Curiosity Kickstarted the Pussycat: Taking my own advice and a big risk.

Aili drawing an owl

Curiosity Kickstarted the Pussycat: Taking my own advice and a big risk.

 

Ailithir

LETTER FROM THE DIRECTOR, SPRING, 2017

Well, I’m finally doing it. I’m taking my own advice.

After almost five years of cheerleading for artists, of gently pushing back when someone says they’re not artistic, of insisting that everyone has something beautiful and creative to contribute to the world, I am finally sharing my own artwork.

Aili's braceletsIf you’ve been paying attention to our gallery in the past year, you may have noticed some of my contributions. At first, I put some jewelry into our gift shop. I’ve been making hand-beaded items since I was about eleven.

But beading has not been the only artistic skill I’ve maintained since I was a kid: I’ve also been a published illustrator since I was 13. In fact, I’ve been called upon to illustrate a few things throughout my career, and it’s a skill that brings me great joy.

It’s also a skill I’ve been reluctant to share.

You see, I had convinced myself that I really preferred keeping things separate. When I’m at work, I thought to myself, I’m the Director: an administrator, rule-enforcer, executive. To try to be an artist at the same time just wouldn’t be appropriate. I thought it was necessary to keep my identities apart so that there would be no misunderstanding about my motives or role.

I realize now that that was probably just an excuse to not have to expose myself to artistic criticism.

Thus, I kept my art to myself, and looking at some of the pieces I created between 2012 and 2016, I can see the negative impacts of my decision. Most of my artwork from that period is tiny and sketchy and unfinished. There are a lot of tight, rigid little line drawings in the corners of blank pages and on scrap paper. There are some stiff, half-executed still-life works and genre scenes hacked out hastily, as if time were about to run out. And there’s at least one lazy self-portrait done in oil pastels — I call it lazy because I didn’t take the time to properly frame out the proportions, so the whole thing became skewed. It’s unmistakably me, but as seen through a distorted funhouse mirror.  It’s a stilted, strange version of me, which is a little too symbolic of how I had been conducting myself artistically.

Aili drawing an owlBut then, inspiration struck in a way I just couldn’t ignore. My brother and his girlfriend decided to get married. I wanted to make them something as a gift, and there was an old English poem that reminded me of aspects of their relationship. So, I decided to create a drawing for them based on that poem. It was incredible fun, pouring all of the love and affection I have for my brother and his wife into this gift. It turned out that one drawing couldn’t contain it all, so one illustration became three, which became six, and then 12, and before I knew it, I had 32 full-color drawings of an owl and a cat having all sorts of adventures together. That’s when my wonderful boyfriend — a successful professional artist himself — suggested that I publish them as a book.

As he spoke, I heard my own voice ringing in my head. What do you have to lose? Give it a try! If not now, when? Everyone has something beautiful and creative to share with the world!

So, I decided that it was high time I took my own advice!

WP_20160731_16_56_45_Pro“The Owl and the Pussycat Went to Sea” is my first major illustration project in five years and I’m sharing it with the entire Nickel Plate Arts community. I purchased the Artist Showcase exhibit for April and will be showing each of the original drawings, as well as launching a Kickstarter campaign to get the book printed and distributed around the country. It all starts on April’s First Friday at Nickel Plate Arts.

Why Kickstarter? For one thing, Kickstarter is a great way to get a little boost in capital to get a project moving. The crowdfunding platform allows members to pledge any amount toward a project. It puts projects in front of hundreds of thousands of members across the globe. I also wanted to launch a Kickstarter project because I was curious. No one else in the Nickel Plate Arts network has launched a Kickstarter, at least not in a way where we could be deeply involved, and yet, I have always suspected that crowdfunding platforms could be good sources of support for other artists.  So, I decided I would take the risk and see what it’s like.

Ailithir O. McGill Owl Pussycat PostcardAnd, really, that’s why I’m sharing this project now. I was curious about what it’s like to be an artist in the Nickel Plate Arts network. I was curious to see if the advice I’ve been spooning out to artists is useful. And I wanted to experience first hand what it’s like to take the risk, to hang my art up for all to see, to try to sell it and to, hopefully, inspire others to enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it!

I hope you’ll drop by our campus this April to look at my work and to discover the hundreds of other local artists, performers, writers and musicians taking the same big risks every day.

As we move into the spring, we’re offering even more ways for you to connect with local creative entrepreneurs. For example, we’re now featuring a Maker of the Month and have Second Saturday art projects for you (and your kids) to explore new tools, techniques and ways of thinking about art.

New inspiration is springing up all over at Nickel Plate Arts!  Find out what beautiful things you have to share with the world and what new risks you’re willing to take! Join us!

Ailithir McGill
amcgill@nickelplatearts.org