I have finally had some time since the start of this new year to slow down a bit and refocus. There has been a thought in the back of my mind for awhile and keeps resurfacing from time to time. In these quiet moments it has become strong and clear in my mind. The question of why I do what I do…..why create art? So often I go through the motions of daily studio life without being present and remembering why I started making art in the first place.
I have been interested in and practicing art for so long the reasons and intentions towards it have morphed and evolved over the years. As a young girl my main concern was the academic side of art and art history. I wanted to learn how to create something realistic. To render an object or human form and how to master and control my materials. In college I discovered art can give you a voice. Through design and choice of subject matter I could verbalize a thought, emotion, concept etc. This feature of art is powerful. An artist can create something from nothing and have it understood and appreciated by all cultures. After school life’s realities presented themselves and I had to figure out how to make a living from my art.
Today I am an artist for all those reasons. Yet it occurred to me that after all these years the real motivating factor was simply for my own personal happiness and fulfillment. I have been blessed to be able to make art through out all the stages in my life thus far. I take pride in what I create but am constantly humbled by other artists and artisans. Nothing in my life motivates, inspires, challenges and completes me quite like the simple act of making art.
I’m not sure when exactly I started keeping journals/diaries but I’m sure I was quite young. I think it began as a way to privately express myself and cope with maturing into adolescence. When you are so young it is hard, if not impossible, to have anything in your life that is not common knowledge to your family. I enjoyed having a sanctuary where I could unload ideas, voice dreams, and ask unanswered questions.
When I started art classes and keeping sketchbooks, this process of jotting down ideas and documenting daily life continued to be a common practice and ultimately a habit. I wanted to create art that said something, and more importantly, that said something that I personally wanted to share. It is a burden to be timid and shy. You miss out on a lot of opportunities to reveal what you are really thinking and, by default, giving a sense of purpose and weight to your person.
I think that is why I am so drawn to art. Because my work becomes my voice. I feel artists should make it a practice to write in tandem with creating. Once words are on the page they become real and it makes it that much easier to turn those thoughts into visual creation. One’s art should be a representation of who they are. Your words become a pathway to discovering just who exactly that is.
Finding and creating balance in your art is so essential not only for the art itself to thrive, but equally also for the viewer. An unbalanced piece of art causes tension and confusion amongst the elements involved. The viewer's eye will forcefully be drawn to the more weighted areas which ruins the flow and overall composition of the piece. On the other hand, a well- balanced piece of art is defined by a clean, open, and well-constructed composition. The viewer’s eye moves easily and effortlessly from one area to the next, allowing them to pause on certain areas of interest as they wish, and while not inadvertently being forced to a particular focus by an unstable and or disproportionate composition.
When thinking about considering balance in relation to a piece of art, it is best to always keep in mind that you can’t alter one area without a cascade effect into another. Each stroke, pencil line, and mark making will be in a relationship with all the others. The beauty of achieving good balance is that once the elements are working together and complimenting one another, the result can be impactful and impressive. The key part of learning how to create and maintain balance is learning to recognize the moment when every section can stand alone while simultaneously forming a cohesive whole.
Good quality design is something I seek to create in my art and also try to have present in my everyday life. This is something that has always interested me, but not until my early 30s did I really understand both the mental and artistic benefits of something that is well designed. My 20s were a time when I had interest in every kind of genre, style, and approach to art. I think it is typical of most younger artists who are trying out and experimenting with tons of different styles, mediums, materials, and subject matter. I now see that phase as an important part of the evolution of becoming a focused and serious artist.
The more I painted and the longer I painted, the one truth that seemed to speak the loudest was the importance of good design. It held more weight and was more impactful even than the final message I was trying to convey. Without it, there is no foundation and all is lost to the viewer. Your vision gets muddied, your intentions are unclear, and your composition will fail. A good design can resist the passage of time and can resonate across cultures and demographics. It can be appreciated and admired long after it was created.
Several changes have happened in my life as of late and I guess -- typical of most artists -- I feel the need to express these changes and transitions in my art. The largest one recently being the fact that my son started kindergarten. This is quite a significant event because for the last five years I have effectively been a "stay at home" mom. It is true all this time I have tried my best to maintain my love and passion for art. But it has been the job of being a mother that has really been my primary focus. Motherhood has changed, altered, shifted, and molded who I am today both physically and psychologically. Since the moment my son was born, he simply became an extension of me, and I of him.
This new routine of him being away a good part of the day while I am unaware and uninvolved in what he is seeing and doing has been difficult. Yet it also is starting to feel like the natural progression of things. I think he was at a point where he needed to be introduced to new people, concepts, and experiences outside of our home. At the same time, I was in need of reconnecting with who I used to be before I took on the title of mother. Being a mom can mean giving up yourself entirely in order to fully commit to the care of your child or children. A byproduct of this new transitional phase of motherhood is one in which my son and I can exist as separate individuals with our own unique set of needs, desires, and qualities. The change has also gifted me something I haven't had in a very long time. The gift of time. I hope to use this new found time to create work that is more thoughtful and reflective. I wish to make art now that internalizes this new phase of motherhood as I prepare for the next.
I've always loved the simplicity and directness of line work properly used in artwork. For me, no other element is so basic, yet capable of depicting so much. The first thing I typically do when I enter the studio are line drawings with ink, pencil, or marker. This practice is a mental warm up to start my mind, hand, and eye working together to create. It is a mentally calming and satisfying exercise for me and, in a way, gives me a sense of artistic control and purpose. You start with a blank surface and with simple lines, marks, and gestures, you can create focus, tension, movement, horizons, and silhouettes. You have the power to render something from nothing.
Abstract and contemporary paintings indeed encompass all the glamour and intrigue that one might associate with today's modern art. Bright contrasting colors add interest and conflict. Mixed media can add depth and texture. And one's technique can generate emotion and empathy. Yet my love for the common mark is the building block of my work. Contour line work can depict the female form, grandiose architecture, organic shapes, and distant horizons. It holds a resonating power of the simplicity of human expression.
"From a distance it might look straight, but when you get up close, you can always see the line waver. And that's where the beauty is." --Margaret Kilgallen
I think for a while now I have been taking for granted the importance of the actual process of making art and what it means to an individual artist. I recently did a collaboration with my friend and ceramics artist, Laura Cooke, and learned a ton about her creative methods and practices. It made me reflect more about the love and dedication one must have for the final result, but also the unique and often labor intensive process in and of itself.
My friend and fellow painter Karina Bania recently mentioned how she loves the physicality of painting -- the movements and gestures that make up the act of painting. Those words struck me because that is exactly how I feel as well. I love the quiet meditation involved in rendering a small image, but I am equally seduced by painting and its mark making, textures, viscosity, and constant problem solving.
I have further contemplated the variations of the art process after working with Laura, who typically fires ceramics in a standard kiln. She recently attended a 3-day wood kiln firing in Marshall, NC and explained to me that it had to be manned 24 hours a day and someone has to continue feeding wood into the kiln to maintain the proper temperature. At the end of this extremely laborious practice, one cannot even be certain with work that hasn't been cracked or flawed in some way. I was in awe of the dedication.
I guess as every artist goes further and further down a certain artistic path or calling, it is not really ever the final result that compels them to do so. It is in the end the love for the process that makes this decision for them. Passion and dedication to the process itself is what makes a true artist. One who cares more about the creation than the outcome.