Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Best Laid Plans

Big dreams are very seductive. Not so big as to be completely unattainable, but the kind you can build on and get nicely carried away with.

I had my doubts about starting a blog. It's not like there aren't a million of them already and I'm pretty sure I'm talking to myself out here, so what am I up to, really? Well, self-expression mostly. Humans have been responding to that yearning for connection to the creative force since the very beginning, I suspect. I can talk to myself in the car or I can do it here, and this is frankly more fun.

But I wasn't going to start this journey if I didn't think I had something to contribute, so I made a little outline of what I might like to touch on. And that's when it started to get interesting.

A planned feature here is a series of book and exhibition reviews. Trouble is, I'm a fairly voracious reader (at least by current standards) and just undisciplined enough to be as yet unable to slow down long enough between books to write the darn review. The same is true for the exhibition reviews, although I'm sad to admit that the reading and art-making have distracted me from actually viewing current exhibits. For shame!

So, confessions aside, here's a promise to try and do better in those areas. There's quite a backlog of books to review, so it might take a bit. I'm a card-carrying member of four different libraries here locally and my bedside table looks like a Seussian cityscape made of books. And summer's almost here, bringing the promise of a little more gallery-hopping time in my life.

If there is somebody out there, hopefully being enlightened or at least entertained, I don't want to leave you hanging. Here's to dreaming!


Monday, May 14, 2012

Goin' to the Show

Home Grown, 2012, acrylic, transfer, & charcoal on canvas, 9x12

Gah!!  It’s the deadline to submit work for an upcoming exhibition, my first, and I am frozen in petrified procrastination. I have the entry form filled out, and the waiver of liability. I’ve completed the artwork and even taken a picture, but now I have to put on my geek hat and figure out how to get it into the proper size and format to send. And now I understand why so many calls for entry specify sending images on disk. Adding blank CDs to my shopping list, along with eyelet screws and picture wire, so I can make sure all work is "hang-ready." Guess I’ll need to put on my art-handler’s hat later.

There is a little work to this, but it’s doable. It just has a way of bringing up the old term-paper-due anxiety and I am suddenly much more sympathetic to my 7th-grader’s dilemma of facing down a 30-book minimum reading list, one third complete, and less than three weeks left in the school year. This uses a different brain hemisphere than painting does, and toggling between them is a wee tad uncomfortable.

Also - it’s kinda scary to put my work out there for strangers to judge. Literally, judge. And vote on. Oh god, what have I done? Plus … this is the first painting I’ve made specifically to sell and I feel quite guilty about it. I mean, these things are personal. These are my babies.

OK, breathe. If they hate it, it’s a learning experience, right? Likewise if they love it. Even better if one of the judges has some constructive criticism. Yeah, OK. No problem. And if it doesn’t sell, I have a head start on Christmas presents! I think if it does sell, though, the money will go toward more supplies and entry fees for more art competitions. And I might have to start a therapy fund ...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Creativity - Some Thoughts

The weird thing about creativity? It really is like a muscle. It can atrophy from disuse, it can be strengthened, and sometimes a little cross-training or even a break can be good for its development. For many more years than I care to admit, I completely abandoned the fine or visual arts. I didn't make any art of my own, visited no galleries or museums, read no articles. I gave away my large and treasured collection of art history books. That one hurts the most to say.

I can't even explain why I did it, exactly, but I think I had a broken heart. In the all-or-nothing mindset typical of a fairly dramatic 20-something, I hit a particularly high wall of resistance and, tired of choosing between gas and groceries on my museum employee's salary, I quit. I left my beloved MFA,H and my hometown, and got a job at an oil company in Dallas. I sold out. To the suits. I couldn't cut it on my own and I had too much pride to try and find the middle ground. Sigh.

Water under the bridge and all that. Before long I met and married a wonderful, artistic, gainfully employed man and have been busy raising kids with him ever since. But I never went back to art. I felt I had failed. I did other creative things, knitting, sewing, scrapbooking, of course. I have a very wise sister who says I was "exploring other media." But not paint, canvas, paper. When my husband would beg me to make art again, I would tell him it would be an obstacle to having food, clean dishes and laundry on a regular basis. (It has been, by the way.) But the truth is, I was scared. What if there was nothing there anymore. What if there was a whole lot of stuff in my heart and head and stirring it up would be more than I could handle? But all the while I was making excuses, I was painting in my mind. What colors would I mix to make that? What shape mark would show the form of that object? Remember how awesome it is to walk into an art supply store? To buy a canvas? To paint?

Then a little over a year ago I reconnected with an old friend and he asked me if I still painted. Ouch. It was not fun to hear myself say no. I can't explain why, but that conversation was the one that brought me to my senses and away from my excuses. I started to make art again and haven't slowed down yet. And I've been amazed by the speed of the learning curve! I'll never be finished learning and growing, but I have truly loved making nearly everything I've made over the past 12 months or so, primarily because I quit beating myself up for perceived failure and just did something. Some of the books and resources that have helped me in this journey are Twyla Tharp's "The Creative Habit," Margaret Peot's "Successful Artist's Career Guide", etc,  and Rice Freeman-Zachery's "Creative Time and Space."

I guess the bottom line is, don't assume you aren't creative or that you used to be but it's gone or worst of all that you don't have anything to add. Or that it isn't a necessary piece of the life puzzle. It is. Even if you only do it for yourself.