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?
I’ve been hard at work in the studio. Here is a look at a larger piece in progress, and some small pieces lined up. The small pieces were a challenge for me (they are 8″ x 10″), because I really prefer to work larger. I think my paintings are generally more successful on a large scale, but this time around I tried approaching the small work a little differently. I treated each as if it were a small, experimental piece of jewelry. I found that taking this approach naturally adjusted the scale that I worked at, and kept me from trying to jam in too much imagery, a common problem for me when I try to work small. These six pieces will be available at Hang Gallery in December.
Here’s another view of my studio work table…
This is something I often do, especially when I am trying something new. I’ll find a way to “mock up” the next element in a painting. This is especially valuable to me because when I start a painting, I only have a vague idea of where I want it to go, and often it takes me someplace completely different. And because I’m always working in transparencies, allowing each layer to show as I build the image, it is especially important to me that I respond to the image by adding each layer in the most aware, informed way possible. By trying out different elements before adding them to the painting, I can be a little more efficient, and often this process leads to innovations that I may not have thought of otherwise. It also allows me to make little adjustments, sometimes minute, that make a big difference in the compositions. These yellow circles may or may not be added- I haven’t decided yet.
Overall, I’m having a productive month in the studio so far…
I’ve been fiddling with this blog pretty much non-stop for a few days. Isn’t it so much nicer around here?? I didn’t even like to look at my blog before, but now I love it. I figured that if I’m going to be sharing and writing here more, I’d better make it a space that I actually like.
I’ve also added a lot of content on the periphery. Here are some changes that you might not notice right away:
- I’ve listed upcoming teaching gigs in the navigation bar.
- There is now a drop-down menu above that acts like a mini gallery page with some examples of my work.
- Click on the “Hang Gallery” button in the sidebar to see where you can view or purchase my work. Hang Gallery is also listed in the navigation bar under “Representation”. By the way, they are some of the most friendly, kind gallery people I have ever met. Worth a visit if you are in San Francisco.
- I am very excited to share all of the links and book suggestions listed under “Inspiration” in the navigation menu. I am obsessed with process, so I love to peek into other creator’s lives and I gain so much insight from reading about the psychology and process of creating. Make yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy these links and books. If you have favorite websites or books to share, leave a link in the comments.
- “New Work” in the sidebar will take you to my website.
- Click on “About” to read a little about me and what my work is about.
And yes, more is coming. I will add content to “Projects” as that takes shape. I have packing and shipping information that I’d like to add to the sidebar. I also have a writing project that I’m working on, but that will have to wait a while…
As always, thanks for reading!
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.