Sunday, October 5, 2014

NEVER ask an artist this one question.

Its Blog Carnival time again that international festival of intensely personal nonsense and babel brought to you by EtsyMetal.

As artists, we travel around the U.S. and the world a lot. We get to meet many interesting people, many of whom are also interested in what we do. We are sincerely grateful for and appreciate people's interest in our work, particularly when said interest is not instigated by police or tax officials.

Over the many years we have been doing this we have noticed that one question gets asked more often than any other.  Oddly enough, the question is almost never asked by other artists.   The question: "What is your favorite piece."

Asking this of an artist will often elicit a blank stare accompanied by muted stammering as the artist tries to process the unfathomability of the request. If the artist also inserts a finger into any orifice of their body (nose, ear, mouth etc.) while stammering, this is a sign that you have thrust a substantially large stick into the spokes of the artist's mental processing. It is probably best to back away quietly at this point.

Non-artists often find the artists response to this question equally unfathomable. It's a simple enough question. Except that artists don't think this way. At All. The disconnect is one of perspective and relationship. For example, any artist can tell you which is their favorite piece produced by another artist.  They can tell you this because their perspective is external to the object and simply based on personal preference of aesthetics. There are no other considerations or relationship with the object.

Now switch places with the artist who made the object. The relationship and perspective changes radically and is no longer dependent on aesthetics at all.  Intention and execution are often the standards of measure. You can see this at work with many artists by complimenting them on a piece. Many will respond to a compliment by pointing out where they failed with intention or execution.

The other big disconnect is picking a point in time. For example, many artists will say that their "favorite" piece is "the one I just finished."  This comment is far less connected to the aesthetic preferences of the artist as it is about the process of giving birth to a creative expression. For an artist to point to a single item and say, THAT ONE is my "favorite" is to stop time and completely deny their journey as an artist. The foundations of that journey are evolution and discovery. The criteria for intention and execution constantly change. Thus, many artists will express  that items they were satisfied with or found acceptable at one stage of their journey are no longer so because their perspective has shifted with experience.

So, if you must know, "what our favorite piece is?"  It's the one you want to buy.