Thursday, June 5, 2008


I find it terribly ironic that I've intended to write this post, about distractions, for several weeks now. And, well, I've been distracted!

It's incredibly interesting to me the more time I spend with working artists the level of commitment they put into their craft. Twelve and Fourteen hour days spent in the studio, 6 or 7 days a week. It's this singular, directed focus that makes them successful, that elevates their work beyond that of their peers. The reason I find it interesting is that it is in direct conflict with what I perceive to be the nature of the artistic mind. Most artists I know are also craftsmen (or women), musicians, or writers. They have a multitude of "non-professional" creative skills. I for one have found myself pulled away from the studio to build furniture, craft leatherwork masks, "weave" a chain-maille shirt, play drums in a band, or a whole slew of other creative pursuits that will never further my illustration career but somehow aid in keeping me sane, and hopefully allow me time to come back to my "real work" with a fresh set of eyes. Having a kid only adds to the opportunities for distraction, as my latest little project proves. 

Around my son's last birthday, my wife and I decided we needed to get a toybox for my son's growing collection of wheeled doo-dads and plastic thingamajigs. My brother in law, being a reasonably skilled carpenter, decided he would give a gift certificate for toy box construction as his gift. Little did he know what he was stepping into. After several sketches and designs, someone (I think my wife) suggested we build a toybox to look like a school bus, given my son's fascination with the bus parking lot barely visible from our back yard. We were off to work, sketching, prototyping, cutting, routing, painting, and improvising at every turn. Luckily, after far too many work sessions, everyone was somewhat pleased with the final outcome (as with any "custom" project, there's lots of little personal touches, from the father/son portrait, to the license plate to the id number on the bus-- lots of fun to play with):



Adam Paquette said...

what a great finished product! your son looks truly happy :D

as to the topic of distraction - i think you can reframe the debate to look at it in an alternative way.

I would agree that most of the best production artists I know work a hundred hour week. However, the 'quality' of their art is based on their production speed, and the quality they can achieve within that time. How about their broader contribution to the community - and to the world?

Do those people teach others? Do they inspire others through conversation and dialogue? Are they working progressively towards a new concept of what art and design are, relative to our modern context?

I find myself in a place similar to you - looking up to the artists who are at the pinnacle of the industry, and afraid that to reach that level means i will have to sacrifice all of my other genuine forms of expression (abandoning TV was easy, abandoning my writing is a lot harder!)

However, I have found that my greatest inspirations have always been artists who display a degree of multivalency. And there are great artists out there now who do a great many things well. Think of black frog - writing/painting/sculpting/art directing etc. Think of James Gurney - writing and illustrating his own books. Many great artists also have music on their website too. I know Kan Muftic - AD at NCSOFT uk has some great ambient electronica that he has uploaded. So has Nivbed.

I think the key is to reframe your conceptualisation of the artist model, and allow that to include all forms of expression. Eliminate extraneous distractions, but if an activity is invigorating you creatively, then it is part of your art, not apart from it. Dont be afraid to be a versatile human being - and engage fully with the world. There are too many pod-people trapped behind their monitors as it is. Take your art out into the world, inspire others, travel, and stay connected to 'everything'. Stay well!

Adam Paquette said...

i had another thought on this today,
i have noticed that I am very uptight about my art since it is my main skill, love and career. But because of this, I can be a lot freer with my 'secondary' stuff. Im not such a perfectionist about it, i can be free and experimental. I think thats valuable too.

Distressed Fish said...

Not to intrude or anything, but my name is Ben Foster too.

Brendan Keough said...

Ben, the bus looks awesome!

also: your son is growing up very quickly, the last time I saw him, he was wearing more of his b-day cake than he was eating. :)

David Kassan said...

Cool, I want one for Lucas. Great work, Your paintings are improving by leaps lately.