What’s Your Take: One or Many? – Part I

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   Posted by: BJ Johnson in marketing
This entry is part of a series: What's Your Take: One or Many? »

Examining the Pursuit of Career and Happiness in the Modern Age.

Decided I'd visit it this topic myself. It is something that crosses my mind every so often; more so now in these uncertain times. It is also the topic of Joy's blog post a few days ago. I haven't read hers, not wanting to influence my writing here, although I do know the photos that are there and will reference them. I will read it, once I've posted.

Normally, the saying is: "Do one thing, do it well."

Then there's: "Variety is the spice of life."

Of course, "To thine own self be true." then throws a monkey wrench into the whole thing and you don't know which way to turn.

My favorite:
"Do what you love; it's the only thing you'll ever be great at."
is one that I tell students attending my speaking engagements when they ask what they should do with their lives after watching all that I have done with mine.

I am a Renaissance Man. I do a lot of things; things that are not usually found within one person. I am good at most, really good at many, darn good at a few and blinding at a couple. There are a bunch that I suck at and those I don't do very often. They're not fun—because I suck at doing them. Because I suck at doing them, I don't do the best job. (Don't like bookkeeping, marketing, cold calls or chasing people for monies owed. Guess I need an agent...)

From the title of this blog, you can sense the range. Usually people think that art and engineering don't mix. Diametrically opposed. Not necessarily so. The best engineers that I have met and had the privilege of working with are artists in the way that they approach their craft. Same goes for artists whom I revere, but in the opposite relation; they are engineers in one way or another in the way that they create the illusions on canvas or the sculptures in glass, wood, stone or steel. They may not realize that they are doing it but I can see it because I am in a unique place.

When I look at the engineering drawings for a particular machine and study them for a while, I can feel the machine working; sense the forces within as it moves—almost as if I were it. This ability helps tremendously when I design a mechanism. The idea comes first, the feeling grows as the design progresses, the mathematical proof, if I need one, is employed later.

Artists working in any genré remotely smacking of Realism, and some not, must have a basic physics background, whether they realize that they have it or not. They must be able to understand light and how it affects an object's appearance as it plays across its surfaces or through its volume. They must understand perspective, gravity, density of materials, optics. Just as another artist must understand anatomy if they are to draw a compelling figure.

Yes, there are people who are great at looking at objects or scenes and translating them accurately to board or canvas; as a copying procedure. I can't do this very well. This isn't how I "see". I see by "feeling". Doesn't make sense, I know.

I recognize and use all of these facets of my mind in nearly everything I do. As a result, the lines between engineering and art are way blurred because the division between my brain halves isn't as distinct as would be considered normal. I often joke: "I can find something wrong with everything."

This gives rise to the Many/One question.

I and Joy create a lot of really amazing things. When we take a step back and "forget" who we are and that it was us who did them, they are amazing to us! It is an out of body experience. In short order, the reality comes flooding back in, because it is difficult to hold it totally at bay for very long, and we realize that we created this—whatever it may be. You can readily see from the links list in the menu bar that it looks like we're all over the map.

From Space Art:

to 3D Modeling, Rendering and Animation, many of which are done during the process of designing our creations:

to 40 foot and 24 foot diameter Solar System mobiles of blown glass and carbon fiber:

to the 7.5 foot tall, 345 pound Lifetime Space Achievement Award and the small Art Glass Wine Bottle Stoppers, Art Glass Paperweights & Marbles and Art Glass Jewelry, the subject of earlier articles, it may seem like we have an identity problem.

Some would say that's a gross understatement. Still, there are many artists through the Centuries who are well known for their versatility and scope in what they created.

What's your take?

Do we stop doing many, or any, of these things?
or
Do we keep doing what we love; which is a lot of cool stuff?

We're looking for feedback from our followers. How does the market see creators like us? Are we just too strange? Are we lost in our own cloud of creations; not being known for one thing? Or do we stand out because of our being able to do all of these, where most cannot?

