Friday, May 27, 2022

Commitment to Process - Getting UN-Stuck

Commitment to process is an important key to getting unstuck. We have a habit of focusing on results, setting expectations, and making judgements accordingly. We want to know how things will turn out; we want to avoid uncertainty by planning, so that we get it ‘right’. While this habit of planning for results is essential for most activities in our lives (I don’t dispute the value of planning!), it does seem to be one of the main reasons that we get stuck as artists.  

 

Making some marks, the first layers, with no plan.

Of course we can plan out a painting go through the steps, and get the result we expect. Some people can. When I try to do this my result is not satisfying. I feel like I've missed it, and the painting looks - and is - superficial. At times in my early painting career I tried following instructions in a book. I knew instinctively that it would not result in something that felt authentic, but allowing the benefit of the doubt and figured I'd learn something. I didn't. Well, I did learn that I was right about it not feeling authentic. Following step-by-step instructions that focused on a particular result was not a satisfying endeavor. It lacked something essential to making real art. Does this sound familiar?

 

For me it takes periodic RE-commitment to process to stay connected authentically with my work. The tendency towards planning and results orientation is tenacious, and it creeps up unnoticed until I get stuck. I have a few tricks for getting back into my groove:


I am offering a short Zoom session on 5 Ways to Get UN-Stuck to share with you my favorite practices that get me back to a focus on process. See details and sign up here.

 

Painting 'parts' that I will use in collage.

"Letting Loose", mashing things together

Trying to put together an awkward arrangement

Making a bunch of marks with my fingers


Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Meltdown

 I got this comment in my May Survey, and I feel compelled to address it:

For me, it's about playing and have fun; hanging out with my intuition. In the only workshop I've taken with you you, I clearly remember you saying fun and play are NOT what making art is about and went so far as to say we should EXPECT to have a meltdown during the course of the workshop. Unfortunately, I listened to you, had my meltdown, worked seriously, with great industry and felt the joy leak right out of me. I've wondered how you sustain your art life doing it this way; it seems painful.

In my in-person workshops I do address the issue of The Meltdown. The Meltdown is when you are frustrated with your work; you look around, and eveybody else in the workshop seems to 'get it', they are just chugging along and their work all looks great. Yours looks terrible. You start to feel that you've wasted your time and your money being here, you are out of place, who do you think you are trying to be an artist? You are ready to throw your brushes, or whatever down and  exit.

When the Meltdown shows up, eat a chocolate chip cookie.

My advice, such as it is, is to notice the meltdown, notice that your feel frustrated, and let it be. Give it a time limit. OK, I agree to feel like sh!t for an hour. After an hour, I get to pack up and leave if I want to. Fine. I don't have any advice on avoiding the meltdown. In my experience, just noticing it, giving the meltdown its space, has a way of making it dissipate.

I have also noticed that students in my workshops have fewer meltdowns when they know about it ahead of time. They might have mini meltdowns, but expecting some moments of frustration has a way of making them less important. And they have fun.

It admit that I cringe a bit when someone arrives at my workshop saying "I just want to have fun".  I hear that as "I'm not here to push myself" or "I expect this to be all fun and easy". Learning new things, being challenged IS fun with the right attitude. But most of us have moments of frustration and uncertainty in a workshop environment, and I just want people to set their expectations appropriately.

Making art IS about play and it IS fun, but that is not all it is, usually. If you are always playing and having fun, with no angst or frustration, and you are also generating images that really speak to you, that you find compelling, then that is just GREAT! Congratulations. Most of us also have moments of frustration and occasional meltdowns or at least self-doubt. Learning how to navigate these skillfully is part of the process.

One more thought: art is a LOT more fun when you have facility with your materials and techniques, and you have a fluency in composition. I don't mean you "know the rules", but that you are able to SEE the visual content of your own work. So in teaching and learning skills, I hope that affords us all more fun in making art! 

Thanks to the anonymous contributor to my May Survey. I am sure there are others who have the same questions.


 

 


Thursday, May 12, 2022

Workshop Preferences - April Survey Results

 Abstract Composition and Mixed Media Techniques were the stars of the April survey. No surprise there. Composition is the #1 topic people ask me about. But 'mixed media' was a bit of a surprise. I guess I mix my media, but I call myself a painter. To me it's all painting, whatever the techniques are.


The next question was about composition workshops:

Here, the "composition boot camp" won out. I can do that. I have done that. And it is hard, not all that fun, and you do learn a lot. 

