Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Moratoria and Missing Links

Art Journal page, April 2014
Where to begin.....I'm in one of my occasional fallow periods, where I stop creating for all intents and purposes (mail art excepted).  What I've noticed with these recently more-frequent respites from art making is that with each one, I'm seeming to go deeper into myself to arrive at new understandings and realizations.

After my last class with Jane Davies I put myself on class-taking hiatus indefinitely.  And there certainly are classes I would take, ones that pals are participating in and loving, were it not for my decision to stop.

Earlier this week I put myself on another moratorium, to not buy ANY more art materials or supplies for a good, long while.  What could I possibly need that I don't already have at this point?

For so long I've wanted to understand more deeply what it is about me and art making that has been so confounding.  You've read numerous posts here in one way or another alluding to my "checkered" art making history, my vagabond-like path through countless media in an attempt to find one that clicked for me.  Some place I could hang my creative hat for the duration and claim as my own.  And other rambling posts about trying to find my style in this or that medium, etc.

I discovered the answer just yesterday while beginning to read Eric Maisel's Fearless Creating ~ To wit, I do not have, nor have I ever had, truthfully, a burning desire to create art.  Yes, I've had my enthusiasms and periodic passions.  But I've honestly never felt this hunger to express my deepest self and/or how I see the world, as visual art.

Now, I'm not saying that I'm not a good artist, and I'm not seeking outside confirmation or support.  I know that I am a very creative person, no doubt about that.  And I've already proven to myself that I can handle well just about any medium I attempt.  And that I am capable of creating beautiful things.

This new-to-me understanding is way deeper than that.  It's also the missing link for me, the reason behind most of my artistic wanderlust.  While I've always thought I just hadn't yet found the right medium of expression for me, the truth is, I have no artistic vision, no compelling story to tell, nothing I yearn to say artistically.  No medium that I've pursued has brought me any closer to my creative source or my artistic soul.  Nothing has spoken to me deeply or been the opening through which I might tap into a vein of creative wildness or juice.

And now I realize that this lifelong search is not about the next medium or the right supplies and tools or taking a class from the next best instructor.  It's about connecting with something inside of me that feels absent at best or non-existent at worst.  And this is my truth.

I also see now that my near-obsessive looking at others' work, in all the media I'm drawn to, is not really about my wanting to do work like that or wishing theirs was, in fact, my own work.  It's that those artists' passion and self-generated inspiration is something that I've been searching for in my own work.  I see that intuitive spark in others' work.  But I don't see it in my own.  And that, too, is my truth.

What I can say with certainty is, I love color.  And I've always loved to make things with my hands.

But to answer the question, Why did I become an artist? or Why do I want to create?, I'd have to say these things:
  • I didn't know what else to do with my life (and still don't)
  • I wanted to feel like I belonged among truly artistic people (few of whom I ever really felt comfortable among, in retrospect)
  • A part of me always wanted to be able to express the beauty or truth of the world visually through the filter of my soul (which I've never been able to do), although a perhaps bigger part of me has always preferred to just see the world for what it is and not try to recreate it
  • To prove to myself that I was as capable as others of expressing themselves artistically (as though I would be a lesser person if I didn't or couldn't)
  • To justify my vast expenditures on art supplies, which I've always been drawn to possessing (as though having the accoutrements of art making would guarantee that I could become an artist)
  • I wanted to be hip, in the know, wild, outrageous, flamboyant, free within, and I always saw or imagined artists to be these things
  • I thought that by creating, by actually doing the making of art, that that compelling need I've always lacked would magically create itself
  • I felt that I should be an artist, that it might be the right thing for me to do, in light of my technical, mechanical capabilities.

A longer-than-usual post here.  Thanks for staying with me.  I hope you don't feel like you need to tell me that I'm being too hard on myself.  It's not about that at all.  It's about telling the truth.  And as they say, "The truth shall set you free."

So I've called an art making moratorium for myself for now.  I'm reading other art making-type books (as opposed to how-to books) and listening and exploring within to find my muse.  I'd really like to stay away from trying another creative fix until something emerges from inside me that's just dying to be expressed artistically.  The allure of my three dozen bottles of Golden Fluid Acrylics, though, is pretty enticing.  So we'll see what happens.  I'm not making myself any promises though.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Bringing It All Back Home

In the last few days I reopened my Etsy Shop, essentially to sell my collection of mostly-Chinese turquoise cabochons and Bali sterling silver beads.  I've been hoarding these goodies since I actively made jewelry, and I haven't done that in about a dozen years.  Time to let stuff go.  Although I listed a few items yesterday, it will likely take me a couple weeks to get everything posted there.

