Done vs. Perfect

You've heard that quote, "Done is better than perfect"... Is it really? Must they be mutually exclusive? Must they compete with one another? If "Done" was in a wrestling match with "Perfect", who would win?

I am a perfectionist from way back, & I don't mean in a good way, I mean in an annoying, procrastinaty, counter-productive way. I've needed to redefine "perfection" in order to spare my sanity & get things done, but even so, here I am, labouring for days (weeks...months!) over painstaking detail... But God is in the detail, right? Or is it the Devil? Perhaps they're both in there, fighting the same fight as Done & Perfect.

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Making for Money

Last night, I watched with great interest, the documentary Making it Handmade, by Australian indie film maker Anna Brownfield that screened on ABC2 (if you're in Aus, it's available to watch on iView for the next couple of weeks). It was great to see such inspiring crafty ladies, such as the super-talented artist Gemma Jones, as well as uber-crafty Pip Lincolne of Meet Me at Mikes. Overall I thought it was an interesting little documentary which offered lots of food for thought. Which is just what I found myself doing whilst munching my morning toast...

Images in this post adapted from various editions of Woman and Home magazine, 1940s (my personal collection).

There was one aspect to the film that bugged me - a discussion about the commercialisation of craft. In fairness, there was a distinction made between independent crafters (good) & the big corporations who adopt the indie aesthetic, sneakily pretend to be the little guys, or outright steal designs from indie makers (bad), but there was still some discussion that making stuff for money is somehow not in the true spirit of craft - that making a living by making doesn't have the integrity of making things solely for fun.

I'm an artist rather than a crafter (although the lines can be quite blurry, which I think is great!), but I have been an independent maker for quite a long time now, & have made a living doing just that since 2006, so I think this entitles me to an opinion (despite not knowing one end of a knitting needle from the other). I don't think motivations of love or money are mutually exclusive, or that making a profession from creativity cheapens it.

I come from a working class background. My first home was a modest little pastel green fibro house in the 'burbs, & the schools I went to didn't have a great deal of resources or instill a sense of ambition in their pupils. The most anyone hoped for us was that we would at least get some kind of a job & not end up on the dole. Since there was not a lot of dialogue about tertiary education or career options (let alone career satisfaction), the fact that I have ended up self-employed, independent, & doing something I absolutely love is quite an achievement. It's hard work, & I'm not quite a millionaire just yet, but I still feel so lucky! So any suggestion that I am mercenary or somehow not as genuine as a hobbyist really bothers me, because I feel there's a great deal of meaning & integrity to what I do, & I am proud of that. Plus, I don't have the luxury of making purely for enjoyment, because I have to pay the bills!

Being independent, eking out a small, satisfying career competing against the big corporations, is incredibly empowering & also beneficial to society because it helps keep diversity in the marketplace alive, & in a modest way keeps the multinationals at bay from having a total monopoly. Independent artists & artisans are incredibly important to the economy - they're small enough to fit in those tiny niches that the big corps can't squeeze into, & nimble enough to adapt quickly to change, not only keeping up with market trends, but setting them. How great is that?!

I found it disappointing that the documentary celebrated craft on one hand, but lamented the commercialisation of it on the other. There were comments discouraging people from buying handmade (?!) or giving a career as an independent creative a shot. Faythe Levine's comments about production work & getting burned out were perfectly valid - I've suffered burn out myself meeting demand for my work, & this time around plan to approach things differently - & I'm not suggesting anyone take a rose-coloured view & fail to prepare or research their options. But overall, I am fully supportive of people adopting an enterprising spirit & giving independence a go.

No matter whether you're a professional, a hobbyist, sell your work or give it away, have an alternate income or not - all creativity is empowering (& fun!). And if you're an appreciator & shopper rather than a maker, thank you for supporting people like me. Handmade might cost a little more, but you're getting something truly unique & made with love. Let's fill the world with arty & crafty expressions of who we are & what we believe in!

