It's been awhile since I have rambled on the blog so I thought this cloudy Friday was as good a day as any to do so. This post is a peek into thoughts on the past, present and future of my art.
These last few weeks have been really busy and productive. I have a commission in the queue, I just finished three new tote bag designs, I'm getting ready for May's SoFA Sketch, for June's SubZero Festival (framing, printing) and finishing art for upcoming group shows. Whew. That sounds like a lot when you say it out loud.
I also snuck in a strawberry swap with a friend. This entails making a postcard with a strawberry theme and exchanging by mail. By posting it on Instagram, it led to an out-of-state friend messaging me to ask if I would do one with her and of course I said yes. I find it necessary to mix in fun stuff like this with paid work.
The Recent Past
What prompted me to write this post is all the overthinking I've been doing this year. I'll start with how the year has gone so far. I had a couple of art shows in January, then adopted a dog in February and visited Costa Rica for a couple weeks in March. The art shows overwhelmed me (due to the post-Christmas rush), as did the rescue dog who needed time to adjust and get training. The time in Costa Rica, on the other hand, was incredible. I only get to visit that side of my family every four or so years. Spending time with them, exploring achingly beautiful beaches and jungles, along with a marriage proposal made me feel elated for weeks. Still, it left me questioning all things art when I got home. Travel does that to you. You are reminded that the world is bigger than what you know, wonder about your purpose and all sorts of existential thoughts.
I felt off track during the months of February and March. And it wasn't until maybe early to mid-April that I started feeling momentum again. I was thinking about how making paintings didn't feel "big enough" or "maybe painting isn't relevant" or I have "been there, done that" or "shouldn't I be challenging myself more?" or "should I continue doing portraits?" or "maybe I need a new medium". These kinds of questions ultimately led me to wonder about where I am going with my art. By April, I started realizing all I was doing was giving myself a headache and not getting anything done. I got back to work and have been working better than ever lately. I'm productive, not stressed, prolific and full of ideas. Sometimes you need those blackout periods to get back on track.
The Further Past
I have been thinking about my artistic past as I get myself into the present. I started with art shows in alternative spaces and galleries. At that time I painted with oils, screen printed and made mixed media work. I moved on to sell art on Etsy, which helped me venture into shipping my art internationally and feel more comfortable with handling commissions. There was also a downside to Etsy. It had me kind of lost and floundering for a few years as I felt I was making work I thought would sell or making small work only because it's easier to ship. Still, it was a good learning experience and taught me how to say no to work I don't want to do and yes to work I do want to do.
When I look back on work that has made me happiest, it is often large. I loved working on my BFA show (pictured above), I loved assisting Jen Stark with her Facebook mural in 2015, I loved assisting artist Darren Waterston with his mural installation at the SJICA in 2006. I loved making the A-Frame paper room installation at The Citadel, the installation at a museum in Spain. I am realizing that I need to continue making larger art and installations. There's a reason why some of the above work is among my favorite.
Not that I don't love small work. The 3-inch A-Frame house above is one of my favorite things I've ever made. Not to mention the 100 Day Project artwork, which mostly measured 6 inches or less. That project has had a huge impact on my work in terms of defining themes and colors that mean something to me.
I am also thinking about running themes in my work: interiors, mysterious or comfortable places, nature, blues, water...there's a reason why I am drawn to these things. I don't need to make myself always try new things. It's okay to revisit these.
The Future = Present & Signs
It has taken me awhile to get to the mindset of the future=present. The less I focus on what is to come, the better everything goes. While it is smart to start designing another calendar for the holiday season now, there is no point in thinking about bigger, longterm goals. As long as the work is coming in, and I say yes to the right opportunities, I think I will go where I need to go.
As I sat with my fiancee over coffee this morning, he told me he had a dream I sold a huge stack of paintings. Curious, I asked him if they were canvas or otherwise. He said they were on wood. I thought this was really interesting since lately I have been wanting to get back to painting on wood and I don't think he knew that. So, I am taking that as a sign and will be painting on wood again in addition to paper.
Lately, I have been digging into old materials and tools from my studio. It's been awesome rediscovering things like my nib pen, different types of paint (gold!) and even materials that suck (I used old varnish without testing it and totally ruined a painting by putting an opaque cloud over my image). This summer I'm going to paint on wood again and use gouache, oil and even try out egg tempera. Egg tempera is something I have never tried, but after listening to a recent Art for Your Ear podcast interview with Joël Penkman it reminded me that back in 2006 an MFA student thought that I used egg tempera for my BFA show (pictured above). I also love that egg tempera is natural (you mix pigment with egg yolk). I am often thinking about how I can be more environmentally-friendly with my art materials. By paying attention, you start seeing signs point in a certain direction.
This brings me to the photo of my dog Homer above. He was laying on my sketchbook page. I had this page open on the floor because I wanted to remind myself that I like the way I sketched this couple. Then I saw that his legs were positioned very similarly to the man in the drawing. These kinds of meaningful coincidences or synchronicity are what I live for. I think when you stay present and keep your mind and senses open, you can make these connections. With the photo of Homer, it caused me to laugh (humor is equal to artistic insight in my book). With the case of egg tempera, I'll be trying a medium I have never tried before.
When I think of my favorite artists, past and present, they do a variety of creative work: book publishing, installations, fine art, design work, commissions. I love that I can make tote bags, original art for a gallery , a personal commission or a wedding invitation. I don't need to be limited by one material or type of work. I don't need to worry about being a commercial vs. fine artist. I can do it all.