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Working with Live Models

On: January 24, 2010
In: Studio Journal
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Question: Is there a “Do By” date on some visual art endeavors?
Answer: Yes there is, especially if you are working with subjects that will manifest change, such as moveables,  mold-ables or mature-ables.
In the case of these daffodil bulbs, that means if you want to model an assortment of carefully observed and individually rendered ceramic bulbs, you need to get to it before they inevitably sprout into daffodil plants and flowers, or go off trying. It’s Nature’s Way.
Bought last September during bulb planting season here in the Mediterranean climate of California’s Monterey Bay, they were going to be a quick study and then plunged into a pot of rich earth for the winter. Instead, they spent those months in a paper bag on a shelf in my warm studio. The still green and unfinished  “quick bulb studies” happened this past week and some of them ring the bowl of wimpily sprouting models in the photo.
Although I think this particular bulbous tale has a last minute happy ending for both art and nature, it has got me thinking about timing in new way.
Carpe diem! Sometimes the timing is obvious. Paint the cut flowers and sliced fruit still life arrangement before it sags and smells. Sketch your kids before they grow out of that breathtaking innocence. Photograph the mountain trail sunrise should you very likely never walk that way again.
And sometimes the timing is insidiously glacial or blastingly unforeseen, meaning you probably should hie yourself to the studio lest you change as well. You might lose your stoke, get a better idea, or just get called away by Life. No, not might, but assuredly will.
To paraphrase Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig, “The ‘Do By’ date you’re working on is a date called ‘yourself.'”  We are live models as much as the subjects we attempt to capture. We can’t step in the same river twice because the river keeps flowing and so do we, us moveable, mold-able and mature-able change manifesters. Carpe Narcissi!
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