Every artist has any number of failures along the way in their career. Work that just doesn’t seem to satisfy!  I have three sitting in my studio right now that are waiting for their death or redemption.  I took a look at one I completed a while ago.  I thought it looked pretty good initially, yet it never really moved me.  I have stared at this painting for at least a year or two.  I didn’t want to throw it away, because I thought there were some salvageable parts.

I decided I would give the painting another try.  I examined the painting and made notes of what I wanted to improve and what I would salvage. I would keep it a waterscape, but make improvements.  The photographs in the blog are the Before and the After!  Looking at the before (water scene) you can see that the horizon line is wonky, and the wind is blowing from several directions.  The other thing to notice is the monochromatic color scheme. I used patterns in the water that look vertical.  It is not a good idea to use vertical patterns when trying to emphasize horizontal movement!  I realize that some paintings need to be a limited palette, but there are so few values in this painting, I am surprised I ever thought it was worthy to sell. Side note: When I began painting watercolors, the majority of my work was blue and green, with greys.  Boring! Not until I allowed myself to use colors I was uncomfortable using, did my work get better and new avenues opened!

The only parts left of the original painting are the dark blue of the sky in the upper right section.  The very small threads that could be trees in the distance.  I reworked the sky with the medium patterned blue fabric.  I am very pleased with how it looks.  It adds a different dimension to the sky.  I also used mosquito netting over large sections of the sky, which, again, I think looks much more interesting! As I reworked the sky, I was still going to leave the painting as a waterscape.

I tried not to “think” too much or analyze what was needed.  As I moved below the sky though, something took over, and I quickly decided to do a 180, and create a landscape.  I knew I would be able to use more color, and  I did exactly that!  I dug through my oranges, yellows, and golds and found some amazing patterns!  I laid the new fabric over the old.  I didn’t have to tear or rip, which made it go faster.  I searched through some old containers of trims and bias tape and found some beautifully dyed bias tape.  A student gave this to me a couple of years ago, and this is the first time I used it.  I love it!

As I experimented with the different patterns, things just seemed to fall into place for me.  I concentrated on design and pattern, versus water and waves.

It was a very satisfying day!  Most of the old painting is under the new one, except for the lower part of the painting.  I did pull off the waves and water closest to the bottom. I felt sad because that was one of the parts that I really did like, but I couldn’t make strong waves be a part of a prairie. (I know, I am very rigid!) 😀

I worked from 11 – 6pm. There were only a few final touches needed to the new painting, which I did this afternoon.

Fabric art by artist Pam Collins titled Beautifully Chilly

Beautifully Chilly

Fabric art by artist Pam Collins titled "Fall on the Prairie"

Fall on the Prairie

I am extremely gratified knowing I did a complete re-do in one day.  I proved to myself that anything can be changed and that it doesn’t have to be painful to mix things up.  The whole exercise was a positive experience.

In fact, I took another painting from the chopping block and pulled off several trees, and all of a sudden, the painting has clarity, new interest and is inviting.  I will post that in my next blog.

Until then, if you have an old, unsatisfying piece of work hanging out in a corner, take a moment and look at it some more.  How and what can you do to improve how you feel about it?

Yes, there are definitely times when the best thing to do is pitch it!  But not this time, for me! Thanks for reading!

Go make art!

“A” Time

I am a huge fan of asking questions.  I am curious to know what people think and feel about all sorts of things! My friends and especially family groan when I ask some random question.  I usually get a comment like, “Here we go again, Pam has a question!” I don’t mind because I think it makes for fun conversation!

So here’s the question: What is your “A” time and what does it get used for?

This isn’t random. I think that this is an important question we all need to ask ourselves.

“A” time is your best time; When are you most productive; When do you do your best work?

I am a morning person.  I enjoy getting up early and easing into the day.  Sipping that first cup of coffee. (why does the first cup taste better than the rest of them?)

So, my “A” time is usually between 10 and 2.  I am energized, enthusiastic, and ready to tackle my world. This is when I get the most done.  Reserving that time for making art is important.  I put the most important activity in that time slot.  It doesn’t mean I don’t make art outside of those times, but “A” time is art time.  When I try to do art in the evening, I tend to be tired, distracted and giving it 2nd or 3rd best.  I do not like working in the evening. Making art in the evening is not particularly satisfying.  It is not my “A” time. Sometimes I have to work at night, meeting a deadline, but it is rare.