Yesterday I also bade farewell on my personal blog ~ which most of you haven't even known about ~ and suggested my readers there might want to subscribe to this blog instead.  I've been touching on more personal issues here recently, and my former need to bitch and moan about a lot of things in my life has softened to rants against a system I no longer feel a part of anyway, for all intents and purposes.  I began that blog at the same time I started this one, six years ago, but the last couple years have seen maybe two posts a year there.  Time to let that go, too.

And I recently stopped posting photos to Sky Journal, another blog, also started several years ago, showcasing my own photographic images.  Originally I photographed a variety of subjects but eventually settled on sky photos.  Far as I could tell, only one or two people would ever go there anyway.  So I'll probably post the occasional knock-out sky photo right here. 

In other words, I'm bringing it all back home, all those disparate parts of myself.  It wasn't my intention to segment myself thus, it was just that I really liked creating blogs ~ working with the templates, designing all aspects of the thing, etc.  Blog development itself as a creative endeavor.

Speaking of rants, I just read a terrific article in the May 2013 Shambhala Sun, called "Living in the Age of Distraction," by Margaret Wheatley.  Isn't it interesting that frequently when we've made a personal discovery or had an important realization, that an article or a book or a video will come to our attention that perfectly proves the point or underscores our decision.  Such is this article.  If you've been following my "unplug" drift with interest, don't miss it.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Drawing In

This is a self portrait I drew back in 1978, when I lived on Maui and took art classes there.  I always find myself saying, "I can't draw," but obviously I can, when I put my mind to it.  In fact, I really like my drawing style.  So why have I always shied away from it, made derogatory comments about my ability?  Laziness is probably the best short answer.

Although I've drawn occasionally over the years, the practice has always been something that makes me extremely anxious.  I know this goes back to my first drawing classes, in college, where we were graded.  Grading art has probably killed more budding artists than anything else has.  I remember one drawing I had to do, a life-size drawing of myself with the head of an insect.  Holy cow!  And then there was my graphic arts instructor, who gave us a "commercial art" assignment of drawing something that represented the phrase, "Is this not a packaging problem?"  I drew a magnificent rendering of a banana peel.  The guy didn't get it.  Banana peel, definitely a packaging problem.  Low grade for me.  Oh well.

I just got Deborah Putnoi's The Drawing Mind.  I spent most of yesterday drawing...just putting different marks on pages, which is what drawing is, essentially.  Already I feel some ease coming into the practice.  I want to recover my ability to draw with joy and pleasure, if I ever had that to begin with.  I'm working a lot with my non-dominant hand (my left).  Actually, I feel more comfortable using my left hand, and I discovered that's because I have no expectations for what that hand can or should do.  So I'm naturally delighted with what it produces. 

This morning is my first foray into cyberland since Wednesday afternoon.  I can't even describe how wonderful it is to not be tied to my computer for 24 hours or longer.  There's this amazing sense of freedom and spaciousness... 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Wild Color

A recent painting, 18 x 24 inches on canvas.

I spent all my creative time over the weekend stitching "shabby" pages for my upcoming hybrid journal.  That's the one where I'll be combining my regular writing journal with the looser "bits and pieces, anything  goes" journals that I've been making since taking Mary Ann Moss's Remains of the Day.  I'm way ahead of the curve on this one, I likely won't need to begin using it for another couple months.  Nevertheless, the hardest part is done.  I'll post photos when it's ready to launch.

I read The Photograph, by Penelope Lively, a few days ago.  Excellent read.  I'm now finishing up her Family Album, also enjoyable.  

My public library carries a terrific selection of periodicals.  Although I rarely check them out because I've already got enough to read with all the books I regularly borrow, sometimes I'm lucky and find several-month-old issues in the library's free box.  I'll read them of course, if they're edifying, or use them for collage if not.  And when I'm done with them, if I haven't disemboweled them for creative purposes, I'll donate them to Miranda's Rescue in Fortuna, to be resold in their thrift shop.  

