The Image or the Object

Johntimothy and I spend much of our days in the studio….making things. We create prints or drawings or mixed media works. My works are one-of-a-kind and some of his are as well, but he will also produce small hand-printed editions. Sometimes we collaborate and make pieces that involved both of us working in our different ways on a single work. At our core, though, we consider ourselves makers of things, which is to say that the works we make are tangible and can be held in the hands. They have a physical presence and a tactile quality, whether that comes from paper dipped in beeswax or the raised ink on a hand printed etching or engraving. We come from a generation that values the object.

 

As a maker who would very much love to sell my work and send these pieces out into the world to folks who will love and appreciate them, I’ve been giving this notion of “the object” some thought, in light of the way that technology has revolutionized our culture. I have work available for sale in the Missouri Bend Studio shop here on this website, as well as through Missouri Bend Studio and The Art Filled Home on Etsy. I post fairly regularly on Instagram and Facebook and my work can be found all over Pinterest. While I do have many appreciators and buyers that I value greatly, and with whom I have established warm relationships, I struggle with the “business side” of selling the work.

The old tired line is that artists are not business minded and while that may be somewhat true for some, learning to engage in marketing and run a business, is really just another skill set….much like drawing. I believe anyone can learn to draw, as it is a matter of eye-hand coordination, and the basic skills can be taught and learned through practice. But, that’s another whole topic of conversation. I’ve learned a great deal in the past few years about various online platforms and navigating the ins and outs of creating websites, online storefronts, etc. While my first love is creating the art, I do love the work of engaging with people all over the world and am interested in maintaining the balance of time spent in the studio along with the business end of things.

 

But….here’s the thing. In our current culture, I am beginning to wonder if, for many folks, the image alone is enough. That is, perhaps now that everyone views most everything through the screen, whether on a desktop, laptop or a mobile device, we are so used to seeing images of things rather than the things themselves….well, one may have replaced the need for the other.  Perhaps the notion of purchasing no longer occurs to someone who sees a piece of artwork that they love, when the image of it can continue to be seen in an image feed, saved to a Pinterest board or captured in any number of other ways. Who needs the object, when you have a picture that represents it? For some, the image alone is satisfactory....it's good enough.

These various online platforms, that continue to multiply in new and exciting ways, provide astounding opportunities for exposure across the globe. I am thankful for the love and support of countless folks near and far, who let me know that my work inspires or brings joy.  I do send small works out several times a month, yet I have begun to seriously wonder about this notion of “the image” or “the object.”

These musings are not just about selling my own work, but have to do with the larger issues about our experience of the material world and whether we are living so deeply in the technological world that we are losing out on deep levels of tangible experience in nature…in the real world. We may be engaged and simultaneously disconnected. 

There is a vast range of experience that is missed when we only see the image of something, rather than the thing itself. Ink or paint on a surface, the nuance of color against color, the way changing light makes the work appear differently. Subtle marks can be missed entirely when viewing only online. I am always aware, when seeing or saving an image online, that it is just a kind of facsimile. The image points to the object, which exists somewhere else, but can by no means be replaced by an image of it. I fear the day when we no longer know the difference.

All this runs through my head even as I entertain the idea of creating an online subscription of the daily drawings or try to figure out new ways to market the work online. I continue to come back to the notion that there is no substitute for the object, as least in the work that I create. I would love to hear from you about your views on these issues. This post is a conversation starter, so feel free to let me know your thoughts here in the comments.

In the meantime, the visuals on this post are some of the recent daily drawings, available for sale at MissouriBendStudio on Etsy. (Buy 5, get one free….it’s a great deal!). I try to post them each day on Instagram, so go ahead and follow me there if you like. But remember, they are better in person….there's no substitute for the real thing.