16" x 20" painted paper collage on board
Recently, I began going back through my old posts on my previous blog, Quilted Craftsman/Libby Fife Fine Art Studio Blog. I was looking for posts in which I wrote about my ever evolving process of art making, how I learned about using my materials, personal insights, and any information on classes that I taught. I wrote a lot about all of these things and then some! All of the reviewing made me realize that writing about my art has helped me to understand how I got to where I am right now. I can see the progression of my skills, what and who influenced my style over the years, and most importantly, how I arrived at my current style. If I hadn't written about any of it, I may be hard pressed to remember the details!
My review of old blog posts included reading about the making of the above piece. It's a good example of transitioning from directly painting landscapes on canvas using big shapes. An example of that style is shown in the image below, made in 2015. It is as good a comparison as any showing how I got from one place to another to arrive eventually at my current style today. It's easy to see that I was already in love with hard edged solid shapes; big representative forms, and color relationships. Conceptually, it wasn't much of a leap from this piece to the one shown above at the beginning of the post. The real leap came in the use of materials.
I made the Connections piece with paper that I had painted and then affixed to the board with rice glue. It was one of the first times I had used painted paper shapes rather than painting directly onto the board. I remember (and wrote about this too) that I had been looking at Matisse's work (his cutouts), that I had been very frustrated with having to use tape to paint "clean" shapes like I wanted (hard edged images) and that honestly, I couldn't stand to paint one more landscape! (I love other people's landscape paintings, just not mine!) I really wanted to use different shapes, make different marks, and use personally representative imagery. I wanted the work to be more about what I was thinking and not just me looking at a pretty view.
In any case, I finished that above piece and was very happy with it. (I still am too.) It uses all of the design principles that I love so much: proportion, direction, variation, and repetition. The colors are crisp against that white background which is something I really enjoy visually. My work went on in this way through 2016. I switched to some other ideas for 2017 and 2018 but came back to this one in 2019. I never gave up using painted paper, however. That has been a constant and I know it's unlikely I will ever go back to painting directly.
My point, and I am sorry it took me awhile to reach it, is that writing about (and reviewing that writing) is a worthwhile exercise. I suppose that people can just remember in their heads what happened but I am not one of those people. I have kept a sketchbook for the entire time I have been making art which is over 10 years now. (I came to this creative thing late in life!) I have also been blogging for that same time too. Both practices have been invaluable. They may both be out of date at this point but I don't care. I think the very act of writing itself is the key. Writing connects you to something inside yourself in a way that almost nothing else does. Yes, personal reflection and talking with others is important. Taking in outside information and being interested in the world around you is important. Those things are in fact necessary precursors to writing.
But isn't it egotistical to focus so much on yourself, your art, and your processes? Maybe but how else can you know about you? I have run into more artists who can't articulate what their art is about or why they make art or even what they see in other people's art. This is a shame, really. My opinion is that writing would fix this problem!
So? Go forth and write! Grab a pencil and notebook. Get a fancy sketchbook and beautiful pen. Go to your computer/phone/I Pad or whatever. Look inward and get going before it's too late!
Thanks for reading.