22 October 2012

Finding Myself. Again.

Wow, I just can't do it. I can't sit down and make a just-for-the-fun-of-it process-oriented print. It's hugely unsatisfying for me. I want to do it, really I do. I have a printmaker friend named Joyce Silverstone who makes gorgeous abstract painterly monotypes (please go look at her site) and I so envy the sheer beauty of her work. Joyce is also a Rosen Method bodyworker and to watch her work is just as beautiful as the prints she makes. She appears to be in a meditative state as she works, and you can see that she works from her body, that she works kinesthetically. I envy that, too.

After my one week of homemade residency, during which I tried to explore mark making, tried to be loose and free, tried to work work kinesthetically, I've realized something that I actually already knew about myself: I work from my mind.

I work from my mind. Not that my work is purely mental, not that I don't use my body (just try clearing a 36 x 40 sheet of plywood with a chisel without using your body), but my work is driven by ideas. The stimulus for any work I make is always an idea, often verbal. I care a lot about process and craft, but the process and craft are in service to the idea. If I were a painter, I would pursue the same idea with paint and if I were a sculptor I would pursue it in three dimensions. The concept, the idea, is what I care about, and my chosen medium happens to be woodblock printmaking.

I knew this before, but it's suddenly clearer to me. And this seems like an important thing, to know my artistic self this way. Another thing I know is that the energy and force required to make my work come from the passion I have for the idea I'm working with -- a mind and heart combination that fires me through the process of creating the work. Any idea I work with has to have enough emotional energy behind it to carry me through the very long process required to make a print or series of prints.

I formed an idea over the weekend that I think has enough *kapow* energy to work with, so my little homemade residency is taking a turn. I'm doing some research and I think I'll be starting a new print later in the week. I'll let you know what happens. For now, it's off to the library to pick up a book by Christopher Isherwood.

I'd love to hear from any of you readers about how you make art, where creativity comes from for you, what motivates you.


Renee Ugrin said...

Hi Annie, I've been inspired by your homemade artists' workshop and hope to try one of my own. I love what you discovered == You! Your own method of madness :) -- my work comes from a visual response to something, an interesting sky, trees in the wind, a beam of light, a face. Sometimes I'll have a chance to respond right away, sometimes I miss the opportunity, but I am always looking, observing, feeling for a good fit for how I am feeling, then Kapow! there is emotion in that image and that will carry me through the processes of printmaking, or immediacy of painting. I just love working and finding those imagery that matches my emotions and thoughts. Love your work and can't wait to see what's next.

Magic Cochin said...

This is really interesting Annie. I've been feeling guilty that I don't feel comfortable about just 'playing' in the studio - experimenting with ink, paper, textures and techniques just for the fun of it.
The work I've been happiest with and coincidently these are the prints that attract the most sales - are always the ones that gestated in my mind and after weeks/months I put down on paper and planned out in a fast scribble - with some further work the design/idea needed no further work.
Looking at these compositions they are like a freeze frame from a marative that took place in my head. They are inspired by something I've seen while out in the countryside and I think about it while I walk. Gradually the image becomes clearer and honed but it's still in my mind's eye and not on paper.
Is thinking, rather than experiment and play, a sign of the trained illustrator/designer?
Whatever it is, it's not wrong, like you I'm just getting to know what works for me.
Celia x

Annie B said...

I'm loving hearing from people here and on Facebook about where your art comes from.

Renee, this thing you said, "looking, observing, feeling for a good fit for how I am feeling" really resonates with me. It reminds me of a practice I've worked with in the past called Focusing. In focusing, you look for a word, image, or gesture that describes the "felt sense" of the moment.

Celia, you raise a really interesting question -- is this kind of thinking your way to an image a result of being a trained illustrator/designer. I'll be pondering that. Thanks to you both.

Tibi Chelcea said...

I doubt that this way of working (from an idea) is just a sign of an illustrator background. There are plenty of artists that work this way, not to mention all that Conceptualism/Post-Minimalism currents in art that put the idea ahead of the actual work of art. There's nothing wrong with working like that.

To start a work, I also need to have an understanding of why I'm doing what I'm about to do in that work. It's not necessary understanding the big idea behind the series, since sometimes I produce a series of works before I can explain what they are about (not always, though). It's more like following a plan within some constraints (I'm going to make a map that incorporates these boards, a painting that combines these words and that mathematical illustration,...); in fact, a lot of times, I visualize how the work looks and then it's "just" a matter of having it done on whatever support I'm working on (printmaking, paper, painting, panel, etc.) There could be small adjustments along the way, but, by and large, the image comes first.


Tibi Chelcea said...

Forgot to mention in the previous comment. It's actually great you figured this thing about yourself -- it means that the next residency you'll award yourself could be more productive and, say, spent entirely on researching a new idea.

Annie B said...

Your process sounds very similar to mine, Tibi. I like having some constraints, as you say, whether they're the constraints of the medium or the constraints of an idea.

I didn't go to art school, so I'm not always able to situate myself within the larger frameworks of Art. I assumed that the way I work would fit more into the category of "conceptual art" but is it still conceptual if I don't really put the idea ahead of the work? I care about craft and I care how the final object looks, so I feel like I don't put the idea ahead of the work so much as I use the idea to drive the work.

Tibi Chelcea said...

Yeah, Conceptual art has gotten a lot of associations with lack of craft from bad art big on "ideas" and short on visual appeal. It does not need to be that way (Sol LeWitt's drawings are gorgeous).

I did not want to imply that your art is Conceptual (I don't think it is), but that starting with a specific idea/set of constraints and then coming with a visual form for it is a valid way to go about making art (with or without capitalization). And, if what works for you is to research a subject and then come up with an image, continue to work like this. A lot of bad art comes from people trying to do certain things because other people are doing that, without realizing that it's not how they work or think.

Sharri said...

You go, girl. The residency led you to exactly where you should be, IMHO. The idea first is also my way of working. I can't say exactly where the idea comes from, sometimes an amalgamation of input, I suspect. Then it rolls around for days, months, and in some cases, years, before it actually makes it into a piece.

Annie B said...

Yep, sometimes years!!

Andrew Stone said...

Hi Annie, I can't really work starting from a fixed idea or subject.
Most of my work comes from the almost unconscious doodles and sketches that inhabit the margins of my sketchbooks, notebooks, napkins, and junk mail. (The centers are usually full of bad drawings, done too carefully).

I often open up a sketchbook at random and start by drawing a box. Shapes and squiggles will begin to interact with one another and soon in true Rorshach-blot fashiion begin to suggest subjects, ideas and projects.

Sometimes I fall in love with a title or phrase and will wait months/years for it to gel into an image.

And some works I have in my head, in reserve, waiting for my feeble abilities to catch up with what I can see in my mind.