Make My Art Meaningful

How do I stay excited about my Art?

This was a topic at my table of friends. The setting was an informal lunch chat we losely organize as a catch-up session. We look forward to these short times together.

Slump, block, rut, going-nowhere was the theme and none of it was anything new to us, a common theme.

But wait; the key word in the question is “excited”. Who expects to be excited about media print advertising, art programs in public schools, art instruction, and the worrying hours in the studio before a fair or a showing? Art is work, a job, a way to make the rent, so Art is a real job.

I liked this response: “Dream and Do.”

It was a quiet reply that made us go silent for a little while. We were thinking whilst munching our lunch.

Someone finally broke the silence, “I can do that.” Sighs all around.

I could tell by the looks around the table a page had turned.

We would be good for another two weeks.

Or until the first text asking for, “Help!”

Helping part of the “Doing” I suppose.

On with the Dreaming.

field-flowers-23-85percent

Field Flowers, graphite on watercolor paper.

 

 

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Smiles, I Artist

The obligation attached to being an Artist is to make things. Take something and make something else. I like collage in this way because it gives something different from the original materials.

Fish Fossil 1

Just “different” is not enough.  Only to a certain extent do I “know” what I am making. I received a lot of encouragement over the years, however, I still hear, “What’s that mess going to be?” I typed the words but not the quote, because it was not so easy on the eyes.

Girl with green case 1

I gave up on what I was working on, even on Art more times than not. I had many un-finished drawings, ailing canvases, and un-used materials.  I put it up to impatience, but it was the message about the “mess” that came through later, without many smiles.

Now that is not so much the case. Now I power through the “comments” people make at classes or out in the public or when I share a sketch book with someone who is curious.

I usually hole up in the studio or somewhere private to draw.  I took some inspiration from allies and took the minimal kit to a public spot and drew.

“What’s that you’re doing? You’re an artist!” Now I’m surrounded by seven to eleven-year old people craning to see into my books and wanting to see more.

Aldo iPhone unflipped

The more of my drawings I show them the more they are delighted. They smile a lot, all the way up into their eyes.

Now I sort of know what Art I’m making.

I’m making Smiles.

Picture This: Catching A Rainbow

double rainbow

Neighborhood Double Rainbow

Picture this: On a neighborhood street traffic is backed up, more of the usual stuff for those who dare to drive vehicles on roads.

This was a line of cars not moving, not for a crash, not for yielding right-of-way to a pedestrian (if that still happens). Drivers stopped in the street for a rainbow.

Arms of all shades poked out of car windows holding up phones taking pictures of a vibrant double rainbow.

Picture this, people stopped to take a picture of arching radiation wavelengths in the sky they deemed so very beautiful, of such imminence, worthy of a moment to capture it as a series of ones and zeroes with batteries freshly charged.

A small line of people snapping a moment of color, a shared event, group appreciation that was over quickly and the drivers resumed their drives. It was a bit goofy stopping in the middle of a neighborhood street for the pleasure of taking a picture. Better to stop for a moment than to try to get the picture in the sky whilst driving on the pavement.

In files on their phones they have the same scene, slightly different angle, from personal points of view at approximately the same time but it is theirs and mine and ours and my money is on us sharing it with at least half a dozen other people before the morning is out.

Perhaps the soul requires humans to recognize and to respond to colors, shapes, and scales that have the sky as a canvas as exhibited in a rainbow or even in fireworks.

I am sure none of the drivers were out to prank the rest of the motoring public as an “in-your-face” flow stoppage. My justification is I had to stop.

“Oh, by the way, might as well snap that giant rainbow sailing in the sky.”

Wednesdays are now Catching Rainbows Wednesday.

And I picture this: Catching other humans being Artists.

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.

 

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