Monday, February 29, 2016

Understanding Myself Through Art

I finished a collage today.  The collage came together rather suddenly after waiting up on the shelf for almost two years when I had woven paper cut from an old watercolor into a mat, fastened it to tin foil, glued it down on a sheet of 300# watercolor paper, 30" X 14.5" colored with tinted white gesso. And then I had no next step.

A new book arrived the other day, "Storytelling With Collage" by Roxanne Evans Stout.  Inspired by what I read, I went in the studio and immediately saw objects I'd kept because I felt an attachment to them.  I got the collage off the shelf and added the copper bird and the origami sun.  I knew I wanted to echo the copper, the silver and the green so I called a friend who uses fabric in collage.  She arrived yesterday with an armload of possible pieces and I began my first collage work with fabric.  The collage also had another "first": using a lovely purple thread my same friend had given me earlier I had stitched the copper bird and 4 wooden beads onto the paper. Stitching on a collage was something I'd never considered before reading Roxanne's wonderful book.

I completed the collage and photographed it, rather roughly since I plan to frame it and keep it.  I posted the photo on Facebook and a wonderful artist friend, Margaret Stermer-Cox suggested it could be a "totem".  I sat down and examined that idea.  A "totem" is a spirit being, sacred object, symbol, or spirit guide.  A "totem pole" (and therefore a collage) has no religious significance and can feature numerous designs and can tell stories.  My totem is "bird" and has been since I first identified it years ago.  I had forgotten this and did not connect my use of a copper bird with my own totem.

In this collage a bird tops the design and is tied to the work, literally, with seeds or eggs.  I would say that's me.  Next is a clear geometric pattern, warm over cool, copper over green over blue/silver which ties to the words: "Thoughts of Spring.  Rebirth. New Growth. New Beginnings.  Coming Summer Heat.  Retreating Winter Chill" which follow.  Next is the origami Sun in the green of new spring growth with a sparkly gold center.  Finally the fractured pattern, a reminder of the fragility of life, how easily torn apart it can be.  This echoes what I've explored in my Desert Series, the lesson of the earth.

This collage most certainly is a "totem" and a story type.  Roxanne pointed out in her book: "A collage is a story of this moment in time".  As I studied this collage I realized I've been ahead of myself and of my conscious thought all along.  I knew this was the trend two years ago.  I just didn't know how to express it.  So I learned a lot about myself and my art today, through the help of my friends.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Heavy Thinking - Too Many Questions, Not Enough Answers

"Feather Moon 1" 14" X 21" poured watercolor
Oh, the questions!  Is this painting too simple?  Is this complex enough to draw interest, inspire "stories"?  Can I do this another way?  Will a juror notice this or dismiss it?  In the past two years my work has gone through many changes.  The most radical have been in the past 9 months as I have begun to use pouring both watercolor and acrylic pain to express my thoughts through simplified representational shapes.  Along with that change I began to self-evaluate at a more intense level.  How can this be better?  What can I change to make this work more engaging?

A few days ago I was writing exactly these thoughts in my journal.  There are several good offers of workshops I could attend in 2016.  I was considering a couple of them.  At this stage, I do not want to learn how someone else paints or thinks.  I want to learn how to make my own work better.  I want to learn to answer all these questions.  If there are methods I do not know now, that's what I want.  I turned on Facebook that morning and saw a promotion for a workshop that actually echoed the exact words in my journal.  A new, to me, instructor, Linda Rothchild Ollis, is giving a workshop in May at Menucha, a retreat on the Columbia Gorge.  It only took a few minutes to decide this is for me.

"Untitled 4" 21" X 29" Poured Acrylic 
Menucha is associated with the Presbyterian Church.  Rooms are shared, at least 3 per room. Meals are provided with a selection of 3 or 4 choices.  The bathrooms are shared .  There is wifi.  There's also coffee both in the rooms and in the central hall (cash only, they caution).  I am such a creature of habit.  I get up around 5AM, make my k-cup of coffee with heavy cream, spend 45 minutes to an hour in my chair writing my journal.  Then I depart to my computer for news and then into my studio for early morning work.  All of this is done in quiet, no talking, no music, no noise, except for a morning greeting with my husband, perhaps comments in passing.  By going to Menucha for three days I will not have my normal routine. How will that go?

As happened this time last year before ISS at Taos, NM, the thought of this workshop commitment is already pushing my work, answering some questions, raising some new ones.   I have the materials list, I am guessing at some of the uses.  I have more than 3 months of painting between then and now. Given how swiftly my work changed in the past two years I cannot begin to imagine where I will be by mid-May.  Which raises a final question:  how can I possibly plan?  I see now, more than ever, that "be here now" is the best advice.