Please post a comment. We'll respond back. Thanks for your thoughts and insight! And thanks for following us.

Next: Examining the question from the artist's point of view.

Entries in this series:
  1. What's Your Take: One or Many? – Part I
  2. What's Your Take: One or Many? – Part II
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4 Responses to What’s Your Take: One or Many? – Part I

Steve
  

Do what you love. Don't be pigeon holed by others. People love to categorize others for some reason. As long as you can afford to do it finacially. Be creative in all your fields of interest. I think its about excercising your creativity thats key not weather its right or left brain, science/eng/comp or pure emotional expresion in painting. Be glad you can pull from both your technical and artistic side at the same time. I think back to Leonardo DaVinci who was an inventor and painter. I think thats the standard you should model your life after.

May 23, 2009 at 11:56 pm
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BJ
  

Hi Steve,

Thank you for your thoughts. Being able to afford to do it financially hasn't been much of a problem until recently. That is the main reason for this series of articles; to question and receive feedback from outside our sphere. Difficult to see when you're in the middle of it all. When times get tough, one wonders whether they are still doing what they are put here to do. Just knowing that people out there do see value in what you do is a great help in persevering.

May 24, 2009 at 1:18 am
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Steve
  

I think everyone no matter what field you work in people are feeling what they do is not valuable anymore. Good people get layed off and good products not getting sold. Not because they dont have value but because no one has money to spend on them. Its a shame in society we have to assign a monetary equivelant to establish the value of something.
I think about the money people still spend on going to see the movies even in times of bad economy and that gives me hope that people will still spend money if they think its worth it.

It could just be as artists we have to think bolder and bigger then ever before to standout. The internet is now almost creating a glut of space art making competition even tougher.
In brief my own background was Aerospace engineering for 2 years at Cal Poly Pomona then changed to art so I find yours and Joys bios particularly fascinating.
As a space artist myself trying to stand out. I am thinking bold in my ideas and cutting way back on living expenses. I try to keep my living wage/job income seperate from my art income.
That way it doesnt hurt if no one buys my art. Looking at my art the other day. I ask myself if this never made me any money would it have been worth doing?
My answer was yes. I guess personally I keep going in tough times because of the internal spiritual satisfaction I get by doing art and some belief that I am fullfilling some devine purpose.

May 24, 2009 at 11:19 am
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BJ
  

Yes, there is a relative glut of space art these days; a lot of it being done more by program button pushing than by people pushing brushes. The great majority of my work is done digitally now, because I can take the work farther. That doesn't mean that I let the machine do all the work while I sit back and wait—like a lot do these days—even some notable artists who used to work traditionally. I do 3D, yes, and there's no way to do that other than with a very complex application. The 2D work, however, is done by hand using the same technique as I would always use; just pixels in place of pigment. Few can tell which is done with which tools.

When I started, there were, oh, 8 of us. Computers that could draw anything meaningful didn't exist and I prayed for the day when I could afford something that would just let me do pencil sketches; because of the revisions the ad agancy art directors wanted. Now look what we've got. And along with it, a bunch of people doing passable work without really knowing what they are doing or why it is good or not. What makes this possible is that the buyers aren't discerning, so passable is good enough—and it's cheaper. (Shhh! No one will notice...)

For us separating out our art from other income, art is our income; though it's looking as if we may have to fragment our focus just to stay alive. We combine the engineering with our art to create the really unique. My racing background with Penske, (YAAAAYYY! We won the Indy 500 today—for the 15th time!) might seem to some to be going in the "opposite" direction from art. I just incorporate all of my knowledge together into whatever I do. There is nothing left behind. It's all too cool to ignore.

I often counsel people who are in much the same state as we right now:
"Everyone should do for a living that which they would do as a hobby. Do what you love. It's the only thing you'll be truly great at."

Sooooo, where can we see your stuff?

May 24, 2009 at 9:09 pm
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