I know this won’t work all the time and for every situation. We all have things we HAVE to do: taking care of families, household chores, and of course jobs. I know your situations are much different than mine right now.  The principal rule still applies.  If you know what your “A” time is, and you designate that time for the things that matter most, the other things will fall into place. For example:

I hate exercising but know I have to, to stay healthy.  If I don’t do it before 9:30, I easily talk myself out of it.  If I try doing it later, I am grouchy and irritated because I am biting into the rest of my day. I don’t want to waste precious time.  (do not psychoanalyze this, please.)

Or say, you want to get more done at work and your “A” time is morning, like mine.  You designate that time for what is at the top of YOUR priorities.  You don’t look at email or Facebook.  You don’t consider cleaning that pile of papers that has been piling up.  You do your Important stuff.  The pile of papers can get done before you leave for the day. 

My point is: As an artist, a creative person, I need to give my creativity top priority, whenever possible. When I do not, I short suit myself, I waste more time, do things that are not satisfying, and I feel horrible.  I am not doing what satisfies me.  Believe me, I can get sidetracked with the best of them!

When I do give my art “A” time, my days are fulfilling, and gratifying.  I generally just feel better about the day.

We all have to do the boring stuff!  It’s life!  Even if you cannot do it every day, one day is a start! You may be happier, and satisfied, and maybe even get more done! 

Do what fills your soul!  And Go Make Art!

News

Bridgette, at Bridgette’s Main Frames in Perham, MN recently said to me, she wished I would do more mosaics.  I decided to make a few. I sent the mirror I did last month, and now I have another one to take to her.  I really like it!  It strictly shapes.  I like circles and curves.  (Maybe, because I’m round 😀 )

“Caution Dangerous Curves” detail     

It will be hanging in her shop by next week. If you are in the area, take a look!

I am also in an art show, in Brainerd, MN.  It is Fantastic Fibers, a show all about fiber arts.  It is on display from September 13 through September 28.  Opening reception in September 13th from 5 – 7.  Join me, if you can. Lots of good people to meet and talk to!

I will be teaching at Textile Center on 9/13 in Minneapolis.  Check out their website for details. https://textilecentermn.org

I am teaching a 2 day class in Pillager MN.  At Craft Camp.  Go to the website for details please.

https://www.craftcampmn.com

Random Summer Thoughts

When I take a walk, I am amazed to see so many colors surrounding me.  I notice the slight red in the grasses blowing in the field.  Seeing weeds growing between cracks in blacktop.  The textures of the various weeds and grasses.  I am sidetracked by seeing something in the clouds over me.  There is so much to see and examine.  I am not a fan of bugs and insects, however, taking the time to see what is going on beneath our feet is pretty fascinating.  To see a colony of ants scurrying and moving, I just find intriguing.  ( I don’t want them doing it in my house, of course.)  I was sitting on our patio the other day watching two robins flying and squawking and chasing other birds and a squirrel.  Upon closer examination, I saw they were protecting their nest in the nearby tree.  I might sound a bit crotchety talking about these silly little things, but for me, it is helpful to do this.  I relax and observe the things that are going on in creation.  The intricacies of our world are impossible to grasp.  It is good to sit, walk, see, touch and feel the world around me.  I find peace, and satisfaction by noticing the “small” things in life.  It makes me a better artist.

I recently watched a program about the life and work of Andrew Wyeth. It was on American Masters on PBS.  It was about his entire life and works.  I learned the story behind the famous painting, Christina’s World. I was so wrong about what this painting is telling the viewer. I won’t tell you, because you might enjoy seeking the information out in the program.  Well worth your time! I learned what kind of man he was and his family history.  I was mesmerized by all of it.  There is something incredibly deep about his work.  It moves me and makes me search for what I am wanting to say.

The one thing I remember most from the program is a quote from him.  He said, “paint what you know.”  Paint what your life is.  What do you experience in life?  What is your life about?

