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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Waiting for Rain

There you have it: The Idea.

You're sitting in front of your sketch pad, turning page after page after page, drawing, drawing, drawing. You add a bit here, you take away a bit there, you move this to the bottom and that to the top.

Perhaps you're working from some physical reference in front of you. You stare at it so intensely that your eyes are burning through the object to the other side. Or maybe you're working from something that doesn't exist in this physical universe: it's some thing you have inside your head, a shape, a color, a line.

You draw, draw, draw, you paint, paint, paint, or whatever it is that you do when you pick up your  tools. It's starting to come together.

Maybe you have no clue what it will look like when you're done, but at this moment, what you see in your head and what you see on the page in front of you are starting to coalesce, starting to look like the same thing.

It's starting to look like, well, The Idea.

Something intervenes. The phone rings, the dog barks, you stretch your back and go for a cup of coffee.

When you return to the page, something is different. The momentum you had just a moment ago is gone. That intangible something which you had in the palm of your hand has vanished.

What do you do?

There is a point in the life of every gardener when the seeds have sprouted. They have been fed, they have been weeded. They have been carefully cultivated. All that remains is to wait for rain.

Waiting for rain is hard to do. It never seems to fall quite when you want it to. Irrigation is a luxury, not everyone can afford it. Most of us are stuck in our studios at times like these, fiddling with tools, shuffling papers, waiting, hoping that the magic moment when the idea was a very real thing will happen again. We wait for rain.

What do you do at this point?

Do you keep working at a process that is standing still, refining and rearranging, hoping that incremental changes will bring about the results you desire?

Do you walk away from it and dip your hands into another task, hoping that you will transplant some creativity?

Do you pick up a book to escape, certain that your journey away from your piece of art will lead you back at the end of the chapter?

Do you prowl through a magazine, hoping for inspiration to strike you again?

Do you get involved in some totally mundane mindless task, to keep the rhythm of working?

Do you leave the studio all together, planning to return when the rain begins to fall?

As you probably realize by now, there are no correct answers to these questions. Every artist, over time, and with much experience, develops techniques, little tricks, to restart the process. 

For some artists, and perhaps you are one of them, simply staring at the piece of paper for a long enough period of time is sufficient to seed the clouds of their souls so the rains may begin to fall.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Finding Your Fun....Creating Public Art

Some years ago I used to walk down the same street every day, morning, noon and evening.

Here in the UK, people who live in terrace houses on the ground floor frequently have a little bay window in their front sitting room that is easily seen from the sidewalk. It is expected that anyone can look in, so these windows are either concealed with lace curtains or else decorated with a collection of items which presumably reflect the occupant's interests.

One day I noticed that a particular window displayed a miniature room identical to the real one behind it. It intrigued and amused me.

In my daily trek past this window I began to observe that every day there were subtle changes in the miniature room: a newspaper on the chair, which I discovered was a photocopied miniature of that very day's edition, and a cup of coffee that was gradually emptied as the day wore on, a plate of biscuits similarly diminished.

Sometimes a little jumper was left over the back of a chair. On rainy days a tiny umbrella leaned against the wall near the door. In the winter there was a coal scuttle near the tiny fireplace.

Occasionally a pair of spectacles were left on the side table. On Saturday mornings there were cleaning things in the tiny room...a broom, a featherduster, things like that.

I was enchanted and intrigued. Someone knew that people stopped to peer in. Someone was having genuine fun.

There is a small book by Keri Smith called "Guerilla Art ".  In it she offers inspiration on creating unexpected art in public places.

I created the Faerie Garden at the Lisson Grove Moorings to engage young children in a process of art which they could own. I planted it in an old porcelain sink, at a height convenient for young children to reach in and touch. I put a tiny house at the end of a gravel footpath. I posted a little sign: "Faerie Garden in Progress". I included a few tiny plastic fairies.

From the privacy of my boat, I observed that many children stopped each day to play with the garden.

They began to insert their own special objects into the garden. My favorite addition was a tiny mirror ball, which a young visitor told me was there because "Fairies dance at night". There were pieces of colorful tiles, shards of floral tea cups, a plastic holly pin, painted rocks, bits of colorful ribbon and shiny paper. The gravel path was rearranged several times. They planted new plants, a horsetail fern, thyme, clovers.The children began to take ownership of this tiny garden.

I repeated this effort in an old washtub outside my house in the States. Again, local children play with this garden.

I remember very well the pleasure I had as a young child playing with a tiny Winnie the Pooh figure in a planter in my home. As I arranged these Faerie Gardens fifty years later, I reconnected with that childhood joy.

Art is not always a private process. And it doesn't always hang on gallery walls.

I urge you to engage in public art making. Invite strangers in, and rediscover your inner child.

Have FUN!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Stealing Time

Life conspires to crush the artist. There are bills to be paid, phone calls to answer, emails to read, accounts to update, gardens to be watered, dishes to wash, life to be lived.

So how do I find time for my art?

The answer is simple, you never find it, you must create it.

You must schedule it, in bold indelible ink, with alarms on your phone to tell you to ignore the pile of mail for this next hour, or two, or however much time you dare to carve out of your life's ever-increasing demands.

My house is dusty. Before company comes over, we frantically dust it off. My art is more important than shiny surfaces.

My bed is unmade. It occurred to me long ago that few people ever see my bed. Why should I take the time to make it only to slip back into it 16 hours later? I do make it when I change the sheets, because there really is something nice about a clean crisp set of sheets. But the rest of the week, I pull the duvet back and let it sit there. My art is more important than a made bed.

I steal time from my frenetic life for my art.

I create little piles of works in progress, so if I feel I don't have enough time or energy to commit to a complicated painting, I can always work on something at hand.

I draw while I am waiting...on hold with the bank, in line at the grocery, sitting at the dentist. I have shed all self consciousness about drawing in public. In an up-market restaurant, I try not to spill ink on the table linens. And I usually leave a small sketch with the makes the staff even more happy to serve me next time. After all, business execs pull out paperwork and tablets, why shouldn't I? I am also working.

If I keep a sketchbook and pen with me, in my hands, at all times, I am more likely to use it. It is not a big, complicated, deep and meaningful Work of Art....or is it?

Hey, it's MY Life, and I will make it as big, complicated, deep and meaningful as I like.