Despite the fact that I convinced myself and countless others that I was "all art-ed out" (translation: had no more room left for art in my home or office), my defences broke down a couple of weeks ago and I bought The Boastful Ghost, the image below this blog post.
It was hard for me to resist. The 18x18 wood panel is flooded with delightly-bright acrylic, ink and gouache, and the subject matter--Casper the Friendly Ghost getting a badass tattoo from a smokin' hot Wendy the Good Little Witch -- not only acts as an eye magnet, but makes everyone who sees it break into a smile. Killer credentials for any work of art, I'd say.
I purchased the piece from Jono Doiron, a young artist from Halifax now living in Montreal. When he first brought The Boastful Ghost for me to see, he also toted a portfolio of original sketches, drawings and notes that were used in the making of the piece. I was fascinated, and asked if he would include them as a package deal.
Unfortunately, he wouldn't. But he did the next best thing, because when we ultimately consummated the transaction and I paid for the painting, he handed me a booklet called "Thoughts and Progress."
Spawned by our conversation and my request for the "making of" portfolio, the booklet describes the start-to-finish process of The Boastful Ghost, from original inspirational thought to final artist signature.
One of my favourite stories is how Jono chose the many characters tattooed on Wendy's arm. As he says:
"I was going about it in the wrong way. I was adding characters I assumed little girls would have been influenced by. Boys and girls respond to different things and I wanted Wendy's tattoos to be authentic. I put out a call on my Facebook art page asking women to submit their favorite cartoon characters when they were a little girl, but without telling them what it was for. I took the most popular recurring suggestions and put them in."
The "Thoughts and Progress" concept has become a bit of a sidebar cottage industry for Jono; he now sells the booklet for $20 in his webstore. But more important than the incremental revenue he'll generate from it, the booklet increases the value of his work by giving each piece its own profound, personal "story."
No longer is The Boastful Ghost simply a piece of pop art hanging on my wall; it's a living entity, a culmination of hours and hours of work, random revelations, eureka moments, research, tests, trials and error. The booklet gives the painting added depth, added context, and provides me with a series of stories to share with anyone who sees it.
It's also the embodiment of this week's learning, namely:
The story and process behind a product is every bit as important as the product itself.
The intangibility of what went into what you're buying gives it life, identity and value. Something purchased from Amazon isn't just "less expensive," but carries the entrepreneurial history of Jeff Bezos, the marvel of the company's state-of-the-art robotic selection and distribution system, and so on. Same goes for everything you buy from Apple, from that designer cupcake place down the street, and from hard working pop artists who contact you from out of the blue.
This is why I tell my son Hayes, who just started his new high-end, custom furniture business, to document everything he does; take pictures, take notes, take video, and take an interest. In the end, that's not just an expensive coffee table he's making, but the culmination of a story that began when a 100-year-old maple tree fell down on someone's lawn.
Problem is that most of us can't see what's interesting about what we do as we do it; our process is old hat, a grind, a means to an end.
But for those who DON'T do what we do, the process is fascinating. It doesn't just construct the product, but its story as well.
And in this hyper-speed, bleeding edge Internet age, it's also the secret to standing out and adding worth.
P.S. Wanna know what went into writing this post? Uh...next time ;)