The point of this tale, though, is that I recently found issues of Yes Magazine, Buddhadharma, Shambhala Sun, The Sun, and Oxford American.  All good stuff to read.  So I haven't been at any loss of things to fill up my time now that I'm spending a lot less of it online.  I'm also a lot mellower.  And that's always a good thing.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Two to Tango

Here's an abstract duo I painted within the last week, both 8 x 10 inches on canvas.  I've got lots to talk about this morning, so read on.

Twice in the last four days I've observed what I'm calling computer sabbaths.  As in, I never even turned on my fact, I had it put away, on the shelf under my worktable where it lives when I'm not actively using it.  Those days (last Saturday and yesterday) were two of the most wonderful I've spent in a very long time.

I intend to keep doing this several times a week.  I'm especially loving experiencing the natural rhythm of my days without technological intervention of any kind.  Since I also don't have a cellphone, this non-techno freedom is easy to bring about.  And a total pleasure.

Long-time readers will already know that I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook.  I've taken Facebook holidays and threatened to leave before, but I'm really going to do it this time.  This time I mean it.  Many of my blog readers are also on Facebook, but many are not.  I'm going with the latter group now.  The only thing I still like about Facebook is the worldwide community of friends I've met, all of them artists in their own right.  Oh well ~ if it's meant to be, we'll stay in touch via email...and if that doesn't happen, well, there you go.

I realize I don't need to elaborate further, but I will anyway...because I rather like voicing to the world exactly who I am ~
  • I want to better use my time, my life energy, even if I'm "doing nothing"
  • I already don't fit in with the culture at large, and I no longer care to try to
  • I really like being alone, solo, silent, with my own thoughts or reading or creating, in my own kind of vacuum
  • I like my own art a lot more when I'm not looking at it in comparison to other artists' work...and when I'm online (Facebook primarily) I'm always judging my work consciously or unconsciously
  • It doesn't help me to read about bad things going on in the world, it only keeps my innate pessimism and cynicism at uncomfortably high levels
  • The older I get, the more I'm loving S-L-O-W living

However ~ I have no intention or desire to give up my blog.  I love blogging.  I read well over 100 other blogs (really only about 20 posts a day in total), love meeting other artists via our blogs, and I honestly feel more connected with people through blogging than I ever have via Facebook.  I'll still be right here, so don't you go anywhere.

Yesterday I discovered that I have three brand new sets of Quilting Arts magazines, both of which contain articles about my work.  They are Issue 44 (April/May 2010) and Issue 47 (Oct/Nov 2010).

I don't know how much QA costs these days, but these two issues were $7.99 each.  I'm selling the set for $10 plus $6 priority shipping (U.S. sales ONLY).  There are 3 sets.

I've been reading a lot, as always.  Here are three excellent book recommendations ~
  1. Still Life With Breadcrumbs, Anna Quindlen
  2. Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver
  3. Cooked, Michael Pollan
Have a great day.  Hope spring (or autumn) is well under way wherever you are.  See you on Friday.  xo

Monday, April 14, 2014


I've been hesitant to post this painting (8 x 8 inches on canvas panel)...because it's rather pretty.  And pretty is something I've consciously tried to veer away from, for years.  Nevertheless, a couple weeks ago I felt the urge to paint something with green, pink and gold.  And this is what I got.

What is it about the word "pretty" that feels so creepy?  It's kind of like "nice," another word that sounds like a catchall, just something to say because you don't know what else to say, or you don't have the vocabulary to be more specific...or because you really don't like something at all but feel you would be offensive if you said anything besides "pretty" or "nice."  So I've actually come to think of both these words themselves as a pretty nice way, of course.

But here's the other thing ~ I enjoyed painting this pretty little piece.  As I'm enjoying all the painting I'm doing.  Although it always seems to be difficult for me to actually begin painting, I enjoy it probably more than anything else I've done over the years.  Which is very interesting to me when I fully consider what I just wrote:  It is difficult for me to do things that I enjoy.  Hmmm...

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Slathering Paint

Acrylic painting on canvas, 16 x 20 inches
British blog pal Margaret Cooter wrote an interesting post yesterday about how and where to begin something new...issues with which I completely resonate.

My paraphrased comment on Margaret's post ~ "Beginning is difficult for me, too, and I feel flummoxed usually before I even start.

