Clarity in Art Process?

I know what I want to say, but I feel like I can’t do it in a succinct manner. Who may be reading this? How am I being portrayed to an audience I have yet to “identify?” I come to a decision: I will write what I want to share with you. A realization about my art, a note about me.

Recently, I became curious about who I am apart from my past, illness and stress. When it was simply sensation with short visitations by emotions, I communicated with color. My art took form in collages, abstracts, bright colors. Backgrounds, as if that was where I was picking shards of past out of each breath. 

From color and movement arise form. Meditative lines and shadows. Line contains color and images form. Over and over again I draw women in particular without really knowing why. But I am curious about who I am, finally.

The next gallery on TinyArt Originals will feature a collection of paintings from the time spent communicating with movement and color. Each reflect memory, perception and struggle as they pass through my mind. It is my hope that by curating these pieces that we find commonality between us, dear Reader.

Resistance

Writer’s Block is real: anxiety, frustration not to mention the feeling of “not being good enough.” Where words stumbled, line and color flowed like a meditation. Reading “The Mask” by Maya Angelou felt like color spread across a canvas. Angelou’s words inspired me to show through color what could not be easily written.

 It was a free lesson that helped me create the first marks on a fresh pad of mixed media paper. The exercise challenged me to create beauty from a blind contour drawing. It took a lot of calming breath to draw the first lines onto the gessoed surface. I worked on it for a few minutes a day. Soon lines became blocked sections and then pieces of face, hair or background.

I struggled with Perfection and worry that I had chosen the wrong colors off and on through the project. Those worries were nothing compared to a deep darkness that sat beside me, waiting to strike. On those days, fear choked my throat and the safest place was in sleep. I fought to leave my bed, to get dressed, to create. It seemed that Depression would always win.

On the days I wasn’t fighting the darkness, I spent hours gathering strength by reading the words from thought leaders. I listened to poems from comrades. I wrote fiercely about who I was apart from old wounds. Each layer of paint I applied seemed to strip away the pain of the past. Painting was a lifeline pulling me into the present moment.

Then, there was advice about painting. Professionals who promised to teach me how to create perfect eyes, articles on “proper palettes.” I saved each article and video until fear came back with its cousin, Overwhelm. Reading how-tos replaced the time I had spent creating. Tension built up in my chest and down my spine. Creative energy wasn’t allowed to flow.

Crisis, like the tension that arises the longer you put off making love until it is maddening. At the edge between numb escape and releasing creative tension, I begin creating.

 

A quiet space

A feeling of privacy

A soothing environment

Candle and incense lit

Quiet music

Moment to meditate to clear out my mind

 

A known place to start

A known place to end

Knowing that I am safe

 

One Thursday night in January, I sat listening to a circle of poets. When it came my turn, I shared a painting that inspired by “The Mask” written by Paul Laurence Dunbar. I watched the each poet pause to explore the texture, a poem within the image. I felt excited to offer tangible beauty and connection through the painting.

By finishing the painting, I discovered that it is important to journey through the highs and lows of creating than to strive for perfection. In the quest for perfection resides frustration, anger and darkness. Beauty lies in the mystery, the unknown. Although it is painful to live in the unknown, Intuition and Authenticity show greater understanding of Self.

Metamorphasis: A Hero’s Journey

My perspective on life has been that someone else must know a better answer, I just have to discover who. I kept choosing other people as more important, more worthy than I was. I post each part of the process openly on social media and then I wait for “likes” and comments to trickle in. The pain I came up against while creating“Metamorphosis” had to do with the need and want to relate to other artists and to be accepted as an artist by making “perfect” and “beautiful” art.

In school, there was always a way to find the answer, a thing that would not only make a lot of sense, it would match my perceptions and would provide a way to explain a behavior. So when Carrie Brummer, founder of Artist Strong, ran the challenge live, I jumped at the chance to participate. It was a process I could follow, prompts I could answer in a safe place out of sight of eyes who could pass serious judgement on me.

On the third day of the challenge, the prompt asked that I choose the medium I would use. The whole day, the words ‘choose your medium’, kept coming up. Almost like it was daring me to try something new. Pushing. Betting that I wouldn’t. That fear of not doing it right, of not fitting in, of imperfection loomed. I chose to stay with acrylic because I felt it was safer.

It was hard not to listen to Resistance, hard not to blame myself for not being strong enough to try something new in my painting. In bed that night, I thought about my need for acceptance. At that point, I knew I had to give some serious tender care to me or I feared that I would quit the painting entirely.

Caring for myself turned out to be the key to moving past the feelings of inadequacy. I took a hot bath and went to bed early. The next morning, I knew that I had to try technique I had heard about from a co-worker. She had used tissue paper and gesso to create texture on top of the canvas. My mind’s eye saw the image of butterflies. By evening, I had wings popping off the painting.

I waited for them to dry and painted the pattern I had seen on a photo reference onto the tissue paper wings. I started with metallic acrylic ink followed by a few touches of acrylic for definition of the spots. To my horror, the ink sank into the toilet paper leaving the wings looking like light green large caterpillars.

The paper didn’t dry all the way so trying to follow the pattern was impossible. I tried to remove them from the painting in hopes I could paint over the area, but the base of the wings stuck fast to the canvas. Nonetheless, I shared the painting that now had lumpy strange colored bits sticking out of it. To me, lack of comments and “likes” immediately after posting my work sounded like crickets on Facebook.

Within a couple hours, comments began arriving below the post of the painting. The words I read were not what I expected. What I saw as a terrible mistake, was not what friends were seeing. Words of encouragement and support appeared on my screen.

I realized that I wasn’t alone. Looking through other artist’s posts, I realize that many had felt defeat and failure. Many artists face fear of Perfection and paint anyway. Was I really any different from any other?

I finished the painting and posted it on Instagram. As I was deciding on filters, a quote from the movie, “Labyrinth” came to mind. The scene is between a young girl and the man who took her baby brother. It seemed all was lost. Then, she remembered a line she had read from one of her favorite books. She spoke:

“Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child you have stolen, for my will is as strong as yours and my kingdom as great. You have no power over me!”

There are no guards to keep you from your goals. You hold both lock and key. In order to create, you have to give yourself permission. No one else holds that power except you.

Color Ribbons

I want to show you some of the ink stains, paint splatters and such without worrying about creating “perfect content.” That’s not my style. This is a space to show you what I do when I am not teaching children. So why not bring on the clowns?

 A small strip of mixed media paper cut and dark blue and yellow watercolor spread across like transparent ribbons. A spot of blue acrylic, opposite end a yellow one. Medium crisscrossed the two edges. Purple ink spots blossom like flowers and separate into layers in drops.

 

Waited for a few minutes for the paint to begin setting before I took a brush and moved the paint across the paper. I felt that it was too yellow, that it would come out ugly. Most of the paint drop, still attached to the brush, so I had to flatten the bristles to get patches across the paper. The first flowers bloomed as the ink-stained paper and fingers alike.

A close look at the result. Watercolor, acrylic paint and medium do play well together. The brush swirled blue throughout the yellow, blending dangerously close to green. My breath stuck in my throat in the moments before putting the last touches on the paper.

 

“I take pleasure in my transformations. I look quiet and consistent, but few know how many women there are in me.” -Anais Nin