Art, Getting Busy

There are those days when someone passes by me whilst I’m at my drawing pad and exclaims, “I can do that!”

graphite-cat-wary

Graphite on card stock

I smile and keep drawing. After about a second, because I don’t want to lose the moment, I give them a pad and some pencils.

“Oh, no I couldn’t.”

But you just said your could. Give yourself this little gift, this precious time. Draw!

Some of the materials I favor are readily available at most office supply shops or even pharmacies. I chose them for that reason–wide availability.

Among my supplies I have A4 (8.5 x 11)  paper in white and a few colors, some A6 (4 x 6) plain index card stock, a few color pencils, #2 pencils, and blank journal books.

Then I scoop up my satchel and get busy.

I can do that.

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Mallory, First Year Teacher, Makes a Chair

Colorful Chair

Mallory you are already extra-ordinary as first year teacher in a new school– that kind of new as in it has just been built new. How do I know you are already exceptionally impressive, because you are seeking to make your own brand, something recognizable and memorable, and most telling, your trademark has meaning.

You looked at me and started the conversation with a question, “Are you a painter?”

I was in the art supply part of a big box store. I had brushes and paints in my basket.

I thought, being a painter is what I used to hear around the holiday dinner table when the folks referred to how someone in the family earned their daily bread. I smiled at the old-timey reference.

I said, “I am an artist.”

“That’ll do.” You were emphatic and asked me about painting a chair.

Painting a chair? A 3-D chair you sit on or one in a painting?

You smiled that teacher smile. You are good, very good.

You wanted your classroom chair to be special, to stand out. It was a rescue from a thrift store and you knew you could make it sparkle.

Why?

Because you will love what you will be doing, teaching, so much in a chair that is full of colors and shapes. It will engage the students’ imagination. It will also make a statement that the learning space is a special space. Therefore, you pupils must be so special too.

It’ll give you a certain dignity too.

Dignity and charm, two good allies for those who dare to teach others.

Mallory, I see you sitting on a stage in your special colorful chair in fifty-years surrounded by your pupils and former pupils. They will be honoring you for your service as a fantastic teacher, a role model of the highest quality.

You will begin your speech recounting your years as a teacher by telling your admiring audience, “Let me tell you about my chair and how I made it.”

You will tell them about your fabulous chair and your extraordinary life.

And they will marvel at you all the more.

I am pleased I was able to marvel at you when we had our brief conversation and how we searched for just the right colors for your chair. I enjoyed your vision and your ideas. How creative you are.

Thank you, Mallory. You touched something in my soul.

Art is a Verb

Recently I heard a critical response to a fellow artist’s use of some vintage wood in a design. They used 100 year-old wood in their art which was deemed a “waste” by the responder.

lumber4

 

I wish only to explore what “stops the creative process” at this point.

Why was it a waste to use that rare wood?

“If the wood could be used in a more ‘worthy’ application, then it would be a proper use of the material.”  If the wood were made into a fine altar piece or carved doors to a crypt, then it would be something more notable.

Nope.

I wonder in this manner sometimes when I make something new, even one-of-a-kind piece from found objects. Certainly few recycled things I have come a provenance or even an estimation of age. None are any sort of rare things other than they had been “lost”, they piqued my interest, and I re-defined them.

Paint remaining in tubes for fear of waste might deter me if I allowed. The costs of paper, canvas, and brushes do frighten me when I order materials.

But, what if I do not get “it” right?

Do I feel guilty when I fail the materials and decide to start over? Does starting over prove I am un-wise?

Nope and nope.

If every time I failed I stopped the process and cleaned up the materials and placed everything back where it belongs and quit I have only accomplished only an exercise in studio cleaning, and turning off the lights.

Do I fail often?

Yep.

I simply begin again, almost out of reflex. I have yet to understand why starting over is such a “horrid consequence”, a waste. [I’m thinking maybe also stay ahead of deadlines, because missing them qualifies as a “horrid consequence”.]

Why is “waste” such a driving concept?

I think it is rooted in fear of failing. If I mess up this cut, then I’ve ‘ruined’ a piece of 100 year-old wood and the wasting wood cops are sitting in a van outside.

Yep, it is the same with anyone who might mess up vintage lumber or a box of nails.

If the piece of  100 year-old wood rests on the shelf for another hundred years perhaps it will be a buffet for termites.

If and if and if must end. It stops the creative process.

Art is verb, it is about doing.

Art Maketh the Man

Sometimes a person needs another person to be whole. The sweet life.

One more round of billiards is a cool end to the weekend. Fine good friends.

Run one more mile before calling it a workout. Stick to it.

