From time to time I read other artist’s blogs. More often though, I read their comments on Facebook through artist/creative groups or in the emails they send out to their subscribers. If I didn’t do this, I know my journey would feel like a very lonely one or I might have given up on it long ago. I know I am not alone with trying to work through various aspects of my journey which I feel the need to write about in this post today.
This is just a short list of what is on my mind today:
- Watching/Viewing other artists as they create
- Trying to figure out what medium I should work in
- Is it my style or just a replica of another person’s style
- Avoidance/procrastination, which is it
The first, watching/viewing other artists as they create, causes interesting reactions, and often conflicting reactions within me. What draws me to watching other artists and why do I watch them? If, I watch an artist, it is because there is something about their work which intrigues me. Either, I love what they create or there is something about what they create which intrigues my imagination. In both cases, it creates a desire to want to learn. In the later, after observing their process, I may or may not want to attempt duplicating the technique. In the former, watching usually results in a desire to try and replicate the technique, and the artist usually makes it look easier than it is. I can easily fall into the trap of listening to my inner critic telling me I’ll never be able to do what the artist did which can result in various outcomes. One being I never try it. Another being I try it and get really frustrated because it is harder than anticipated, resulting in feelings of inadequacy, which may or may not result in continued attempts hopefully resulting in an adequate duplication of the technique. Another could be, and has happened on rare occasions where the technique either comes naturally to me or I am pleased immediately with how well I am able to duplicate it. Then on even rarer occasions I find a way to adapt the technique. This last is new for me.
The second on my list, trying to figure out what medium I should work in, is something I never thought would become an issue. Discovering mixed media, at first, felt like a Godsend. I suddenly felt like I had discovered something which wouldn’t confine me to a set of rules and I could do anything I wanted to do. As I added different mediums to my supplies for some of the courses I was taking, it was easy to choose the supplies to use according the course and create the lesson. However, when it came to creating my own art journal page or artwork, I had no idea what medium to use or mixture of mediums to use. I think this is because I relied too much on following the instructor’s lesson. Whenever, I played around on my own, many times the results were less than satisfactory, occasionally I would be pleasantly surprised by the outcome. The sheer volume of optional mediums to use can be staggering and impede the ability to make a choice as to which one to use.
The third, is it my style or just a replica of another person’s style, sort of goes along with the second item. I struggle a lot with trying to figure out what to create. I want to create something which is unique to me, something which tells my own story. I look at what I create from the lessons/courses I have to learn from and though I love what I created, when I look at them, I’m immediately reminded of the artwork the instructor created. It doesn’t feel like me. I don’t feel “me” emanating from the artwork. There are a couple where I attempted to “do my own thing” while still following the lesson and from those, what emanates from the artwork is a feeling of my inner struggles while creating them. Below is an example:
The bear is a very close approximation of a lesson from Life Book 2018. The second, I tried to add some of my own style to another Lesson in Life Book 2018 while incorporating some of the elements from the lesson. The third is completely my own for the same lesson as the second one. (I wrote about each of these in other posts here on my blog.) Though I really love the first one, it isn’t something that naturally comes to mind when I think about creating something all my own and when I look at it I see Tam (the instructor) all over it. When I look at the second one, the colors, the mixture of elements, all awaken the struggles I had when creating it. It was far from easy. The third one, emanates a strong sense of joy when I look at it. There were moments when I struggled with it but those moments are muted by the pure joy of how it all came together in the end.
This is what I want when I create something on my own. I don’t want to look at it and see another person’s style emanating from it like the first one. I know there will be times when I struggle like in the second one to find what works best for me, but I would rather it not have elements of another person’s style when those elements are not something I would naturally select.
I have often wondered how I know something is my own style. I think the three images above are a good example. Though the third is far removed from the other two in regards to subject or chosen elements, it definitely helps me to understand how I can use my emotional response to gauge what is my style and what isn’t.
The last on my list, avoidance/procrastination which is it, is something I have struggled with my whole life and not just in artwork. Some would probably say I avoid until I can’t avoid it anymore. Others would say I procrastinate until I have no other choice or the guilt becomes too much. I don’t ask for opinions from other people because they aren’t in my head to know what all is circling around up there which influences my decisions. More times than not, in other areas of my life, what looks like procrastination, what feels like procrastination, is my subconscious reading the universe and deciding on the best time to do whatever it is that is waiting to be done. Before that moment arrives I usually find obstacles in the way if I try and force the universe to bend to my will. When the moment arrives I will enter into a flurry of activity and nothing gets in my way, more often than not, doors are open before I even get to them.
Why is this in my list of things I’m trying to work through on my journey? Believe me, in this world, or as I was taught as a child, procrastination isn’t a good thing. Procrastination is thought of as avoidance, instead of as a tool. I have to fight against the brainwashing we receive as children to believe certain things, so many things which get in the way of feeling good about myself. This is just one of those. I have many examples where procrastination resulted in a good outcome, better than if I had tried to force the universe to my will, which would or could have been disastrous. Listening to that inner voice which tells me to do this, instead of that, and that tiny voice niggling at me saying I’m procrastinating has such a negative vibe, yes, it is something I need to alter the resonance of within myself.
