Tag Archives: Sculptor

Contemplating the Muse (part 1)

A recent issue of NEA ARTS magazine really got me thinking about inspiration, that intangible, inexhaustible and often elusive wellspring that enables artists to express ideas in new ways to enlighten, delight or challenge their audience.

While every artist has their own ideas as to the source of inspiration and how best to tap into it, one concept seems ever present – inspiration is not something that simply happens to someone (or doesn’t) as a boon from some unseen benefactor whispering in their ear, rather it is the result of an artist’s dedication to their work and the open-minded awareness they maintain of the world around them.


Consider the following quotations selected from the NEA ARTS issue on inspiration:

“[If inspiration is lightning], working on your craft is making yourself a lightning rod.”  ~Chris Thile, musician

“[The artist] realizes that the only way [inspiration] can happen is if you’re working and thinking, centered and always aware.”  ~Muriel Hasbun, photographer

“When something sparks a new idea about an unrelated topic, that’s inspiration. If you keep your eyes open wide enough, you can find inspiration in just about anything.”  ~Septime Webre, choreographer

So, before screaming at your muse for not showering you with ideas, ask yourself if you are working hard enough at your craft and open to seeing the inspiration all around you.

This issue sparked so many ideas that I’ll divide them up into several posts. Until then, I invite you to read it yourself (#4, 2013, “The Inspiration Quotient: A Different Kind of IQ”).

~Aric Jorn

The Dark Side of Art

Autumn is one of my favorite times of year and Halloween, one of my favorite holidays. I attend parties and exhibitions throughout October and at month’s end, I host a party for friends and fellow artists. It is a time for stretching the imagination and trying new techniques without concern for results; a time for throwing off whatever chains I have accumulated over the year and diving into projects for the shear, raw joy of it. I make costumes and props ranging from ghostly monkeys to carved sarcophagus lids. The only requirement I make of myself is that I try something new – a new medium, a new technique – that takes me out of my comfort zone.

halloween projects

This year, the first event on my docket was Theatre Bizarre at the Masonic Temple in Detroit. It is one of the best parties of its kind. It is true as some say, that the event is extremely crowded and guests are not always certain where to go since performances are happening at a dozen locations simultaneously and there is little to guide attendees to the shows in which they may be most interested.


Once you are in and have accepted the general chaos however, it is a magical place and if you give up trying to control your course and choose instead to simply wander from experience to experience, you will find yourself in interesting places. Burlesque dancers, fire acts, bands, sideshow performers and rooms better experienced than described (like the ghost train and fistotorium) – all exist to tantalize the senses and celebrate the darker side of our imaginations. And then there are the costumes … as an artist, the endless parade of costumes is alone worth the cost of admission and I often found my fellow guests as entertaining as the acts on the stages. I made myself a “dark circus master” personae for this year’s event and had an absolute blast.

Aric-dark circus master copy

The second event I attended was Damned VI: An Exhibition of Enlightened Darkness (also in Detroit). It was a small affair and it barely took me an hour to work my way around its main hall and absorb all the art on display. I was  disappointed at its limited scope but there was some very interesting artwork to be seen along with a couple performers that made the night worthwhile. The one stand out for me was Satori Circus, a thoroughly engaging clown/mime whose silent performances captivated the crowd.


Halloween is among other things about letting your imagination out to play without constraint. To those who have outgrown Halloween or lost their fear of things that go bump in the night, I remind you of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who wrote, “Where there is no imagination, there is no horror.”

All in all a satisfying Halloween season and a much needed unraveling of self-imposed constraints and the ghostly specters of imagined limits.

~Aric Jorn

Inspiration From Without

My annual midsummer hiatus now passed, I have returned to my studio with fresh ideas and renewed ambition. So today I offer my first Artistic Journey post, a category wherein I share my creative life and that of other artists I have met along the way, as well as stories I hope you will find inspirational on your own creative journey.

As the eldest son of two artists who met while attending Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, I am no stranger to art shows. My mother, Helen Liljegren, showed as a fiber artist at a variety of juried art fairs throughout my childhood – Ann Arbor and Birmingham in Michigan; LakeFront in Wisconsin; and Oakbrook in Illinois are the ones that most stick in my memory but there were many others.

When not helping to watch her booth, I was allowed to venture down the rows of bleach white tents, meeting the neighboring artists who would do their best to entertain a young boy who wasn’t very fond of sitting still for any length of time. I loved the whole atmosphere of those shows – the smell of the food (mostly fried), the steady stream of people coming in to admire my mother’s work, and the seemingly endless variety of art I found all around me.

One of the people I was most drawn to was a ceramic artist named Todd Warner, who created comical hand-built animals with buggy eyes, spindly legs and big feet.


Another favorite stop was the booth of Madeline Kaczmarczyk and Jerry Berta who made whimsical pottery and ceramic car-related sculptures respectively.


I also remember a metal artist named Dempsey Calhoun – for his artwork, yes, but also for his habit of hunting flies that made the fatal mistake of entering his booth. Like some miniature big game hunter on safari, he would shoot them with giant rubber bands from across his booth to both applause and odd looks from passersby. I’m not sure whether this helped or hurt his sales but it certainly made an impression.


I remember being very inspired by these early encounters – especially the sculptors. I made a number of clay dinosaurs back then that sadly, like the things they represented, have since been lost to time. My love of three-dimensional art took root during those years and when I sat down to write this post, I was delighted to discover all these artists are still thriving nearly thirty years later.

I share this story because I have come to recognize the importance of recharging my creative batteries by looking outside my own work. I find time spent looking at what others have done – especially (and perhaps ironically) work that is in no way connected to my own – is worth twice the number of hours spent sitting alone attempting to force inspiration out of the void. It is for this reason I devoted an entire weekend to the Ann Arbor Art Fair shortly after my last post in mid-July. A great deal had changed since I was there as a child, and a lot had remained the same.

As a general rule, I deem a show “good” if one out of ten booths earn more than a casual glance and one out of 100 stop me in my tracks and make me want to reach for my wallet. The A2 fair (which actually consists of four shows all connected into one long winding path I would guess to be about two miles in total length) is such a place and I recommend it for its size, variety and quality not to mention its scenic beauty being nestled in and around the beautiful U of M campus.

There are things I found to be lacking or at least underrepresented. There were no fiber artists to speak of – at least not of the decorative, wall-hanging variety like my mother used to make. There were a couple of ceramic artists making hand-built animals and figures (including Alan Paulson who I came to know from my days at the Michigan Renaissance Festival) but there seemed to be room for far more to help break up the monotony of jewelers, potters and painters.

On balance it remains a wonderfully rewarding experience and just what I needed – an artistic environment that recharged my batteries, opening my mind to new techniques and making me hungry for time in my own studio.

~Aric Jorn