Nail bent1

That won’t do.

Art requires much of me. On one side,  I am filling my notebook with reminders to correct errors. In that book I record the blunders, the almost-but-not-good-enoughs, all the lessons I am learning are in there. “That’s one for the Notebook” is a common phrase around me.

I started over each time.  Ate the mistakes, went around the breakdowns, and overcame the log-jams.

That is design. The stylish well-pressed clothes and perfect hair under the lights, well, that is glamour. I hope someone else is paying for that.

On the other side, I am stocking my toolbox with tools that will help me to continuously improve over time, every day.

Attitude is part of my tool box, it is a mental process of improvement. Improvement makes me more efficient and less likely to blunder (so much).

The Fundamentals have been banged in to me from first memories:

  • Show up to work
  • Do the Beginning
  • Stick to it through the Middle
  • Be there for the End
  • Turn out the lights, day is done

Marketing is essential, but I must have something to trade on, something to grasp someone’s imagination and I must communicate clearly and simply.

 

Nails Just Right1

Just right, those nails have held well.

Talk is cheap. I must rock my art.

That is why I work every day. Art makes sense that way to me or else it is a hobby. Nothing sideways about that, go for it if that is your gig.

Art is my Fire.

Art makes me whole.

 

If you would like to comment feel free.  I usually respond within 24-hours during the week. 

Keep Living Keep Making

 

First thing each morning make the bed.

It is a success to build the rest of the day.

It is an attitude. I intend to build my days.

Now, come on world. I just made the bed nice.

Then, go to the shop/studio/lair and make an assemblage. Take a picture of it. Print it out, cut out the parts, put it together.

Next, the sun goes down.

One assemblage completed.

Shower.

Turn down the bed.

Sleep, perchance to design,

 

How do I Fit into the World of Art?

I get confidence because I earn it every day.

 

CAPABLE

When I listen to writers, artists, and parents of children the topic of artistic capability comes up in conversation. These groups are part of my constellation of enlightenment. We talk about development, growth, and accomplishment our own and of others.

I am often able to see further because sit next to young artists and soak in their confidence. I “watch and learn” as I was reminded by a five-year old demonstrating her techniques with chalk.

Her capable hands made a cool octopus from a blur of precisely chosen chalks on a canvas that resembled the old fashioned chalk boards. She uses the canvas over again for the next painting.

“It’s a cephalopod.”

I went back to my own practice book to draw. I wanted the precision, the confidence, and knowing what I want as she.

It was an octopus. Her chalk painting made sense. She created a marvelous shape and it was well done. It did not need a label, although she knew what she wanted her drawing to represent. I must have some capacity to create before any other facet of my pilgrimage (mastery) can begin.

 

CONFIDENT

As I develop I can see changes over time. I stick to the task and the areas in need of improvement appear. Not a “mistake” rather the opportunity to improve which means I take stock and make changes. This process occurs over time.

Art is a “practitioner’s” calling.

I eventually want to become better but I am not overly harsh toward my efforts –it is a process. It takes time on task.

I keep notebooks for practice and for referral so I can become better at “cephalopods” after some reflection and practice.

There is the root of confidence for me. I do not keep score or say I am darned good at painting clouds, trees, cats, but only so-so at cephalopods.

I know I will become better because I am planning to do so. I can recall from my notebooks my previous practice pieces.

Then I go again. I have been shown and I have seen from my own experience capability must walk with confidence.

I get confidence because I earn it every day.

One last quote from a sculptor I know. How do you know when your piece is good?

The answer was quick, “It’s just the way I made it and it’s good.”

Capable and confident two concepts I am leaning.

Curious By Choice

I am curious. I make a regular practice to ask questions.

I want to be curious, to admit when I don’t know and to ask the people around me for help. I want to develop the behavior of being curious, to question everything around me, to think with possibilities.

Dreaming of possibilities, asking “what-if” questions leads me to inventive and unique solutions. Innovation involves taking risks.  Taking a risk is not the same thing as being reckless. A curious mind is flexible and takes nothing for granted. A curious mind is well grounded in the real world, but keeps a map in her back pocket, more on mapmaking later.

When I was young I was told “you ask more questions than a Philadelphia lawyer,” and “curiosity killed the cat,” maybe to hush me or perhaps to offer a warning about the negatives of raising an unwanted question. I was a sophomore in high school when I discovered the second half of that old chestnut, “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back.”

Nine lives makes a cat a cat and I believe at first if I don’t succeed try, try again. That’s only about a third of all the lives a cat has so I could cut myself some slack.

Curious is as curious does.

Keep asking questions. Take a risk with the curiosity you could be on to something wonderful.