Many of the details that lead to good things in a career are almost overlooked during the course of development as well as reaching proficiency. One of the most important factors and most overlooked is the relationship an artist forms with their materials. I have always been fascinated with materials. I like discovering them, feeling them, smelling them and ultimately mastering them once my affinity with them has been experienced and determined. For me glass resonated and what I mastered.
The studio was always my place of complete control. The furniture I included, the tables I used, the lights I decided to use even down to the audio system that I loved. All of these things made for an environment that maximized my focus and familiarity with this place that I create in. I realized that everything in my studio mattered. It all had an effect on me every time I worked or even thought about working.
An example of a simple material is the humble pencil. Most novice artists would overlook the amazing variations the pencil offers an artist. I know of many artists who will only work in pencil. But what they can do with it will blow your mind. [check this out] But in the traditional use, pencils come in varied softness and hardness and each manufacturer has slight differences with even those. The feel of the wood or metal matters and the way the tip is sharpened or not sharpened. The pressure we apply when we use them. The touch we have developed. Then we discover that the receptor of the pencil opens up a whole other world of investigation. Do I use paper in its thousands of variations, do I use a prepared surface, wood, stone, or what else can we dream up?
All artists have a gut reaction to any material they come in contact with and for that matter see in other artist’s work. Each of us, like in our decisions in choosing the food we like, have a visceral response to the materials we choose to use or not use. This response mechanism should always be paid attention to. As artists we want to have an intimate relationship with our materials both now and as new ones come into view. We want to feel like we have complete control of our materials as we set out to create new work. Lately I have been receiving emails from artists making me aware of things they have discovered both in the studio and in their work. Because I am a materials nut I am going to share these along the way to give you a resource on anything of interest or even traditional mediums that cross my way.
As a starting point, one of the most important resources I stumbled across years ago were 2 books on materials. One is Michael McCann, Health Hazards Manual for Artists, and the second is Monona Rossol, The Artist’s Complete Health and Safety Guide. They discuss health hazards and ways of safely using whatever it is you use. I have had friends over the years that practically bathed in the things they used and years later paid a dear price. So knowledge is good in this arena and I strongly encourage everyone to get a copy of either book. Both are excellent and lifesaving. I have put the links to the 2 suggested books and pass along the info to your friends as all artists really need to have these in their resource library.Also feel free to suggest any topics you would like to be addressed and I will make them a topic of discussion. The next article will delve into the search for materials that seamlessly connect with your personality and core exploration.