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Grey Cross Studios
1920 4th St, New Orleans , LA 70113
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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Seeing Past the Mundane - An Artists Most Important Skill

Its funny how something you've looked at a dozen times and remained blind to, can suddenly create ideas for art. I was working on a portfolio tonight from a photo shoot done at Holt Cemetery last February. I've used the 200+ photos in this set several times for different projects. The photo above was one of those. Doesn't look like much. Its a pile of wood near some graves. In fact I can't honestly tell you why I took the photo in the first place and it had never been used for anything specific.

But tonight I stopped and realized that I wasn't looking at a pile of wood. I was looking in fact at raw material for sculptures. I usually work with driftwood for a lot of my sculpture work, but a chance encounter a few months back with some dried juniper wood in another cemetery made me realize the value of extremely aged and dried wood.

Keep in mind that New Orleans is in a swamp. Finding decent dried and aged wood is harder than it might seem. And here suddenly before me was a whole pile of it. Now that pile of wood may very well be gone now. The photo was taken 4 months ago after all. But I quick search of the rest of the photo portfolio showed me that this wasn't the only dried wood. In fact I saw at least a half dozen other locations throughout the cemetery where wood was laying around waiting for me to come find it.

The simple fact is that almost everything around us can be used for art if we are ingenious enough to figure out a use for it. Most things we completely overlook. The world around us is so commonplace that we tend to miss the most obvious of things.

I hear some artists complain that they have no good ideas for new art. They see a pile of wood only. They do not see the texture of the wood, the shape or the size. This goes for everything around us from old tires to abandoned refrigerators to scraps of rusted old metal laying on the side of the road. If you are truly an artist then training your mind to see past the mundane is crucial.

This is something that they cannot teach in art school. It is something that you can only teach yourself. In some ways you must go back to your childhood and how everything you saw around you held wonder and you wrote fantasies in your mind about everything around you. 

If you can just recapture a little of that imagination and learn to train your mind to do it with everything you see, then your on your way to not just being an artist but being a master of your craft. 

People don't buy art to see the same thing that everyone else makes. Well,,,I take that back. Some do. Thomas Kinkade is a perfect example. He stimbled on a formula for his art and then just basically made the same thing over and over and overrrrrr again and people ate it up and paid high prices for it. 

But for the true art connoisseurs they know the value of art is often in the value of its uniqueness to everything else. Repetition sells but its boring as hell. Individuality is a true a gift that art collectors understand. 

I think this is a rule of every creative form, whether its sculpture, music or books. We want variety and we want individuality. 

So for me, finding a photo of a stacked pile of old wood was as exciting as if someone had given me a pile of diamond. In fact probably more so because all I'd do with diamonds is sell them to buy more art supplies. 

The conclusion to the story of the wood pile is that it is now 4am in the morning and I intend to stay up until dawn and head straight for that cemetery and see what I can find. And no I wont steal any coffin wood. Only that which fell or was hewn from the live oaks that thrive there. 


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