Thursday, April 25, 2013

Always make two ...

In the last few weeks I've had a few conversations (with other artists) about how we work or (more accurately) what works for each of us. One of the turning points in my creative process was the concept of "always make two". I wish I could say I'd come to this process through logic, but it actually started as a cost-saving measure.

At the time (several years ago) I was involved in a lot of collaborative and round robin altered book projects. I felt I needed to remember what I'd done in each book, and also (rather feebly) I *really* don't like letting my art go. It's not that I'm not generous (I like to think I am) but I grow quite attached to the finished object, and merely holding it takes me back through all the positive emotions I had while creating it. I don't think liking to hang onto my stuff makes me crazy. I'm just saying.

In the beginning I would photocopy what I'd done in other people's altered books before I sent them on their way. Given the volume of stuff I was doing at the time, this was getting to be quite expensive, not to mention that I'd have to drag the books to wherever to have them copied, fiddle with getting copiers to handle thick books with pages that were never ever exactly 8.5x11. One day it occurred to me that  I could easily make two pages in two books at the same time while I had all the materials spread out on the work table.

And it *really* paid off when I created pages with interactive bits to them (cards in pockets, flaps to lift, etc).

The more I did it, the more creating two of everything at the same time paid off. Eventually I figured out why this was so satisfying and beneficial for me ...

Firstly (as mentioned above) it cures the separation anxiety I feel when my art is sent off to someone else.

Secondly, it allows me to experiment more freely in the middle of a project without worrying that I'll have to go back to step one if it all suddenly goes pear-shaped (i.e.: what the heck was I thinking?!). Since I work in a printshop, I'm quite accustomed to making things in multiples and will often make three or four of something even if only one is required ~ just so I'll have a backup, and be able to mess about with a few different directions in the middle of creating. It's probably important to mention here that I tend to work small and with modest materials, so the cost of doing four of something is not going to break the bank.

Thirdly, keeping one of everything I make is like having a bank of prototypes for future projects. I can easily refer back to a previous object to see how I attached this to that, or how that paint looked on that surface, etc. It's like my own handmade reference manual of how I've been successful (and also when things have failed ~ which is almost as useful sometimes!).

Lastly (and not insignificantly) it's been a great help in those times when I feel like I haven't got a creative bone in my body ... faced with a project deadline or an unfamiliar material, a glance at my shelves says in the most positive way possible: "you've done it before, you can do it again."

So that's how it happened ... the two of everything habit, and I really *DO* make two of everything ... I leave you with the following ... two versions of a postcard I made for Ed Varney's Mayworks Postcard Exhibit. As you can see each card has slight variations, and when it came time to send one away, I didn't know which to keep ... I liked the shape on the head on one card better, but the shape of the hands on the other. In the end I closed my eyes, shuffled them for a minute and chose at random. Do I love the one I kept? Of course I do.

1 comment:

Norma Conway said...

Penelope I cannot say how these [ a glance at my shelves says in the most positive way possible: "you've done it before, you can do it again."] cut and paste words spoke to me. That is so simple a way of how I feel OFTEN. I don't always jump to the words, but go through some angst first, but when I do get to the sentiment of the words, it usually gets me unstuck enough to pick up a paint brush, and try making some kind of mark at least. Norma, x
p.s. serendipity has it that one of the words I have to type to prove I am not a robot is the word 'accomplish'