I’ve been sensitive to the rhythm of my work lately. More so than usual. I think it’s because I’m pushing out in a few directions beyond my habitual territory—photographing more, drawing, experimenting with new mediums—and it’s uncomfortable. Starting something new is exciting, yes, but it’s also emotionally difficult.
An idea is only a beginning, and what follows the initial rush is usually heavy with failed attempts, self doubt, resistance, and moments of profound lethargy. Sometimes, if I am persistent, this awfulness is followed by hints of something good. This stage is filled with intuitive changes of approach. If I keep going at it, the cycle of thought and action come together with integrity, and a new direction emerges. Then I know it’s time to get up and run with it. Until then, it’s a bit like wading through deep mud.
These ups and downs…I’m starting to embrace the idea that this is just part of the ebb and flow. Adding new things to my creative practice also shakes up my routines, and I find myself re-negotiating my work rhythms, both energetically and emotionally. For instance, I have to be rigorously honest with myself about the difference between procrastination and giving a certain work some space to settle or develop.
When I’m trying new things, procrastination turns into a proper noun. Meet Procrastination, capital “P”. It takes a lot of self-honesty and dedication to have any kind of creative practice. Add fear and doubt to the mix, and Procrastination, and it’s evil twin, Resistance, become my constant companions. So I am daily having to tell them to piss off. I’ve got work to do.
It’s been a while since I wrote here in this space, but I wanted to share a few upcoming events with you… the first is a brief artist talk I’m giving this Sunday:
This is very casual and fun, a quick thing to drop into on Sunday afternoon. If you are in the area, come by and say hello!
The second announcement is that I am teaching a second 3-day class this year at Wax Works West. In my classes, I focus on control, layering, and transparency, and my students have a lot of time to practice and work in the super supportive environment that Judy and Wendy provide. I know this seems that this is really far in advance to be announcing this but my prior classes have filled fast, so if you are interested in joining us, don’t hesitate- check out their website schedule.
Maybe I’ll see you soon…
Working hard on paintings for an upcoming 2-person show in May at Hang Art in San Francisco. This series of paintings continues to move forward, and continues to inspire me with new veins of ideas and symbols. The paintings always refer back to the experience of being outside, in nature, in the open air, in all seasons and weather.
I’ll post more information about the show later… so stay tuned.
I came across a great quote by Henry Miller that alludes to uncertainty, though Miller uses different terms. I knew I had to share it here. The life preserver analogy is especially powerful to me; again, no risk, no art.
“I had to learn to think, feel, and see in a totally new fashion, in an uneducated way, in my own way, which is the hardest thing in the world. I had to throw myself into the current, knowing that I would probably sink. The great majority of artists are throwing themselves in with life-preservers around their necks, and more often than not it is the life-preserver which sinks them. Nobody can drown in the ocean of reality who voluntarily gives himself up to the experience. Whatever there be of progress in life comes not through adaptation but through daring, through obeying the blind urge.”
*Quote via Brain Pickings.
Specifically, embracing uncertainty. Something I’m working on, because I’m generally not a big fan of uncertainty. Uncertainty is… uncomfortable.
I do believe, however, that uncertainty is a vital part of making art. Starting something new, how are we to know what will come of it? “Is it going to work? Where will it lead? Will it be total shit? Why am I even doing this?…” That is the sort of thinking that tends to take over when I start new things. It’s a vulnerable feeling. But here’s the thing: without risk and exploration, things dry up. Art requires movement. It requires progression. It requires risk. It requires action.
Most of the time, the experiments don’t work out. Every now and then, they do. Sometimes, they trigger a cascade of work that can last years. But it all starts with willingness to embrace uncertainty. So, that’s something I’m working on right now: setting some time aside to just play with different materials, play with different ways of thinking, play with failure, even. Cultivating uncertainty.
Above: Some of my current experiments (playing) on mylar.
Tools and materials are my partners in creativity. It’s sometimes easy to forget how important they are- how, often, it is a newfound tool or a deviant accidental mark that sets me down a new path of image-making. Some of these tools have been with me so long, but I’ll try to recall how I collected each one, and what I use it for. Left to right.
