Home » Creativity » On art – collage, time, and audience.

On art – collage, time, and audience.

I’m working on a new art style. I’m trying to do collage and it is testing my patience. I love the art of Nick Bantock, of the “Griffin and Sabine” series. I don’t want to replicate his work but I do want to try to approach its emotion and depth. The problem is that it takes a long time and you can’t erase.
When making jewelry using beads, if the pattern doesn’t work out you can always take it apart and redo it. Even years later you can always try again if the design gets old. Not so with collage. Once you paint something or glue it down it is done. You can’t go backwards and change things if it looks weird later. You can’t reposition it. You are stuck. You’ve used up the materials too – you are out that money. It also takes a long time. If you have multiple layers, you have to let each one dry for hours. I’m not really that patient, but I have to be to make this work.
This has stopped me from even trying this style for a long time. I’ve got lots of art materials that I’ve not used at all for fear of doing it wrong. So I’m wasting them even more so. It would be better to use them and figure out what works and what doesn’t work than to not use them at all.
Boats are safe in the harbor, but that isn’t what boats are made for. The same is true of collage. The same is true of life.
I’ve decided with collage the best thing is to just get over my “need” to start something and finish it in the same sitting. I certainly don’t feel that I have to do that with beads or with writing, so I don’t know why I think my painting has to be the same way. Maybe I want to see results fast. Maybe it is because I don’t have a lot of time to work on my art.
I think part of it might be that I resent the amount of time my job takes from me having time to do what I want. I just don’t seem to have a lot of time to do “me” things. I know I’m not alone in this thought. Nobody gets up and says “Yeah! I get to go be a cube-farmer today!” Don’t get me wrong – I like my job. I like the people I help. I just don’t think it requires 40 hours a week to do it. After 40 hours of work and the time required for sleep, there isn’t a lot of time for “me” stuff.
I’d rather work 30 hours than 40. I’ve asked if it is possible and they don’t think so. So I shoehorn in my “me” things – writing, exercise, art. I love the space I go to in my head when I create, and it is hard to wrestle myself back to a clock and a schedule and go to work after being in that space.
I’m starting to see collage as a good middle ground. Since I simply can’t do it all in one sitting, it works well with not having much time. I’ll do a layer, wait, do another layer, wait, and do another layer. I can’t work on it for hours at a time, and that works because I don’t have hours to work on it.
Collage is strange to work with because I don’t know how it is going to look until I’m done. I have some general idea but then when I add another element it changes everything. I can get an idea of where things are going before I glue a piece down but then sometimes when the glue dries it changes the effect. It is always a surprise. Sometimes it isn’t a welcome surprise.
But then I remember that with writing and with beads, the stuff that I really planned out and really love how meticulous and amazing it turned out happens to be the stuff that nobody “gets”. Nobody likes it or appreciates the work involved except me. Conversely, the stuff that I really don’t care about much – the stuff that I worked on and just don’t like as much is the stuff that people rave over. That is the stuff that I think is OK enough for others to see, but it just doesn’t get my idea across the way I meant to.
There are plenty of pieces of writing and pieces of jewelry and other artwork that I’ve created that nobody has ever seen. I feel like I show a lot of what I make, but what people see is just half of what I’ve produced. Some things I feel are just warm-ups, just stretching. Some things are simply exercises that help strengthen me for something better later.
I don’t feel like this about my art at the time. I want everything to be a marathon win, but some things just peter out about the three-mile mark. Or maybe that is just me. Maybe I need to show it anyway. Following the usual trend, they will be the things that people will really “get”. But for now, I don’t want to show them because I don’t want to put my name on them.
When you show any art – be it writing or visual art, you put your name on it. You say “this is me”. For good or for bad, you are showing off what you have made. People will judge you by it, for good or for bad. So you have to be careful what you show. You want to be known for good work so people will seek you out and buy what you have made. You want to get a reputation as a maker of good things. Do you keep with one motif, or do you have a range? Do you create for an audience, or create for yourself? Whatever you decide, you have to be mindful of who is going to see it and what they are going to think. Does this cause you fear, so you edit? Does this cause you excitement, so you embellish? Your relationship with the audience will influence your work.
Art isn’t yours anymore when you let other people see it. It changes. The meaning changes. What you thought it meant doesn’t matter anymore. When another person sees it, she brings herself to it. She brings what she loves and hates to it and sees that in it. Art is a mirror. It isn’t something that stands on its own and speaks for itself. It would be great if it was, but it isn’t.

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