Working in the basement on a rainy day seems like good cause for ruminating, while I keep myself on task.
Author Daniel Pink says he believes in the simple action of showing up- working brick by brick. .. how taking small steps every day becomes a cumulative effect. This is an experience I can attest to, since my paintings often evolve over the course of weeks and months. (Even the tiny ones- geesh!) But since I am not replicating reality or a photo of reality, there’s often no real reference points except what I find interesting or compelling. And often I can’t see that until I am well into a conversation with a piece.
Waiting for inspiration is lame- we’ve oversold it and been undersold the PRACTICE. But part of the practice is being able to respond to a thought, idea or impulse that may only present itself for a split second. Is this inspiration? or just the clarity that comes with wrestling with a problem for long enough that your mind is working behind the scenes. Sometimes when you’re going for a walk, sometimes when you’re talking with a friend, sometimes when you go downstairs to glance at the painting on the wall for 10 seconds at night on the way to shove some laundry in the machine.
The hand and eye working in response to how youspecifically think and feel about something (idea/subject) takes more time and effort… or practice. The result can be abstract/non-objective or representational or ? But vapid sloppy work can also be the result.
As Dave Hickey so aptly put it- “A frenzied, vague, emotional response just means your hand is moving in a pleasantly abandoned fashion.” (ie: Art as “therapy”)
And this results in the kind or work that I remember being discussed in grad school as the sort that you could just “peel off the canvas”. . . emotionally thin or sloppily conceived or not dense enough to have been thought about very much. It relies on gimmickry or facility or satisfaction without labor. Things of which I am still wary (the Protestant work ethic is, after all, part of my genetic makeup) …. so… brick by brick by brick
As mentioned in the previous post, my next project was a commission for the soon to be finished Exempla St. Joseph Hospital in Denver. Earlier this year, they accepted submissions from artists for 10 very prominent large spaces on each floor of the building.
The thought of doing something that large (to fit a 14 foot niche) was a bit daunting, but I charged ahead. My idea used blue vines of various shades that swooped up and down across the expanse of 11 feet. When the large committee had finished voting, my idea was in the semi final round, which meant there was a good chance that I would have some kind of art included in their project. It turned out to be the big one!
So, after some official correspondence, I ordered up some nicely made birch panels, and set to work. Fortunately, I had some lag time to think about what my strategy would be for working on something this large- would it fit on my wall? (Check!), should I mix up mass quantities of the major colors ?(check! cat food cans with those handy plastic lids), and would I have enough time to develop all these things in layers and not feel rushed? (check!). So, here’s a very time lapsed view into how all this went down. “Blue Vine Dance” to be delivered by early December.
I’m glad I challenged myself to do something that was new and a step up, and very grateful that it will be in a setting where lots of people will experience it, and hopefully find it relaxing and engaging.
I’ve been working in my home studio for about 2 years now- and enjoy several things about it.
•Obviously closer to home- I can go work anytime- for hours or 15 critical minutes.
•I can do the studio tour more easily.
•Everything is stored in one location.
•I have separate work areas set up for painting, drawing, printmaking, and desk work.
ah….. it’s the last one that might be a mixed blessing.
Because when I have several ways to work, of course I have several things going on at once. And they all interest me. And they are all mere steps away from each other. uh oh
but over the years of working this way, I have become used to this – everything eventually gets done… even if they all stagger towards the finish line at different speeds. Being able to trust this is important. The author Daniel Pink says he believes in the simple action of showing up- working brick by brick- how showing up every day becomes a cumulative effect.
SO… perhaps waiting for inspiration is lame- we’ve oversold it (part of the mystique of the ‘artiste’?) and been undersold the PRACTICE
Or as Dave Hickey so aptly put it- “A frenzied, vague, emotional response just means your hand is moving in a pleasantly abandoned fashion.” This is art as therapy.
The hand and eye working in response to how you think and feel about something (idea/subject) takes more time and effort.
Being able to live with ambiguity and incompleteness- knowing that all the little incremental steps do add up to work that is resolved and also has a deeper history. That’s a tougher task.
The lovely Griffin etching press that I was able to buy years ago (with a professional development grant while teaching ) has been patiently waiting in my basement studio for me to return.
This past week, I had to crank out an edition of 15 prints for a show/print exchange at Pierce College in Tacoma, WA. I had been meaning to get back to this, but as so often happens, a deadline does the trick.
So… now the ice has been broken and I can keep at it during the summer.
Making a ‘series’ of monotypes is a bit of a contradiction, since each print is unique and can’t be replicated. What we’re talking about is making 15 individual paintings and then squashing them one by one onto dampened paper under pressure. The other exciting part of this is that I will get 13 random little prints sent back to me. What a great idea, and only possible when working in this medium.
After this brief interlude, I’ll get back to prepping for the 2-day studio tour in June. Maybe do some prints to expand on the ideas for the new series of grass/weed imagery. It was a very nice interlude, indeed.
Many artists around the country have had the distinct opportunity to participate in a Creative Capital Professional Development Weekend. And this last weekend was my chance. (big shout-out to Beet Street for bringing in a second annual one)
The presenters, Maureen Huskey, Colleen Keegan, Aaron Landsman, Jackie Battenfield, and Byron Au Yong, were all incredibly generous and helpful- I think everyone felt like they took away quite a bit that was not only useful, but truly personal and meaningful to each participant.
At the wrap-up, Colleen used the expression the “end of the beginning” to refer to our impending activities- filtering all this good stuff, starting to address issues unique to our own practice and moving forward, armed with clearer intentions (can you say “strategic planning?”) and optimism.
As it happens, I have been following “Communicatrix”, Colleen Wainright’s blog for a while (although it is much more than that) and today, something arrived in my mailbox with her last in a series of “embracing the tiny” observations. Coincidence? I think not.
For my part, I left the two days, filled with new energy to lead myself back to work that was more personal and meaningful to me- something that made me excited to keep moving forward, not something that I assumed would be embraced by a too-specific audience.
I (re) learned that I need to make the work that matters, and then move it out into the world, so the right audience can find it. I will feel blessed, and I think those finding it will feel fortunate when they do.
well, parts of it. As you can see, I love to erase. Actually, I think of it more as drawing with a skinny stick of rubber. I just bought a new little gizmo that holds these round white erasers in a holder, and you click it like a mechanical pencil. Sweet.
But I digress.
There are several ways to modulate a line when drawing, which is another way of saying, to make it more expressive and responsive to the subject.
One technique involves learning how to alter the pressure of your touch when you are moving the medium over the paper. Pushing and releasing as the line is moving along, and perhaps turning your hand as you go.
Another method would be redrawing the same line again, but adding bulk or weight in certain places.
Then there is the reductive approach. Which can happen at any time, really. This involves using an eraser to carve away at parts of a line, or erasing the line and redrawing it slightly shifted to another place. You can see evidence of this kind of work in Matisse and Diebenkorn, and many other artists’ drawings. The ghost of the former line creates a visible history of the artist’s process.
this is what brought the end results of all those erasures on the floor… I’ve been carving some lines. Do you draw? Is the eraser your friend too?
p.s. I think it’s a hoot that there is a Wikipedia entry about erasers!