Once you have a handle on abstract composition, then what? What else do you want from your work? Take my May Survey to let me know what else is important in your art practice.


Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Jane's Art Basics - How To Start A Painting?

 Do you get stuck at the blank canvas? Do you want to paint but don't know how to start? As your art practice evolves you will develop your own go-to strategies for beginning, but if you are new at painting, here are a few suggestions.

  • Don't start a painting. Start multiple paintings. 
  • Do start with an inexpensive, low-stakes, substrate such as Bristol or 80# Cheap Drawing Paper
  • Do focus on the practice, the process, not the 'finished' painting.
  • Don't try to finish a painting
  • Do give yourself a time limit if that helps. 

Here is a video on The Five Minute Painting (this is an old one, not great quality):

 

A group of 9"x12" five-minute paintings


I made these 9"x12" five-minute in one session, which was a total of one hour.

Be assured that there are infinite ways to start a painting, so you can't find the correct way, nor can you start the wrong way, in terms of the first marks you make on the painting surface. You can start with an attitude that will facilitate beginnings. 

Your measure of success is: you showed up and applied paint (or collage or drawing) to a surface. You made marks on a substrate. That's IT. Omit the habitual evaluation and self-criticism. Just leave it out; it is totally irrelevant to this part of a painting practice. 

Let the painting practice be an ongoing inquiry, not a production line. You are discovering what the paint can do, what is in you, who you are as a maker of images. It is a long, slow, ongoing process. A practice. If you set your expectations accordingly it can be extremely engaging and fulfilling. If you begin with the expectation that you will Learn How To Do It Correctly, it can be very frustrating. You will make good paintings - your paintings - when you make a lot of paintings, with attention and focus on process, and with curiosity. Enjoy!

Cat Bennett has several books that are encouraging and helpful for making art as a practice. There are many other books and resources on practicing art, but the real learning is in doing the work. Get the paper out, put some paint on it, pay attention, repeat.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Watercolors!

With Golden's Absorbent Ground you can make any surface into a watercolor surface. I do not primarily work in watercolors, but have been experimenting recently in using them on this Absorbent Ground, and combining with my acrylics and collage. Here is a video demonstrating Qor Watercolors on Absorbent Ground. You can win a set of 24 Qor Watercolors + a jar of Absorbent Ground + FOUR 6"x6" cradled wood panels. Buy raffle tickets here. Proceeds benefit Rupert Village Trust, a community building project.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Scraps

 I seem to be obsessed with scraps these days. They call to mind the debris from explosions (think Ukraine), fragments of lives washed up on a beach from a plane crash or shipwreck. But also the piecing together of worn out scraps to make something useful or beautiful (think quilts in the traditional sense).

This and the next two images are the 'parts' that I'm making, which are then cut up and reassembled.

These consist of painted papers, gel prints, found papers, and repurposed 'pieces'.

Though these have a random look, I do pay attention to varying the scale of the pieces, and the scale of the patterns, textures, and marks on the little bits.

This work in process combines one of the 'collage quilts' (cut edited) with another work in process. 20"x20" on wood panel.

Similar in process to the above piece. Both are works in process.

Collage quilts combined and edited over a painting, 20"x20"

This one is finished. Ta DA!! 24"x24" on wood panel.


4"x6" window mat. Trying to see some possibilities of up-close tiny collages in this and the next two images.

4"x4"

4"x4"

Another option I'm considering is 'floating' these reassembled scraps as 'maps' or continents, with lots of space around them.

Same as above.

This process was inspired by my workshop, The Visual Sentence, which I taught in January in Tucson (hosted by MISA) and also at Hudson River Valley Art Workshops last June. The student work was amazing. 

Here is some student work from January (click the Facebook icon to see the post):

 

And this is from Last June:

 

Friday, April 1, 2022

Creative Blocks - the March Survey Questions

The March survey asked you about creative blocks: how often you get them and whether you have rituals or practices that get you out of them. The majority of respondents (over 53%) reported experiencing creative blocks more than once per year. I am definitely in that group. Many reported having them about once a year, and less, and some (around 10%) reported never.

It was interesting to see the answers to the next question, in which respondents share their rituals or practices (if any) for getting out of a creative slump.

Here are the results of the survey.  See if you can find any correlation between the first question (how often you have creative blocks) and the second (what you do about them). 

