|EDWARD EYTH: HIS OWN SONG
Edward Eyth is a sculptor and painter who resides in Central California. In fact, he strikes me as a very “California” kind of guy. Whatever that means! His work is exquisite http://edwardeyth.com/, warm and imminently human. We met online, I saw his work and knew I had to chat with him.
MICHAEL: Hello Edward, You certainly seem to be a "complete artist." Your work covers all genres. Was this a conscious decision on your part early on?
EDWARD: Hi Michael. Thank you for that, I like the term "complete artist." I don't often feel very complete, more like a lifetime student. A short attention span drives me to seek a new career direction every five to seven years. The challenge forces you to keep learning, but the process is accumulative, since each genre/media informs the next to some extent. The only real conscious decision was to pursue some form of creative expression, very early on. I was fortunate to that extent, having always had a sense of what I wanted to do and be professionally. And that wasn't so much decision as a natural inclination. I'd been drawing or sculpting from as far back as I can remember and always found great satisfaction in the creative process. As a kid, drawing provided an outlet, an avenue to detach from reality and venture off into my own little world, a world that would contain anything I was able to create. That’s probably what really inspired my interest in art. It’s the absolute joy in creating something that takes on a life of its own, then sharing it and evoking a response in someone else.
MICHAEL: How do you determine whether you'll sketch or paint or sculpt on a daily basis? Do you wake up and say, "I'll only paint today"?
EDWARD: Oh I wish. The economic realities of raising a family are typically what relieve me of the luxury of asking myself that question on a daily basis. I strive for a day when gallery sales alone can provide for that scenario, but that's not currently the case. I know a lot of artists who have had to adapt their strategy to provide in this economy. More often, I wake up with my brain rattling about the job on hand at the moment. I feel fortunate that I'm able to take on a variety of projects; that helps with the short attention span and keeps things interesting. Over the past few months, it's been creative consulting work on: a character design, a brand identity program for a company, some teaching/workshops, concept work for a film, a sculpture commission and on the best days, some time to work on my own art. The variety of challenges compels you to be resourceful and adapt.
I make an effort to do at least one daily sketch, sculpt or project that's my own (schedule permitting), to help maintain some sense of connection to my own artistic voice. Even if it's just doing some sketches in bed just before I nod off at night. Ultimately, I feel like each effort brings me closer and closer to experiencing the grand situation described in your question. To wake up and think, "What will I create today?" To be driven by your own inner vision. Many years ago, I came across a saying that really resonated with me, attributed to Rabindranath Tagore: "I've spent my life stringing and unstringing my instrument, while the song I came to sing remains unsung." I'm grateful for the opportunity to "sing my own songs," it's a rewarding part of being an artist. Singing other people's songs (commercial work) can be satisfying too - if it's a good song. Not long after reading that quote, I found a related one by Oliver Wendell Holmes that is even more poignant: "Many of us die with the music still in us." I find such motivation in that.
MICHAEL: Whenever I see great sculpture like yours, I think, "This is as close to God as you can get when it comes to creativity!" But of course, all I see is the finished product. Do you feel that your ability is a gift or is it just really daily hard work?
EDWARD: Wow. Thank you so much for that kind remark. Hearing responses like yours is what makes creating art so fulfilling. I once had a collector send me a letter in which he went on for several pages about the sculpture he'd purchased. He described how meaningful the piece was, the spiritual and religious implications and his perceptions of what the piece represented to him. Much of which I'd never even considered when I sculpted the figure, but he'd abstracted all this content through the filter of his own personal experience. I love that aspect of art. It can resonate with people in ways the artist may have not intended. As for having natural ability vs. daily hard work, in my case I'd have to say both. I feel fortunate to have a natural aptitude for visual communication, but when you're a novice, developing technique and trying to find your voice? Without dedication & focus, the real shit won't happen. But as the saying goes, when you love what you do, it's not really work. Ultimately, in its best moments, the artistic process is a lot like sex. There's effort involved, but it would hardly qualify as work.
MICHAEL: You know Edward, sculpture is not the most accessible art form. It's often expensive to produce and only REALLY affordable for wealthy folks and institutions with lots of display space. Thoughts?
