Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Flying Girl Whispers or I Will Give You A Home

Flying Girl Whispers or I Will Give You A Home
Golden Acrylics, Pitt Artist Pens, Prismacolor Watercolor Pencils

Yesterday I was confronted by the conflict between my ambitions and my reality. This painting took three days. Or was it four? I started it days ago, and left it sitting, not wanting to show it to anyone because it was just WRONG. Blech. The colors were jarring and it just was somewhat awkward. But I let it sit, rather than posting it wrong. I let it sit. I thought about what I was really wanting to do with my project, with my life, with my work. Then last night, after bad television and more hours of lack of ambition, (oh and a glass of port) I took my paint to the WRONG picture. I am actually really liking the layers of paint, lately. I'm enjoying glazing on top of what is already there and even more so, scumbling... which is glazing with opaque or semi opaque layers of a lighter color. So I tried it out with what was already there, and the words came to my head (probably due to my "gatherer" mindset this afternoon, as I scooted about the internet looking for inspiration and focus) and voila, everything came together in meaning.

The painting only succeeded when I gave up my expectations for it, for myself, for my project, for my productivity. I had to stop trying to PRODUCE, I had to stop trying to be PROFESSIONAL and come up with PERFECT (oh, lord, there it is, that's why I've been having so much trouble. My old nemesis, perfectionism) art so that I could sell it and make money.

The reality is life is what it is and my process is what it is and my time and energy are limited and I can't just WILL myself to so something that does not fit into the life I have. I had forgotten about the initial babysteps, or perhaps I thought I was "over" needing to take babysteps, because I had already come so far.

But it doesn't matter where you've already been, when you start something, you're always starting from point A. I thought I was at point C.


Luckily, I am watching many people as they struggle with their Portfolio Projects or their personal challenges or their New Year's resolutions or whatever it is we all have decided to tackle in this post holiday, pre the rest of the year period. It's not lucky that everyone is struggling, it's lucky that we are sharing our processes and through that sharing, learning that this is normal. Part of the process. Necessary. Expected.

Yay, we're normal.

So, let's back up a step. Let's not even think about what we really want to produce with everything we've taken on. Let's think about where we ARE. Where we have come from, and what we want to get out of this work, what we want to learn, how we want to grow.

Where have you come from? What is your experience with your work?

I grew up the child of artists and was supported in my art and writing from very young, both at home and in school. But I have always had it in my head that making money off of art or writing was nearly impossible and you had to be a genius to succeed and even then, The Man could always stop you. A couple of bad critiques and a couple of rejection letters later, and I shied even more away from publishing or selling work. From 92-97 I was poet, painter and novelist who waited tables and infrequently showed, performed or sent work out. From 97-03 I taught HS and wrote and painted when I wasn't working (yay summer). After that I bartended for a year and worked on my art and writing career again, then came the babies, and all art disappeared. Kaput for 3 years. This last year has been spent recovering that art and working my way up to where I could start over from where I was before getting pregnant.

What do you want to gain from your work? (Not what you want to produce, but what you want to gain out of taking this work on.)

I want to get to the point of my life where I have an infrastructure set up for being a professional. I want to know how to send work out and who to send it to and how to manage all the technical details. I don't want to be afraid of art and commerce. I want to have a regular writing and art practice. I want to share my fiction with people instead of hiding it away. I want to be clear and explicit about my process as I continue to work on this project. I want to help other people be creative as I build my own work. I want to roll with the punches and not lose momentum because of bad critiques or rejections or disappointments. I want to understand my own process and allow my own dips and lulls while maintaining my creative practice. I want to have faith that the work will come.

I wanted to do this in a linear manner, with my goals and my lists, but it turns out, it isn't linear. And it's not about the product. It's more about the creative process, which is more organic, and it's turning into, for me, more of an Inquiry than a business proposition. Let me tell you, I was not expecting that. So as I work this process, I'm going to go slow and take it one step at a time, whether the steps take me forward or backward a little.

What about you? Where are you coming from with your work? Where are you wanting to go? How's the process been for you so far?


Julita said...