- Ace blade. Newest tool here. Used for paper cutting and stencil cutting.
- Tiny screwdriver. Lifted from my husband’s toolbox. Used for intarsia and mark making.
- Ice pick. I’ve had this forever and ever. Used for piercing and intarsia mark making.
- Metal brush. Hardware store. Makes interesting marks when heated.
- Sewing snips. A gift from my local embroidery shop owner. Used for detail trimming of paper and thread.
- Drill bit. See thievery, above. Great for drilling through wax. Or wood.
- Sewing marker. Actually, don’t know what this is really called. Found in old sewing box in thrift store in Modesto, CA. Used for mark making.
- Metal eye dropper. Bought at Encaustic Conference in Massachusetts a few years ago. It’s great for filling in empty marks with hot wax for intarsia.
What about you? Do you have favorite or unusual tools that you use in your art practice?
If you are an artist of any kind, and a mother, watch this.
If you are an artist and want to be a mother or father, watch this.
If you know an artist who is a mother, watch this.
There are several moments in this video when I experienced deep recognition. How many times have I thought (with growing panic) that I was “losing the thread”?
Powerful stuff about life, parenthood, and creativity. I really wish that the teachers and female role models in my life had talked about some of these issues when I was young, and making decisions (about parenthood, employment, and graduate school) that would reverberate through my life in ways that I had no way of anticipating. It takes honesty and guts to talk, from a reality-based (instead of ideology-based) perspective, about how parenting impacts female artists. When we talk in the art community about gender disparities, it is imperative that we also wrestle with the disparity in how parenthood affects men and women differently. When we have it all out in the open, and encourage our young artists (men and women) to consider- realistically- the impact of various life choices on their creative lives, we will start to develop real strategies to help our creative selves survive and flourish, whatever our choices.
You can read more about the film here.
Hard to believe a whole year has gone by since I last posted! I’ve still been hard at work, in the studio and in life, moving things forward. But somewhere along the way, I lost my focus on this blog. I needed to put my energy into what was directly in front of me: Making art, living life, adjusting to my children’s new independence. With that independence came new pressure to make more money. College tuition will do that to you. And financial pressure has made me examine what I truly want to be doing, and how to make it all work. I’ve been juggling many things at once- an intensified studio practice, a few shows, a new gallery, and school. I’m still juggling, feeling my way along this time of transition. Eager to see what lies on the other side.
Transition and change have inspired me to fire up this blog again, and re-invent it a bit. Imagine my surprise when I checked in here with this space and saw how many people are still coming here and reading, despite my neglect! So, I want to thank everyone here who reads, subscribes, bookmarks, leaves a comment, or just checks it out and moves on: Thank you. You have all been awesome.
Changes. Expect this blog to get better: better design, more posts, better photos, new topics, new ideas. The main idea is the same: Life intersecting art. Because how do we pull apart life and art? We can’t. What we make comes from who we are and the life we live. I’ve been taking writing courses, so there will be more here about writing, a crucial skill for artists. More about the art-making process and a dose of inspiration from my own studio and other’s. This blog is, after all, called Open Studio.
Back in the studio after a weekend of wax and friends in Portland. I attended the International Encaustic Artist’s yearly retreat, met lots of new people, and gave a presentation with my friend Larraine Seiden. Some highlights:
Buying some new tools and some paint from the vendors…
Soaking in the warm salt water pool…
Seeing Portland for the first time(!)…
Watching artist demos all day Saturday…
Listening to Bon Iver playing live on Saturday night from the porch of the hotel…
Since I got home I’ve been cleaning out the studio, making medium, and new work. So good to be home and all juiced up.
Getting ready for the annual IEA retreat in Portland, Oregon. So excited to meet up with friends, soak up some artistic goodness, and relax! This year I am honored to give back to an organization that has been such a support to me: I’ll be talking about and demonstrating best packing and shipping practices for encaustic work.
I’ve been so busy getting all of my materials ready, I’ve had precious little time to paint! So, it feels good to get a bit of studio time in before I leave.
Ah, I love the smell of paint…