EDWARD: Fine art in general is an elitist medium. Art has historically been owned or commissioned by the affluent. Statistics on museum attendance provide evidence that the overwhelming majority of museum visitors are upscale white people, which excludes the largest percentage of the population. Film is a more accessible, populist media with a powerful capacity to dramatically influence mass opinion and perceptions. But it's also a considerably more collaborative process and individual artistic contribution often plays a small part in a much bigger vision. Sculpture provides the opportunity to pursue a vision that is uniquely my own. Creating art for "the 1 percent" at the top of the economic chain isn't what motivates me. It's the unparalleled sense of self-reliance and challenge that you face each day. It's a combination of challenge and exhilaration to know that if a sculpture succeeds, it's by my efforts. If it fails, it's my fault. Blame or glory, you own it all. The person I'm really trying to impress and evoke a response in, is me. And when I do that, I typically find others who respond as well. Plus, the permanence of bronze is very appealing to me. Knowing that unborn generations may have the chance to experience my work is gratifying. But I have put a lot of thought into how sculpture might be made more accessible to anyone. That's a big challenge.
One of the exciting aspects of new technologies is the how the creation of art (both film and sculpture) is changing dramatically. With HD digital cameras and powerful editing software now affordable at PC level, filmmaking can become a much more personalized process and fulfilling the artistic vision of one person (and by one person) is now possible. Growing numbers of low-budget, independent films, some with fully computer generated imagery are being picked up and financed or distributed by major studios. Many based on just a short film or trailer. As technology democratizes the film industry, the prospects for creativity and self-expression grow exponentially.
Digital sculpting and 3D printers may soon make sculpture equally more accessible. I read recently that Staples office supply stores will soon be offering low cost 3D printing services, so that you can upload a computer generated sculpture to their website and pick up a detailed, high-resolution copy of your work the same day. There are also indications that 3D printers are becoming more affordable to the degree that anyone may soon be able to own one, with the capacity to generate prototypes and 3D pieces at home. There's been a trend among classically-trained sculptors recently, to develop fluency in digital sculpting too. It's a difficult transition, but one that's gaining momentum. I've recently installed ZBrush, a sophisticated 3D sculpting program on my computer and begun experimenting and introductory tutorials. It's a remarkable medium that I'm beginning to enjoy.
I'm fascinated by these developments, since they seem to suggest that a capacity to generate sculpture on a more easily-accessible platform may soon exist. While I'm not sure how that will evolve, it's exciting to think that great works of art, like Michelangelo's "Pieta" or "David" may one day be accessible from a museum as a 3D file, which you can download, view on your computer from any angle, zoom in to see details with great clarity or even print a hard copy on your home 3D printer at any scale. So while bronze sculpture may never find mass distribution, replicas of fine art sculpture (of a "museum store" quality) may soon become accessible to a larger percentage of the population. How grand it would be to envision every home in the future, having a personalized sculpture collection tailored to the owner's tastes. Whether in hard copy form or virtual imagery, viewable electronically. The implications are massive, in terms of copyrights and artist compensation, but the music industry has survived that transition, maybe the art world is ready for an equally disruptive overhaul. Imagine an art world where beauty, significance and the relevance of a sculpture were dictated by individual taste and not by a self-serving handful of elite gallery owners and curators who bestow grandeur and importance on the uninspired, juvenile efforts of those "select" individuals who stand to best support the existing system. Not that I'm resentful about the sad state of contemporary art.
MICHAEL: Where are you exactly? Are you in Los Angeles? What's it like being an artist in a town dominated by another genre (film)? Do people there truly understand "static" visual art?
EDWARD: I live in central California, a small town called Pacific Grove. I moved here in 2004 after spending a large part of my career in LA, working in the entertainment industry. With film being the dominant art form as you mentioned, there are many remarkably talented artists who have gravitated to that industry. I know more than a few of them who fantasize about or actively pursue a fine arts career in their free time. I think there is an appreciation for traditional art forms in LA and galleries that run the range of styles and tastes. A large number of young art enthusiasts collect low brow work so that tends to dominate in the many galleries geared for younger collectors. The range of museums and galleries in LA (and nearby Laguna Beach) indicate that painting and sculpture are still finding an audience and active collectors. As far as "what it's like being an artist in a town dominated by another genre?," I think it's probably not much different than anywhere in the U.S. Ultimately, it's about your art and if you're producing great work, you're likely to find an audience. I've come to the conclusion that artists everywhere still face the same challenges; mastering technique, being open to inspiration and finding an audience. In LA/Hollywood the film business just offers a seductive alternative to the challenges of emerging and gaining momentum in the fine art market.
MICHAEL: Your drawings are also exquisite and lovingly academic. What inspires you to draw as opposed to sculpting on any given day? Does one genre influence the other?
