Friday, June 17, 2011

An artist's words - long

I had originally thought to post some completed and in progress photos here, but as I started writing this I changed my mind. I will save that post for another time. Today I feel compelled by some unknown force to get some things out. I usually do not like to blab out feelings or thoughts publicly as I tend to think that makes me seem whiney or like I'm trying to grab attention, but it seems like one of those rare occasions when I'm being prompted to. Warning, there will be a lot of "I's" in this post. ;)

The thoughts of mine have a lot to do with the hobby's demands vs. the artistic liberty and expression. It also has something to do with the customers vs. the artists. It seems to me that our happy hobby world has turned into one of conflict in recent years. I'm noticing more and more trends of "ganging up" on pieces or people. Customers vs. artists seems quite appropriate. And I do mean that to swing both ways too - artists vs. customers. I think there has been a lot of unreasonabilty (yes I made up my own word) from both parties. Customers feel wronged by artists who take forever to get them pieces - whether it was known they'd have to wait or not, and artists feel bullied by customers who are being overly demanding, rude, and don't seem to care about paying for what they have purchased.

Frankly, I think we need a little more understanding and well CARING between both sides. Artists have to care enough for their customers to not make them wait for years on pieces purchased. I understand that painted pieces can take longer depending on the detail, but I will be the first to admit it is most definitely unreasonable to expect people to wait years for an unpainted resin. If you can fill the order, wait for more casts and then take more customers. I am changing my practices as I can to make sure I can comply with my own words. More on business plans down the post. Customers need to have a little more understanding, need to put themselves in the professional artist's shoes. So many times they are just plane rude and unreasonably demanding and when they aren't absolutely groveled to by the artist they go public and go bashing. Also, they will spend so much money on other things with time payments, but when the artist says it's time to pay the balance of a piece owed the customer, who has been nagging with e-mails to get it done, get it done, suddenly disappears. They don't seem to understand that artists pay their bills with those funds and it's not just "extra money".

These are just stereotypes that I've been noticing and of course does not apply to everyone. It's just something I'm coming across more and more though my own experiences as well as the experiences of many others I've talked to - on both sides of the fence. I do not believe either side to be right. Customers are not evil. They feel genuinely wronged, but I think have taken that to mean that they are going to bite back even harder than necessary to "teach someone a lesson." Instead, it just reinforces in the artists' minds that they are victims. On the other side, the artists have gotten used to making people wait and have grown comfortable with that, which isn't right either. We get scared to say "no" to an order as that means food on our table and money in our pockets to pay bills, but that just means that we create a backlog that becomes a mountain to climb over for us. As usual with an argument, Both sides need to meet in the middle. I'm going to make the effort on my end, and I hope others will start to do the same.

Which brings me on to my next topic of business plans. At least this one will have some pictures to go with it! :D What's a blog post without photos after all?  Getting through current orders is obviously the priority. However, new things always need to be happening in order to move forward. An artist needs their own time to creatively express themselves as they see fit otherwise the creativity leaves them and they become more or less machines. This leads to an unhappy artist, which I believe leads to a fall in work in regards to both time frame and quality. I have noticed lately, that I have not been expressing myself completely, most particularly in the sculpture realm. In that ever present worry to keep money coming in for bills, I've tended to try to please the customer base entirely - a hobby as a whole. I've now learned this is impossible for the hobby as a whole is fickle. While there are generalizations, these can change at a moment's notice. What makes one piece more special than the next? I will tell you right now it's not correctness. I've put my mind through a blender trying to decipher the mystery of "how to create popular pieces" and have finally realized something. One, I will never solve this puzzle. Two, I have worried so much about pleasing everyone else and conforming to their opinions - only to have that same piece bashed by the ones who's opinions I was ruled by, that I've lost my own creative expression.

