It took over a week, but my giraffe sculpture is finally finished. The neck was made with a cardboard armature (see the African mask tutorial). It took quite a lot of pushing, prodding, (and some wire “stitching”), to get the cardboard to behave the way I wanted it to. The process wasn’t pretty, and I won’t make you look at it.
The two layers of paper were strong enough to hold their shape, so I left the head hollow after removing the Sculpey. Even though the neck was weighted with plaster, I still needed the head to be very light so my cats can’t knock it over. The finished sculpture is 26″ tall, and the head is 15 inches long.
I’ve been thinking about doing a giraffe for years, but I finally got excited about actually doing it when I realized there was a perfect spot for it on the shelf where I keep my large houseplants.Â A poster of an Indian elephant is above the shelf, and the colors of the poster nicely compliment the giraffe’s spots.
And this got me thinking about a book I read last year. In The View From The Studio Door: How Artists Find Their Way In An Uncertain World, Ted Orland suggests that many art students give up on art as soon as they graduate from art school because they no longer have a “place” for their artwork.
Students spend years producing work for their class critiques and a possible place in the campus gallery. Then, after graduation, creativity seems to dry up.
Orland believes that creativity can’t flourish unless an artist can imagine their work sitting in a specific place after it’s finished.
I know this has been true for me. Back when I made a living selling pen and ink drawings at the Pike Place Market in Seattle, I stopped drawing as soon as I had enough prints to fill my designated booth space. When I moved to Portland, I designed some paper mache animal dolls – but only as many as I needed for my Saturday Market display.
And now I’ve only begun sculpting again because this website gave me an “excuse” to create.
Once I was back in the swing of things, I found myself enjoying the learning process – pushing my understanding of paper mache as a sculptural medium in a way that I had not done before. And the website gives me a place for my finished sculptures, even the ones like the dragon that I don’t really “need” in my house.
But still, I find myself hesitating to create large items, even if I’ve thought about them for a long time – especially if they would be too complicated for a tutorial and therefore don’t really belong on this website.
How can I, or any artist, get excited about creating something if we can’t imagine the finished sculpture sitting somewhere?
How do people overcome this constraint? No artist starts out famous, with galleries or buyers begging for their work. So how does the beginning artist manage to make the paintings or sculptures or textile art – or whatever – without having a place to display them?
So, do you think Ted Orland is right? If you’ve been stymied by “artist’s block,” was it because you didn’t have a place to put your artwork when it was finished? If so, how did you keep it from silencing your muse?