S’art mate


Marshmallow rabbit, by lamp light.

I have been working on little purple face today and it’s really good to get back to something I am just almost entirely content producing after spending so much energy on the paintings. All I wanna do is stitch.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about the paintings and how I have been feeling about putting brush to canvas. A couple of nights ago I was lying awake at 2am pondering the “what on earth am I doing?” question. Working digitally for so long has been incredibly easy for me… I can work with Photoshop quickly and repetitively – I know my own shortcuts and tricks. I can make things look pretty good. But another little thing is that I can hide away behind my print outs and comfortably wear the “illustrator” or “digital artist” label, both which I feel have always summed me up perfectly. I have never felt any need to compare myself with “real” fine artists who show their work in high-end galleries, have “careers” and agents and openings. I don’t feel threatened, perhaps because that’s not what I am trying to do. I know that friends who are “real” artists or friends of my parents who have “real” artist children, can look at my work as cute, quaint and illustrational. And that’s fine. Easy. No problem. I have been totally happy with that.

As soon as I decided to try something “off screen” and get back to the basics which I left behind in art school so long ago and even have a show or two, I have started to freak out. Suddenly I feel exposed again – as if I am trying too hard to be something I’m not. As soon as it’s about brushstrokes I feel as if I am going to be compared, poo-pooed as amateurish and ultimately it will ruin my some-kind-of reputation (hello inner-critic). Some of this may be true. Some of it may be not. But I am finding it really hard to try something new and scary, and down-right difficult – something I can’t just whiz up and print off.

I was flicking through the Good Weekend this morning and came across one of the little filler pieces in the front Weekender section called “fyi – a beginner’s guide to the modern world” – and today’s topic was “Lowbrow” – as in Pop Surrealism – as in Mark Ryden, Tim Biskup and Juxtapoz Magazine et al. The column is a little piece that outlines the ideas that Lowbrow art is “representational not conceptual, mercantile not political”, rarely if at all embraced by the contemporary fine art world for this reason, and that it is “more suited to a teenager’s bedroom wall than a gallery, that it might be competent design or illustration, but not good art”.

Then the column goes on to explain the term “Unibrow” which was new to me (in this context. far too familiar in another! and p.2, p.3, p.4). Here we are told that this is the term that the Lowbrow artists themselves use for the extension of the movement which has become about Tiki Art, big-eye cute and, as Robert Williams is quoted saying, “just a bunch of illustrators looking for a new place for their stuff because they lost their job to computers.” Ouch! So while I have been minutely comforted by the idea that perhaps my cute bunnies might somehow fit into this Lowbrow art movement, today I am left feeling even more challenged… which is perhaps a good thing. Challenge = good, right? But I am left asking a) why I even care b) why I feel the need to be validated and c) why I even care??

But hey, I do like stitching bunnies.

Some other resources and stuff about this:
Interesting (and somewhat comforting) interview with Tim Biskup from mid last year.
Mark Ryden’s Artist’s Statement from Wondertool.
about.com’s Art History 101 : The Lowbrow Movement

** Update – I had to republish this entry but unfortunately I had lost all the comments. Thank you if you previously left a comment.**