opening the conversation

Some artists are now sharing their process on a daily basis, creating a much more active feedback loop with their audience. Former receivers of completed artistic output are now often participants in the creative process in terms of how they influence the work. So, while many artists still control the content, none of them control the conversation around it.

KERA's Art&Seek Blog

A good friend, and fellow creative collaborator, recently pointed me towards this article from the KERA arts blog. It's about, in part, the changing way we interact with artists thanks to modern technology. I think it's a worthy read for any modern artist, or those interested in their process.

Like a lot of creative professionals (read, artsy weirdos who eat because of it), I've been spending a lot of time pondering the question of how to foster a more open attitude towards both my work and how I go about making it.

Times have definitely changed, and that era wherein an artist dramatically locks themselves in a cave in order to create seems to be dwindling to a quiet close. Now the answer seems to involve getting out there and collaborating, or at least not being a stick in the mud about it happening around you.

The truth is I've been working with other creative people for years. The lion's share of my work is commissioned by people who need a talented collaborator to swing the odd hammer, stylus or torch on their behalf. In the end, I'm just helping their creative process along, despite my getting to take credit for the lot.

Due to the complex and fidgety nature of the Mitsuro technique, I tend to work in batches of pieces. In a perfect world I'd expound upon this being an iterative process, wherein I circle ever-closer to the pure heart of a concept.

The truth is it's probably closer in spirit to emptying a loaded shotgun while blindfolded in the direction of a fleeing mouse. While the actual output may be scattered, the effect is always dramatic enough to impress bystanders. What's more, I often get lucky and kill me some rodent in the process.

Russ Sharek

Whereas I have traditionally limited sharing works-in-progress with those involved in the process, it seems that the brave new world now recommends inviting a few hundred million artistically-leaning internet addicts to the conversation.

I must admit that thinking conjures up the mental image of lolcats and other internet phenomenon lurking about my workshop.

While waiting on the exterminators to come and spray for stray memes, I had chat with one of my more artistically-minded clients about this whole "open studio" concept. She loved the idea of getting people excited about process, and suggested that I post some of the work-in-progress images I had recently sent her way to get the ball rolling.

Of course, what you're about to see is not actually her project. That piece is slated to be a surprise gift for a friend, so I've agreed to leave it off my site for the moment. Instead, here's a sampling of wax models which were a part of the "shotgun effect" of working towards the exact piece she dreamed up.

 

copyright: The Morpheus Company, 2010

 

copyright: The Morpheus Company, 2010

 

copyright: The Morpheus Company, 2010

 

copyright: The Morpheus Company, 2010

 

copyright: The Morpheus Company, 2010

 

copyright: The Morpheus Company, 2010

 

copyright: The Morpheus Company, 2010

 

copyright: The Morpheus Company, 2010

 

copyright: The Morpheus Company, 2010

 

copyright: The Morpheus Company, 2010

 

copyright: The Morpheus Company, 2010

 

copyright: The Morpheus Company, 2010

 

Now, a couple of quick points about process. First and foremost, I'm a terrible photographer. I did my best to make these decipherable, but I'm destined to leave the creation of good looking photographs to the professionals.

Secondly, these are just wax models at this point. Try to think of them as "jewelry sketches", and realize they will likely change a bit along the way to becoming finished pieces.

Thirdly, if you have an opinion about these pieces, now is the time to speak up. Once these pieces move to the casting stage, there's really no turning back. If one of these pieces is "almost perfect" and you know what it needs, I invite you to contact me at the studio and get involved in the process.

 

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category: studio
01 / 29 / 2010

 

el corazon

The 16th Annual El Corazon Art Exhibition

16th Annual El Corazon Art Exhibition
Curated by Jose Vargas

February 6th - March 6th, 2010
Opening Reception: Saturday, February 6th (7-9 PM)
Admission is free and event is open to the public

Bath House Cultural Center
521 E Lawther Drive
Dallas, TX 75218
(214) 670-8723

Last October, in between stints of "live digital doodling" on a video projector, I had an opportunity to show my illustration work to Jose Vargas. Jose is a fantastic talent in his own right*, and he also curates several art events in and around the Dallas area.

*I have one of his "cemetery angel" photographs in my home. She is as beautiful as she is unsettling.

Jose and I have known each other for years through the Bath House Cultural Center, but we've never really had a chance to work together directly. To him, I suspect I've always been that weird jewelry guy in the lobby, and he's that really quiet photographer/painter whom I wave to in the hazy, pre-caffeinated mornings while setting up my booth.

Thanks to ArtLoveMagic, we finally had a chance to converse a bit, and after seeing my new illustration work he invited me to put together a piece for El Corazon.

One of the requirements of the event was that I submit a sketch of my piece-in-progress for approval.

This presented an interesting challenge, as all of my vector illustrations are created without the benefit of paper. The "sketch", if any, continually evolves into the final piece. It's a bit more like sculpting lines than drawing them, which probably explains why I've got the temperament to do it.

In any case, in order the meet the requirement I actually sat down with a piece of note-taking software called xournal and used it to rough out something in a olde-school pen-and-paper sort of way.

