Monday, March 12, 2018

Thoughts for the Day

I've been thinking recently about this whole process of making miniatures from wood craft bits like I do, or developing them from a pawn or clothespin base form like Dale, Ken, and Stephen do, or the clay sculpture figures that Vicente does.  I have also started to think more and more about the general "crafting movement" in rpgs, in particular work on terrain by people like DM Scotty and DMG (check out their youtube videos if you haven't, they are both awesome).  I know we do it primarily out of a gaming need/desire.  But it has to be more than that. 

We are fortunate enough to live in a time when there are pretty much professionally sculpted miniatures and terrain pieces for anything you would want, and if you happen to hit on something that you can't find, I highly recommend doing a Kick Starter search before concluding that "that miniature doesn't exist," because much of the time you'll find a KS for it ... it may never get finished, but at least there is a mention of a KS for it.  So it isn't like the 1980's when we might be making miniatures because the ones we need to not exist.  We can get professionally made miniatures and terrain of whatever we want, all we need to do is paint them.  So why do we do the stuff that is covered on this blog?

I then got really reflective and thought back to the art appreciation courses I took when I was a wee lad in college and it sort of hit me.  And I came to this conclusion.  I think that one of the main reasons those of us who do this whole miniature construction and painting thing is out of individual artistic expression.  These pieces are art to us, not just purely functioning objects to use in a game.  Sure, that's part of it, but the amount of blood, sweat and tears that we put into these little fellows far exceeds any benefit provided by creating a functional gaming piece.  And again, all those gaming pieces already exist, sculpted by professionals.  All we have to do is paint them.  And yet, we continue to do this "art."

So the next obvious question is "okay, but what kind of art?"

I'm starting to think that one could classify what we are doing as "folk art."  Here is dictionary.com's definition of "folk art":

"Artistic works, as paintings, sculpture, basketry, and utensils, produced typically in cultural isolation by untrained often anonymous artists or by artisans of varying degrees of skill and marked by such attributes as highly decorative design, bright bold colors, flattened perspective, strong forms in simple arrangements, and immediacy of meaning."

Wow, that definition seems to hit on a bunch of things that appear to be true for the artistic process covered on this blog.

1.  Produced typically in cultural isolation:  Seems certainly to be true.

2.  By untrained often anonymous artists or by artisans of varying degrees of skill:  Check.

3.  Marked by such simple attributes as highly decorative design, bright colors, flattened perspective, strong forms in simple arrangements, and immediacy of meaning:  CHECK!!!

It seems to me that one could consider these little wooden warriors that we are making to be a type of folk art.  

Others agree?  Disagree?  Could care less, I just want to see more little wooden guys? 

2 comments:

  1. Oh, I wholeheartedly agree. I think of an example to back that up: when I tried to get you to sell me your craftee ancient army. BY your own admission it was pretty much collecting dust in some closet and had not seen the light of day (at the time), but in the end, you could not sell them. They were too much a part of you.

    For me, I have a LOT of one-offs, or one single figure for a period, genre, game concept, or art style. Largely I wanted to prove to myself that "I can make that, if I wanted to". I have a steampunk robot, troglodyte, hoplites with yarn crests and others made from clothespins. I have AWI figures, despite having hundreds (if not thousands) of painted, 15mm AWI troops sitting on the shelf, waiting to be used. So why am I crafting them in 12mm and 42mm scale? (To see if I can make a decent tricorne, of course!)

    I have always looked upon wooden soldiers – actually any wooden toy – as both folk art and a practical toy. My first attraction to wooden figures though, did not come from Nutcracker-style figures, but when I found out that RPG author M.A.R. Barker made his own wooden figures for Empire of the Petal Throne, because the uniforms and armor was so unique that there absolutely no figures out there for what he imagined (which was a high medieval Aztec-like military). That pushed me to experiment with wooden bead knights, the first wooden figures I made.

    Is it art? Absolutely. Nothing wrong with "functional art".

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  2. We do not carve with such perfection and details, but we certanly produce art. Each piece we make is built with an effort that some times goes unnoticed, Every figure we are going to build begins with a silent process of construction, of evaluating our technical habilities. Can i do "this" in certain way and if the answer is "no" which are the alternatives? every solution, every "thing" that we synthesize visualy to adapt our habilities, creating an itentity, this bluilds our visual intentity.

    Art is the ability directed to the execution of a practical or theoretical purpose, realized consciously, controlled and rational and is exactly what we do innocently.

    The justification of why we do it, may varies from case to case. In my case is a set of factors. I use this time to "play" with my son, there in my country we dont´t have tha many options of miniatures and the ones we have are very expensive and the most obvious of all for me is that we take plesure in bluinding things.

    So i Agree with you, we are building things with our own visual identity, developing new methods of production to expose an idea and that's what artists do.

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