Thursday, January 06, 2005

Why blog?

I have known for several years that I am a verbal processor. I have to say it to make it real. I got hooked on email ten years ago because it was a way of living in words. Now I think I am saving my thoughts in my blog. I tried keeping a diary, but then, there is no audience for a diary. I couldn't hope that someday someone would find it and read it and find it interesting. That was too chancy.
With a blog it is immediately available and out there. And the things I thought in November are available too.
In my little imaginary universe I fantasize about one day having a biographer and thus I am supplying her with information about what I really thought about my life and my art. Having suffered from so many art history courses, snooze, in which the historian used conjecture more than personal interviews or notes from the artist, I am eager to explain myself, lest I be misinterpreted, misunderstood, or worse yet, ignored!

So here, Ms. Future Art Historian, this is what I did in the studio yesterday.

I made a little mess over Christmas and cleaned that up and decided to hem the jeans that I got on sale at TJMaxx and then recover my worksurface with a new white Roc-Lon Rain No Stain cover. I used my fancy electric staple gun, and that made quick work of the recovering.
Clean work table ready, I got my reading chair positioned next to the space heater and turned on the book on tape I started Tuesday, Hillary's Choice by Gail Sheehy. I grabbed a few old copies of Ornament magazine to feed my creative brain cells in preparation for making a small quilt. I had already started a large quilt in my Matchstick series in December, (which I have removed from my worksurface and pinned up on the design wall ) but I need a few new small works to sell next week when I teach at the Carnegie Center for Art and History in New Albany, IN.
Beginning with no ideas, other than bright colors and small format, I perused the jewelry designs in the magazines. Jewelry layouts are very much like design primers to me. One has to get the idea across in a small space without too much fuss. That is the approach I take when making a small quilt. Some motif gets set in a composition with a few supporting elements.

I found some familiar ideas in the magazines and switched then to Fiberarts Design book #7 which just happened to be on the counter within reach. Nothing sparked my interest until I saw a quilting motif on a coat in the garment section. It was merely machine stitching but that did it for me. I turned the drawing into an object in my mind and began construction. After making seven of these motifs, I thought about layout and color again. Finding the right color to place the motifs against, and then adding a framing contrasting color were my next steps. Soon I was fusing the whole top onto batting and enveloping the thing at the sewing machine. I did a modicum of machine quilting and will return to it today to add more elements and perhaps a few hand embroidery stitches. It turned out much nicer than I thought, considering I had no real plan.
This method of working is all a result of experience. There is no substitute for making lots and lots of stuff. Eventually you feel confident enough to know that just starting will inevitably lead to creating something.
You do something and then you do something to that.
I think it was Jasper Johns who said that. I might add that as artists, we are problem solvers. We create a thing or start with something and then have to solve it in some way. It's not that we necessarily fix a problem, but it is like solving a puzzle or a mystery.
There are other situations where I do have a plan, a sketch or an idea that needs expressing. Then I work from a different position. There a fewer surprises and yet the results are not always exactly what was imagined at the start.
I have mentioned working in a series but never wanted to just make the same quilt over and over again. This new Matchstick piece that I mentioned got pinned up on my design wall yesterday and I noticed something interesting that was happening there, unplanned by me, but done by me nevertheless. I will continue to emphasize this small aberration and it will bring the excitement of creation to a piece that seemed at first to be only a larger repeat of a previous work.
That is just the sort of thing I live for. And I believe it is also something supernatural. I don't think I would have seen that 'thing' while I was working on it. It had to be up on the wall and not part of my daily grinding out of work that made it visible to me. I think God had some hand in revealing it to me.
Surprised? Well, you shouldn't be. When one is being creative, one is 'in league' with the Creator. I find myself on a different plane when the work is going well, as though I am coasting down the highway in the tail draft of a large semi. I can remember making all the difficult work that was forced by deadlines and high expectations of competitions, but when I am making art just for the sake of self expression, the process is so fluid and floating that I can't remember how it was done or how if felt at the time. I get into a different state, just following the directions the piece is giving me.
OK that is weird enough I realize, but remember this is what the art historians need to know. I am not making art about some external theme, or headline, or cause. That's not my milieu.
It comes from a different place and is made for a different reason. So if that means I will not be fodder for the art history books, I can take a gram of pleasure in knowing that my work will not be a boring paragraph in some textbook, and yet it is gracing the walls of many real life people as we speak. Ha!


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