Randy Brodnax and What I Learned When I Didn’t Want To Learn

It was a Monday morning. I didn’t want to go to class.

It was a class day, and it was class time, but I wouldn’t actually get to work on my projects for class. Instead, I was told, I needed to show up and then listen to some artist talk and do demonstrations.

It was a Monday morning. And I really, really didn’t want to go listen to some guy talk.

It might not have been as bad if it had been something I knew about or was doing, but the artist they had coming in was a ceramics artist. I haven’t taken any ceramics classes. I’ve only finished two classes: drawing and design. I’m enrolled in two new classes: design II (3-d design) and metal art/jewelry making. Nothing to do with ceramics.

It was a Monday morning. And I didn’t even care to hear about a topic I wasn’t actively engaged in.

But…but I’m so stuck in my head, always trying to get an A, and I knew that missing class would count against me. So I got coffee and went in, thinking that I could just hide in the back, write a bit on something else unrelated to the topic at hand, and maybe even sneak out a little early. Because I knew I wasn’t going to learn anyway.

Then it happened.

I learned something when I didn’t want to learn.

Randy Brodnax demonstration

Randy Brodnax demonstration

Randy Brodnax demonstration

Randy Brodnax demonstration

Randy Brodnax demonstration

Randy Brodnax demonstration

The artist in question was Randy Brodnax.  And he seemed like a cool guy – he had made breakfast (biscuits with sour cream and molasses; you were supposed to dip the biscuits into the sour cream and molasses…he was from Louisiana, and apparently that’s a local thing). He had a pot of gumbo going for lunch time. And his work for sale was set out on a table. The work was pretty cool. Big expensive pieces, medium-sized, almost affordable pieces, and small just about affordable pieces.

So I settled in with my phone, ready to play some games, with a notebook handy for when I got bored.

Except I didn’t get bored. I learned something. I learned how to be an artist.

Sort of.

Okay, so it wasn’t the most earth-shattering learning. But two things that he said stuck with me.

First, he said not to be afraid to try something. That’s the key to being an artist. And he’s right, of course. I quit teaching and began taking art classes and submitting my writing. I have no idea how to ‘art,’ and sending out writing is not for the faint of heart. Trying it is the key, though. Being willing to toss yourself at it, knowing that it may or may not stick, but that you put it out there…that makes all the difference.

The second thing he said was to be consistently inconsistent. Again, not new, not earth-shattering, but oh so important to hear. It applies to art, and it applies to writing. Doing the expected, doing same thing over and over. It’s boring. Not just boring – it’s stagnation. And that is true whether you’re designing a piece of jewelry, whether you’re making an awesome 3-legged toad, or if you’re writing a story. You want whatever you’re doing to be different. You want it to stand out. So you want to be inconsistent in what you do and how you do it, and you want to do that consistently. Which sounds like a contradiction, I realize, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true, and that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.

What was my point again?

Oh, yes – you can learn, even when you don’t expect to, and even when you don’t want to. Now go buy some of Randy Brodnax’s stuff. (My Randy toad has been staring at me while I write this, and I think he might be controlling me.)

Three-legged ceramic toad by Randy Brodnax

Three-Legged Ceramic Toad by Randy Brodnax