I recently sold the work above and I was asked if it had a title. I usually don’t title my work unless I have to document it. The result is that sometimes my titles are random and sometimes they are just descriptive. I decided to title this work Resilience.
My friend, who owns a small business bought another work like Resilience in October last year and she was talking to me about applying for grants during the pandemic and how difficult it is. She said she looked at the painting that she bought and felt calmer. So understandably I was really happy that something I had made had helped my friend and I was inspired to paint another painting with the same process.
The process for these paintings is somewhat random. I take watercolor paper and I squirt concentrated watercolor onto the surface. Sometimes I add water. The paint falls where it wants to for the most part. I do a little directing but I let the process dictate how things will look. Then I paint my small watercolor into a larger acrylic painting. So I like to think of it as finding beauty in chaos.
I hope you are all doing well and feeling resilient.
“Out on the highway the last faint water colors of the sun were gone beyond the hills and whatever they were chasing was so far ahead as to be only a swift fleck now shown in lamplight now set free, running into the dark.” -Ray Bradbury Something Wicked This Way Comes
There are so many phrases and words that beg to be illustrated in Ray Bradbury’s books. He writes in pictures. This quote struck me as I was reading Something Wicked. It’s just the way he captures the past turning into the present when he describes the sunlight and the dark.
I did not portray the exact moment in the Bradbury’s writing but it inspired different pictures having to do with boys running outside and the setting sun. I may return to the book to find some other scenes to paint.
I have been painting a lot of childhood toys and stuffed animals since moving back to my parents’ house for the quarantine. It’s funny because I don’t think I would normally, but in these circumstances I just want something comforting that presents a small challenge. For instance, I painted my old teddy bear. The challenge was that it’s a white teddy bear and white can be very difficult to get right. The piece was comforting to me because I feel like I’m in solidarity with places in Silver Spring, and other parts of the world, where people are putting teddy bears in their windows for a children’s scavenger hunt. It’s a very small thing that I can do to stay connected to other people.
There are other toys I have focused on. I mostly have made small watercolors because they feel more intimate and the process of painting them is fast. There’s a toad, a lizard, other teddy bears and Eugene, my elephant.
Most days I am painting or drawing. I worry that I’ll run out of ideas but they seem to keep coming. I think I will move away from the toys but they have been fun to paint.
Two or three years ago I went to Santa Fe with a friend who is a dancer. We went to the Currents New Media Festival which is about new technology in art. Interestingly there was a person exhibiting whose work had nothing to do with new technology. They wore a jump suit covered in silver glitter and had a mirror strapped to their face. The exhibitor interacted with passers by through movement. He did this while staying on a small platform. My friend walked to the glitter man and they started to move together, taking turns leaning on each other and making different shapes and poses. This was my introduction to contact improv.
Strangely enough, I haven’t really thought about that moment until recently. I drew some pictures of couples together and it reminded my of my friend’s dancing. I started watching a lot of modern dance online and looking at pictures of it. The poses are so strong and the dancers are so impressive.
I miss hugging my friends and being close to them. So to watch people dancing has been very uplifting. And I have thought about different ways of people being together. Sometimes people who are touching can be miles apart. And sometimes people together can make such beautiful forms and show a deep amount of care towards one another. Dance reminds me of this. It’s a testament to the power of physical connection.
I have done some paintings of contact improv. Some poses were borrowed from photos online and some are made up from my head. I don’t know if I’m going to do a longer series with them. It may be that what I have done is like a short story that I will elaborate on in the future.
Sometime in January, my eight year old niece came over to paint. I was thinking I’d give her a lesson by having her paint a vegetable still life. However it turned out that she already knew what she wanted to paint and it was from her head.
My niece’s visit made me think more about where creativity goes. After so much time looking at photos I felt that I lost my ability to imagine. Since that time I have been trying to be more creative.
Reading seems to be helping me. Typically I read non-fiction. However I started reading comic books to see what other artists do and it got me into reading books by Neil Gaiman and now I am onto other fiction writers. It seems like the more I read the more I think creatively.
My niece stayed over for three hours. The time flew by. I think this is what I’m looking for in my own work. The joy. It’s good I had my niece over to remind me what creating is about.
In 2008 I found myself unemployed and was a bit overwhelmed with my life. So I moved back home.
Finances aside, I think the worst part for me in those days was all the free time I had that made me feel like I lacked purpose. I’ve been thinking a lot about that recently. I am a massage therapist and the place that I work at has closed and I am not seeing any private clients due to the corona virus. Similar to 2008 I have moved back in with my parents.
Thankfully, a lot has changed since 2008. Back then I was frustrated with trying to find a job and I thought my degree in art and art history was worthless. So I went on a lot of walks until I got a part time job and I got my dog. Now I’m lucky in that my love for art has renewed itself and I appreciate the people in my life much more. Life is fuller. I have learned that it is worth loving things, full heartedly. Additionally, I have a better sense of how to structure my time. Making art is a big part of that.
I’m not talking about making all amazing artworks. I’m talking about art making. Right now I’m playing with watercolor which I am no expert at. I’m also trying to challenge myself by working more from my head. So I’m giving myself tasks that are a little more difficult for me, mixed in with easier things, to keep me occupied. Additionally, there’s taking walks with my dog even though he hobbles now and can’t go as far. And there are tons of online exercise classes. Over the past week there have been times I feel useless. It’s bound to happen with what’s going on. However during those times I try to remember the people in my life. It’s heartening to see how people are dealing with the pandemic and working to make the best of the situation and I think we can all strive for that.
I learned a lot between 2008 and now about structuring my time. Now will put it to the test. I know there are other people that struggle with these things. At this time, seeing my colleagues struggle and the country struggle I think it’s important that we find things we love and hold onto them. Work that we love and people we love. Love of life. I hope that we each find something. I am going to try and keep working on my art.
I stopped by Strathmore to see what art show they had up a few weeks ago. Interestingly the exhibit was about home, which I have been thinking a lot about. There were so many artists represented and they all had different interpretations of the theme. There were all sorts of different art media and techniques: sculpture, painting, printmaking, drawing, abstract, representational, conceptual. It just showed how different everyone’s experience of home is.
Some topics involved with home were immigration, natural disaster, the suburbs, family, and familiar things like coffee. It was clear that there was a divide between artists. Some seemed more anxious about home while others gave the impression of it being a happy place. I think the idea of home can be complicated. There are so many things that happen when you’re growing up both inside and outside your control. I was happy to see such a diverse representation of the subject.
Moving clockwise from the top left image work is titled and made by: Sea Rise by George Lorio, Old Fashioned Letter by Stefanie Stark, Marla; At Home in America by Lulu Delacre, My Heart by Kimberley Bursic, Ritual by Kelly Bell, Bird Polyptic: Thrush, Mockingbird, Nuthatch, Wren by Liz Aukamp LaGarde, Trapped Inside This House by Emily Shepardson.
I went through my parent’s photo collection and painted a number of family portraits, the two below being the last ones. I was drawn to the light in the images and the expressions. I like that people were relaxed. Looking through family photos allowed me to see interesting moments and a lot of moments that I did not remember or had not experienced.
I think I’m at the end of my portrait spree for now and the use of my parent’s photo collection. I will have to see where inspiration takes me next.