Where the hell am I, and how did I get into this artfully made hand basket?


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As a professional artist, one of the most desirable outcomes is to have your art appreciated at a level where patrons want to own originals, not reproductions, of your work. And while this is very desirable, not only financially but also on a level of personal fulfillment, there is still for every artist, those pangs at “letting the babies go.” It took a while for me to be able to let go work I was proud of, but I came to the conclusion that the worst thing an artist can do is lock up his or her work, and never let it enrich the world.

I have sold over half of the pieces in the Exterminati series, a collection that started as a planned twelve pieces, and expanded to over 30 over the course of the last three years. And as I watched pieces go home with happy patrons with a wistful mixture of pride and anxiety, I began to realize that my biggest issue was always looking back, asking myself things like, “what if I need to fill an exhibition?” or “what if I can’t reproduce that level of (whatever)?” Neither of those make much sense, as, as an artist, I should always be moving forward, trying new things, expanding on ideas both old and new, and as far as filling an exhibition, that will happen naturally through development.

What’s funny is that I have never even thought about selling original drawings, sketches, developmental process drawings, and bits of sketch here and there… but it seems that that stuff has been just as popular as the bug series – I actually had one guy torn between a couple of finished drawings and a page with a couple of unfinished ideas on it. He went with Door #2, but the other stuff he wanted went home with others soon after.

One of the reasons I got into Industrial design as a field was because I had had a love affair with concept art and the developmental process since I was a kid. It was never really special effects in and of itself, but how you even get to Point A. I’d dreamed of going to work for ILM because I wanted to be around that kind of work – but as my skills developed I began to realise that I could do that anywhere, it didn’t have to be there. I also began to encounter people who were willing to sacrifice, in my opinion, too much to achieve that dream as well. I won’t say I’ve given up on my dreams – I know what inspired me in the first place – but I think they’re being realised in a much more personal way. I have worked as a faceless minion on a number of major releases, and I saw what people who were named had to to do to get there. Where I am now means I will always be able to see the light in a patron’s eyes as they meet and shake hands with someone whose work they find fascinating. I’ve seen the light in kids’ eyes at all ages as they discover something they want to pursue, and who they want to mentor them. And I don’t have to put my kids to bed by FaceTime, unless I am at an art show.

I guess what I’m saying is that while it is both exhilarating and scary to have no one between me and the public, at the end of the day, it is my name and face that will be associated with my work, and the company I helped build from a flyer for a mural many years ago. I am a natural performer, if something of an introvert, and I usually find a way to jump in and make things interesting, if unexpected. And you know something? I am way cool with that.

 

-John E.

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