Here are a few of the answers to the second question, though you can see all of them here

  • Schedule time that I MUST show up in my art studio, put on my apron. then set a timer. 
  • Like practicing piano scales, I work on color mixing… try to match paint chips from the store fast.  
  • I work in another discipline. I move back and forth between wring poetry and flash fiction to working in mixed media..sometimes textile figures. I open up my space to others and watch their joy creating. 
  • Take a break, take a walk
  • Clean up and organize the studio
  • A lot of you suggest doing SOMETHING, every day, or frequently, with no expectations.
  • Drawing with my non-dominant hand Reading books about my favorite artist's process Painting over old canvases so there's less risk

Here is a quote that some of you might relate to (I do): "I make paintings that I think are worthy of showing but they don't sell very often. That's when the meltdowns happen -- when I think why am I spending my precious time on something that isn't making any money?" This speaks to what can trigger a meltdown, and I totally get it. 

Many of you report that taking a workshop or exploring a new technique or new material, which entails putting yourself in the beginner's seat.

Seems like the key for many is to do something creative with low stakes. Doodle, make marks in a journal, try something new (where you can feel like a legitimate beginner), paint or print collage papers. Even cleaning the studio is a creative act. For others the key is taking a break, whether it's a walk in nature to get inspired, or a break from even thinking about art. 

I hope you find this helpful to either your art practice or your feeling of connection. Most of us have creative blocks and meltdowns at some point, and I find it comforting to know I am not alone in that. For me it is part of the process, albeit and unpleasant part. I'm among those who push through it by engaging in some kind of low-stakes creative activity - I show up in the studio and do something. Below I've embedded a Facebook post about my response to a recent meltdown, if you haven't seen it already.


  

THANKS for showing up to my blog. 

You can find April Survey Questions here, in which I ask you about workshop topics. Would love to hear what you want to learn.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Interview with Louise Fletcher

I had the honor and pleasure of doing an interview with Louise Fletcher for her Art Tribe subscribers. You can see it below. Louise co-hosts, with Alice Sheridan, the Art Juice Podcast. Check it out! Enjoy the interview. Thanks for visiting.

Friday, March 25, 2022

A Deeper Dive: Is Cohesiveness Overrated?

 Ever feel scattered? Or as if your work is all over the map or lacks a clear style or focus? Again and again I come back to this feeling that my work should be more 'consistent'. It should be recognizable as mine. And yet I would never tell someone else that their work should be consistent. I really believe (as you'll know if you've taken any in-person workshops with me) that you should explore what interests you. WE should explore deeply and honestly, and follow our passions and interests. Otherwise we're just banging out 'production art'. 

The other end of that spectrum is skimming the surface of an idea. Try one piece, then move on. And that is not real exploration. I'm always telling people in my workshops to "do ten more" in answer to almost any question. But not "stick with that image/style/whatever for the rest of your career".

That said, some artists explore honestly and passionately in what looks to us viewers like a narrow, but deep, range of imagery. We read this as 'consistency' or 'cohesiveness' and seem to feel that this is the correct way to make art. Why the high value on recognizability and consistency? Does it make us as viewers feel good to recognize an artist's work? Or is it just more convenient for galleries and marketing?

Just like I have changed my profession several times over the span of my three decade career (potter, freelance art for manufacturers, painting and teaching), and my extracurricular interests are broad and cyclical (chicken husbandry, language learning, excel spreadsheets, graphic design, cheesemaking), my work changes in format and style pretty consistently. It is also cyclical. So I did stripes for over a year - that was the exception. But I've done stripes before, differently, with different perspectives. 

Right now I am doing what I call collage quilts or collage mosaics, and then working them into pieces. The friggin world has fallen apart, and this feels like making something meaningful or just pretty, out of the shards. Or maybe I am just trying to make up a story that connects my work to something real. Oh well, it's the work I'm doing because I'm following what interests me. I'd love to get your comments on this topic.

This is the mess, partially assembled.

This and the following three images are the 'quilts', collage on very light-weight paper.




Finished (I think) piece, as yet untitled, 24"x24", acrylic and collage on wood panel

24"x24" on wood panel

16"x20" on wood panel

Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Composition and Contrast in San Miguel de Allende

Last week I taught a workshop in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and had a really awesome group of participants. Here are a few images of student work (consider it all in-process at various stages).

The first exercise was about using pairs of complementary colors.

One student's work....

Looks just like this view down an alley.




Another exercise was about using different scales of pattern, and different degrees of contrast.





Here are a few more pix of the venue and San Miguel:


Bougainvellea EVERYWHERE
OUTDOOR work space, shaded by tarps and umbrellas

Lots of vistas like this from my walks. I love the rooftop gardens.




We did not all keep our supplies organized.