The fennel's as high as an elephant's eye...
One of Hubby's favorite musicals is "Oklahoma" and for a while a couple of years ago, he listened to the soundtrack practically every day. In the song "Oh What a Beautiful Morning", Curly sings about all the wonderful things that make that morning grand. Hubby is prone to impromptu tweaking of lyrics to get me to laugh. The line "... the corn is as high as an elephant's eye..." has been morphed so many times over I can't even count. Thanks to Hubby, it's now part of my internal vernacular out in the garden. I now measure things mentally to see if they are "as high as an elephant's eye". And the fennel in the front garden definitely qualifies. Its blossoms are so far up in the air that I have to crane my neck to see them when I stand underneath it. It's a fascinating perspective.
Perspective... I've been thinking a lot about this concept as of late.
On July 7th, I passed the two year anniversary of starting this blog. I went back and read my first entry and realized that although a lot can change in two years, an awful lot also stays the same. I started the blog as a place where I could share my own life perspective, hoping that someone out there in the blog-o-sphere would connect with my unique life experience. I also wanted to share my own creative reawakening with anyone that might find it of interest. I had been on a creative hiatus for almost 10 years, and had just started rediscovering all the creativity that lay dormant in me or had been channeled into home improvement projects. I had just taken up photography again and it was inspiring me to create more and more.
Over the past two years, I've explored lots of creative avenues. Some have been fruitful and others... well, not so much. With Hubby's endless moral (and financial) support, I've dabbled and dipped with some creative pursuits taking root in me and others not.
I find myself at a crossroads right now. I have a spare bedroom in my home that is my "studio" that is fully equipped so that I can create to my heart's content. Yet, I'm stuck. And I'm stuck on the same thing that always gets me--it did 20 years ago and it does today.
This sticking point is actually a question, "Why should I continue to create if very few people show an interest in giving my creations a home by buying them so I can fund the equipment and materials it took to create them?"
It is at times like these that more than just the fennel feels higher than an elephant's eye. It feels like everything is higher than an elephant's eye.
Expectation of "Free"
I know that by sharing on a blog, Flickr, Facebook, etc. I may be pleasing someone's eyes for the few seconds that they look at my work on the screen. But does sharing in this way actually dilute the value of a creative work? Is it viewed as "free"? Do people think, "Well, I can look at it again and again here on my screen. Why should I buy it when I can look for free?"
I also know that by putting my work out there on those venues, there are other eyes that see my work as an opportunity to copy, pirate, or shamelessly take elements and pieces of my work and then use them to market their own work. In an ever-coarsening world, the lines of ethics get very blurred when it comes to internet sharing. There are many people that wouldn't scan an original piece of art and then post it or sell it online but they would post, sell, or copy a piece of art they found posted on the internet because they see it as "free". How many people think, "Well, I can look at it again and again here on my screen. And if I right-click it, I can put it on my desktop. Sure it has a watermark on it and it looks a bit skewed and fuzzy because the resolution isn't so hot, but that doesn't bug me. Why should I buy a print to hang on my wall when I can right-click for free?"
I've read a number of articles about the changing market and how the expectation of everything being "free" is becoming more and more prevalent. I have to wonder then what does that do to the breadth of creative and artistic perspectives that are available for consumption. Does this societal expectation of "free" narrow the field drastically because there are individuals that can't afford to offer their work for free? I know that for me, it was much easier when I let my artistic creativity lie dormant and channeled my creativity into my home and my garden exclusively. I had a greater sense of satisfaction and purpose because I didn't feel like I had to monetize what I was doing in order to fund it. Society's shift toward everything being "free" didn't matter much to me at all. Nobody could come and steal my garden and market it as their own so I didn't have to be constantly vigilant about "creative garden theft" like I am now with creative art theft.
I've identified another phenomenon unique to this new world we live in and that is the reality of over saturation. I've read a couple of books about this fact and also experienced it firsthand. People are so over saturated with messages, information, images, etc. that they stop really reading and seeing. If people stop really reading and seeing, where does that leave writers and artists? If we only visit other blogs, to drive traffic to our own what do we miss because we're skimming over the words and not truly reading them? If we're only looking at others' Flickr photostreams and leaving comments so they will come visit our photostream, what are we missing because we're not really seeing what others have created.
Instead of being a beautiful rainbow of many different creative perspectives, it's like someone came and stirred all the colors of the rainbow together to the point that everything has turned the same shade of brown and is muddy colored. No one looks unique anymore even though they really are. People stop paying attention and stop really looking because they figure it's all the same anyway even though it isn't.
"Authenticity" and "Being Real" Aren't Believable
The technology that makes it possible to share an image or words so easily has also distanced the audience of that image or set of words to the point where things don't seem "real" or "authentic". Here's an example of what I mean...
After a great deal of research and a lot of forethought, Hubby and I made the decision to purchase a very large piece of printing equipment so I could produce my greeting cards in-house. I didn't like the quality or price of on-demand printers that are online right now, yet I didn't want to produce cards that anyone could print with their own ink jet desktop printer. So we bought a Konica Minolta Magicolor 7450 4-color digital laser printer. It weighs over a 100 lbs. and is almost 3 cubic feet in its physical dimensions. It's a behemoth. But the printing results are gorgeous, and I can finally print my work on heavy glossy cardstock, hand-score the cards, and have them look more luxurious than a card available at Target.
Here's the problem... no one believes me. How do I know? Because I've been asked many times if the cards are "glossy" (code for "Were they just printed on an ink jet printer like mine?"). It doesn't matter what I write in product descriptions, how many angles I photograph the product from, or even if the person is holding the card in their hands in a cellophane sleeve. They still don't believe me.
A similar scenario is the case with my photographs and fine art prints on paper and hand-stretched canvas (otherwise known as giclees). Again, after a great deal of forethought Hubby and I chose to invest in a professional-level photo and art printer--an 8-color Canon PixmaPro 9000 with archival ink. It can produce up to 13"x19" prints on photo paper, fine art museum-quality paper, or Belgian linen canvas. The results are stunning. There's NO WAY I'm ever taking my work to a photo lab again for prints, because I've never gotten results as good as I do with this printer.
But again, people don't believe me. The assumption is that if I produced it myself then it must be sub-standard. Even if someone holds it in their hands, I know the thinking is, "Well, if she did this herself then it must be something anyone can do and that means it isn't worth much."
It doesn't matter if I make it clear that I've printed an art print on Hahnemuhle Museum Etching 350 fine art paper that's made of 100% rag (making the print water resistant) and then hand-buffed it with Renaissance micro-crystalline wax polish. Even if I went so far as to point out that Hahnemuhle is a paper company that's been around since 1584, it wouldn't matter much. People don't believe it.
It's really hard to be a completely truthful person in a coarse and disingenuous world. Especially when I'm just trying to create something beautiful that someone will want to buy to bring into their home.
My personal dilemma is that I have wonderful equipment and materials to produce art pieces that I think are beautiful. But for one or a combination of any of the above reasons, I cannot sell my work.
Do I remove my work from all the social networking sites that are over saturated in order to not add to the muddy mess even more?
Do I let the equipment and my creative pursuits go dormant and focus my energies on my garden and home in a private way that is shared with few?
Do I continue to write on this blog when I know that most people haven't bothered to read this far down in the post because I wrote more than a paragraph?
These are genuine questions, and not an invitation to a "pity party". I sincerely appreciate any and all insights you have to offer. Because right now I'd rather that only the fennel be as high as an elephant's eye. From your perspective, what do you see?
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