The other evening I picked a small bouquet of flowers and put it in my favorite vase.
When I brought it into the bedroom and set it on my bedside table, a comforting scene greeted me. She became one of four pieces clustered together, and the grouping reminded me of one of the true joys of creating art. I can create a little, private world - a world the way I'd like the world to be - a world I'd so love to live in.
Then I realized that in a sense, I do live in that world, not only when I'm in the presence of these pieces and am paying attention, but all the time, as what created them is an essential part of me. It's very comforting.
I'd like to say a little bit about each piece, in the order I created them.
The earliest was the lamp, which is china painted. In case you're unfamiliar with the medium, one paints on fired, clear-glazed porcelain with "china paints." Typically, one buys the porcelain pieces from a specialized supplier. China paints come as powders and they're essentially ground glass. You mix the powder with an oil, then paint a layer on the porcelain. The goal is smooth, thin color. When you're done with the first layer, you fire the piece (at a temperature far lower than ceramics, around 800 degrees F rather than 1200 degrees F). Firing doesn't change the color of the paint. the glass melts and fuses with the clear glaze layer on the porcelain. The paints are transparent, and you build up color by working in several layers. I think the most I've ever done was eight, but typically, I'd finish in four or five.
The next was the table, which is an example of decorative painting. Generally speaking, decorative painting is simply decorating a utilitarian piece with paint. The center part of the table is tile, but the rim is wood which I painted with acrylics.
The next piece was the vase. She's earthenware (or low-fire ceramics, as opposed to high-fire ceramics such as porcelain or stoneware). I sculpted her, bisque fired her (high enough to stabilize the ceramic, but not to its final temperature), painted her with three layers of ceramic glaze, then fired her again. The second firing heats the piece to the point where the clay is stabilized and the glazed is heated to a temperature that brings out the final color and adheres it to the ceramic.
The most recent piece is the whimsical chipmunk portrait which I painted last year. She's a mixed media piece which I worked in pencil, watercolor, and colored pencil. The chipmunk is wearing a shawl of tattered lace, and an inscription declares "though tatters to you it may be, 'tis finest lace to me."
The world these four pieces represent is a world where animals possess all the emotional, spiritual, and mental capabilities and experiences we humans have. It's a world where we're united with the animals, a world of gentleness, compassion, peace, and love presented in a decorative style. In this world, everyone lives in harmony. Since in the real world, predation and competition for the resources necessary for sustaining an individual's life preclude harmony (in my view, anyway), this created - or imaginary - world is a world of the spirit.
Just a little more about this fox, one of my most favorite creations ever.
She's happy, innocent, and unselfconscious. She's selling flowers from her garden. Of course, no "real" fox would ever do this, but she does. I could look into her enchanted face with its unboundedly joyful expression all day. I often wonder how did I do this?
She's an example of one of my favorite character types, the flower seller. Others are the poor beggar, the mother and child, and the innocent, sincere seeker.
I know our favorite character types must say something central about us, but I haven't really analyzed it. I just enjoy it.
What are yours?