Perhaps the story of Little Red Riding Hood isn’t about the wolf, but about the woods.
Perhaps it is about taming the woods, making them less dangerous.
Perhaps it is teaching us that forests must be tamed, must be mastered.
That if they cannot be civilized, they must be destroyed.
Is this why large stands of trees are seen as “undeveloped”?
Is this why they are seen as a resource to be exploited, rather than one that serves perfectly as it is?
And why does something have to serve to be considered valuable? How human-centric is that – that if it does not serve us, it can be destroyed?
How much “development” do we need if we no longer have trees to create oxygen for us?
Should there be a limit on how many people per acre there can be in a given community? Should there be a mandatory people to tree ratio to ensure enough oxygen?
And what about the animals living in the forest – untamed, wild? Do they not deserve a place to live? Why is it considered progress to evict them by chopping down their home in order to build new ones for people?
Is this the new colonialism? Is this not what white settlers did to the native people who were already here?
People sometimes ask how long a piece I made took. This usually is in reference to beaded jewelry, but I soon expect it to happen for my collages. I’ve not been creating in that manner as long, and I’ve not started to try to seriously sell them, so I’ve not had this happen yet.
Why does it matter how long something took to make? Does that devalue it if it didn’t take the artist very long? Does it mean that it should cost more if it took more time?
How long does it really take? When do you start the clock? When you first had the idea? When you bought the materials? When you started putting paint or ephemera onto the canvas? Or does it start before that – with classes and study, learning how to use the materials?
There have been plenty of times when I’ve realized that the only way I could have learned how to make the piece I just did was to have made the twenty other ones that the potential customer does not see. Sure, this one took two days to make. But in reality, it took two years of trial and error to learn how to do this in two days.
If a necklace took twenty minutes to make, does that mean that it shouldn’t cost $45, because you only make $15 an hour? What if the same customer would spend $30 on a meal that took ten minutes to cook?
Food is a good analogy – the raw ingredients have to be raised or grown or processed (chicken, asparagus, pasta). All of these things take time and skill – before you even get to cook them into a meal. Learning how to cook takes time and a lot of practice.
Making art is the same. The materials used have to be created and / or purchased. The expense (time and money) involved in just the materials alone must be considered, as well as the time it took to learn how to prepare it.
Perhaps artists should start saying the real time it took, starting with when they first had the idea for that piece or bought the first supply that was used. or when they first learned a technique they used in that piece. In some cases, that would be 20 years for me.
I have a ring that has a raw diamond in it. I like the philosophy of it. I like looking at it and thinking about what it is and what it can be.
One part about a raw diamond is that it represents potential. It is about seeing the beauty in something that hasn’t happened yet. But another part about it is about seeing the beauty as it is. Instead of being cut and shaped and faceted, it is good to appreciate the beauty it has right now.
This applies to people as well. Are we enlightened because we see someone’s potential or because we see them and appreciate them for who they are right now? Do we love the mustard seed because it is going to become a big tree or do we love the mustard seed because we can grind it up and make it into a spice for a meal?
Everything and everyone is valuable at every stage of their journey. Every part of the whole is valuable. We love eating the fruit of the cherry tree but we also love the wood of the cherry tree. No one part is more valuable. No one part is better than another. Even if we don’t chop up the tree we can still appreciate its beauty and its shade.
Let us not be human centric. The tree provides food and shelter for animals as well. And the tree just on its own has value. It doesn’t have to have value in relation to other things.
We need to think this way about ourselves, our fellow humans, and all of our fellow creatures on this earth. We need to see the beauty that is, not just the beauty that will be.
When we say someone or something is “attractive” or “repulsive”, it is in relation to another.
It is more than “pretty” or “ugly”. We could use those terms to explain this concept, but they aren’t as illustrative.
Think of magnets. If they are opposite polarity, they attract each other. If they are the same, they repel. But a magnet on its own is just a magnet. It isn’t attracting or repelling. So people who are “attractive” or “repulsive” are only so in relation to other people’s perspectives. On their own, they just are who they are.
It is “all in the eye of the beholder”.
Our value should not be dependent on other people giving it to us. If we are truly to be self-sufficient and have self-esteem, our value as people has to start with “self” and not “other”. We have to see ourselves as valuable.
I don’t think seeing ourselves as “beautiful” or “rich” or “smart” is helpful either. Those terms are still in relation to others. In the case of those terms, others are not defining us, but we are defining ourselves in relation to others.
Simply know that you are valuable and needed, just as you are.
I once had a problem with ladies who were looking at my beaded jewelry. They asked how long it took to make. Because it didn’t take long, they didn’t appreciate the cost.
I’ve made jewelry for over 20 years. I know what I am doing by now. It doesn’t take long, once I have the idea in mind. But artistry and the cost of the beads (!!!) has to be factored in.
They don’t get it. They are thinking they get paid $15 an hour, and if this takes me 20 minutes to make, it shouldn’t cost $40.
