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.

8 comments:

Charlton Stitcher said...

Connie - what a fascinating and thought-provoking post! I feel that there is so much to think about here that I might just put my thoughts into a post of my own so watch that space!
Thanks also for the link to Margaret Cooter here in the UK. I will definitely follow that up.

Jacki Long said...

Oh Connie, you are so up to it! You are GREAT!
You have such a strong design sense that shows through whatever you do.
I related to so much of what you said about the process.
I think perhaps we don't give ourselves the support we are so willing to give others.
At this end of the age scale, I am convinced that everyone doubts themselves. Everyone.

Leslie said...

Margaret's post was interesting. I, too, jumped from craft to craft, moving along as I got bored, not necessarily when I'd mastered it. I don't have much desire to paint, other than the scraping around I do on postcards and in journals, but I quite admire people who do. Your comment about the no rules to follow in painting struck me as quite true and possibly why I have no interest. Good luck figuring it out. I'm a fan of most of your art so it'll be interesting to see what you do with painting.

Anna H said...

Great post Connie, I resonate with a lot of your thoughts, especially the one about moving on to something else. I often don't get to the point of mastering it though. When I realize that I can do something, I lose interest and am on to the next. Needless to say, I have lots of unfinished items in different media hanging about!!!

Maggi said...

Certainly a very thought-provoking post. I like the way that you can articulate your reflections so well.

jenclair said...

I've always loved the idea that each day (week, year), I can begin again. I may never master anything, but like you, I feel that trying something different is both exciting and discouraging in turns, but there is always pleasure in the process.

Margaret Cooter said...

The decision on size and type of substrate is quite important. While writing an essay in my MA course I came across "the invisible support" somewhere and that phrase has stayed with me ... so much depends on whether the canvas or paper is large or small, and its absorption, thickness, flexibility, all sorts of things -- so if we choose something at random, everything that subsequently happens follows from that quick decision.

Margaret Cooter said...

The decision on size and type of substrate is quite important. While writing an essay in my MA course I came across "the invisible support" somewhere and that phrase has stayed with me ... so much depends on whether the canvas or paper is large or small, and its absorption, thickness, flexibility, all sorts of things -- so if we choose something at random, everything that subsequently happens follows from that quick decision.