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Grey Cross Studios
1920 4th St, New Orleans , LA 70113
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Thursday, October 1, 2015

The "What Can it Be Game" - Going From Object to Art

So I went out driftwood hunting today along the banks of the Mississippi. This river is amazing for the simple fact that it has debris floating in it that begins thousands of miles away in the far north of the continental United States. It begins at Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota and it makes its way 2,320 miles before it lets out into the Gulf of Mexico. I am fortunate to be only a handful of miles from the end of this journey. 

The river banks at this point (at least where they aren't blocked by the levee's, have some pretty amazing debris. I handpick the wood for my driftwood sculptures. Today I took a bit of extra time to look and examine the various pieces lying in a flood plain. The interesting thing about some of this driftwood is that the trees it comes from (I think perhaps cypress trees) is flat on one side and rounded on the other. Each piece has an amazing personality and I love to work with it. 
So as I wandered I ran across two of the most amazing of these pieces. They were longer than most are, the largest being 37 inches long. They were strong and had the most amazing grain to them. I knew the moment I saw them that I needed to drag them back up the embankment and bring them back to the studio. I knew immediately that these were true art. I could see the potential and they practically radiated an inner aura of power and strength.

Upon bringing them home I took the larger of the two and examined it closely and with a little work with my Dremel sander I realized that what was washed out in first appearance was actually an intensely beautiful rust red beneath. You can see it here. The bottom half lightly sanded. The upper is still grayish white.

So I took it and washed it and then ran a buffing tool across it to clean it up more. And beneath all this was art. 

When they say that anything can be art, its true. Where the artist comes in is in determining how to bring the beauty out in something and give it a message. Herein lies the rub. Are the muses with you that will allow you see something from just an object into a piece of art? 

Artists think in pictures. We do not see lines of codes when we conceive a piece of art. We see an image. And we strive to match that image and turn it into reality. 

I think for me this is one of the best parts of being an artist. Its a challenge to look at say a rock and say "its not a rock, its a bunny rabbit". The shape often creates the image. 

The interesting thing is, I can't see the image yet. I can perceive what the final piece of art will be yet. That flash of fire has occurred but the final form hasn't taken place yet. It may well be that the form is already in front of me and that this is not a piece to be manipulated into something new. It may be abstract in nature or may take on a whole new meaning when I get finished with it. But that is part of the excitement of being an experimental artist. You never know what you might come up with.

But an active process of creating art began the moment I saw it and that might well be the most crucial moment in that piece of arts life, the birthing stage I guess you could call it. 

Recently a new intern asked me where I get my ideas from. I told him that most of my ideas come in the dream state, but this isn't exactly true. Many come from a waking dream state where as explained above the idea comes in a flash of inspiration. But I still consider it a dream state. Its a higher state of consciousness that when actively used can make everything around us turn into something else. And for me its the closest thing to feeling almost godlike that I can ever express. 

But it really is something that artists can take to the level of a vital skill if they exercise it regularly. Play the "what can it be" game. Look at a single object and ask yourself what it can become. What do I envision rather than what do I see. At first you might find it difficult. But if you do it often enough a spontaneous action occurs where your mind just does it automatically. This should be something that every artist strives for who wishes to take their art to a higher level. 

As for the piece of driftwood. Well, I'll just have to wait and see what I end up with. I am sure I'll write about it later for those who care to find out the end of the tale.


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