“Crazy Good Art”

Sometimes I feel like a thoughtless child when I catch myself using expressions that show a lack of sensitivity for people suffering.

Other times I feel like the expression in question has some insight or specitivity when used in certain contexts, no matter how overused or unfortunate the term might be in general.

“Crazy good” might be a callous expression, but “crazy good art” has some references beyond the association of genius and mental illness and suffering and the classic heart-breaking examples like Van Gogh.

I think there is some artist-to-artist meaning communicated in the phrase, and it is a reference to the “post-project blues” and the level of commitment required to make the piece in question. It is a high compliment expressed crudely for emphasis.

Post-Project Blues

Many artists and writers have mentioned how the overwhelming blues can strike as soon as an immersive project of many months or even weeks is completed.

I can vouch for that.

The wave of enthusiasm and purpose is suddenly gone, and it was an immersive wave that had forward motion. Suddenly there are all the postponed chores to contend with.

But I think the full impact on the brain goes beyond psychology or perception of external factors.

There is also the fact that whatever neural connections you had been running for many hours a day suddenly are dormant.

What does the brain do with all the suddenly available energy? It thinks too much.


“Piece Rendered” Fur

When I saw artist Jilla Simmons‘ mosaics, the phrase that immediately popped into my mind was “crazy good art.”

I have spent my whole life as a maker of things and a pursuer of skills that take long focus.

Even at age four, I would spend hours and hours creating complicated structures from sticks or blocks or building sets.

Some people look at my artwork and tell me they could never do anything like that, but most of the time I don’t believe them, at least not fully.

But then I look at the precision and detail that some artists have managed, and I think I get it.

I look at animal fur in Jilla Simmons’ mosaics and how the fur is “piece rendered” as tiny tufts or individual hairs, and I find myself thinking only half jokingly:

“If I had to duplicate this art or make something of similar intensity, I could be psychologically warped in some way afterward, at least temporarily.”


An Eye Beyond Precision

In an age of machine precision and mass production, precision and the difficulty of execution become less and less important in art.

The “artist’s eye” and her imagination are more important, and there are some artists who are masters of precise execution and fine details but lacking in these other qualities.

I was very pleased to see that Jilla has a great eye for color and improvisation on top of her “crazy good” level of precision.

The simulation of water in a clear vase in the mosaic below has nothing to do with precision, but it is amazing. There is the optical distortion from the lens effect and the glossiness of the glass surface to contend with, yet Jilla captures both and creates a sense of light in the image. The level of verisimilitude is beyond what seems possible with a few coarse tiles.

This is a work of impressionistic genius, more like something that would have required oil paints to create:


Bright and Shiny Things

Jilla likes to make the kind of bright and shiny things that I love.







7 responses to ““Crazy Good Art””

  1. Cecelia Bryan Avatar
    Cecelia Bryan

    Loved this! I can totally relate to post project blues!
    I cannot get over the fur in those mosaics!
    I definitely think that artists “give birth” and therefore go through the post-partum blues. And there are times when, after years of working on a project, anticipating the finished work in the place it was meant to be, and a week after completion the defects are too much for it to live so it gets packed away, neatly in hopes of some day when the time is right, it can be resurrected and displayed for the creator’s pleasure… and anyone else who sees it! But in the meantime, there is left a sort of hole or void full of doubts about whether or not the artist is ever capable of producing anything again!
    Thanks for this post! I sent it along to the other artists in my family who I know will understand!

  2. Karen White-Dacy Avatar
    Karen White-Dacy

    I want to thank you for addressing post-project blues. I definitely have and currently am experiencing this feeling, but until reading your post, could not name it. I said to myself just yesterday, “I need to put new pictures in my brain. I need to see new things.” Is the answer beginning something new? I would like to hear others’ perspectives.

  3. Nyssa G Thomassen Avatar
    Nyssa G Thomassen

    Wow, the fur on these is so realistic! I’m getting better, but fur is really hard!

  4. Susan Henchal Avatar
    Susan Henchal

    How did she do the fur?? Did she cut each piece or is there a special tile she used? The zebra looks like a photograph. Spectacular!

  5. Jilla Simmons Avatar
    Jilla Simmons

    Thank you Joe for your very kind, encouraging words, and insight, to my mosaic work. It is empowering to hear such approval of my work by an acclaimed artist.
    I tottaly agree with the “overwhelming blues,” after completing a massive work. Near the end of each big project I start thinking of all the other “postponed chores”, that I need to work on.
    The zebra was big, 37×27 inches, and took 5 months, off and on with off weeks hear and there for traveling.
    In response to some comments, first of all thank you for liking my work. About the fur, I cut every picec of hair/fur from sheets of stained glass and adhered each one in place by tweezers. I didnt use any stringers or glass filati anywhere.
    Grouting these type of work with tiny pieces is hard and the hardest part is the cleaning the grout and polishing. Some parts of the work are left without grout as I have placed the tesserea very close to each other. The otter and the dog were grouted.
    Thanks again,

  6. Teri Rhan Avatar
    Teri Rhan

    Jilla, You are an amazing and brilliant artist. Your creativity is such an inspiration. I can’t wait to see your next project. Thank you so much for sharing you skill on FB and the world.

  7. Billie Kay Bodie Avatar
    Billie Kay Bodie

    I have seen Jilla’s mosaics. They are spectacular and alive the way light shimmers and reflects off of them at different times of the day and night. She told me that when she finished her enormous zebra, she used the same technique to make a very tiny mosaic of her dog. What a contrast. Beautifully done Jilla.

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