Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Printing and Pondering....

Printing, printing, printing. And pondering.
A busy 3-day Fest weekend fast approacheth, and it's Wednesday already and I still don't know where to start.

My dear old Epson is inked and printing, so I am accomplishing something. But as I do so I'm far away in my head, thinking hard, and typing my thoughts in a blog post that I'll probably not publish as I can already sense it'll be too dang angsty....

But BOY. Does it ever help to write....

Each year I find myself trying something new and different, artwise, and sharing my fresh creations at my shop at the MN Renaissance Festival, which is the only art show that I do now. In some cases, my work is 'fresh' simply because my style has changed out of necessity; as I age I've begun dealing with issues like arthritis and poor eyesight and an unsteady hand.

But over the years I've also learned that I'm completely disinterested in revisiting subjects that I concentrated on earlier in my career -- photo-realistic pen-and-ink or pencil drawings that almost always generated oohs and aahs but rarely generated sales. Mostly I'd just hear comments like, "My little girl can draw like that! You should see the amazing portrait of *insert-name-of-current-popstar/celebrity-here* that she created -- it looks just like a photograph!" (Gah....)

As is expected (I imagine) of someone who never went to Art School, I went through a few phases. There was the wildlife phase, and the series of nudes, and the 'punny' stuff, and the art I was hoping seemed 'edgy' but really wasn't. I was still learning through personal experience and getting my forms down with the intention of eventually creating work that relied more on imagination and less on photographic reference material. I was making internal changes, too, of course. Discovering myself. Each fresh wave of work attracted its own set of critics and connoisseurs, but I never felt as though I'd really found my niche....

Then I was given a grandchild. And everything I drew after that moment became more imaginative and whimsical. Suddenly there was color! And an element of nostalgia. And in my head, my Target Customer became someone like myself, someone with childhood still in her blood.

THIS is where I want to concentrate the time that is left to me. I want to spend the rest of my art days drawing sweet and happy creations that make people smile and remember that there's more to life than working one's ass off chasing a buck. I want them to remember what it was like to watch clouds and whisper to butterflies, and to see the world with eyes as big as saucers.

I feel as though my art has taken THE right road now, finally. But I can't help but think that where Fest is concerned it's too late....

This is my 30th Fest season. During all my years there I've seen many artists come and go, folks that I tend to refer to as 'flat artists', who create 2D originals and prints that have to be framed and are therefore flat. Very few of us diehards still remain. I keep thinking that THIS is the year I'll get noticed, isn't that funny?, because if it hasn't happened yet it never will....

I've made many friends -- both castwise and patronwise -- over the years, and most of my time at Fest is spent reconnecting with them. Two customers spoke this year of how visiting me is 'like a show,' worth the price of admission. A castmember said that visits with me are a highlight of his Fest experience, and his wife adds that if she had to choose between me and my art, she'd choose time spent with me....

What does that say, exactly?

Some stuff I've known forever. Like the fact that I'll never be a 'famous' Fest face. Even after 30 years of drama and crazy in the same location in the same Fest neighborhood, only a handful of folks there even know who I am. And out of costume, less than half of those would ever recognize me. That will never ever change.

But what I thought of as my slowly-increasing circle of clientele isn't a customer base at all. It's a group of strangers-turned-friends to whom I stepped out of my comfort zone at one time and introduced myself. And, in turn, they liked me. And they purchased a piece of my work BECAUSE they liked me. And not necessarily because they saw my art, fell in love with it, and wanted yet another thing to frame and find space for on a wall somewhere.... So apparently I'm not selling art so much as I'm just meeting people and making friends.

That means it's not about my work at all.


This season especially, I'm fast-forwarding to the near future when the MN Renaissance Festival will be moving to a new site. The reason for the move is not my story, and you can find more info if you really wanted to. (Here's an article, for instance. And here's one, too....) But when I think about the expense of moving my shop or rebuilding, I get the heebie-jeebies. I won't live long enough to recover that expense, for one thing. And I'm at an age now where lugging marine-grade plywood and building a shelter to code isn't something I want to waste a minute -- let alone a summer -- doing. (And no, I can't afford to hire someone to do it for me.)

And seriously? If my art isn't Mayfaire's 'draw,' what's even the point? Why not just throw on a costume, scrounge a pass, and spend future seasons giving away free hugs? I won't make any money, but I won't lose any either.

And THERE'S a refreshing thought.

No more would I be paying a fortune every dang season just to see my friends. No more printing costs or building maintenance costs or lease fees or anything. And the funny part? Nothing would change. AT ALL. Folks would still find me for a hug. And they'd still not buy my work....

It seems like a win/win. And reaching that conclusion today makes my gut breathe a big sigh of relief. I think I've nailed it. I'm on to something! Granted, this has stared me in the face for decades now and I could've saved myself all sorts of time and money if I'd just made eye contact with it already. (I'm nothing if not unobservant and clueless....)


I think this is IT, really. I kind of do.

And until 2017 -- which I'm understanding will be Fest's first season in its new location -- I'll keep paying big bucks to continue on right where I am, doing just what I do. And encouraging anyone who's always meant to purchase from me and hasn't yet to take the opportunity to do so NOW.

Because if I'm interpreting the signs correctly, that opportunity is packing its bags.

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