My solution? Instead of creating the performance horse or the show horse, the ideal standard of a breed, I want to pick a piece that completely inspires me. I was surfing the Internet one night find mustang foal photos to use as reference for the foal that will complete the "family" of Llanura and Sencillo since I've been asked to do so. I was reaching the end of the image search when these gems popped onto my screen.

The breed is unknown, though I suspect Welsh pony. It didn't matter. I felt some creative voice yelling out to me at that moment to do only what I wanted and sculpt these two - without trying to make them the perfect ideal of a set breed, without trying to make them show groomed or performance ready. Sculpt them as is, "faults" and character and all. As of today, I'm almost 50% finished with her. Here's where the photos come in. :) Yes. I know. Finally. Some are with flash, some are without; as I could not get the desired image with either. Both reveal different perspectives.

My full on portrait of this momma mare. Her back is NOT too long, for those of you who can only see hobby portions, which rules that the back must be short in order to look good. She does have that dropped back and tummy, as all broodmares do.

Don't mind the strange gap in her tummy. After I bake her, I'll remove her from the armature and sculpt over the piece in the middle there, giving me a complete, uninterrupted body with no sign of armature.

And here we'll get a close up of her cute little pony legs! I'm just enamored over how the chest and it's wrinklies came out. I'd wanted more of the skin look rather than the hobby's preference towards deep sharp muscle grooves. The area behind the elbow isn't finished btw.

More wrinkles! It's amazing how many of these things those crestier (as well as the more fat variety) will get when turning inside. My cresty-necked Morgan gelding gets some that look very much like these.

Still several things to fix - the big ears being the most notable. And of course there's the fact that she has no other side yet. She also has no teeth. I'm waiting until I get both sides of the head complete before trying to put those in. No particular names for this gal coming to me yet, though I know I want to keep it simple.

Back to the business plan. In hopes of keeping up with orders, I will only be selling her painted. That's right. No unpainted orders will be taken, no pre-orders will be taken, and *maybe* only one or two commissions will be taken. Most of you know, but I am a one shop woman. I do the sculpting, the painting, the molding, the casting, the cleaning, the shipping - I do it *all*. And the amount of labor and time it takes me to cast and clean things is substantial. So, I decided that with this gal I was going to get rid of a lot of that time by doing a lot less casting/cleaning. Instead, I'd use that time to paint, which honestly is so much easier on my hands.

Will she be the first of many that will only be sold painted? I sure do hope so. But don't worry, I won't be ousting unpainted sales completely. Just limiting them more. And my goal with unpainted sales, when they do happen, will be to have pieces available in hand for sales. While the $50 deposit and balance due when ready to ship method has been working I still want to eliminate the wait completely. When it comes to resin sales, I want to get to the point of when you pay I ship. No wait. While I'd like to quit the deposit sales cold turkey, I need to get a little ahead so I can order supplies up front for molding and casting, which means more likely a gradual transition to these sales. It's coming soon though! I've actually been working towards this since the beginning of the year. It's a slow process, but I'm sticking firm to my goals. I think you as the customers will be appreciative of them and where I'll be going in the future.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I'm looking forward to your comments on business plans.

In the old days, it was a bit hard to find people you could ask question business and art timetable questions to, but now we do have those resources. People just need to ask and research. And they need to evaluate what they can realistically handle, especially if they have a day job. Many a new artist has fallen down to that backlog problem mentioned in your article.

On the customer side the person who commissions a model is typically heavily emotionally invested in the final product. Often it's the "dream horse" where "blah" resin is finished to not just "blah" color but a very specific color/markings that is in the customer's head and may be difficult for an artist to interpret.

Any breakdown in the communication of the customer and artist vision, expectations, and the actually nitty gritty of the business transaction itself can cause a lot of heartache. Having a sound business policy with customers on each project can prevent a lot of heartache because then it turns into a business transaction instead of an emotional "squee! You're doing my dream horse!

I'm wondering if a guide for customers on what to expect, and how to communicate their commissions would be useful for the hobby.