Art-spiration

Feeling the art blues? Haven’t made anything in a while? What do you do when you need to get your creative juices flowing?

Inspiration comes from many places. Try something different.

Go to a museum.

Go for a walk. Look at the colors. Look at your neighbor’s houses. Look at your neighbor’s dog. Take pictures to remind yourself later when you get home.

Read a book and make something the main character would wear.

Look at a magazine that has nothing to do with art. I find a lot of inspiration from architecture magazines.

Watch a movie and try to replicate something you see there with the supplies you have. Don’t replicate it literally, replicate how it makes you feel.

Try limiting yourself. Some of the most amazing pieces were ones I made from using just two (of the 14) bead bins I have. I decided I could not get any other beads – I had to use just those.

Make up a rule – only two colors, or only two textures.

Only use beads that were purchased from the same store, or the same state.

Use only one kind of art supply.

Use all the beads you can’t stand and put them together and see what happens.

Set a deadline – five things must be made by a week from now.

Sign up to do a show. That will force you to make stuff.

Have an art-date with a crafty friend. You both get together to make something, and you’ll be inspired seeing what the other person makes.

Buy more art supplies. Nothing inspires me more than getting new beads or a new tool.

Buy art supplies in places that don’t sell art supplies – like the grocery or the hardware store.

Only use materials that you found, or were given.

Have an art-swap, where your fellow crafty friends bring all the art supplies they don’t want or use. Trade. Make something.

Organize the supplies you have – you’ll find stuff you’ve forgotten and see combinations you’ve never noticed.

And just make. Make something, even if you don’t feel it. Sometimes the stuff that people are most impressed by is the stuff that I made in 10 minutes without thinking about it. Put something together, then put something else together.

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.

Art Attack

I want to get my art started. It isn’t beating very well. I forget to take time to exercise it, to keep it healthy.
It isn’t due to lack of materials. I’ve got paint and canvas and decoupage goop and brushes and watercolor pencils and watercolor paper. The list goes on. Trust me, I’ve got stuff. I even have a cute little bin that looks a bit like a small attaché case that I’ve put the words “Art Attack” on it using my label maker. I figure if it is portable, then I’ll do it more. Nope. Rarely works.
I’ve seen books that I like the style of. A little bit of words, and a painting or three to a page. Sometimes they are travel books, sometimes they are children’s books. The illustrations are irregularly sized, mostly rectangles though. Some people can make watercolor look so simple.
I’ve decided that I’m making this too hard. Just like with writing, I need to set aside time to do this. Once a week? Once a day? Whatever I pick, I’m going to have to stick to it. If I wait for the muse, she’ll never come. Sometimes you have to go find her.
Part of the issue that I’m having is I like to be free with my art. I like to get immersed when I’m creating. I don’t want to have to suddenly stop and have to get ready to go to work. Art, when done well, is transformative. It is like a soul-journey. It is like getting stoned, but without the illegal part. So I don’t really want to work on my art first thing in the morning. But then I don’t have time when I get home, and the light is bad.
Another issue is that I don’t want to waste the materials. I want to use them well, to make good art. Paint and canvas can’t be re-used in the same way that beads can. You can’t move stuff around to make it look better in the way that you can with words, either. I feel a need to think it through and get it right. So instead of potentially making a mistake, I make nothing. Talk about wasting materials.
I need to follow my own advice. Something is better than nothing, and if I make up too many rules about this then I’ll never do it. If I think that it has to be perfect, to look like the illustrations in the books I enjoy, then I’ll never do it. So I have to commit to this, and just create. I need to create for the sake of creating, with no editing or self-censoring. I need to remember that it isn’t the end product that is the point, and to just enjoy the process.
There is nothing like drawing something to make you really SEE it. There is this concept called closure – we see what we think we are seeing, most of the time. We see what we expect to see. But when we slow down and try to draw something, we notice all the things we’ve missed. By making art, I learn to really use my eyes to see, not just to look.

Supplies – to paint or not to paint

I have so many unused art supplies it isn’t even funny. I have canvas, paint, and image transfer tools. I have books on how to do new techniques. I have fabric and beads. I have stamps and magazines for collage.
And sometimes they just sit around because I’m afraid of messing it up. I’m afraid of using it wrong and wasting the materials. I have to admit that I’d rather do nothing than do something.
Beads are a little more forgiving. I can restring them if they don’t work out the way I planned. But paint and canvas and collage? Not at all. Once it is used, it is used. That is money wasted if it doesn’t work out. But I’m wasting money by not using it either.
I’m trying to change my mind on this. I’m trying to see it as process, not product. Working on a piece is a process. Every failed attempt is a learning event. Everything I learn from trying something new will end up in teaching me how to do it “right”.
I want everything I make to be perfect. I’m not very good at giving myself second chances and do-overs. I’ve found the way through this with writing. I’m OK with the idea of writing about the same subject from different angles. I’m OK about using the same idea or concept in different pieces.
But that isn’t as easy with artwork. Some pieces are permanent. I could make copies of things and use them, but somehow that lacks legitimacy. There is a risk in using the real thing. There is something about that risk, that legitimacy, that I crave. Yet that is also the very thing that I fear.