I could lower my prices, but then I feel like I’m being used. I’ve heard that in Arabic countries you can buy gold jewelry for just the price of the gold. The artist gets nothing. The price is based on the type of gold and how much it weighs. Perhaps that is what people expect me to do with my beads. Just charge them the price of the beads, and nothing for the skill or the creativity.
Perhaps I should start telling people that each necklace takes three days. That would factor in the time involved in getting to the bead store, thinking up a design, trying it, and then finding out it doesn’t work the way I thought it would. Then wait a day fuming about it and rethinking it, and try again and discover what comes out.
Some pieces do take forever. Some go fast. Some never sell. Some sell very quickly. I don’t make anywhere near enough money to make a living at this, but I still don’t want to be insulted. I’d rather rip apart a design and reuse the beads than sell it at just the cost of the beads.
There seems to be two ways that art is going these days: hyper-realistic and blob. Either people are painting reality better than reality or they are painting blobs.
Me, I’m in the blob category. Sure, it is fun. And nobody will know when I don’t get what I was aiming for, because what they see looks nothing like anything else anyway. When you try to replicate something that is real, it is easy to tell when you have missed the mark. Blob art is free from this constraint.
But then I see other blob painters charging hundreds, even thousands of dollars for what they made, and I wonder. Is someone actually buying this?
Blob art can be made by toddlers. The more you think, the less it works. In fact, part of the reason I paint blob art is because I want to not think. I want to disengage. I have tried to paint blob art with brushes and other paint tools and I just don’t like it. It is fingers all the way for me.
I call it blob art because that is how I make it. I pick up a tube of paint that looks nice and I squish out a blob of paint on the canvas. Then I pick up another tube and squish it out too. I’ll keep adding blobs until I feel I might have something to work with. Then I smear the blobs around and mix them together until I like the blend and the swirls. Sometimes I add in a few more blobs and mix them in.
It is kind of like how I cook. Spices, colors – it is really all the same. I’m heading towards a goal, and I take whatever I need to get there.
Painting realistically has never made sense to me. Just take a picture. It is faster. Sure, it is pretty impressive to find someone who can paint a picture that looks like it is a photograph. But to me it seems like a waste of time.
Now, one advantage to painting is that you can paint what isn’t there. You can paint all the good stuff and leave all the bad stuff out. This is especially appropriate when you are painting a family portrait and not everybody is available to sit for it at the same time. Or it also works if you are painting something that would be good for a science fiction illustration.
While you can create some pretty amazing things with photo manipulation software, there isn’t really “art” in that. You aren’t making something new, so much as working with what is already there.
Is blob art really art? Sometimes it just looks like someone shoved paint around a canvas. Sometimes they did. Sometimes I do. So is it worth a lot of money?
Sure, the materials are expensive. Paint and canvasses are stunningly expensive. Framing is insane. Sometimes you can get deals on supplies but not often. So there is something about the actual physicality of the piece that will raise the price.
Sometimes what inspires people to admire artwork or writing or music is what it reminds them of. What they see in it has little to do with what the artist put into it. Some swirl, phrase, or riff catches their attention in just such a way and they find that a doorway has opened in their mind, or a bridge has been created.
That is one of the most frustrating things to me as a creator. I really feel like I’ve expressed something well, and people just don’t get it. They may like it, but what they like isn’t what I was trying to express.
Maybe that is why I make blob art. I don’t have as much invested in it. It doesn’t matter if they see something different in it, because I didn’t put anything in it. It is more about what I got out of it.
I discover when I create blob art. I play, too. I learn how the colors go together, and I relax during the creation. There is no stress because there is no specific goal to be reached. Just enjoying putting paint on the canvas is the goal. It isn’t about creating anything. It is about creating me.
There weren’t many bead stores when I first started making jewelry over twenty years ago. I hadn’t even thought about making my own jewelry until I met someone who did. She took me to a bead store in DuPont circle in Washington DC, near where I was living at the time. When I moved back home to Chattanooga there weren’t many options to get supplies for my new hobby.
There was one bead store, way out in the middle of nowhere, thirty minutes away from my house. It was a rarity for that time. That lady was forward thinking. It was called Fat Jane’s beads, and while the owner was named Jane, she wasn’t fat. It was a joke from when she was pregnant. Her store stocked a lot of beads, but they were all in containers and all the containers were in display cabinets. It was a long drive to get there, and a lot of work to find the beads I wanted while there.
I prefer to look for beads unmolested. I like to study each strand for as long as I want to pick out the exact shade and variety I require without having a shopkeeper stare at me. I also don’t want to have to ask for each box to be pulled out of the cabinet. It is as if she didn’t want to sell the beads at all. Beads were the main focus of the store, not a sideline, but it didn’t feel like that at times.
Another place that sold beads was called the New Moon Gallery. They didn’t have many beads, but at least they left me alone to study them. Beads were not their main source of income. They sold books and clothing and music and jewelry to the New Age crowd. I even sold jewelry to them for a while.
