Sunday, September 9, 2012

I Put a Bird On It, Part 2

I addressed some of the general issues generated by Alexandra Lange's article and Ellison's etsy blog post in my previous post, but I have a more personal take on them as well that I hope to delve into in this follow up post.  I hope you will bear with me!

I feel there is a reflection of this issue in my own current work, which makes me uneasy. The thing is, I'm a fine art painter....and I'm a crafter. I love to paint canvases with portraits, landscapes and other subjects with serious intent to capture likeness, attitude, mood, and good composition, using and stretching my skills and knowledge.

The Mountains Beyond, by Penny Birch-Williams

As I shared in a previous blog post, I was so moved by a visit to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. in April, viewing in person incredible works of fine art by some of the world's greatest artists.  I have been inspired by great art all my life, and without any expectation of ever reaching such heights of achievement, I have been propelled by the desire to be better than I am, to push myself to learn and grow, to be a 'real' artist.

"Mommy's Hat" a portrait of Laura, by Penny Birch-Williams

But I also love to make crafts, and to paint crafts. Some of my craft painting is also what I would call serious....but some is definitely on the cute side. I have always loved cute things. I melt for babies, kittens, and puppies, little felted creatures, anything with big eyes, anything furry, fuzzy, fluffy. I love to make cute things.  It seems to me that most holiday decorations are cute, appealing to children (or the child within us!) 

Most of the Christmas baskets I'm working on now are meant to be cute in subject, while painted with the same care and detail I would use on a canvas. 

And yes, I put a bird on it! (Actually there are birds on a couple of my baskets now.)

So what makes me uneasy is the question of whether taking my abilities, and my etsy shop, into the cute zone somehow cheapens, or reflects negatively, on my painting as a whole, and myself as an artist? Can I be both a fine art painter, and a crafter? Can serious Art, or serious Craft such as the type Lange was writing about in her article, coexist with the cute and fuzzy little-c craft, and be worthy of the same respect?


My personal uneasiness is not a particularly weighty issue for anyone besides me, of course.  I have no critics watching my career, who might have an opinion on what I do one way or another.  I will likely never know if it puts anyone off, who happens upon my etsy shop and thinks less of me for having crafts among my canvases. 

Sometime in the future I may decide to open a second etsy shop, and split off the crafts from the fine art, but the question remains.  I'm the one doing the work, no matter where it's put up for sale.  

Maybe this is more about the labels I use, and how I want to merit the label "Artist", at least in my own mind.  I hope I can make peace with myself, when I can accept that there are within me different facets of how I express art, and find equal respect for each.  


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