My take away is, I do not need to find some grand subject, or go someplace exotic to create art.  I do not need to travel the world to make art. It is in my own back yard, my own surroundings, the simple things in my life, and in my mind. There is magic in all of our lives!  Hope you are able to find yours!

Go make art!

 

In my April 1st blog, I posted a mosaic mirror I made.  I finally completed it and took it to Bridgette’s to sell.  I really like the way it looks.  Unfortunately, I do not know how to photograph a mirrored object without seeing my reflection or flash.  I did the best I could, and hopefully, you get the full impact of the piece.  It is titled MY SISTER’S TRASH.

Thanks for reading!

Never Ever Assume Anything!

It won’t be difficult!  I mean how hard could it be?  I’ve been making art for 20 plus years!  I bet it will come easily for me.  Relax!  Don’t think about it too much, just go do it!

That’s the conversation I was having with myself these past few weeks.  What I was getting myself to do, was, start a fabric painting of an octogenarian woman.  No woman, in particular, just an older woman.  I wouldn’t use a reference, just think of an older woman’s face, physical appearance and so on.

SIDE NOTE:

I have had a plan to paint a series of older women. The world ignores older people, especially women. Their physical beauty has faded.  The beauty on the inside though is remarkable!  I plan to call the series, Wrinkled Beauty. I do not want to do portraits, but more character studies.  I want to show their personalities, more than their likeness.  This project has been on my mind for some time now.

I am very capable, most times when drawing people. I have always enjoyed using charcoal for this topic. Using fabric can’t be that difficult!  I knew thinking time was over!  I know what wrinkles look like!  I look at myself every day.  I googled images of Octogenarian women.  I studied their wrinkles and creases.  I stared at each image and tried to picture how they would look done in fabric.  The more I researched, the more confident I became.

I stood before my empty canvas and contemplated the colors I would use.  With this being my first attempt, I would keep things simple and realistic.  I would use natural flesh tones.  I sorted through my beige, tan, pink, peach, and light blue fabrics.  I chose a lot of sheers thinking that layering them would give the details of wrinkles and creases.  I lightly sketched in a head shape, neck and shoulders.  Then I began!

I laid in some light-colored beiges and pinks.  It was looking good!  I was getting excited.  As I built the forehead and eye sockets, things started going south.  With each layer I glued down, the preceding layer did not blend. There was a problem with the cut edge.  It showed as a sharp line.  I was bothered by that.  I mentally fought the idea of wanting it to look perfect.  I kept telling myself that it didn’t have to be so, but every time I tried to adjust the layers and colors, it just got worse.  As I worked, I remembered the feeling of inadequacy when I was in figure drawing class, oh so many years ago!  I still have that drawing to refer to where I started from. It is horrible!

I continued to work a few more days and it got no better.  I finally got so frustrated, that I tore the face off the canvas and threw it away.  I started again.  This time I would create a complete figure.  The reference I used, was an old watercolor of a woman without a face. (I know it sounds strange, but it’s not)  My approach would be different this time.  I would not focus on the face right away, but get the body in and save the face for later.

Fabric Art by Pam Collins showing a woman facing leftWell, the dress, coat, and hat went ok, but the proportions were off.  The woman’s face is a side view, so I thought it would be somewhat easier.  Although I had the face outlined I struggled to make the face look natural.  At one point, she looked like she was in a wind tunnel and all her skin was being blown away from her bones.  It was pretty funny!  But then it wasn’t.

I stopped working on her.  A dear friend came over to see what I was doing.  She encouraged me to keep at it.  I am stumped at how to proceed.

I know that all worthwhile endeavors take time and hard work.  I have not challenged myself in a while regarding my art.  I am forcing myself to learn something new.  I know too, that it may be a while before I master this.  I will need to keep telling myself, “Relax, just keep at it. Not everything will be a masterpiece.  Try not to be so hard on yourself.  Each step is a learning opportunity!”  It always sounds so good when I am telling my students that, but saying it to myself is harder to accept.  We, (especially women) are so hard on ourselves.

Will we ever learn?  I sure hope so, because I want to paint octogenarian women before I am one!

“Oh, the foolishness of us humans!”

