Sunday, August 31, 2008

Why am I an artist? Why do I love art?

When I graduated last June I decided to sit down and orient myself, really figure out what I was doing and why. I highly recommend that everyone do this once in a while. I asked myself some questions, and then tried to answer them.

Some questions I asked were: Who am I? Why am I an artist? Who is my art for? What am I trying to accomplish with my art-making?

I'll spare you from my lengthy rambling answers, but I will share a few excepts.

Why am I an artist?

I am an artists because I have to be. I have to make things. It’s just what I do, what I think, what I enjoy, what I’m good at, what makes me feel happy and accomplished. I like to make a thing that was not there before and that will spend some time in existence, to see and think about it, and relate to it, and experience it in the space around me. That thing’s existence is a physical embodiment of my thought and intuitive problem solving and effort and time. It is a newborn child of my own. I made it but it is itself, not me but yet it is me. I put myself into it and (hopefully) breathed its own life into it. I guess it’s like being God, a creator, and Mother, the portal of life. It is primal and spiritual, and emotional, and intellectual, and physical, and so necessary like an unstoppable biological function. It is like eating or breathing... Really, sometimes it’s sweet and beautiful, sometimes it’s painful and difficult, and sometimes it’s a release and a relief.

What kind of artist am I? What do I want to do with art?

I am interested in the past and my contemporaries, but I am not interested in (purposefully) making art that is in conversation with those things. My art is mainly abstract because it is intuitive, and it’s really not about anything other than the magic of light, form, imaginary space, being a place to play in, to move in, to relax in, to explore and fine new things in, and to let line and shape simply be what they are. I don’t set out to create an illusion of something. I want to really make something. It is what it is, and if it creates some illusion, that may just be part of its nature.

I am completely entertained by the variety, individuality, and (often) the weirdness of the things that artists are compelled to create. I love it when I look at someone’s body of work, or a line of thought, and think “wow, that gal was really obsessed with those crazy little shapes” or “what the heck got into him there?” I want to tease all of those compulsions within myself and see what they look like when they take a physical form. I want to make things until like living creatures, the art evolves and changes, drifts and shifts, and see where it goes. I want to poke and prod and explore and discover, follow inclinations, and see what leads to what.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What's up with all the abstract art?

The other day I was talking to my aunt, a retired New Jersey goat farmer who had just looked at my website to see see what kind of art I was making. She said to me in a funny unsure tone, "I looked at the pictures on your website...oh, that modern was interesting..." By which I interpreted "What the heck was all that stuff? I was expecting watercolor cows and landscapes. What did you spend so much time in school for if you were just going to scribble?"

I can understand her position. I didn't "get" abstract art either until a handful of years ago when I went to a lecture by Carla Bengtson and did some reading on the subject. Even then, I didn't like it right away, but I slowly found myself lingering on the abstract images as I paged through a magazine, or browsed through a gallery. Eventually I realized that the abstract doodles I compulsively (and resentfully) made actually had some merit. And then I realized that my frustrated struggle with subject matter was unnecessary because what I was really compelled by was line, shape, color, texture, space, tone, and the funny way that the human mind interprets these things when you separate them from a literal narrative or object.

Here are some other people's thoughts on the subject:

This is my favorite article describing the (western) historical evolution of abstract art and how to begin to understand it. It is an informative and very easy read. It is a perfect overview for anyone new to the subject.
Understanding Abstract Art by Harley Hahn.

This article breaks down the artistic visual elements and gives a nice tutorial on how to approach an abstract image.
Abstract Art Explained by Lynne Taetzsch.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A commissioned painting of Geronimo and a tribute to a life

I just finished this painting of Geronimo, done upon special birthday request for my step dad. It was done in crayon and gouache on paper. It's about 8x10 inches.

This one was just completed for my stepmother in memory of her mother who passed away this month. It was done in crayon, watercolor, and bleed proof white. This one is 5x7 inches.

For some reason, August is a busy month for life and death in my family. This August there were two deaths so far, and a handful of the usual birthdays.

To life! ...and off to work I go...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

My current art projects

I am working on a new line of thinking. I have two shows lined up, one in November at the WOW Hall, and one in January and February 2009 at the DIVA Center.

I am in love with ink on paper, and have just discovered the joy of pin striping brushes. A student in a community painting class that I taught gave me one a couple years ago and I just tried it. I immediately ordered two more in different sizes, because they are perfect for making a super-long non-brushy ink line (mmmm...lines). As for the paper, I have been using a wonderful bright white eco-friendly cover stock made by Living Tree, as well as vellum paper which is strong and translucent. Both respond very well to ink via pen or brush. The vellum buckles and wrinkles when moistened and is the noisiest paper in the universe, but it is really fun stuff.

So, for these shows I am thinking more and more sculpturally. A lot of the art in my head is made of metal and glass, but I do not have the facilities to work in steel or iron at the moment, so I think that I am in a transitional phase. I am envisioning my abstract drawings becoming larger and more three dimensional. Here are some pictures of my experiments with the materials and brushes:

The biggest challenge I have right now is that I live in a very small apartment, and my studio is half of the living room. There is just not enough space to work as big as I want to! I am really stretching my cleverness to find space for working.

The large table in the picture is actually my couch, which out of desperation I turned into a storage/work table. Oh, the dreams of my future studio...

Why am I blogging? A young (hey I'm still young) 21st century artist's tale.

Well, here I am writing a web log. Why am I doing this? I am not one to do things because everyone else is. And I am not someone who writes things that I mean for others to read. In fact, I have very little patience for words (pictures say so much more). Don't get me wrong, I have an absolute adoration for the spirit of the published word (especially books). I even work at a fabulous library. But reading anything other than an informative text on a subject I wish to learn about can be torture. Take poetry for example...blech. Or heady philosophy and theory...yawn. I have come to terms with the fact that if I have to struggle to decipher the meaning of dense layers of verbiage, I just don't have the attention span. Say it simply or say it to someone else. I'll be over here drawing a picture.

So why in the world am I on Blogger writing to the world-wide community with no idea who the heck would even care what I have to say? It seems a little self-indulgent to assume that anyone will read it, and I have always considered myself a visual artist and so-very-not a performance artist. My motto is "look at my art, not at me!"

But here I am, and here are my reasons. After a very long time as an art student (15 years, a vocational high school for commercial art, and three universities for fine art) I am thrilled to be a graduate living as I want to in the most perfect town in the country (for me anyway). But I tend to prefer a hermit-like existence, venturing out for the necessities, and loving to curl up in my home studio with a cup of hot tea, my artist partner, and listening to the rain (about nine months of it per year here in Eugene). I do volunteer at the
DIVA Center about once a month to make sure that I go out and look at art. But now that I'm not in school I am much more isolated. I certainly love the freedom I have now, but I wouldn't mind a little accountability and feedback.

Another reason for writing is that I almost exclusively make abstract art. I am filled with images and forms with indistinct meaning. That is not for a lack of real ideas, but it would be easy to get lost in the vagueness if I did not try to communicate more specific thoughts. I also have a very tough time speaking my thoughts directly to other humans (I get nervous, my vocabulary gets frozen somewhere in the folds of my mind, and I end up frustrated and withdraw further from human contact for a while). So perhaps writing will be easier.

I have been writing a personal art journal since I graduated in June 2007, and I am great at talking to myself. So I will continue to talk to myself here, and if anyone cares to listen I will be highly amused.