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Posts Tagged ‘altered art’

I just wanted to post a little note I wrote about my thoughts after the Start the Holidays show in late 2017. I’d shared to a group I’m in but realized I’d never put it up here.

As a not-wildly-successful artist/crafts-person, it’s often hard to feel like the things we create matter to others, but sometimes they do, and they matter more than you can ever predict. I do most of my selling in person, at shows and in the shop, so I do get to see the positive reactions by people coming back, bringing their friends over to see my booth or sharing what the stuffie they took home has been doing since it left. That is great, and always brightens my day, but this past weekend I had a couple of interactions that really made an impact on my and stuck with me so I wanted to share them.

It’s was at my last craft show of the year. It’s a little local one that’s pretty much the only “straight” (non-geeky) one I do. It’s 10 mins from home, in a lovely venue and has a great crowd and reasonable hours so it’s always very relaxed and pleasant to do.

The first was a woman I saw on Saturday. She came over to thank me for helping her son. Now, you have to understand that the stuff I make is strange, which I why I generally don’t do the “straight” shows. I’ve had people be freaked out and quite offended by my altered stuffed toys. (not that they are gory, gross or icky, just the fact that they are on the creepy-cute spectrum is too much for some to handle) My jewellery is all salvage, usually with some usual materials and I’ve always got a few more oddities floating around at my table. Anyway, a couple of years ago, when he was 11, they came by at this show. He is a kid who loves to make things and while his parents are supportive, he was running into trouble with his peers and some other adults since his stuff was also “different”. His mother had pointed my table out and he and I talked a bit about doing stuff that isn’t standardly pretty and how some people are going to react to it and how not to let that limit you. (I honestly don’t remember the details since not dwelling on these sorts of interactions is part of how I deal with my own show anxiety. I work on being open and honest in the moment but then let it go so I don’t end up rehashing things over and over again) She wanted me to know how much I had helped him accept his own work, that he was doing much better and how much she appreciated what my example had shown him. I’m….still working through my feeling about all this, but it was deeply moving to hear.

The second emotional hit of the weekend was a person who had bought a couple of my monsters at a show in the spring and SO excited to see me again. They told me how much they loved their monsters and that I was one of their favourite artists. It was clear that what they meant was how much they appreciated, and needed, having found soft, cuddly comfort objects that felt like them. The mutants may look different, and a bit scary, but they are just right the way they are and lovable. The very first mutant stuffie (a pair of conjoined bears) I ever sold to was to an older gentleman. (and by that I mean well over 65) I had asked if it was going to be a gift and he told me “No, it was for him”. I was surprised, but learned very quickly that I could never predict who would respond to the altered stuffies and how many wanted their own strange monster friends because so many of us feel like we are monsters on the inside. A few years ago, I’d had another customer tell me that I was doing a public service by making things that allow adults to buy themselves comfort objects and it was SO clearly true in this case that it hit me right in the feels.

IMG_8503

small demon bear, 2016

It’s been a difficult year and I’m (still) trying to decide if I want to keep trying to make stuff to sell stuff or just taper it off and this made a whole chunk of the struggle feel like it does have some value, even if it’s hard to see in the moment.

Tldr: I had a couple of people show me this weekend that my weird little creations are doing good out in the world, thus restoring some of my sense of artistic purpose.

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IMG_6723Working with the stuffies, I’m always on the hunt for quality pieces in good condition. At times, I come across known characters that qualify. The problem with using them is they are often a bit too identifiable for just parts. Because of this, I’ll often just leave them behind, but it’d hard to resist when I come across a great one in pristine condition. When I got my hands on a group of vintage trophy supplies, I was able to try an idea I’d had for a while. I don’t agree with hunting for sport, so real trophies are a bit icky, but I did like the macabre humour of doing it with stuffed animal heads. Making them was fairly simple, I just took off the head, sewed the neck closed, to give it a more finished look, and altered the back slightly so it would sit properly against the plaque. Some even got engraved plates, if there was room. I’ve got a few others made so far, but Ernie is my favourite. As a child, I sympathized much more with Bert and had a few snickers at the thought of him finally snapping and Ernie ending up as TaxidErnie!

