Nov 12, 2014

An intellectual property to call one's own

I've been doing a heck-tonne of deep and serious pondering lately.
I have ample opportunity to do so whilst commuting to and from work, walking the dog, etc. But I tend to be a bit of a muller anyways.
The main topic of my ponderings lately has been the future of my artistic endeavours and what shape I want them to take. I know, I know, this isn't exactly the first time I've talked about this sort of thing before on this blog. But it is that very fact that I am here, pulling at this same old thread, once again.
You see, here's the thing... I've been looking back at all of the little projects I wanted and planned to do over the last number of years. The Faerie Stone sculptures, the individual painting ideas, the stories I wanted to write and illustrate... the list, it doth go on. One thing ties all of these projects together though. One thing that is mine and mine alone: My vision of the Realms of Faerie.

The Realms of Faerie encompasses nearly all of my intended future output. The Circle takes place in my Realms of Faerie. Willow and the Otter are there too. The Faerie Stones are part of it, as are the short little stories I have written. That's because the Realms of Faerie, my version of them at least, are my own Middle Earth, my Eternia, my Fantasia... It's the world of my imagination, where many things are possible and my creative self can roam free through its wilds.
Its kinda hard to explain what having this world inside my head feels like. It is always there, waiting (not always patiently) to be explored further. It is a place of comfort and retreat, but it is also a place fraught with perils and not all together healthy temptations. But it is my world, and it is formed by my ideas and its boundaries are defined only by how far I have pushed them.

The one thing my Realms of Faerie hate is to be neglected, though. They aren't too demanding of my time, but if I go too long without walking their woods, they tend to make me pay for it in some way. In other words, I get grumpy. So whenever I get a chance to, I retreat into my Realms of Faerie.
I AM aware of how that sounds, by the way. It DOES sound a bit nuts, weird and, well, lame all at the same time. I get that. But I don't think it is actually any of those things. To my mind, it is fun, fantastic and inspiring. It's as though I have this endless reservoir inside my mind, where there is no end to the artistic and writing possibilities.

All I need is the time to start bringing more of these things to life. I need to manifest my Realms of Faerie into stories, paintings, sculptures. Because one of my biggest fears is to not see this stuff realised in the flesh. My buddy Bart Sears has his own world inside of his head. I've been privileged enough to have only a glimpse into that world, and it is pretty darn spectacular. But Bart has always struggled to find the opportunities to make this world real. He is a freelance artist, with mouths to feed, so the paying work will always be actively sought and treated as the priority. But I fear that my own career will result in the same thing. That the working for other people, and visually creating THEIR own worlds, will get in the way of me creating MY own world.
Lets face it, I ain't getting any younger and there are quite possibly more days behind me than there could potentially be ahead of me. So time is running out.
It is with this last thought in mind that I have come to some decisions. Firstly, for the year 2015, I will no longer be considering myself a freelance artist. I have looked back at the last couple of years and how much I have actually earned as a freelance artist and it is a comparatively small amount. This is not to say that I do not appreciate the jobs I have worked on at all. It goes without saying that I have enjoyed them all, learned from them, improved with them, and bought cool stuff with the money earned from them. But my Realms of Faerie still remain essentially in my head, not out in the world.
So, yes, the freelance work has been fun, but I also don't want to do it anymore, at least not for 2015. Again, it's not a negative thing, it's a preference thing. Many artists are quite content with the freelance lifestyle, working for clients and creating artwork for properties not of their own. I'm just not that guy anymore. I may never have been, actually.
But I will be making the very rare exception with this. I have friends that need only ask and I will create art for them. But I won't be actively seeking new jobs, and I won't be taking on new ones that come knocking on my door unless it's an offer I simply can't pass up.
It sounds harsh. It HAS to be harsh.
What I'm going to be, instead of a freelance artist, is an independent creator (but I might settle on a less pretentious title than that). It means that I will be working entirely on what I want to do. 99% of that is going to be Realms of Faerie related, but I am going to leave space for the odd side piece, such as more Lord of the Rings portraits, or a superhero piece, etc. But these, too, will be of my choosing. But really, for 2015 (and possibly/probably past that), it's going to be all about Realms of Faerie. It HAS to be.
So what is the allure of my Realms of Faerie? Well, apart from them being my very own creation and the appeal that inherently brings, I do like a bunch of other contributing factors.

Diversity & Flexibility. The Circle may have some racy and more adult themes in it. Klogg the Troll is a children's picture book (yep, that too is part of RoF). The Realms of Faerie and the stories and artwork to be found within them, can be what I want them to be. So if I want to write a fantasy novel set in those realms, I ruddy-well can. Or a comic, or a picture book... There are no restrictions on what I can write and how I go about writing it. I like that a lot.

Marketability. While I do want to release most of what I come up with free of charge for the most part. There will be opportunities for me to make a bit of coin along the way. I want to collect short stories into perfect-bound books, maybe make some cast sculptures too. That sort of stuff. I would like to approach publishers with books, and maybe self-publish the odd comic. It will be all about striking the balance between giving stuff away and then offering further material for a fee for those that want it.

Longevity. Honestly, I could happily create things from my Realms of Faerie for the rest of my life. I never grow weary of it and I can't imagine I ever will. The Realms of Faerie have been with me ever since I went looking around trees for doors to Gnome houses when I was a small child and imagined far off lands where magic, beauty and adventure awaited.

Lastly, Personal Satisfaction. The decision to concentrate on the Realms of Faerie has been brewing for at least a year now, and it has been steadily growing in the last couple of months. And it's a weird thing; the more I think about the Realms of Faerie, and the more I commit to it being my primary creative outlet, the happier I have been! I usually avoid wishy-washy sentiment wherever possible, but I can't help but feel as though the Realms of Faerie are my calling in life. To deny them is to deny my true self and will only lead to pain and more of grumpy Jay. Nobody wants grumpy Jay. Grumpy Jay is a loser.
On the surface, I could see how saying all of this might be seen as being a little overly-dramatic. After all, aren't I just simply deciding to not draw one thing in favour of another?
Well... yes. I am doing that. But it's far more. It's also about changing the way I look at my artistic career, my expectations for it, and the path it will follow. It's actually a pretty fundamental way in which I will be changing my outlook on one of the most important parts of my life. It's like going from Pepsi to Coke. One cannot emphasize the gravity of such a move enough.

So for the rest of this year, of what little there is left, I am going to be tying up loose ends and finishing off jobs I have outstanding. But once these are done and dusted, the change will take place.
Then, in 2015, I will become an entirely different person. I will be more prolific, happier, more consistent, more skilful, busier.

What I produce in 2015 for the Realms of Faerie will mostly remain to be decided. I have ongoing things like The Circle (I'm thinking of maybe a graphic novel for that particular project), but I want to illustrate lots of short stories, and do some children's books, and finally finish Willow and the Otter. There will be some sculpting, some single pictures, some poems (gah!), and whatever else I feel the urge to do. It's all about leaving myself open to ideas, while maintaining a solid focus on producing the very best work, whilst having a lot of fun, doing the thing I am meant to be doing.
As for changes to this blog and my other places. There will be none. I'll still be doing posts here every week, Gord and I will still be doing our regular podcasts, there will still be stuff for sale on my Etsy page (probably lots more!). It's just that you will stop seeing my work for other people, it'll all be of my own creation and doing.
Because, as the sign says on my study window...

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