Keeping Art Fresh

You Can’t Force Freshness

To make it as a professional artist, you have to keep your art fresh and always be enthusiastic about working on it. The easiest way to do that is to keep a variety of media in your studio and move between them as needed.

Yes, you need to have discipline and focus and stick to a craft over time to develop any depth of skill in it, in mosaic or in painting or whatever your preferred medium of art happens to be, but sometimes you need a break from the routine to have perspective on what you are doing. Sometimes you need to make little clay sculptures instead of mosaic. Or work with paper cutouts or collages from old Kodachrome photographs from 1960’s National Geographic magazines. Sometimes the most important work you can do is to not bang your head against blockages or monotony.

The Importance of Play

As an artist, you will most likely live on small commissions and day jobs and can’t afford to let too much time go by in an unproductive way. Most likely you are painfully familiar with how competitive the world is and how much economic incentive there is to always by sharpening your skills. The question is how to take a break without taking a break, and the answer is alternative mediums.

Legos Tonight

I play Legos with my 4-year-old son every day after I pick him up from preschool. We built up our collection of Legos from a few key starter sets and ordering specialty kits like wheels and doors and windows as needed. I am careful to avoid anything that is too theme specific, especially franchise themes like Star Wars and Harry Potter, and stick to generic Legos instead. I want to show my son how to build things he imagines from generic components, not make copies of things that are already saturated in video and other commercial media.

Used Bulk Lots on Ebay

The best source of Legos turns out to be eBay, where you can buy them in 10-pound and 20-pound bulk lots and get thousands of used blocks and components for the price you would pay for just a few hundred new pieces. Also, the selection of blocks in the used bulk lots is much more diverse than what you could find in any new set because these bulk lots contain blocks from countless sets of different themes from different years, many of which are discontinued and no longer available. The latest bulk lots I bought probably contained blocks from at least 40 to 50 different sets, and about 50% of the blocks were components I had never seen before: shafts, brackets, panels, hinges, beams, axles, etc. The color selection in these used bulk lots is also more diverse than what you find in a new set for exactly the same reason.

How To Clean Used Toys

One concern about buying used toys is that they can be covered in several decades worth of filth, contagious germs and little-kid stickiness. Since Legos and most contemporary toys are plastic, it is very easy to clean them by soaking in a basin of warm water with a small amount of chlorine bleach added. We use one of our large plastic recycling totes and a colander to process the whole set in one  batch. The colander is more or less required to catch all the hundreds of tiny pieces.

If you are buying toys to make assemblage sculpture, you should also consider cleaning them in a batch before starting work, although I am referring to newer contemporary toys and things that don’t have an interesting patina that defines how the object looks. Antique metal toys and even plastic toys from a few decades ago often have some rust or dirt or patina that can’t be cleaned off without changing if not downright ruining the look of the toy. Make sure you avoid the bleach bath for these type pieces and give them individual attention. I have even seen artists paint a layer of thin acrylic over patinas and dirt to make sure it didn’t come off.

My Latest Lego Creations

Enough babbling about how to make art! Here is what I made last night. Let the bidding begin at one million dollars. That is how much fun I had making them. Note that the hoist on the crane works, as does the magnet, and all of these creations were built from generic components without a plan:

Lego Crane Truck Rear View
Lego Crane Truck Front View
Lego Asian Taxi
Lego Amphibious Duck Vehicle
Lego Adjustable Camera Boom Mounted on Rolling Swivel Platform
Lego Jet Car
Lego Jet Car







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