It’s a little like Christmas here—finding gifts in old boxes and remembering wonderful people.
In moving my studio I found some “stuff” I hadn’t used in years: a variety of drawing pencils, ink, pens and pen tips, photographs taken in the 70’s, and a very old copy of South Carolina Wildlife with photographs of the beautiful watercolors of my first art teacher Robert Mills.
Mills was a traditional watercolorist known for his landscapes, seascapes, and graphics. He sold well and his work was collected by several museums including High Museum in Atlanta. He was also a printer because art did not support his family, and he taught at night at the University of South Carolina. He was an incredible teacher, probably because of his passion for art and watercolor specifically. Sadly, he died in 1981, but he is not forgotten.
As an artist I often lament that I can’t draw well. A book I just discovered is changing my view: Expressive Drawing by artist and art educator Steven Aimone. He reminds me that we can all draw, but perhaps not render as well as others.
My first lesson in automatic drawing with a yardstick and brush produced some interesting markings. Half of it was done with my left hand, another alternative the author suggests.
How many times has something happened in a painting that you felt was serendipity or perhaps a “gift from the universe.”? I have two theories: 1) that there is a benevolent force that wants me to succeed and has given this idea to help me along or 2) that the idea was there all along and my brain had yet to visualize it. Either way, I am thankful.
Yesterday, in reorganizing my studio to start new work, a long thread fell from another table onto this particular canvas I had been trying to finish. I had been telling myself it just needed something. When I saw the thread and the exact way it had placed itself, well…. You know the rest.
This piece was one that was multi-multi layered whose meaning came slowly. “Rearranged” is part of my series on memory and self-identity and came from the idea that our memories change over time because we have a different perspective or frame of reference as we age.
Udell says “the best way to sell a new idea (or our art) is by talking to people—our customers, our prospects—in person.” I would take this a step further. I think it is just as important to support fellow artist by going to openings or at least viewing their shows and letting the gallery owner or manager know how much you liked the work. I forget this sometimes when I’m tired on a Friday night.
So perhaps this post is mostly a reminder to myself, that as much as I want to just stay in the studio, I need to engage more.
I think it happens very, very slowly—so gradually that we don’t notice it, until it seems dramatic. This applies to social and political change, as well as change for me as an artist.
Yesterday I looked at a new piece and thought my art has really changed a lot in the last six months. But when I looked back, I discovered subtle indications of those changes over the last two years—a bit more color, more overt patterns, and more contrast.
Then I began to wonder, how have I changed as a person?
Quit daydreaming. I certainly heard that a lot when I was a child. Occasionally, I still berate myself for not focusing. But now Annie Murphy Paul says science shows that the “looking in” mode processes or makes sense out of all the information when we’re “looking out.” Here’s the full article:
Just when I’m comfortable with the techniques I am using and the art I am producing, I feel it happening. It starts with mild discontent, then moves to complete dissatisfaction (I imagine I also get grumpy.) I find myself painting and repainting, positioning and repositioning papers and fabrics, making marks, then starting the process all over again. Normally, I work on larger pieces by making a study on canvas. It is never exactly the same on the cradle and the gypsum responds differently to paint than gesso, but it usually makes the process a little easier. Not now. It is called working and reworking, and reworking again. It’s called change, but it’s never easy, and for someone who likes to be in control… Well, you get point.
In an article in Gulfshore Life, Florida artist Joe McAleer compared artistic change to a road trip. “I’m on the back roads, trying to go west, not on the superhighway. Along the way, you make mistakes, wrong turns. You break down for a week or so. Then you see a shape, a color, you get an idea. You get back in your car and drive some more. Eventually, you get where you want to go.”