Sunday, May 28, 2023

Why Isn't It Easy?

Right now I am working on two very different focuses (foci?) I am continuing with my series on Vessels, which I have mentioned previously. It will continue to be an important part of my practise, there are many ideas percolating around and I have been sketching and journaling about the series.

But I also wanted to make collage pieces like I did in Mexico, when I made a few small pieces like this:

I started by printing fabric and paper to use in “building construction”! Have you ever done gel printing? Its a style of mono printing using a synthetic gel surface to print on…it feels a bit like silicone and is very user friendly. Check it out on YouTube or Pinterest, it is amazing!

But I want this work to have a different influence from my time in Spain with old buildings and little village with interesting profiles.

So I made a big stack of papers and another big stack of fabrics - some of the best prints I got by tearing up old white bed sheets! I also tried painting dilute gesso onto the fabric to give it some “tooth” that worked very well (my formula is 75% water and 25% clear gesso).

Here are some of my favourites:

I had made a few sketches of the village while I was working in the hostel and I would like to use those as inspiration - I am finding the scale tricky to interpret - just how large do I go?

Now I am facing a couple of challenges:

  • what should the background be? I have painted washes for sky and ground on watercolour paper
  • I think the wonky buildings are fun but maybe too frivolous
  • I tried painting buildings behind the collage - not sure that worked
  • one piece has a nice grouping but isn’t grounded onto anything below.

As a textile person most of my work has been either abstract or representational - now I am trying more realism - how does one shift into a style that others seem to master quite easily. I know the obvious answer is through practise and observation and I hope I will get there but I am so impatient!

I want to be “good” at it right now!

I don’t want to take time and thought!

I want to work bigger - and fear is holding me back!

I try a layout and it doesn't work - I have failed!

Wow! Wow! I have only spent two days on this work - why do I expect perfection so quickly? I didn’t get where I am in a week, where is the patience that I suggest to others? I know mistakes are ok, the garbage can isn’t quite full…yet! 

Does this sound familiar: We watch a two minute video and it looks so easy - why doesn't mine? We bought the right supplies, why isn't it working? I followed the instructions but why is mine different? 

So I had some serious self-talk and now I know there’s still time….and I made some sweet little windows!

Breathe - smile and have a cup of coffee!

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Take the Risk - Open the Door

A few months ago I wrote about how vital it was to continue in my studio even if it meant that all I could do was to just be there…the work would come but sometimes all the work I could manage was simply to be present in the studio. This was during a time of loss, confusion, many conflicting demands and fatigue. My comfort place, my sanctuary, where I can be just myself, is in my studio. Even during this hard time, I knew I would turn the corner into a better, brighter space and but at that moment I just needed to be.

I am just beginning a new and challenging series of work. While the process has been progressing, I must admit that it has not been without difficulties. My latest endeavors have brought me into the world of three-dimensional art, where I have been learning about new materials and techniques that are outside of my comfort zone. In fact, much of what I have created up to this point has been discarded and redone, with a few glimmers of success.

One of the materials that I have been working with is chicken wire, which has become an essential component of the interior structure of my work. I have also been experimenting with fencing grid, and have found that it too has its advantages.

Furthermore, I am delving deeper into the themes of this series. I challenge myself to spend time researching, reading, and writing, and to consider different approaches to my work. Though I have never thought of myself as a shallow person, my previous work may have only scratched the surface of the various topics, relaying facts or concepts without truly delving into my personal connection. This time, I aim to dig as deeply as possible and, ultimately, feel that I have approached the subject thoroughly.

I am thrilled to be moving forward with my latest project. Lately, I've been experiencing a surge of creativity and new ideas that are constantly popping up in my head. These ideas have led to exciting conversations and thoughts that fuel my passion for art even further.

I'm currently in the process of creating prototypes and small samples of my work, which has been both challenging and rewarding. I'm pushing myself to incorporate more of my life experiences as a woman into my artwork, which has been an exhilarating journey. It's exciting to see how my perspective and experiences can come to life through my art.

Ultimately, I can't imagine not doing what I love. Art is about taking the risks.

I have just returned from a six-week trip to Spain. Part of the time, I was running a hostel for pilgrims along the Camino Frances. I was the only person in charge in a small village, working in multiple foreign languages (with lots of really bad verb conjugations) and just making it all work. This part of the trip was all about taking risks, being responsible to people and a community I didn't know, and tending to a parade of strangers each day. It was exciting and exhausting, but taking risks can also open the doors to a wider and more beautiful world.

Take a risk and open the door.

All images were taken during my visit to Spain - I love the idea of old doors and wonder about their stories!

Friday, February 3, 2023

Do the Work...

 Do the Work…

Philosopher and Statesman, Sir Francis Bacon reminds us, “Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand and melting like a snowflake.
That first sentence can be changed into almost any desired action - call your friend now, visit the gallery now, play with the grandkids now…

The third part of my Focus on Four list (after Just Show Up and It’s Not Precious) is Do the
Work. But not just that…..Do the Work You Love

I’ve just finished a month working with an amazing group of incredibly talented artists in the Artists Deep Dive Online Residency. These artists spent the month building focus and intention into their art practise with a plan leading to a body of work. We met twice weekly and discussed everything from ChatGPT, drawing apps, procrastination and our artist dreams. It was exhilarating!