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tentafterThis is the last of this group of altered paintings and was the one that I felt a bit bad about using. It is the strongest of the group and I think it might have been a students piece or study. I even did some googling of the signature, just in case they had gone on to become a known name, but nothing came up. At any rate, it had come into my hands and was fair game for being “improved”. My first thought had been to alter the people but decided the better option was to explain their situation a bit more. (and putting clothes on him would have made it far less funny) Now they have something to look at and the painting has much more of a narrative going on. It was also the hardest to match the brushwork style of, but I think I got very close. The reflections were especially challenging, but worked out. The colour mixing and paint texture also matched so well that the fact it was altered is surprising most of the people who’ve only seen it in this state. It’s acrylic on canvas, and nicely stretched, so I opted not to frame it but to simply go with the black wrap around the outside. Keeping it down to only it’s modest original size should make it easier for someone to find a spot for this bit of slightly creepy fun. (and that person might be me since I really do love how it turned out) tentbefore

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IMG_6878So we got full confirmation that I’ll be part of the Artists Alley at Fan Expo in Toronto this Labour Day weekend! I haven’t been back since 2012 but had a great time at Comic Con this March. (Fan Expo is much bigger and busier, so I have to expect that it will be quite a bit more tiring) I will be sticking to pretty much only the stuffies since space is so limited. While most will be my usual range of plush curiosities, I’m also indulging myself with making some fanart bears. I’ve been loving the Marvel movie Avengers and couldn’t resist making a few Winter Soldier versions of Bucky Barnes. (there is a whole thing in the fandom about Bucky Bear) The few I brought with me all got snatched up at Comic Con, so I’ve been working on a some more for Fan Expo. (and putting a few of them up in the Etsy shop as well) This is one that I just finished and I especially love his face. The base bear was a limited edition one, so it isn’t surprising that he’s so nice, but the outfit and arm prosthetic turned out really well too. I’ve got a few more one-off pieces that are underway too (I want to have at least one in honour of Agent Carter star Haley Atwell, who is one of the guests) and have been hunting some bits and pieces for them. When you find yourself saying things like, ”Look! I just found the cutest mini sub-machine gun!” you start to wonder if you’re heading down the right path in life…

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This is probably the simplest of the altered paintings. Finding pieces to work with isn’t actually as easy as it may seem. Part of the hunt is choosing ones that are just bad enough. Georgian bay "after" I don’t want to be painting over works that have any real artistic merit but also am not interested in the truly terrible things that are so often what’s available at the price they need to be. I also only want to work with actual oil or acrylic paintings. With those, it’s possible to properly blend in the overpainting but with prints, it just sits on top and while you may be able to get a decent photo of the finished piece, they tend to look awful in person. On top of all that, it also has to have room for the changes. I like ones that have a sense of incompleteness about them. This was one that worked really well, from my perspective. While it is clearly Georgian bay, and not completely bad, (even with it’s abundance of “happy” trees) the large, empty expanse of water in the foreground came across as boring and unfinished so it made a great canvas for the addition of a “Nessie” style beastie. Georgian bay "before" Painting in the white water ripples around it took almost as much time as the beast, but I think they help tie it into the original artwork and look less like an add-on. (the down side of that is people thinking I did the whole thing, which has happened a couple of times. I think big “altered painting” signs are the way I’ll have to go)

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sgaftThis was another of the altered paintings. Once again, not a piece that had much in the way of artistic value to start with so it was a great candidate. At first, I couldn’t understand what was going on with the circular stone gate, but someone explained that they apparently are quite common in Bermuda. No matter why it was there, it had an extremely obvious solution! While I thought converting it to an active Stargate would be fairly simple, it turned out to be the most complicated of all the painting alterations I’ve done so far. There was just so much detail to it and I was trying to keep within the style of the original painting as well. (and the existing stone gate not actually being round didn’t make it any easier) It was necessary to use a dark enough grey to cover up the base picture, but that came out darker than anything else in in the original painting. As is, it stands out a bit more than I would have liked. Even with the various complications, it was still fun to do and at least I’m pretty happy with with how the event horizon came out.sgb4

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flying saucers

flying saucers

I’m not sure that it was the best idea for me to have shown my mother the altered art painting I did. It gave her some motivation to find me even more terrible paintings for use as canvases. This was one of her “finds”. Even with oil painting not being a medium I’m all that familiar with, I’m pretty happy with how well the additions match the colour and “style” of the base picture. (Not that it set a very high bar in terms of required painting skill) While it didn’t impress me much as art, it is in excellent condition and well stretched around a good quality stretcher. I also liked that it has the “gallery” wrapped edges. (the painting wraps around the edges of the stretcher so no frame is needed) The only hard part is how big it is. It’s 2′ by 3′ so someone is going to want/need to fill a large space with something funny for it to find a home. If it’s still around, I’ll probably put it in the booth at some of the summer shows! I’ve got a few more not-great-painting fixes underway, so might have several on offer.

oil painting

oil painting

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