*Steps down from soapbox & puts the kettle on*

Imitation isn't So Flattering

I really don't want to take up blog space dwelling on negatives, but I think it's worthwhile to open up a discussion about copyright infringement. Being on the receiving end can cause a lot of grief, exasperation & heartache. For instance, the image above... To the left we have an original illustration that I made way back in 2005. To the right, we have an extremely bizarre & badly put together poster design, featuring my illustration, advertising a 2007 exhibition at the Shanghai Art Museum. I was not asked for permission or offered a fee - in fact, I would not have licensed this particular image because it's my logo, but I was denied the right to refuse. What makes it even more difficult to accept is that the person who stole my artwork is presumably an artist or designer themselves, & should know better; if not from a legal standpoint, from an ethical one. And this is just one example of the many, many times that my work has been used without my permission.

Left: My original illustration, 2005. Right: My illustration stolen by the Shanghai Art Museum, 2007.

Grrr... Anyway, deep breaths...

What confounds me is when I've talked to other independent creative-type people about copyright infringement, quite a lot of them seem to have either a blasé or fatalistic attitude about it. What are your thoughts on copyright & protecting your work? Have you had any of your work stolen before? I'm really interested to hear about other people's experiences.

Not many of us have the means to resort to legal action, & copyright legislation is only intended for matters of financial loss/compensation. But what about when someone incorrectly credits your work so no one knows you made it? Or butchers your images with their dodgy Photoshop skills? It hurts. Although it may not cause a financial loss, if you're featured somewhere but not credited & linked to, you miss out on an opportunity for people to find you, & when someone modifies your lovingly made images, they're degrading the integrity of your artwork.

I've covered all of this & more in my copyright policy based on my experiences. My advice to anyone who wants to share their work online, is to choose a Creative Commons license & link people to it. It's really nice to share, but as I say on my copyright policy page, my artwork is my livelihood, & my pride & joy - & that is worth protecting isn't it?

May I Rant About Digital Art Please?

I've started digitally "inking" the sketch from my last post in Illustrator & thought you might like to take a look at my progress. You can see from the scan of the original sketch (acting as template) that I've made a few adjustments...eyebrows lower, eyes smaller, nose narrower, jawline fuller...but basically it's the same gal! Eventually, she's going to be gocco printed on vintage paper & become part of a mixed media piece. I'll show you when it's done!

Anyway, the painstaking task of vectoring my sketch got me thinking about digital art & its reputation amongst traditional artists.

I hang around the Etsy forums waaay more than I should (when I'm supposed to be working!) & have been frustrated on a number of occasions by peoples' attitude towards digital art. I'm referring to the viewpoint that digital art is somehow less legitimate than traditional art. What's particularly frustrating, is when the people who hold this opinion know nothing about digital process whatsoever.

There seems to be this misconception that digital art is just a few mere magical mouse-clicks away! Also that it's somehow inferior because it's not "handmade" (the Etsy catch cry) & is "cold" & "soulless".

Well, I can tell you now, I use the same pair of hands, set of eyes & brain to make digital artwork as I do when using paint, ink or pencil. Furthermore, digital techniques are not as intuitive as putting pencil to paper - it's not so easy to just pick it up & hit the ground running - it took me a very long time to fully grasp the technical aspect of making pictures digitally & to finally be able to accurately render the ideas in my head. This is all contrary to the commonly held opinion that digital art is somehow easier to make than traditional art, that it takes less time, talent & skill.

And back to the "handmadeness" aspect again... Despite the fact that I've just argued that in its own way, digital art is just as "hands on" as traditional art, I just want to add that technique & craftsmanship are only part of the picture when it comes to making art. What about the more cerebral considerations: developing your concept, making your colour choices, composition, subject matter, & all those other decisions you make about how best to render your ideas? I think, especially on Etsy, with its fixation on "handmade", that some artists get so caught up with the craftsmanship of making art that they forget the conceptual side is equally important. Maybe if they considered this, they'd start to understand that computers are no different to any other tool.

I guess part of the reason digital art still gets a raw deal is because it's still relatively new, but why not embrace whatever tools & technologies are at hand? Once upon a time, the camera obscura was seen as the devil's work, & there are techniques & media embraced by the art world these days, that were once considered too "lowbrow" or commercial.

I'm a believer in using whatever it takes to communicate your ideas, whether it be a charred stick on a cave wall or a MacBook Pro.