In artwork, it can mean the difference between creating what my soul is calling out for me to do or slopping on mediums because I feel it needs to be done and not recognizing myself anywhere within it.
These are some of the things which have been going through my mind lately, between work, my studies, struggling to know who I am after the past few years of turmoil and what it is I want to do as an artist. In the midst of this, I’ve been feeling very lost and not sure how I can turn things around. Trying to force the universe to conform to what I want hasn’t worked. Not in the least.
I saw a video on Facebook today from one of the “America’s Got Talent” series. The guy who was about to sing, has 6 children that came out of foster care. He was asked what his goal, ambition dream was and he said something (regarding his children) I never heard before but suddenly resonated deeply with me. He said “when you are surviving you can’t dream…”. Everything suddenly clicked with me. I’ve been surviving for the past few years because of the life changing events which have occurred which make me feel as though our very survival has been threatened. Every time I tried to reach out to a dream I once had, or to find a new dream, it just wasn’t possible. It wasn’t there. I couldn’t come up with one. I didn’t understand why until I heard those words today.
Below is an art journal I started to create yesterday, before I heard those words, after I was going through a period of feeling lost, alone, and feeling like I should just give up, let whatever happens, happen.
The words I wrote on the spread which I am considering adding to it once it is complete is this: “I close my eyes and the world disappears. For a moment, I can believe everything is going to be just fine.”
She is done in watercolor. I started by sketching her in pencil and adding a bit of shading in pencil to get the contours correct, as close as I could around her nose. Then I added a very light tint of watercolor, I had left on my palette which looked like a previously mixed skin tone. It was close enough and in fact can barely be seen after I added the none traditional colors for shading.
I decided that some of my stress comes from trying to create exactly as I see things, so I thought using none traditional colors would help ease the stress I put on myself to make things “real”. I was right. I used about three different colors of blue, then some purple for the shading, then added yellow for some highlights. I’m not sure if I’m done with her face. It depends on how it looks once I add her hair and background. I haven’t decided what I’ll do for the hair and background right now. Usually, I don’t decide until, that moment I spoke about earlier (in the procrastination section) comes upon me and I know it is time to pick up my brush and paints.
Oh, I remember I wanted to say something about selecting the mediums to use. I, often, feel like I should be using acrylic paint in my mixed media art. It isn’t because I love working in the medium. I had to think about why I would feel this way. I think part of it is because it is what I started learning first when I started learning about mixed media. Another reason is because it is in my art supplies and I feel like I should be using it. Another reason is because a lot of artists use it and I think I have to in order to do what I like so much about what they do. But once I tried watercolor (something better than the children’s watercolor, okay, really once I tried Prang) I’ve been hooked. I think I would be perfectly happy not using acrylic paint ever again, however, acrylic will work on other paper that watercolor doesn’t take to at all. So when I’m working in a journal that doesn’t have watercolor paper, or paper that doesn’t react well to water, then acrylic is what I reach for. Otherwise, I’m finding watercolor (sometimes mixed with a touch of white acrylic paint) is my medium of choice.
Back to my journal page. It took me a while to figure out what to create. All I knew was I needed to do something which would help me express what I was feeling. The earlier geometric design I created which was all my own style is nice and worked for what I wanted to do at the time but I knew this page needed something else. As I thought about how I was feeling, I knew I would need a face to help give expression to the page so it became my focal image. The words came after I sketched the face in pencil and knew she would have closed eyes. I have drawn enough faces that I was able to draw this one without a reference photo, except for the nose. I searched noses online and looked at a few of them to try and get the nose shaped better than I’ve done in previous pieces. I’m getting there.
I think I did good on not having the face look like any faces from other artists I’ve taken some lessons from. The hair though, in just the rough sketch is too reminiscent of one or two other artists, so it might change. This is where I have to let things germinate for a while to see what my imagination comes up with. For now, this is where I’m at.
I wanted to share the next few pictures because I’m thrilled with what I’m seeing. A few weeks ago I decided to pick out a couple plants and plant them in a flower pot to sit on my balcony. I wasn’t sure how well I would do with them or if I would end up killing them. I’m not great at keeping up with my inside plants so wasn’t sure how gardening outside would work out.
These are pictures of the plants. I may add more pictures in later posts if they continue to do well. There are two kinds but the two in the center don’t have any flowers right now. Like most flowering plants when you transplant them, it can cause a shock to the plant making them lose their flowers. It can be a bit of a crap shoot on whether they make it or not. The plants around the outside of the pot lost all the flowers they had in bloom after I transplanted them but now they are blooming all over the place. I’m just thrilled to pieces about this and our dog seems to like them as well. He’ll sniff them and then go lie down by them in the sunshine. It appears the ones in the center have new buds coming up so can’t wait to see them. They are taller than the other flowers with large blooms and a different color so I’m thrilled to see them surviving and flourishing.
A few weeks ago I planted some seeds (pansies and petunias) inside. They are sprouting rather nicely. I hope to plant them outside in the next few weeks. I’ll have some nice flowers to use for some real life sketching if I can get past my perfectionist critic.