Friday, January 27, 2017

A challenge, a mystery or both

Hello and happy Friday! I missed you last week but felt it was important to participate in the J20ArtStrike against the inauguration of whatshisname. There was no art made or blog posted on January 20th as I took to the streets in protest. I urge you to keep marching, calling, writing, signing, and sharing in order to protect our democracy, but please do something nice for yourself too (read an art blog, for instance). We have a long way yet to go.

This is an art blog, so let's talk about art!

Today marks the 27th day of the distillation process. It seems like just yesterday that I made my first six papers. However, there are now 156 black, white, and ochre pieces piled up high on my studio table that tells me otherwise. The papers crackle as I stack and smooth them at the beginning of each day. The process begins as I take down the previous days finished papers and put them on the stack before I begin again. I tape one paper on my painting wall, work on it until completion, and then move it to the side and back wall to dry. Each day the walls get covered with six more wet and almost tattered papers. The thin paper dries and warps at the edges, it folds, gathers, and at times looks like fabric. Remnants of tape are left behind on the dry corners and are at times found within the piece, hidden under a layer of paint to cover tears and rips, hinting at the action of the process. I love the scars and damages left behind. My studio floor is now black with charcoal dust and I leave dark boot prints everywhere I go.

When this process began, I had no idea where it would take me, or what I might learn or gain from it. The distillation process developed from a deep need to satisfy something within me. Perhaps a challenge, a mystery or both and that's what I got. Just in the past week, working in this way has taken me to a place I haven't been in almost 8 years. The interlocking shapes are fading and the whole paper is being worked. An atmospheric dark beauty that seems to undulate from just under the surface has now arrived. A few dark lines really are enough to please me, why add anything more?

I wanted to relearn something I had forgotten. I wanted to find something I had misplaced. I wanted to give myself the gift of time and exploration. I wanted to dream the wild dreams again. When I show up for myself and my work, extraordinary things happen, the distillation process teaches me this every day and I am grateful.

Until next week, keep fighting!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Born of charcoal dust

The distillation continues, as today is the 13th day in the process. There have been 78 papers completed and 108 yet to come. I feel myself wanting to break my own rules, and at times I do. It is my process after all, yet mostly I stay true to the original idea, outlined in last week's post.

I leave out the yellow, focusing on the perfection of the charcoal dust and white. I stomp on my papers with my charcoal-encrusted boot and work with and against the marks left behind. I like reacting against especially, and I wonder if this is how I also live my life.

These fleeting marks and the work left behind excites me. At other times, I'm frustrated and want to do more to the paper even after it is deemed "finished." I keep moving forward knowing that it is more about the process than the end result. The papers are expressive and gestural as I remember lessons once learned, and once thrown away.

At times, I feel almost bored and have the urge to abandon it all and return to canvas or to paint on charity shop plates and neckties. This is another lesson of the process, to keep moving forward regardless of feeling. Innovate through the limitations; use the charcoal dust from the floor, stomp and kick the paper, draw larger, paint smaller, limit a severely limited palette even further.

I question myself as I work; why do I draw these interlocking shapes? What does this mean? Is it important? Is this work expressive enough; is it honest? Could I be wasting time? Is all of my art a waste of time? The paper's blank space allows my mind to run freely with abandon. Again, I keep moving forward, ignoring this chatter. If I am not relying on previous knowledge, this means also not relying on the previous bravado. I feel like a student again, unknowing and unsure.

I enjoy heading out the door these winter mornings and knowing that I have six exercises ahead of me; six places to become lost, six dreams to rehash, six thoughts to watch float past, six meditations, a multitude of ruminations and conversations born of charcoal dust, my hand, and heart.

This is not a waste of time.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Distillation process

Hello! Happy New Year!

First things first, thank you to everyone who read my year-end review blog last week. You deserve a medal but I think you get something better, you get art! As you may remember, I offered an incentive to folks who read and commented on last week's blog with a print giveaway! I shall now announce the winner!

I hope what I am about to write won't make winning any less fun for you. The four lovely folks who commented last week are ALL getting a copy of my most popular print, "Sailor's warning!" That's right, you are all winners here! So if I don't have it already, please send your postal address to my email, and I will get your print right out to you! Thanks so much for your supportive comments! I hope you will enjoy the art and have a lovely new year!

Now, back to the blog. The morning of January first, I went to the studio. I believe in starting the new year the way you mean to go on and working in my studio is the best way I could imagine starting and living in 2017. Once at the studio, rather than feeling inspired, I found myself not knowing what to do. I felt rusty and awkward even after working on a canvas with success just 2 days before. I suddenly felt like I was on very shaky ground. I picked up an old canvas and started adding a layer of color, but I could tell it was going nowhere fast. I decided I could keep going down this road or I could force a shift. Suddenly, I knew exactly what I needed to do.

In my heart, I knew I wanted to start again. I wanted to have a project with rules and parameters that I could explore within. I wanted a purpose, but I wanted the purpose to be very personal. I decided I didn't want to rely on the old knowledge and ways of working.

I taped a piece of newsprint to the wall. I gathered my materials. One clean cup of water. One brush. One tube of white paint. One tube of yellow ochre and my collection of charcoal. I would listen to music without words and I would draw and paint, applying the paint initially with my fingers before thinning it out with the brush and water. I wanted to feel my materials. I wanted to get messy. I wanted to draw and I wanted to feel like a painter, more than ever and again.

There was one painting and then another, and when it came to six, I knew I was done for the day. I decided after this, that six pieces will be completed each day as part of the project until the end of the month. If all goes according to plan, there will be 186 pieces.

These pieces are about movement, gesture, painting and drawing. These papers contain my language as it is being recorded, repeated and expanded. These papers are a lesson in commitment, structure, and intuition.

The papers are a bit prayerful, mournful and searching. Almost an act of prostration and pittance. Confessional and dark at times, yet also quick and bright, the papers will lead me down an unknown path. All I have to do is show up each day, make the marks, and listen.

I hope you will join me in this distillation process. Until next week, keep fighting.