Rowena, it seems that you are further along with your art career than you know. Just knowing what you would like to accomplish is a feat in itself. I am going through a somewhat similar process, where for a long time I believed that one could not survive off art alone. Only a year ago, after being enlightened by other creative types, that, yes, you can survive off of art, did I suddenly rethink my life and how I could accomplish something similar. I, unlike you, have not yet made the statement that this is what I want (too scared possibly?), but you have, and in my eyes, that's a VERY big part of the process. So congrats on that! And walking away from one of your paintings is sometimes all it takes to later re-ignite interest in it, or to view it in a new light. I do it all the time, sometimes I don't look at a painting I've started for weeks on end. I also sympathize with the thought process in needing to produce and to produce a perfect piece. It's something I struggle with too and I'm sure there are many others out there who do too. We just can't lose sight of what the creative process should be first and foremost, a creative process. An exploratory process.

Squirrel said...

I always respond to your painting and then your commentary separately, often coming back for the latter. There is so much to think about here. I love the seaweed-like branches. They have a beautiful rhythm. And I always wonder, when you mix those three media, how and why you do it and which part of the painting is which. I hope you do a post on that sometime.

Rowena said...

First, Julita, thanks for your comment, loved it and totally agree. Exploration. Yay.

second, Squirrel, I'll answer your question here, since some people may wonder and who knows when I will get to write a post about it.
The watercolor pencil is most often the sketch underneath the paintings. Sometimes it's completely covered over and invisible, but often, I use the undersketch to add to the layers of color in the painting. I like the edges to show, sometimes clearly, sometimes subtly. Sometimes the undersketch IS the painting and the paint is transparent and just blending the watercolor pencil. That's why I use them, I love the way they blend with the acrylic. I'm working on one know that is mostly pencils, just blended with paint.

The acrylic is the biggest part, even when sheer, adding detail and weight, and sometimes that's all you see and it's mainly paint. Sometimes I will add sheer layers of acrylic, or lately opaque layers so you only vaguely see the original color, sometimes it's a thick application in only one layer. Depends on the painting.

The Pitt pens are only a sometimes medium. I use them to add detail after the paint. The watercolor pencils don't mark very well on the acrylic. Sometimes they will serve to sharpen an outline or add features on a face or outfit. I might use a plain ink pen or a opaque gel pen for details, also.

I loved the branches, too, and that was the main reason I didn't want to give up on the painting. And I liked how they got more dynamic after I painted over the original dark teal background with the white. I went with it and emphasized that instead of outlining the tree again to make it more tree like.

KathrynAntyr said...

I have a painting hanging on the wall in my creative room waiting for me to return to it. I started off loving where I was going then I hesitated and was afraid to do add to it. Then when I did I was over thinking it. Now it waits for my return and I've totally stalled. It sounds from your post that you know exactly what I'm going through. I think I just need to loosen up and not worry about the results. AaArgh. I need to play!

Anonymous said...

I admire how you think about your work. In spite of what I write on my blog, I never slow down enough to really consider where I am in my work or why I'm doing it. It's too scary to think about.

Seeing your process--and your ability to discuss your process--inspires.

Miriam said...

There are so many things in this post that I can relate to. It is good to know one isn't alone, you know? So thank you for writing this. I had never thought about before (and now I think quite unbelievably that I have not...) that being the child of artists would make me think that making money off art was impossible. I believe that I do think that way, even while I have made some money. I believe I discredit my successes, perhaps because of this underlying thought. Wow! And the perfection thing...oh boy...My husband reminded me the other day that not everything I made had to be for sale. Not everything I made had to come out right. I remember feeling cross at his saying it, but later realizing that even though I knew it was true...I was not putting that thought into practice. I just love this..."Yay, we're normal.". :)

KathrynAntyr said...

Thanks for the great quote. I will definitely use it one of these days.

Jen Lee said...

I have to tell you--I think this is my very favorite of your paintings so far. I LOVE it!

Shayla said...

Lol, I think I'm coming from a similar place because your post really resonates. Oh yes, perfection, productivity... I call that part of me the "studio dictator" and I often find myself wrestling with her.

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