EDWARD: Thank you so much for that kind remark. You writers can compose a compliment like no one else. Drawing and sculpting definitely feed off of each other, even with their fundamental differences in approach. As for what inspires me to do one over the other? Usually, it depends on where I am with an idea or project. Drawing is such an efficient way to get ideas from your head onto paper, that's where my initial efforts take place. It's where most of the creative work gets done. It's easy to quickly transcribe an image onto paper and I can come up with 10 compositions in the time it would take just to get the clay & armature set up, so drawing becomes the preferred tool for concept development & composition. Even further along in the process, if a clay sculpture requires any modifications or reconsideration, it's "back to the drawing board," where options can be pursued in a quick, effective way. I've drawn all my life and enjoyed the process, but often it was a bit like exercise, a necessary labor to improve and advance, much like practicing scales on the piano. But recently, I've noticed I have this ongoing urge to draw that's become more like a pleasant addiction. A blank page presents this exciting opportunity for exploration, where it used to be a stage requiring me to perform in an effort to meet my inner critic's high expectations. I keep sketchbooks easily accessible, in the glove compartment of my car, on the night stand next to my bed and drawing apps on my mobile gadgets.
It's one of the great things about being an artist. If you have a pencil and paper near by, you never have any downtime. Inspired ideas can show up unexpectedly and I've had ideas strike while sketching in the waiting room of a dentist's office or while sitting in the car waiting to pick up my son from school. The act of drawing seems to open the door for inspiration to visit. Not likely that a bolt of brilliance will appear every time you pick up a pencil, but drawing is a catalyst for the creative process for me. I'm currently obsessed with faces and draw them incessantly. The variety of structures & features in each face, the boundless range of expressions, the subtle changes in the position of an eyebrow, the angle of the mouth - it's just fascinating. Since so much of the expressive qualities of a sculpture exist in the face, it's worthy of much sensitive scrutiny. I spend most of my time on a sculpture's face/expression, then secondarily the hands, which also have a dramatic impact on the piece. There's this magical moment in the creation of a drawing or sculpture, when it transforms from pencil marks or a piece of clay, into something that starts looking back at you. As if it begins to take on its own personality and identity. Sounds eerie, but that's part of the magic and allure of creating art for me. When a work begins to have its own aura, or in the best cases, its own thoughts and emotions that are readily apparent. That probably relates better to your previous statement about the God-like aspect of art, the joy of being a "creator" of something that takes on a life of its own.
MICHAEL: There's this fantastic scene from (director Joe Wright's version) the latest film adaptation of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" in which Elizabeth Bennett (Keira Knightley) is walking through Mr. Darcy's home and admiring his sculpture collection. It really speaks to the power of sculpture. Does this genre still impact you in this way or are you kind of over it because you do this every day? LOL.
EDWARD: I know exactly the scene you're talking about. My wife loves that film, so I've seen it more than once. I'm happy to report that great sculpture still moves and inspires me. Now that I have a first-hand understanding of the effort and proficiency required to create great sculpture, I have a higher regard for the truly evocative, masterfully executed works. I have a roster of Facebook artist friends from around the world and I enjoy seeing what they're producing and what new materials and methods are being used. Often, I'll just do sculpture web searches just to expose myself to images of old and the new 3D works that abound and I'm in awe of the beautifully, inspired works to be found. The other side to the equation is that scrutinizing the best of the best in sculpture and doing a significant amount of anatomical studies can make it much easier to see the flaws and identify sub-standard work. Plenty of mediocre sculpture being hyped as "masterworks." But I don't think I'll ever tire of touring a museum or gallery that's stocked with outstanding figurative art. The artwork is engaging and I feel a tangible connection to the sculptor when viewing their work, having participated in the same artistic process of manipulating clay. And some of the grand masterworks? I could see them on a daily basis and they'd still take my breath away. I'll never tire of that.
MICHAEL: Finally Edward, what are you exploring now and what do you hope to do in the future?
EDWARD: I divide my time between teaching and producing art. I just completed my first online webinar, a remarkable experience, with people attending from as far away as Damascus, Syria. I'm anxious to pursue online teaching, the opportunities to connect with students globally is phenomenal. I'm working on a monument commission for the next few months and it's been a great experience sculpting at such a grand scale. The more I dedicate myself to creating art, the stronger my urge to create becomes. I find experience intensifies skill, which increases the flow of ideas and need to express them. The satisfaction I experience from sculpting continues to deepen and my artistic approach seems to be evolving from devotion to dependency and may ultimately become an obsession. But all in a positive, creatively fulfilling way that leaves me feeling very fortunate. As for the future, I'm getting the urge to paint and hope to find time at an easel soon. Whatever the media, I hope to produce art that connects with others and adds beauty to the world. But my top priority for the future is being a great husband and father. I married the woman of my dreams and have two awesome sons who keep me snickering daily.
MICHAEL: Fantastic. Thanks Edward. This has been great.
EDWARD: Great talking with you Michael, keep up the excellent work!
Check out Edward Eyth at http://edwardeyth.com/.