Happy Birthday, Great Lakes!
Hello dear readers! Â I want to celebrate a little with you today, as I realized I’ve reached a bit of an occasion. Â It’s not a huge occasion, granted, but if I offerred you a celebratory beer you’d probably take the beer, so that makes it official enough.
Great Lakes,Â which has become a bit of an iconic piece for me, turned four years old this month. Â (Or possibly last month. Â I never really wrote it down. Â Have another beer.) Â Actually, the only reason I noticed the date was because the organization that originally commissioned it recently came back to have me create some more pieces for them. Â (They actually sought me out because they thought my work would be perfect for the project. Â As an artist, I can tell you that nothing, but nothing, makes me grin inside more than hearing that.) Â So I thought in honor of the occasion, I would tell you the story behind the originalÂ Great Lakes.
I was actually commissioned to create a gift — or rather, 20 identical gifts. Â A small token of appreciation given to the distinguished speakers of a symposium on issues surrounding the Great Lakes. Â It was my first real corporate commission, and my first leap off the bridge. Â You know how they say to take risks when making art? Â How about walking into a meeting and telling them “you know all that stuff you wanted? Â Yeah, I didn’t really do any of that. Â But what do you think aboutÂ thisÂ idea?” Â I’m sure it didn’t sound quite so belligerent, but inside my stomach was in knots. Â I think deep down I believed this was probably the only corporate commission I’d ever get, so I wanted to do something I’d be proud of, just in case I never got the opportunity again.
I showed them this rough sketch (yeah, my photoshop skills were pretty rough in the day!), and explained that instead of 20 identical pieces, the 20 partsÂ would become a larger whole. Â I wanted it to parallel the synergy of the symposium; the whole as greater than the sum of its parts. Â At the end of the week-long event, the piece would be separated into the 20 individual sections, which could each be hung on a wall separately. Â The speakers would receive one square of a 20-piece puzzle.
Great, they said! Â There’s only one problem. Â Some people are going to get a piece with a lake, and some are going to get a plain boring square of copper. Â (I remember trying to convince them that the copper was really pretty cool “plain”. Â Back in those days, most of the pieces I sold were “plain”, with just the etched leaf texture.) Â But they told me to rework the design. Â Every square needed to have both copper and red, land and water. Â Back to the drawing board.
I don’t know how many billion times I redrew that map, thankfully I didn’t keep most of those sketches. Â I remember at one point yelling in frustration to myselfÂ what am I supposed to do, move the lake?!?Â There were moments when I was convinced it would be easier. Â I did save this lovely sketch, mostly because it cracks me up. Â I knew it was atrocious at the time, but itÂ technicallyÂ met the criteria, and I was running out of options:
This is what the Great Lakes look like if you’re skydiving. Â While intoxicated. Â Thankfully, it was rejected.
So given that (a) I had to have land and water on every square, and (b) I couldn’t move, rotate, or distort the lakes, that left me only one option:
Zoom in. Â Show every lake, but not every inch of every lake. Â Break a rule that was never actually a rule in the first place.
Now with more blue!
In honor of the occasion, I’ve added a new color option to myÂ Great Lakes map seriesÂ ~ smaller versions are now available in copper & blue! Â (5×7 inch is $75; 8×10 inch is $160. Â Click on image above to purchase or learn more!) Of course if you want it in any other size, color, or want a different location, just email me ~ I would love to work with you.
Until next time, take care, and have a great week!