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see one of these things glide across a doorway in gearworld and be gone by the time you look around the intersection)

    • reply Wolf Lahti ,

      As someone, presumably famous, said, “The difference between an illustrator and a fine artist is the illustrator eats three meals a day and can afford to pay for them.”

      • reply Ellis ,

        I am a little bemused by the rather smug expression on this one as if he knows perfectly well the trauma he’s causing you and is daring you to do somthing about it. As a woman who yells at the bugs in her garden and berates her dead plants for having died I am more than a little relieved to find my kind of crazy is not as uncommon as I once thought! If I had the money I’d buy the entire series and hang them up somewhere prominant so why fight it if it’s bringing in the cash?

        • reply Pa_Hsia ,

          I always find it strange when I realise that other people’s working practices are different from mine, but yours is – as far as I can tell – the complete opposite.

          When I draw characters (and I’ve recently started referring to trees and rocks as characters, gods help me), I find they usually have an identity, with very strong ideas about who they are, what they want to be doing and how they’d pose while doing it; I’m just the poor bastard they’ve chosen to introduce them to the world, and they know what they want better than I do.
          When I argue, cajole and – occasionally – laugh with the character, and the work somehow turns out better than those pictures when I’m trying to force a character to turn up against their will. Those ones are like pulling teeth, and always turn out horribly distorted or forced.

          Then again, I trained as a fine artist (I’ve got a degree in it and everything), so there’s probably no hope for me anyway…

          I hope Deerform find its place. Somewhere pleasant and gradient-y, perhaps.

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