Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The blessing of constraints

by Kate Merriman

So, you can hear me spouting off to friends about how God/ the universe /higher power always knows better than we do ourselves about what's best for us. But I don't always act as if that's true. So when this theory seems to come blazing to life, I am surprised and happy. And sort of embarrassed for myself.

If you'd have asked me, in order to create a group of 8 to 10 paintings that I really love all on the same theme, I'd need a nice month-long Artist-in-Residence program with meals a la Tassajara and foot massages each evening. If you'd have asked me to create a nice logical project plan for "Kate puts on her first solo show", it would have have a Gantt chart with a fat red critical path line extending to sometime in June 2011.

But, instead, just 15 days before I was to move house from Bolinas to San Anselmo, a very trusting and generous new artist friend invited me to be the solo artist at a popular coffee house for the month of February. Which was also in just 15 days. I looked around my little Bolinas house. Hmm, no paintings. All sold or given away. But I had to say yes, so suddenly the universe conspired with me to meet the limitation and soon I was creating new works that I'm totally stoked about. (See link via image above.)

A former painting teacher gave me some great encouragement that might also help you sometime:

"Working fast is an honest and integral part of your process," he said.

Wow! Permisssion to just go ahead and be me. No reason to put my work down just because it happens quickly. Revelation!

And just arbitrarily, I set the constraint of a theme of "wet dogs at the beach" which, strangely, further fueled the creative fires rather than the opposite.

With just a week left before I hang the show, I'm nearly ready.  Ha!  Life certainly is full of surprises.  Good ones.

I'm very encouraged to set more challenges and limits and see what comes of that.

"Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." -- Mary Oliver

What have your experiences been with creation and constraints?

Daily or Not To Daily - That Is the Question

from Robin Cheers

This morning I gave myself a stern talking to and I think it worked. I had to remind myself to stop trying to paint a masterpiece and paint because I love to paint. To enjoy the process. I think I almost get stage fright thinking that I have an audience watching and waiting. Like I have to perform.
I think that is a drawback of the online art community. We created a wonderful network for artists, but we also created a daily drama that requires constant upkeep and checking in lest we be forgotten.
I have to think in terms of "painting daily" not "(a) daily painting."
Painting daily means keeping my eyes open, working my creative muscles, seeing beyond the obvious and looking for beauty. And letting it come to me. It doesn't mean I am required to paint a painting every single day and offer it for sale. Right?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Best Practices

from Robin Cheers

After a couple of weeks off, I head back to my studio and face my easel and suddenly can't remember how to hold a brush! It takes a few days and a few canvases before I get back into the groove.

If you've been to a workshop you know that we students are always curious to know what colors, what brush, what medium, etc. the instructor uses. As if there is a certain way to do things that will make our work soar.

Unfortunately, there isn't a magic brush and the nature of art is that there isn't a set of practices to guarantee our work will succeed. But I think there are certain things that will set one on the right path. Rather than jumping right in on a large canvas, I should have taken some time to warm up, to do a loose sketch, or value study. To aim a little lower. I also thought I'd try to paint from my monitor rather than printing a photo. The monitor is nice and large, but its a good 6 feet away from me. Even a different choice of music would have helped! I realized too late that the commercial radio was really bothering me.

So by picturing myself working, by picturing what I wanted to do, and by sketching, doing a study, or warming up, I could have had better luck and felt better about my efforts.

Other things to help get yourself in the groove again might be to set up a fresh palette and select the best brushes and have them ready (something I didn't do either and there is nothing worse than trying to make old paint flow). Maybe start simple. If you paint still lifes, paint a single piece of fruit before tackling 10 items in a single painting. Loosen up your arm as well, sketch some large circles and loops to waken those muscles.

So maybe with a couple of deep breaths and remembering my own best practices, I will have more success today.
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