The best place to buy beads was Goodwill. I bought necklaces and tore them apart carefully to learn how to make my own. There weren’t books or classes about how to make jewelry then. I figured it out in my own. Goodwill was the best for beads. Not really for selection, but for price. I could buy a necklace for a quarter and redesign it into a triple stranded bracelet and sell it for $15. Cheap price, huge profit. The ladies at the one I frequented knew me and saved off the good stuff just for me so I’d have first dibs.
Too bad people don’t understand how much beads cost these days. They aren’t cheap at all. Goodwill sells all the really good stuff online now. Plastic junk is all you’ll find when you go into the store. Bead stores are more plentiful, but the prices are much higher. At the price per amount of space in the bag, beads cost way more than I remember pot ever costing.
Back when I first started making jewelry, the two went hand in hand. I’d smoke a bit and bead a bit. Creativity flowed. Now I’m sober, I don’t create with beads near as often. I’m just as likely to write or paint or draw now. But I still like creating jewelry and I still like selling it, but the prices have had to go up because the cost of the beads has gone up.
I can certainly make everything cost $20 or less but it will be watered down. There will be lots of cheap glass filler beads. There will be very little design. Boring. Bland. Blah. People have to understand that they get what they pay for.
Who am I kidding? This is a society that eats food with artificial colors and flavors and chock full of preservatives. They don’t like homemade, organic, good for you. They don’t appreciate individual, artisan work. They don’t get one of a kind. It appears I have two choices – I could lower my standards or just expect people to raise theirs.
When you are an artist you have to sell yourself. When I say “sell yourself”, I mean be a prostitute. Now it is up to you how you view that.
There are different levels of prostitutes. There are whores, of course, but there are also call girls and courtesans. They all provide the same service. The difference is that they put different values on themselves. Artists have to do this too.
When I say “artist” I mean any creative person. Musician, painter, writer, whatever. If you create, you are an artist. If you are just creating for yourself then life is easy. You can create whatever you want. It is when you start selling to other people that things get complicated.
Consider Jackson Pollock’s art. It’s just paint, dripped on a canvas. It sells for millions of dollars. A child could do this. The only difference between him and any other artist is that he didn’t blink when he told a buyer his expected price, and the buyer agreed. And then he kept doing this.
If he’d sold his works for the price of the paint and the canvas, we’d never even know his name. You, as an artist, have to demand more for your work too. Don’t just give it away. Otherwise you are being a whore.
I don’t price my jewelry nearly high enough most of the time. Sometimes I cringe when I price something. I think there is no way that people will understand the value of what I made, so I under price it. I’ve done this for years. Every now and then I’ll find someone who appreciates what I make and pays full price.
But otherwise I feel like gutter trash. And I’m just going to have to get over that. I do stand up for myself when someone asks for a discount on something that is already very reasonably priced. I’d rather not sell it at all than be insulted.
This stuff doesn’t sell itself. Being an artist isn’t like working a regular job. You have to be the boss and the hired hand and the janitor. You have to get the sales and make the art.
Now, I’m not in business of making jewelry. It is a sideline. It isn’t my livelihood. I do it because I enjoy it. But I still have to hustle to sell it. This alone can be quite daunting, and overwhelming. Making art is very solitary, and perfect for an introvert. Selling art is the exact opposite, however.
This “prostitute” motif makes a lot of sense. You have to look for clients. Sometimes this means going into unfamiliar or even dangerous territory. It often means creating relationships with strangers.
You have to show off what you’ve got. The client needs to see an example of your work before he will consider looking at more.
You have to schmooze with the client. Flattery helps. It is up to you how much or how little you do this. But there is certainly some energy exchange.
You have to put a price on your goods. This is the hard part. You have to value yourself, and be willing to take no sale at all rather than a sale at a price that is insulting to you.
In short, don’t be an artist who is a whore. Sell yourself like a courtesan. Put a high value on yourself. If you demand it, the customer will rise to the occasion.
Where did our culture get this idea of not having worth? Is it a problem that pervades culture and nationality? Is it just part of being human?
I met a guy who recently had been in a car accident. The car got out of control and ended up in a lake. The car was destroyed yet he was unharmed. He kept telling me about the trajectory of the car. There was no way he should have survived.
He became choked up just thinking about it. He was surprised that God would have saved him. He didn’t feel special or important enough to save.
I think a lot of us feel that way. I think a lot of us feel that we aren’t special, or important, or valuable.
I am here to tell you that your existence on this planet is proof that you are valuable to God. The fact that you were born means you are special. The fact that you are still alive right now means that you are important. You are part of God’s plan.
It may not make sense to you. You may not know what your purpose is. That is OK. You don’t have to know.
I heard in a podcast I enjoy that every breath you take in, every beat of your heart is God saying that He loves you and wants you here.
Know that you are loved. Know that you are cherished.
The world goes out of its way to bring you down. Don’t join it.