Thursday, August 13, 2015

What I'm really trying to say is...

Arborist Dreamtime
I started Arborist because I wanted to make something that people would trade me money for. I know enough about the art world to know that people like to spend money on pretty things that make them feel good - or at least feel something. Watercolor is really big in the industry right now, so I said "sure, I'll pick up a brush", since I'd already been drifting toward watercolor with FibroShark Hungry anyway.

The first Arborist piece I did was a Lyrical piece that quoted "Starship Trooper" by Yes. This was right after Chris Squire had died, & no doubt was part of my own little grieving process. Now that piece resides in the art collection of a very dear friend of mine, alongside a few other works I've given him over the years.

Yes lyrics inspired at least two more Lyrical Arborist paintings which, while pretty to look at, didn't really add anything to anything & couldn't be the basis for my quest to fucking sell some fucking art. Next was the Wee Arborist paintings that made a step for the evolution of my work, but did little more for me.

Finally I decided to combine this new series with the paper I had been making & experimenting with & everything clicked into place immediately. The first one I made sold within an hour. I was excited & surprised, but knew that I was on to something. One thing that I know from all my years in marketing is that having an audience for your work is essential, & that you have to chase the thing that your audience responds to.

So I did.
Arborist Gnosis

When it got to the point that this was really starting to feel like art, tho, I had to sit down & evaluate what it means. What is it that I am trying to say with this work? What part of the world is revealed by me making these paintings? Why does this exist and who is it for?

I started thinking about things like conservation & mass-consumption, but deep down at its roots (hehe), my work isn't about those sorts of concepts. My work is about pain. It's about loss. It's about trauma. I was reborn into this stage of my art career thru grief & suffering. To change direction in the middle because I wanted to make some money seemed a little like selling out.

Then it dawned on me: everyone can be redeemed. The medium of this work isn't "watercolor", it's watercolor on handmade paper. Paper that I made out of junk mail & detritus from my garden. That paper didn't start out as industrial waste* tho. It started as trees. Then was cut down, cut up, ground into pulp, bleached, ground up some more; processed & reprocessed until one day by chance it happened to land in my mail box. And then I cut it up & ground it up even more, but with an entirely different intent.

By adding a few more ingredients, applying a skill, & laying down some imagination, I gave what was once a tree the opportunity to be a fucking tree again. That feels like an accomplishment to me, but it also fits in with the rest of the work that I'm doing both at & away from the canvas. I know a lot of people who have been ground down & cut up by life. Most of them are doing the best they can with what they have, but I think a lot of them don't realize that they still have the chance to be beautiful.

Arborist Magnus
It's hard to know if you still have a spark of life when you're that far from what you thought you were meant to be. Pain, grief, trauma - life, sometimes - tears us apart & with enough of it in the right places, you can become something that you don't recognize. Like you used to be a beautiful pine tree, chillin out with all your pine tree buddies, and then thru no fault of your own you're trapped in a cycle of being torn up & thrown away. Unlike junk mail, however, our minds provide us the necessary bits of cleverness & creativity that can give us the chance to be trees again.

Maybe you don't need that now, but you might need it some day. So just remember: everyone, no matter how cut up & ground down, can be redeemed. That's the way of the universe.

*Because let's face it, mass-mailing campaigns are wasteful.

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