I am hanging my attempts out there for you to see. Remember, they are my first attempts.  I pulled the “head only”, out of the garbage to keep as a reference.  The image is pretty creepy.   The side view is no better!  Oh well…

Go Make Art!

Local Color or Subjective Color?

I want you to paint a scene that includes trees, water, clouds, and flowers. Which colors will you choose?  Local or subjective?

Local color is the color of whatever you are looking at.  A tree is brown, black, or maybe grey.  Leaves are usually green.  Local color is used when you are wanting to reproduce the exact same image of what you see or remember.   It is accurate and clear cut, but it isn’t always exciting.

Subjective color is using your own color choices in creating an image.  For example, if I painted a tree trunk purple or red, it would still be a tree, but the viewer might be disturbed by my use of those colors, instead of the local/real color.  I didn’t learn about local and subjective colors while in college.  If it was discussed, I might have been sick that day!  After hearing about it in a workshop many years ago, I was not willing to consider that subjective colors might make my work more exciting and expressive. I mean, why would you do that?!  (Side note: I am a slow learner sometimes.) One day, though, I did do a painting in subjective colors, and it turned out to be one of the more expressive and satisfying pieces I had done to that point.  And though it seemed strange at first, I continued using subjective colors which helped make my work more expressive and more satisfying. Using subjective colors, I share my feelings about the topic, rather than replicate a photograph or scene.   By choosing colors that I am attracted to, the colors themselves help describe my reaction to the subject.

Over the Edge

I just completed another painting. It is called Over the Edge. This is a fabric painting and I hope you will see how the rocks, cliffs, and stones are almost all subjective colors and patterns.  I had drawn this scene many times during bible study, (sorry Robin) and I’ve also painted it in local colors using watercolor paint. This was fine but I wanted it to be more.

When I began the painting in fabric, I kept wavering between local and subjective colors, thinking: “Will it be too difficult to use subjective colors?” I mean, how could I paint rocks and cliffs, using pink prints, teal silk, and some strange knit fabric?  It would look crazy!

Working with local colors is definitely a safe way to go. There would be less chance for a goof up. I really fought with myself with which way to go.  Searching through browns, blacks, greys, I just wasn’t “feeling it.”  I found plenty of interesting textures and shades in real colors, but I just wasn’t convinced.  It all seemed so boring and mundane.  I walked away from it for a day or two and then decided to look at some unusual colors and patterns.  The first piece I chose was a fabulous silk from my niece’s clothing line.  It is pink, and purple, with touches of teal, grey and brown.  I had previously used this fabric in the painting “Integrated Neighborhood.”  

Fabric painting by artist Pam Collins titled "Integrated Neighborhood"

Integrated Neighborhood

When I pinned it to the canvas on “Over the Edge” I knew immediately it was a go!  It has such great movement, is very pliable, takes to glue well, and can be manipulated into sharp edges.

Then I searched for an odd piece of knit that I had also used in previous work called How I See It. In that painting, the pattern is laid horizontally, which made the fabric look like land or water.  It has several colors in it.  Pink, brown, black, grey, teal, and olive green.  It is a very strange looking print, but it is so interestingly different!

I started to lay down the patterns and mixed them with some solids and netting.  Hanging the multi-colored knit fabric vertically, I could stretch the design to look exaggerated and distorted.  That made rock shapes appear!  I was really enjoying this process.

The top of the painting needed to be recessed some, to give the illusion that the cliffs and waterfall were high and large.  I found a caftan I bought at a garage sale and examined both sides of the fabric.  Both sides would work! One side was used for the sky and the other side was used for trees. I was finally hitting my stride! Having the process go smoothly is always encouraging!

As you look at the painting, Integrated Neighborhoods, you can see the pink print fabric in the tree trunks. If you can enlarge the image and look at the patterns in detail, it will help in the explanation.

Then look at the painting, Over the Edge, and you see the same fabric in the cliffs.  I find that amazing!

Same thing with the pattern in How I See It. The fabric behind the blue rock wall, sort of looks like hundreds of moving rocks, or water. It even makes you unsure if the painting is crooked, which I kind of like.

Fabric painting by Pam Collins titled "How I See It."

How I See It

Now look at the same fabric in Over the Edge, and see how different it looks as cliffs?

