Saturday, September 27, 2014

Rooster Plate

I painted the image on this ceramic plate to be auctioned at a fundraiser for a local arts service. It's a place where people who are interested in art can take informal (in the sense that there are no, as far as I know, grades or great pressure to perform at a certain level) classes in painting, ceramics, drawing, and other subjects.

I have many friends who work and participate at this facility, so I was happy to make a small contribution in the form of this plate. The auction event is called the "Blue Plate Special". Get it?

Anyway, I entered into this project with some trepidation, since I'm not at all familiar with the materials and glazes used to make images on ceramics. I didn't take ceramics in college and have had no interest in it, or really any 3-dimensional medium. But I gave it a try and this is how it turned out. Not knowing how glazes translate after firing in a kiln I decided to keep the color flat with a simple outline. I know it's possible to achieve very sophisticated color effects and gradations. But I don't know how to do that and it would take considerable practice and trial and error, just as it did while I was learning to paint, to reach a level I felt comfortable with, outside of this simple approach. The background started out sort of abstract then evolved into an organic pattern. Through research I was able to figure out how the colors I was working with would appear after the plate's firing.

While I was happy to support the efforts of this and other worthy causes, the practice of artists giving their work to auctions is a little controversial. Some artists feel exploited, as they are often assigned subject matter or, as in this case, media outside of their usual materials. Their work is taken and auctioned at prices that may or may not reflect their proven value in the marketplace. And often they are unable to attend the events where their work is used to raise money, due to high ticket prices they are unable or unwilling, since they have contributed to the potential success of the event, to pay.

My first understanding of this particular event was that the artists could only attend if they paid full price for tickets. Then apparently this policy changed, since my wife and I were offered tickets gratis to attend. We were intending to attend the event, as I'm always interested in seeing how my work performs in such an environment, for the not insignificant reason of determining if the auction prices hold up to the retail prices I ask for my work in the marketplace. The reason for my concern isn't that I think so highly of myself, as much as it is out of fairness to those people who are generous enough to buy my work for its retail asking price. There could be some resentment if the work is sold at a lower price than I ask in the market. So while supporting good causes is a good thing that is not the only consideration. I have, I must add, had good luck usually in having my work bring a price at auction equal to its retail price. Since my piece wasn't to be included in the actual auction we decided to not attend, letting the tickets go back into the hopper so they could be sold for full price.

What makes these situations frustrating, other than a low selling auction price, is when the work donated is not used in the way that it was said it would be used. This plate, I'm told, won't be on the auction block, but will instead be given as a sort of prize to those people who paid a premium ticket price to the event. Another word for this might be "party favor", but let's not take that snarkiness any further. If there are a limited number of pieces to be auctioned, then the number of pieces solicited should, in my opinion, be limited to that number. If more funds are required to be raised then other options should be offered. For the auction officials to create a hierarchy of work, based on whatever criteria, especially when that intention isn't made clear at the solicitation point, only feeds more resentment in the population of donating artists, which leads to less work being donated to that or other otherwise worthy causes. Such practices, however innocent and well meaning I know they are, are counterproductive for everyone involved.

Regardless, I do sincerely hope whomever ends up with the plate I donated wants and enjoys it. Maybe one day they will look me up and let me come see where they put it.

Below is how the plate looked after painting, but before firing.

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