The nice part of doing this electronically was that I meet the requirement of making a rough sketch, and then I could import this chicken-scratch-quality image directly into my tools-of-choice. If nothing else, I gain some geek-cred for the effort and was saved the hassle of locating my now seldom-used paper sketchbook.

I'll post the final piece after the opening reception.

Concept Sketch for El Corazon

 

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category: events
01 / 27 / 2010

 

back then

I launched dare2dream.com in 1996. Back then, an artist with a website was sort of a freakish oddity. Most people in the arts were not comfortable or familiar with technology, and all but the edge cases ran their creative lives quite happily without the benefit of "them there interwebs."

I found myself living in Dallas at the start of the dot-com boom, and thus spent a fair chunk of my copious free time socializing with deep-in-the-trenches geeks. The very ones who, in their copious free time, built huge swaths of the technological infrastructure we happily take for granted today.

These guys, and yeah back then they were all guys, kept telling me how all of this internet stuff was going to change everything we knew about human interaction. Their mantra was that this ephemeral web of online "stuff" would become the platform on which we could communicate our ideas, plan cool projects and ultimately collaborate to make awesome stuff happen.

There is, before I continue, one thing worthy of mentioning for perspective's sake: Back then I was an enormously self-important ass. While I may well be an ass today, I now like to think I'm a little less self-absorbed about it.

So, deeply ensconced in my own ego, I missed the enormous beauty and potential that could come from this sort of connection. What I did hear, however, was that there was a new way to get my artwork exposed to a world wide audience. That was just enough to keep me from blowing off my technology-savvy friends and languishing in offline oblivion forever.

Thus greedily inspired, I collaborated long hours amongst my geeky brethren to forge what was, back then, a fairly spiffy web presence. A few phone calls and in-person visits convinced our favorite coffee emporium to host a website launch party.

My favorite irony of this project was the fact that this particular pre-boom non-Starbucks caffeine emporium had no internet access. We were, back then, left with no alternative but to bring computers pre-loaded with offline copies of our internet-based efforts to show technologically unsavvy people the website of an artist who at the time did not fully appreciate the value of social networking.

 

Serve Your Addictions, October 1996.

 

Looking back, it sounds as much like advocacy (and perhaps a bit of intervention) as it did advertising, but I still say it was one of the coolest things I ever did.

The benefit of all that work was that I found myself, for a brief time, a tiny bit ahead of the artisan-geek curve. Reading through it again, I think it is pretty plain that I wasn't particularly smart or special to have accomplished this. I was merely lucky for being connected to the right people, and just open enough to be willing to work with others towards making it happen.

Because this decision was so beneficial to my career, I found that shortly thereafter I became overly cautious about my online existence. Beyond my predisposition to paranoia, I had successfully carved out my own chunk of the ether and I just didn't want anyone to screw with it.

The danger is that sliding from cautious to curmudgeonly is simply a matter of calcification. Just make a decision, stick to your guns and ignore every development that might outdate or obsolesce that initially sound thinking. If you continue down the road of letting your decisions define you, you're just a bad attitude away from transitioning from curmudgeon to crank.

During my time with the geeks, I absorbed a lot of high-level notions of living in a connected society. The term social network hadn't really been coined yet, but I already had a fundamental grasp of collaboration (and how to do it online), freedom (and why it was important), copyright (and how broken it can be) and privacy (and how to protect it).

What I did not possess was a fundamental understanding of how these ideas applied to me. I could prattle on, preaching for endless hours about open source, freedom and not giving away your rights, but my working knowledge of the information age's bogeymen left me with little more than a checklist of what not to do.

And so, despite the fact that almost every good thing I had done with my career had come out of opening up and collaborating with others, I cut myself off from the big scary internet of fools and evil corporations.

Never mind the fact that doing so actually prevented me from connecting to the very people interested in working with me. I was not going to let my "genius" be stolen (which you can't really do), mocked (which at this point it clearly needed) or be photographed unflatteringly (which it really wanted all along, but was too shy to admit) online.

So yeah, for a while I was just a bad mood away from crank town.

The failsafe mechanism in my intellectual DNA which allowed me to survive this epic and largely self-inflicted stupidity is that I am a fundamentally social creature. Put me in a room alone long enough and I will leave it to seek out interesting input in the form of people. Even in my most misanthropic moments, I fervently believe in the synergy that occurs between people playing with ideas and its potential to create better things than working alone.

Part of the process of overcoming ego is simply being open to listening to other people's ideas. Once you stop assuming you're the best, you're suddenly magically allowed to learn more. Part of that whole collaboration thing is the ability to listen to other people, who sometimes say things that can actually make the "not the best" you even better.

For the last year or so, I've been listening a lot.

It seems that during my time on my own private island everyone else managed to catch up. Oh, who hell am I kidding? You geniuses ran right past on your way to socially interactive nirvana. Of course, just like me, you got lucky too. You didn't have to waste all that copious free time building infrastructure to communicate, or drink coffee while waiting on someone smarter than you to invent it.

While I still need to lock myself in a room from time to time, possibly for the betterment of humanity at large, I'd like to get off my lonely island and join the fray. Maybe I'll catch another lucky break and get ahead of the curve again. Maybe I'll just get to collaborate on cooler projects.

Either way you'll be able to friend me on facebook (amongst other places) now. :-)

 

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category: business
01 / 08 / 2010