A Challenge of Mythical Proportions
As an artist I find it’s easy to fall into ruts of creative laziness. I’ll head into the shop and end up making something I’ve made before, allowing myself to fall back on memories or photos instead of challenging myself to figure things out. It saves me the trouble of thinking too hard.
There’s some comfort to be had in simply making something, anything, but I often forget how good it feels to face a challenge and really test myself. Lucky for me I have a client who seems to sense when I’m in need of such a challenge. This client has a wild imagination and a fierce desire to see me succeed and grow as an artist. As she was heading out the door after picking up a recent order she was suddenly seized with inspiration – she needed two “life-sized” gryphons to protect her front door and a baby gryphon to protect the back. She was very descriptive regarding their demeanor. She wanted the adults to be mellow but project an air of strength. The baby, on the other hand, should be fierce and menacing, complete with squawking beak and threatening claw in the air. She actually posed for me so I’d know what she meant (it was very entertaining).
I accepted the challenge with confidence. It wasn’t until I started making the various bits and pieces that I realized how hard it was going to be to seamlessly attach a lion’s body to an eagle’s head. I had a vague vision in my head that didn’t easily translate to paper so all I could do was jump in and see what happened.
I managed to get started with a lot of helpful input from Jon. I used rebar to make armatures for the seated adult gryphons. Now I just needed to start cutting and attaching parts – backbone, hind legs, giant lion feet, etc. Easy peasy!
- As I pieced my gryphons together I discovered a few things. For one, sometimes to figure out if something is going to work you just have to try it and not worry about the time and materials you might be wasting. For two, if my gut is telling me something isn’t working then it’s worth the effort to try to fix it. For three, sometimes the creative process is very frustrating! I found myself bewildered at almost every step I spent ages looking at drawings online and referring back to my own pathetic sketches. I also spent countless hours just standing there staring. At the gryphons, the walls, the floor. A tree. Waiting, hoping and praying for inspiration.
- After a lot of trial and error my adults eventually started to come together. Despite removing and remaking their feet twice, attaching their wings backwards, and cutting off more pieces than I welded on things were looking good.
Once I got the eyes attached and the eyebrows finished the adults were complete.
With those two behind me I had a sudden burst of luck, the creative planets aligned and the baby came together almost as if I knew what I was doing.
I was so relieved when I put the finishing touches on the gryphons and they were ready to be delivered. And then I was really sad. Throughout the creation process it seems I’d become quite attached to this little family. I guess it’s true that the hardest part of bringing children into the world is letting them go. And we’d been through so much together!
Despite my sadness, I was very excited to deliver them to their new home and couldn’t wait to see the look on the client’s face. When we arrived, she exclaimed over how wonderful they were, but the first thing she said to me was, “So, did you want to kill me for a little while there?” All I could do was smile and nod.