More Than Meets The eye
16" x 20" painted acrylic collage on mat board
Last week while driving I happened to look at the side of the road. All along the fence lines were stands of sunflowers. For some reason that I can't explain, I envisioned a sunflower as a human heart; sort of like if your "emotional center" was actually a flower.
I held onto that idea for a little while and then added to it. We had a momma quail on our front porch. She had made her nest in one of the flower pots and was sitting on about 10 eggs. It was a bad spot to pick, however. We have had roofers at our house and so there was a lot of noise. I was afraid the mom quail was going to abandon the nest. She was a trooper though and earlier this week her eggs hatched. It was some kind of miracle!
All through the experience though I thought about this quail's instinctive devotion to those eggs. I began to think about what would have happened had her nest been discovered. Would other birds or animals have eaten those eggs? I had learned earlier in the week through some unrelated research that alligators will make their homes underneath trees where birds are known to nest. The alligators want any "dropped" eggs and so protect the birds from predators. The birds in turn supply the alligators with eggs that aren't going to make it, for whatever reason.
It's a long and drawn out explanation on my part, I know. What I want to illustrate though with all of this is the fact that my mind wandered, made associations, and put several elements together to come up with the above piece. I am not thrilled that I am looking for imagery these days to start a piece since I have had success with just putting down random shapes and then coming up with meaning afterwards. I did realize though in the making of this piece that it is OK to work both ways (and every way in between!). It's fine to follow through with an idea even if it is different from what you normally do. I was not confident about including that crocodile/alligator image but I really wanted to and so I did. I hope the piece reads simply enough and that it is engaging.
OK, hope everyone has had a productive and creative week. Thanks for reading and let me know what you think via email or FB: firstname.lastname@example.org
I have been keeping a sketchbook since I started making art about 10 years or so ago. It's a wonderful way to keep track of anything you want. Some days I only log the date and a few sentences about what I did in the studio. Other days, my entries are longer and more detailed. One of the things I do consistently is to make notes about any pieces that I am working on. These notes help with blogging (remembering details) and they also serve to show me how my thinking evolves as I work each piece.
The above piece started with those red ovals. Originally I imagined them in a line, straight up and down. When I tried out this idea I really hated it. Large straight lines are really hard to work with. As I moved the pieces around I realized that they could be in a flower formation. Duh! I glued that idea down and then I was stuck. Really well and truly stuck!
I must have stared at the piece for one solid day, making notes and thinking and sometimes doing other things outside the studio. I was also a little under the weather that weekend and as I lay there kind of dozing off, my mind was free to imagine all sorts of things. I remembered that my friend and I had had a conversation about the magic 8 ball. I wondered later what might happen if the ball had a lid and you took it off. Would it be like Pandora's box?
Over the course of the weekend I just started to free associate, for lack of a better term. I thought about snakes and man eating plants, I pictured butterflies and parts of the human body, like the brachea and trachea. A snippet of Sting's song, The Lazarus Heart, came into my mind. (In the song he references a wound from which a flower grows.) I also began to think about adding a figure to the scenario. I remembered Stephen King's book, Bag of Bones. The plot of that book involves a widowed writer at a haunted cabin called Sara Laughs. I hadn't made this connection before but the character's deceased wife was trying to have a baby before she died (and possibly having trouble conceiving). I thought about the biblical story of Sarah and Abraham, in which Sarah laughs at God when he tells her that she will bear children at an impossibly advanced age. I mention all of these details to show how making art is often like pulling various unrelated threads together. The threads may seem unrelated at first but I think one of my tasks is to pull those threads together and to make something totally new from them.
I hemmed and hawed about using the figure (seen at the right side of the piece). I had some other elements in place by then but couldn't move forward. I kept wanting to use the figure and thinking that it would look stupid if I tried it. Finally, my decision was made once I realized that I could scrap the whole piece if I wanted to, if things didn't work out. That was very liberating. It would only be a few wasted days, no big deal. Self doubt should never be a sticking point. The attitude must always be one of "screw it, I am gonna give this a try."
Everything else came together easily once I got the figure situated. I am pleased with the results which is good. The piece is something that I would like to look at for a long time.
Alright, thanks for reading and if you have a comment send me an email: email@example.com
What is that expression about getting dressed and when you think you are done, remove one item of your outfit? I feel like this applies to editing my art and it is what I have been doing with the last several pieces. I have come to the conclusion that more (or less for that matter) is not always better. It's very subjective, I know, but this is what is guiding my editing decisions these days. I feel strongly that editing is an essential skill, unique to each person's own sensibility but not without an effect on the viewer.
As I make these collages, the title often comes to me about halfway through or near completion. Rarely ever does the title come first prior to me even putting any shapes on the paper. It did this time though and I can't exactly say where it came from. Honestly, I was just on my morning walk and all of a sudden the title popped into my mind.
X-Ray machines and biblical stories naturally suggest their own motifs so those ideas prompted the shapes that I came up with. I found myself thinking about a number of things. I am going to list them just for fun:
X-Rays, X-Ray frame
pelvis, spine and bones; hand under an x-ray machine; circulatory system
microscopes, cells, glass slides
serpents, eyes, apple cores (temptation), fig leaves
pink "bubbles", red dots to represent cells
Not all of these items made it into the piece but I did think about them while working. I realized too that with each piece I do, I am becoming more comfortable with a loose representation of an idea or object, maybe even an association that only I might make. I think this is really critical, having confidence in your own ideas. People are not shy about telling you what they see or feel when they look at your art and if that bothers you (particularly if you disagree), then you are going to be in trouble.
There were also some technical things that I learned this time. It is important to not only have papers painted in a variety of colors but also to have a good mix of values of each of those colors. This helps to broaden your choices. In addition to that, I also utilized tracing paper over my piece to draw some design "solutions." I got quite stuck at one point and the tracing paper really helped. Lastly, I used some of the doodles and shapes that I draw in my sketchbook. These came in handy not only to start the piece but also to provide some ideas when I didn't quite know what to do next.
All in all, I would say that this particular collage offered some good learning opportunities for me. I hope that each piece teaches me something otherwise I would just be going through the motions and what's the point of that?
Alright, thanks for reading. Please send me an email if you have a comment: firstname.lastname@example.org