16" x 20" painted acrylic papers
I should have named this The Image That Almost Wasn't. It's very easy to get trapped into a way of making work that is familiar and comfortable. It feels very safe right? People have liked your work before and they will probably like it again...so long as it doesn't change. This is external validation/permission type stuff though and has nothing to do with making art that comes from another part of your brain. It's the part of your brain that says, "Oh yes, I'd really like to try that." and "Well, let's just see what happens." and "If it sucks, then it sucks and no big deal." That's the part of your brain that you want to listen to because listening to it will help to nurture it and will help you to make work that feels like you, even if it is not at a Picasso level of skill. As my friend Carol has told me, your work matters because it is your work. (More or less, this is what she offered to me in the way of help.)
For months now I have been making these doodles. They are an offshoot of when I used to quilt and I did allover patterns of meandering quilting. The doodles turned into drawings of sorts that were informed by stuff that I saw: alphabets, animals, and other images in my environment. The doodles also were a nod to my reading. Figures showed up that look vaguely like fishes, birds and other sorts of creatures. I love the idea of an imaginary world that has some realistic underpinnings. I also love the idea of creatures interacting together. I could never deliberately draw that sort of thing though but the doodles are a kind of "gateway" into a quasi-drawing kind of world. Whatever shows up, shows up. I really like the surprises that happen. I also really like that I am thinking in the same sorts of terms as when I make more structured and intentional work: hue, chroma and value. Direction, repetition and variation, proportion, that sort of stuff. It's really important to me that the thought processes that I worked really hard to establish remain in play when I make any kind of art-no matter if the shapes are geometric and structured or more biomorphic like in the above piece. I call this singularity in approach and thought "staying on the bus" and it is a direct result from having read this article by James Clear. Along with some other free and sage advice I have received over the years, this piece of advice is always one that I come back to. (And if you haven't read the article I suggest you give it a read. If you know an artist who is struggling to "find their voice" this may be the break that they need.)
In any case, I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. I am now interested to see if I can do this type of work again and how I might mix it up. In other words, what is going to happen next and how can I make that happen.
Happy New Year to all reading and to those of you that have paid attention to my posts and work this year. Your efforts are appreciated!
Before The Deluge
12" x 16" Painted Paper Collage
As I make these pieces, I take notes in my sketchbook/journal. The notes help me to remember what I was thinking about during the process of putting the piece together. The above work was started with a doodle drawing that I did based on shapes from the Hebrew alphabet. I meant to follow that drawing exactly since I really liked it. I can see from reading my notes that although I had a sketch as my guide, I was nervous that the piece would just become a collection of shapes with each shape not being related to the other-no cohesive narrative in other words. I always worry about deviating from a good plan and I become anxious about a lack of some sort of narrative or "structure" for these collages. I should know better by now because a kind of story generally emerges whether I follow the original plan or deviate from it.
As I was working myself into a lather about all of that, I started to tell myself a little story. It involved Noah and the flood, fossils, and the gathering up of all of the creatures on Earth. I put the drawing aside and began to focus on the shapes, both the positive ones and the ones being made in the negative spaces. I came up with some symbols that I wanted to use and some other details that I wanted to add. I am pleased to have used some of the drawn characters that I sketched a while ago. (These are the ones in my sketchbook that were just for fun and I didn't know what I would do with them.) As I finished things up, it seemed to me that I had gone past the constraints of the drawing, as much as I liked it, and had gotten somewhere else that was equally as good as my original idea. For me, just as good.
I can see that I am going in a particular direction with these last several pieces. I have done some thinking and writing about this but haven't solidified anything yet. I am going to keep working and to keep an open mind. It's easy for me to cling to what has worked for me in the past rather than slowly and incrementally moving in a different direction. I'll just have to see.
Hope everyone had a nice holiday. Thanks for reading.