It’s fun going into the studio wanting to play and experiment, try the new techniques found on YouTube or new colour combination of paint or dye…taking time to play is building on knowledge and leads to discovery and creativity. But here also comes the time to ignore the bright shiny objects (AKA - Shiny Object Syndrome) and get the work done.

I Need to Do the Work I Love

Having an art career involves many subtasks - mailing the orders, doing the accounts, submitting for exhibitions and on and on - but they would all disappear if I didn’t do the one thing that is essential - make the art! So if I Just Show Up and Use the Good Stuff, then Doing the Work flows naturally from those first two focuses. But that’s not quite enough, because I wouldn’t Do the Work if it didn’t excite, enrage, enliven and inspire me!

Sometimes I go into the studio and am horrified at my work from the day before, and other times it is an utter surprise - WOW, that is good! Doing the work again and again builds experience and experience leads to improvement. In any creative focus, there are a range of abilities and approaches; some want to explore, perhaps they are new to the medium and want to see what is possible, while others are more focused and productive. I lean towards the latter, but I know that I still have a lot to learn! Regardless of the level of experience, the art still needs to be done.

I have a piece that I consider a failure (actually there are two pieces right now..) and when I look at them I realize there are a couple choices…

I can try and hammer it into something better - do I clearly see ways to improve? Is it worth the effort? Or is my time better spent moving on?

Do I toss it into a corner and think I might change my feelings about it? Or perhaps cut it up into something else? A lot of my greeting cards are created that way!

Or does it go into the garbage and out of my life and mind?

Each failure I create might have a different answer. I know that one of them might get cut up into something smaller - I am undecided if the design is contrived or an idea worth letting mellow.

Most importantly both of those pieces are failures because they didn’t excite, enrage, enliven and inspire me. I look at them and feel “meh”!

Its vital that we embrace failure as part of the journey to creating something new. Accept that mistakes can happen and use them as an opportunity to learn and grow. I will probably journal my thoughts and consider that each failed piece is a successful lesson…in failure!

This leads me to another thought - is (making) art work? For me the answer is a definite yes! But it’s also very much MY choice and so I don’t criticize anyone who would rather consider it “play”…again choices are personal and not universal.

Finally, remember that art is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the process and don't be afraid to experiment and make mistakes. Doing the work is part of the creative process and is essential for producing meaningful work.

This cartoon by Australian artist Megan Herbert, speaks volumes about the work that we do as artists. A visitor to my studio once exclaimed how amazing my art is (thank you, thank you) and my respose was the same as this cartoon - the visitor sees the finished work that excites, enrages, enlivens and inspires me, not the mountains of crap that went into the garbage!

“Making a living from your work in no way serves as an indicator of quality or substance or achievement. The real struggle is the same - how to be creative without being imitative, how to avoid apathy, confusion, complacency or self sabotage. How can a person with profoundly limited resources create something that is meaningful, long lasting and maybe transcendent? If you are really going to do something important..make real art, how do you do it and how can you keep doing it over time with the hope that it might get better.” – Lance Letscher

One more thing...did you notice the awesome Colour on Ice photos? You can buy those and more in my Etsy Shop


Friday, January 13, 2023

Three More Words

I learned to sew as a young girl - first with Barbie and doll clothes and then moving into my own wardrobe as a teenager and eventually sewing for my own little family. But in junior high school the first item I learned to make was an apron to use in the cooking part of the class.

For Chrismas that year I made my mother an apron, I was very proud of my accomplishment and thrilled by her response. A few years later she passed away and I found the apron in a drawer - still looking lovely and unused. I was crushed ... I understood that she wanted to keep it in good condition and perhaps it was a special treasure to her. But she totally missed the point of the gift - it was for her to use.

Perhaps you have had a similar experience, the quilt gifted to a friend that gets put away "to save it for good", a pretty vase that is put in the cupboard for special occasions and never seen again? How sad that is!

Another phrase on my studio wall illustrates my feelings about this - "it's not precious" As a dyer, printer and painter of fabrics that are used in my artwork, sometimes I make a fabric that is so beautiful  that I want to save it ... for what? Eventually I will use it, so why not use it now? It might be the same with an expensive paint brush or gorgeous hand spun yarn - the potential of the product has not been realized - it must become something in order to fulfill its purpose. The item was created for use - not to be stored away in a drawer!

A second part of "it's not precious" is "there will be more". It's not precious, there will be more. More fabric, more brushes, more paint, more yarn. And it will be waiting there for us to use, to make it real. 

A brush may be hand made, from the rare wood, special sable hairs, hand crafted with care and attention but it is a brush, designed with a purpose in mind. My brushes are not beautiful but they are used, over and over and over again...there will be more!

Then I start thinking about how I've lived my life - my life is precious and sacred, not doubt at all. But what happens when I say "no" to something because it might be too special, or I don't feel worthy? It becomes a road not taken, an experience not enjoyed. Isn't that rather selfish - the door is open and I can choose - close it or walk through.

I always want to walk through...and use the good stuff!