Monday, 30 August 2010

Opinions on Making Art

Jackie asked me some big questions in her comment on last post Making Art is Really Really Hard. I thought the questions warranted another post.

Zom ,
I would love to hear your thoughts on this further . I think this is an important subject. I agree that an artist communicates through their work But what you mean to communicate and what is actually perceived by the viewer is something unpredictable.

Absolutely. Saying that an artist needs to communicate is tricky because we are used to thinking that means logical word thinking. As if, as an artist, I come up with a concept that I want to tell you then I put it into visual language. This is not my experience. My inspiration comes to me in images or symbols. It has to do with feeling and is more like dreaming than thinking. It is as though I am sharing my dreaming.
In that sense, when someone looks at my painting their interpretation of how it feels or what it is 'saying' may be very different from mine. That is why I love to ask people about my paintings without telling them what I think it is about. Sometimes their interpretation has truth in it that I wasn't grasping.

I think an artists feelings only comes through the piece when they are inspired and immersed in the subject.
I would like to ask what your intention is when you create. I would love to hear your thoughts on your process as you decide on your piece .

Intention might not be a word that I would use with making my art. Again I find the word a little too thinking aligned. My process is more intuitive. I feel what is happening more than think about it. It is like I am dreaming it into being.

I do love your artwork .

Thank you. I am wondering if you are speaking about my art journaling or my work as a professional artist. They are different. The first is very process oriented, me just seeing what happens. The second is at my website.

Also what makes an artist a professional and who decided what is really art ? I think these are questions to ponder .

The first is a matter of commitment. I know that the actual term professional just means that you are paid for it, but I was trying to differentiate between an artist and someone being creative. It is popular now to say that everyone is an artist, but I find this ridicules. It is like saying everyone is a dancer or a singer. We can all dance, we can all sing and we are all able to be creative. But we have not all dedicated our lives to it.

Remember that alot of your master painters were not recognized as professional artists but yet they kept creating . What do you think motivated them ?

They were artists. I agree that it would be silly to say that being an artist has to do with recognition. Many many amazing artists are unrecognized and some who are not artists become famous.

I love having this kind of dialogue. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to think about these questions Jackie.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Making Art is Really Really Hard


I went to a local art fair today. It was at a public school in the auditorium and it wasn't curated; they hung everything that was brought to their door. As you would expect most of it isn't what you would necessarily call Art.

As I walked around, looking carefully at every piece hanging on the walls, I was touched at all of these people's attempts to create and express something that had meant something to them. Often times the idea was cliche, someone's notion of what art is. Occasionally the idea was quite sound, something genuinely felt, but the creator didn't have the skill or knowledge to be able to express it. Badly drawn, poor composition, no experience with colour, etc.

There were a few pieces by local artists. These were better. Perhaps skillfully created, the ideas more unique. I couldn't say that there was any work that made a real impression on me.

But why should there be? This was an art fair of local people at a public primary school.

As I continued through the show, I felt my heart start to crack. I realized how very very difficult it is to make art. How many years learning skills, developing ideas, getting together the courage to try and express what really matters to you. Then more years of honing skills, shoring up the courage to persist, more honing of skills, overcoming self doubt, more honing of skills, continually trying to reach closer to something... Real. Failure, more failure, disappointment, and persistence.
If you continue and persevere you may get to the point where what you are making is art. But then is it good art? Great art?

If you persist perhaps you can get to the point of making art, but I don't know if you have a guarantee, no matter how much you try, that you will make good art. Art that makes an impression, communicates Life. And then... Great art. Well, I have no experience to talk about what that would mean.

So, what is my point? I guess it was the change in my perception. Many years ago I would have gone to a similar show and ended up feeling rather depressed. Kind of anti-inspired. This time my response was very different. I felt cracked open. I felt touched, I felt admiration for the courage that all of us who create show. I felt almost an awe at the sheer numbers of people who create when it is so difficult and can be so discouraging.

I have taken a long long time to make anything I consider art. I look back at my early stuff and it was no better than anyone else's at that show. My early creations were awkward and cliche and embarrassing. Fortunately I didn't realize at the time how bad they were.

I am not an artistic genius. Most of us aren't. The vast vast majority of practicing artists aren't. Which doesn't mean that they can't become, or aren't good artists. Maybe some even become geniuses through hard work. I still make some bad work, fortunately not the majority of it. If I recognize it, I don't show it. Though it is hard to say what I will look back on and decide is bad and what is good when I know more.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Helloooo!! I am Back! Art Journal Background

I don't know for how long or how much posting, but here I am. And it feels good.

I have been making backgrounds for my art journal. I was taking photos to send in an email to my art journaling class and I thought ... why not make it into a post? That sounded kinda fun so here I am. Missed you guys.
I like to paste stuff underneath my backgrounds for extra layer interest. This is one of my favourite ways to approach backgrounds. I often use pages from old books. In this case I also used some 'spill' writing (writing where you complain or worry or whatever you need to get out) that I wanted to put in my journal. I want it in there, but not to read. It feels good sometimes to cover that stuff up, symbolically bury it so to speak. That is also why I glued it in upsidedown.
On this page I glued an important envelope. It brought me the good news that I am a finalist for the Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Prize.
I usually glue my undercollage with acrylic matt medium. This is because it will stayed glued even though the next layer is usually wet. You have to be generous with it.
Here I have used a map of the state where I was born as my undercollage. I haven't been back to the U.S. in 16 years, and I haven't been back to Portland in 30. I really want to visit Portland again.
And here I used a magazine picture.
The next stage is some gesso. I used a single coat because I want the undercollage to show, sometimes I wipe some off to make it lighter in selected spots.
With the envelope I did what is called a gesso resist. Because gesso accepts paint differently than plain paper I can stamp designs with gesso and it will show up when I put the layer of paint on. I will show you further down the page.
I used black gesso with the magazine photo. I ended up using two coats as this is the cheap stuff. I don't like using cheap gesso for precisely this reason ( I have to use two coats.)
The next step is acrylic paint. On these pages I put some cobalt blue directly on the page and then brushed and smoodged (technical term) it around with a crumpled paper towel. As you can see I don't worry about getting it even or even covering the page.
You can see why as I continue. Without even waiting for the blue to completely dry I put some yellow ochre down on the spread. Once again, I didn't try and cover the page, I just put a bit down in different places and then pushed it around with a paper towel. I liked it as this point so I left it.
This is the spread with the envelope. I worked on it in a similar way as the previous pages, this time using yellow and red. But I put them both on at the same time and when I pushed it around with a brush and a little water they mixed into this happy orange. If you look carefully you can see where I used the stamp to make the gesso resist. If I had used a darker paint it would have showed up more.
I wanted the map pages to be more subdued so that the map would show up. Here I smoodged burnt sienna.
And then a coat of cobalt. I used the cobalt very lightly and only in a few places. I am going to leave it there.

Hey, thanks for sticking around.