Protect Me From What I Want
I’ve been thinking lately about how much my art has benefitted from me NOT getting what I want.
Often I’ll start with an idea that I want to go a certain way, but then I’ll be unable to source the supplies (or whatever else it may be) for the idea to materialize in the way I had planned. That’s when the creative problem-solving engine kicks in and tangents happen. Following an artist’s train of thought can be like, to quote from one of my favourite Veda Hille songs, “a story told by a kid” – not at all linear.
It’s this seemingly illogical journey that fascinates me.
Even though I’ve been through the process countless times, the progression of a piece from where it starts out to what it finally becomes is pure magic.
I like to imagine that stuck inside a creative’s brain is every experience they’ve had to date, captured and collated in a way that is particular to them alone. The association of these details is random and plural. A certain artwork’s journey is at the whim of what the artist may have been eaten for breakfast, read on the news, or overheard on the subway last week. A piece that I finish today will end up differently than if I had finished it two months ago or waited to finish it until next year.
This is one of the reasons I like to work in series and with multiples. Even though I start from essentially the same place the pieces are vastly different due to free association and whatever outside influences have collided with what’s at the top of my mind.
Here are a few examples of external data drilling its way into one of my pieces:
The Tattooed Lady from my circus sideshow inspired One of Us series was initially inspired by La bella Angora, renowned tattooed lady circa 1917. The tats I drew for my piece directly referenced La bella’s.
My research however, only revealed photos and illustrations that showed the front of her body (minus the torso) and her upper back.
So, inspired by the nationalistic tats on La bella’s upper back I swapped out some topical political imagery (this piece was created between late 2016 and early 2017). Timely political illustrations also make appearances on the back of the Tattooed Lady’s arms and legs.
A precursor to the #metoo movement (and fueled by Trump’s pussy-grab media fiasco), the rose illustration placed between The Tattooed Lady’s legs is flanked by Latin text, “Corpus Meum/Electus Meus” – My Body, My Choice.
The Tattooed Lady’s hair-do was inspired by the passing of a cultural icon: Carrie Fisher died late 2016 and in between Pussy Hat protests it seemed fitting that I pay tribute to her seminal role of Princess Leia – leader of the galactic Resistance. (Fun fact, Leia’s ear-bun hairstyle may have been based on the do’s worn by soldaderas, women who played key roles in the Mexican Revolution and Spanish Civil War at the turn of the century).
The skill of mashing together strange-bedfellow-ideas comes with practice – lots and lots of practice. Sometimes you’re lucky and the first combination works. Sometimes you’re even luckier and it doesn’t, which means you get to follow another, deeper tangent that will likely lead to a richer, more satisfying result.
I’m currently working on a piece that is benefitting from me not being able to complete it the way I want. Without giving away too many details (check out my Instagram feed if you’re interested in some sneak-peeks!) not being able to source my first thought idea forced me to come at my creative problem from the side as opposed to head on. Consequently, the piece is already infinitely more interesting than it would have been otherwise.
I can’t imagine what the scope of my work would be like if I hadn’t had to make do, substitute, or completely overhaul at almost every step of my process. I suspect that I probably wouldn’t like the results much.
Not being able to get what you want (or think you want) can be such a gift; dissatisfaction IS a great motivator 😉
How have you been motivated by not getting what you wanted?