I think I’ve just stumbled onto a brand new direction for my useable art. This feels like it could be kind of huge, and possibly fairly exciting. See, a few months ago, I was contacted through my Etsy shop (I do love me some Etsy) by the nicest lady, who loved what she saw on my site, but was looking for something a little different. Unique. Personal. I accepted the challenge.
You should have seen the lengthy emails flying back and forth between us, as we explored what kinds of elements she wanted on her chair–which evolved over time from initially including aspects of her career to being a direct reflection of her personal interests and loves–and how I could link all of those together into a cohesive whole. That was the real challenge for me, and made me realize a few things about myself.
I’m an actor, a singer, a writer, and an artist, and I found that all of these things need to come together for me in my art in order to truly express my vision. Ergo, I must tell a story, or set a scene. I may have one or two pieces I’ve painted over the years that don’t have one, but the vast majority have a whole backstory that doesn’t exist anywhere but in my head, yet provides the guiding context, the parameters within which my art functions. Which all sounds very brainy and thought out, but really isn’t. It’s just how I’m happiest working, and coincidentally where I feel I do my best work.
So back to this particular chair: my client had a bazillion ideas about what she’d like to see in her chair (she’d been looking for one for years, by the way), and that spawned a bazillion questions from me, narrowing down, coaxing out details (for instance, she’s a coffee drinker, and I then had to ask how she took it, as that would dictate the color of what’s in the cup), and stretching my brain to come up with the context in which as many of those details as possible would make sense. Everyone in her family is an avid Iowa State Cyclone fan….her daughter loves powdered donuts….she loves to read…she has a little black mini schnauzer…how was I going to make this all work?
It felt like a lightening stroke when it finally came together: her family has been sitting on the lawn at their beloved Iowa State University, watching their dog chase the famous swans (I am now highly knowledgeable about those swans and their provenance; go ahead, quiz me), with the equally famous campanile in the background. There on the grass is the blanket they were sitting on–in the school colors of cardinal and gold, of course–with two books left behind, a couple of nibbled-on donuts, and the necessary cup of coffee. The large tree on the left support has a heart carved in it, containing the names of my client and her husband, with each child’s name added below as they were born (I’m excluding a picture of this for privacy reasons). Nestled in the tangle of greenery at the foot of the tree is a little red cardinal–look closely, that’s Cy, the Iowa State mascot, and I like to think he looks like a bird you don’t wanna mess with. On the back of the chair, the daytime sky darkens into night, and the moon and stars make an appearance over the entrance of the Jack Trice Stadium, which is all lit up for the big game.
The end result is one of which I am pretty darn proud, and is a one-of-a-kind, intensely personal reflection of my client’s life. Every detail has meaning. It’s her story.
See what I mean? Game changer here. I want to paint more like this. What’s your story?