My experience has been that once I get good enough at something, art quilting for instance, then it's time to move on to something else. I do think it's about the urge to branch out, try new things, challenge oneself.

Frequently I've disliked that I'm virtually always a beginner with a specific medium, and wish I had a lifetime body of work in one arena like so many artists in every medium. Alas, that's never been my way. It's always been about moving on, new challenges, learning new skills, etc., even though that's been very difficult at times.

In every facet of life, though, I've started over so many times that I now think of this as my karmic path in everything. To begin anew."

Developing a personal style is a related aspect of often changing one's medium of creative expression.  In looking back at my body of art quilts, I can see certain stylistic elements that run throughout.  For instance, that I almost always quilted on the pattern lines of my shiboried-painted-printed-batiked fabrics.  A number of other quilt artists told me that they came to recognize my work when they saw it. 

With beaded jewelry I definitely had a style that was mine.  Definitely my handspun yarns looked like mine alone.   With weaving, I'm not so sure.

At this point in my nascent painting career, I'm trying a lot of different things, learning from input (books, DVDs, online classes) from other artists whose work I admire.  Slowly, hopefully, building some level of skill experimenting with a wide variety of techniques.  My unstated (until now) goal is to become proficient enough over time with a select range of options that I will eventually develop my own style...(if I stick with it long enough, I say to myself).

For years I've been building digital folders with images of others' work in all the media that interest me (my own personal Pinterest), and adding to those folders regularly, for inspiration only.  I love looking at what other artists do, but primarily I think my doing this is to get ideas for my own work, certainly not to try to replicate anyone else's.  Inventive ideas is where I feel that I'm lacking.  This harks back to Margaret's dilemma about not knowing where to begin when facing a blank canvas of any sort. 

And I think perhaps this is why I've rarely made art with abandon ~ because I'm just not sure what to do next, not sure where the piece I've just finished is leading me to next.  I didn't have this problem with quilting, because I set out numerous challenges for myself during my active years in that medium ~ like 2009's 10x10 inch weekly quilt challenge, and others.  With beaded jewelry, I was actively selling my work, so it was easy for me to build an inventory of designs, although each piece was individually unique, and to keep myself stocked, as it were. 

Even with weaving, although there, too, I tried a lot of different things, much of the work was mechanical, design decisions made at the outset regarding yarns and loom setup.  The actual weaving was about following that plan.  Few decisions needed to be made along the way to producing the result.

With painting however, very few decisions are made at the outset, except perhaps type and size of substrate.  I think the creativity of the art of painting (at least for me) is in THE DOING itself.  There's very little that's mechanical about it, if anything at all.  There are no rules to follow, no formulas, virtually no guidance at all.  Which is a huge freedom...but also an enormous responsibility.  That I often wonder whether I'm up to. 

I can see why it took me this long to get to this medium, why I worked in so many more craft-like media ~ because I didn't have to pull ideas out of my head on demand.  And this precise spot is, I think, where the rubber meets the road.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Flea Market Finds

I went to the monthly Flea Market in Eureka yesterday.  This is what I bought ~ three issues of Little Folks magazine from 1924 and 1925.  And a nearly full bottle of Shaffer's ink, in a color that I needed anyhow.  How cool is that.  Total outflow ~ three dollars.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

New Attitude

Acrylic Painting on watercolor paper, 9 x 9 inches
I'm still working in my neutrals art journal, still have a signature to go, and I'm still loving black and white and grays and shades of tan and otherwise subdued colorways.  The wild side of me, though, feels like it's been on the paleo diet.  So I'm venturing into more color to satisfy that part of my soul.

The most recent book that I'm high on is Flora Bowley's Brave Intuitive Painting.  Flora's thing is that you have to get out of your own way, tuck your thinking mind away somewhere else and let your intuition guide your painting.  And your life, of course.  What a fab metaphor.  Totally apropos for me at this point.

I've started painting some bigger pieces, or have begun several at any rate.  The biggest canvas I have on hand is 16x20, and I'll order some bigger ones soon.  But I can't go TOO big because of space considerations...although I dearly wish I had the room to work on B-I-G canvas, so I could really express that bottled up body energy with large brushstrokes.

So while one part of me really likes working small, another part of me is venturing into bigger work.  And that's just fine.