Tuesday, February 13, 2018

It Started With A Conversation On Etsy

The original Abstract Birdhouse

A week ago today, February 6, 2018, I did the daily check of my Etsy store and noticed that someone had sent a conversation. The person said they had found my store and loved one of the wild, abstract birdhouses I had done. Only, could I make it larger? 
   A few year back I had seen some modern art and was fascinated by the design and wondered, could you do the same thing on a three-dimensional birdhouse. I picked three small ones, no taller than 5" and tried different shapes, feet and coloring and while wild, I like them. I have sold several of them so it was worth a try.
   I was surprised at the request but said sure. I looked at my overwhelming cache and took photos of four birdhouses bigger than the small original she had seen and liked. One had been started and painted red as a base coat, the others were bare wood. Of course, she picked the red one, it had two heart shaped openings, the original only had one, and so I started. She didn't comment much only hoping that there would be less red but the final design could be mine.
   Since she had liked the original I decided that I would create a larger version taking many of the same elements but also adding a few new ones. However, in that process I discovered that it is not easy to recreate something from the past, something I had to do last year that left me perplexed. I did it once, why not again?
    Not, I discovered later, everyone

    loves red!
 The first thing I did was paint the red ... white. Most white acrylic paints are not great at covering colors beneath them but DecoArts Traditions paints are heavily pigmented and just one coat of their white did a fair job of doing just that! I wasn't too worried about a little red showing through because by the time I was done, it would be covered by designs, other colors, aging and the like. Sometimes a darker base covered over hides many flaws and adds a kind of depth you won't get over raw wood or white on bare wood. 
See how well the white covered? 

Here you can see colors being 
   The next step was to pencil in the design over the now dry white body and add design to the roof.
   At first I tried to recreate the original design but I quickly found that it was so much bigger that it would almost be a cartoon of the original so I scaled down elements and added new ones. I felt that as long as I was true to the intent of the original it could only give me room for more complexity without sacrificing the original. It was fun, but as I said, in first recreating the design and then painting it, I often found myself wondering how I did it the first time. The answer, was that there were many layers and even more washes ... water, brushes and lots of finger rubs to get the deep saturated colors of the original.
   The problem I quickly discovered is that in your eagerness to go on, you forget that even here in the desert, paint still has to dry. After my hands looking like a Jackson Pollack painting, I decided that I would create yet another abstract birdhouse on one of the wooden birdhouses that had
  The birdhouse design is taking shape.
  I painted more color and added 
  outlines that would add detail and 
  complex texture.
not been chosen. It is a square, squat thing but it too has a big roof and as I played with the design of that borrowing from the one I was doing and trying out other ideas, it allowed me to almost do two at once. While was was drying, I could paint the other!
   By February 11th I was pretty much done and I sent photos of the front and back of the new birdhouse. Because the wood used in these birdhouses is so soft and easy to get dirty I asked what kind of varnish she wanted ... matte, satin or glossy? 
Done with burgundy base
   After hesitation, she asked if I could change the colors ... lighten them in some way. Maybe take the burgundy of the base and paint it another color, say blue. Then she admitted she didn't really care much for red and I understood exactly what she meant. 
  My uncle hated red because his mother loved it. I can still remember her bright red lipstick and fire engine red fingernails. As a kid she sort of looked like a vampire! When I was married I usually swathed myself in very neutral colors but now on my own have a red dining room, the brightest red SUV you can buy, red accents in the kitchen, even a red entry wall with a beautiful Chinese scroll with red peonies hanging down in front of it. Very dramatic. But, as I discovered, red is not for everyone. My friends here just roll their eyes.
The finished "conversation."
   Loathe to add yet another color, I suggested cobalt blue; she suggested turquoise or maybe a Robin's egg blue. Since I had used that lighter color in small portions as accents, we settled on the light blue.
   Back to the studio with the light blue. Since I was going to "age" it anyway, I allowed a bit of the burgundy beneath to show through. It definitely gave the birdhouse a very different look. So that it didn't look out of place, I went back and added touches of that color on all sides and the roof. Once it was aged, and aging helps tremendously tie a project together, you would never know it had been another color. Actually, the photo doesn't do it justice. When you see it, the blue pops out in small doses that does tie it all back together.
   As an artist, you have a vision. Often it is not the same vision of a viewer or customer. However, as I said many times, just because you don't like something, and we ALL have our opinions and tastes, it doesn't make it invalid. Just like some of the ugliest cars on the road. When you see someone driving one, you pause, oftentimes stare and wonder how on earth they could they buy that. The Pontiac Aztec and even the newest Prius have not been given wonderful design accolades. They were both design stretches and sometimes you win but often you loose. Remember the Edsel?
   Art is something that represents a vision. Here, I took a blah birdhouse and seeing something two-dimensional wondered what it would look like in three dimensions. Some like it, others don't. That is the risk artists all have to take. Change or die.
   I am forever thankful for this commission ... because finally it restarted the passion I had for art. I also feel that we have to listen to what others say. It may not be your vision, but as I have discovered, a heartfelt comment can ignite the artist in us in ways we can't predict.
   Another friend suggested a new twist on a standard birdhouse that I am going to try next. You just never know!
The new version left, the original inspiration, right!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ... KrugsStudio.etsy.com. I will be adding many new and exciting products. Many of the items talked about here will be for sale there!

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