You might be saying, “Yes, but the water is real color!”  You would be right, however, the use of patterns in the water, along with the netting, changes it all up.  You know it is water, because of the color, but the patterns and textures make it subjective.  I would say that Over the Edge is a subtle subjective painting. It is not as bold as How I See It, but it definitely is not Local colors!

Most new artists start out using realistic or local color. It’s easier and safer, especially when you’re trying to just learn the skill or technique. Adding in subjective colors can be a big step, and it takes time to develop one’s own style and preferences. Using subjective color is more risky, definitely more time consuming, and thoughtful; but oh what a way to go.

The way I paint today is much different than when I began, how many years ago.  That is how it is supposed to happen.  We learn, we grow, we learn, we grow…

I encourage you to look at artwork and decide what the artist used – local or subjective?  And which do you like more? There is no absolute right or wrong here.

If you have questions or want to comment, please email me at:

pam@pamcollinsart.com.

Now Go Make Art!

I Can’t Do That!

“I Can’t Do That Kind of Art”

A very dear and close friend of mine asked me if I would be able to create a fabric painting for her.

She would make copies and give prints as Thank You’s.  She is a Fulbright scholar who has been working in Nepal and Ethiopia for the past 4 years working with local professionals and students regarding hypertension.

Barb asked if I would create a Sand Hill Crane.  Of course, I said, “Well, I can try. I am not guaranteeing anything because I am not an animal painter of any kind!”  In fact, I would categorize my interest in doing animals, birds, insects with a big fat ZERO! I am not an animal hater, at all, they just don’t interest me other than saying hello, if around them.  After last month’s blog about being stuck, I decided to try the crane!

Researching cranes and looking at images of them, I do have to admit, they are a beautiful strange bird.

I was not sure how I would approach this topic.  I mean there are a million feathers on this huge body, and how was I going to make it look natural and give it dimension?

The first thing I did was get the background in. When working in fabric, (and sometimes, other mediums too), the usual route to take is to paint in the background, because the point of interest is what will be laid on top of it.  I know there are millions who would disagree with me on this, and that is ok.  This is my blog, so I say it works.

I cut out a general shape of the bird’s body and glued it where I wanted it.  I started looking for fabric that had interesting designs on it.  I used gauze, silk, sheers, cotton, and some wild polyester print I got from my niece.

I kept making layer upon layer until I was happy.  I had to apply the head twice because the first head was way too small.  It was actually fun to experiment with shredding fabric, pulling at it with needles, trying to make it look like feathers.  I did need to study the crane’s eyes up close because it kept coming out like a cartoon.

The canvas I worked on was 12 x 16, which is pretty small for my tastes, but that was the size needed.

Overall, it went fairly quickly. To be honest, I am dumbfounded that I was able to accomplish this challenge!  I am very pleased with the results as a matter of fact.

We all need to challenge ourselves from time to time.  If we don’t, we don’t stretch and grow. I am a fan of exploration in most areas of life, however, in my own art practice, I really have to push myself hard to do things I am unsure of.  It’s that old “what if I fail” thing that always pops into my head.

As I so often tell students, “ This isn’t brain surgery, and we won’t kill anyone doing this.” There are a million and one quotes I’m sure about doing, exploring, growing, and expanding our horizons. I will add one more.  I will say simply this:

If we want to improve our abilities and talents, we just have to do some of the things that scare us!  So take that, Sand Hill Crane!  Bam!

 

Go make art!

 

 

How to get out of the doldrums?

The weather is finally changing here, and things are melting. (unfortunately, not me)

But with the change, everything is looking very dirty and dreary.  I know it has to get ugly before it gets pretty.  I have been in a slump these past couple of weeks.  I have managed to waste a boatload of time. I could finish a whole bunch of projects that have been left undone, for years! Yes, years! They aren’t artwork, but refinishing a Hoosier, reupholstering a chair I don’t want to get rid of, painting our bedroom, and so on.  I waited long enough though, and those urges left. Thank goodness.

I did try to start a new fabric piece, but couldn’t make up my mind what to do. I looked through fabric, looked at photos for inspiration, but nothing jumped out at me. I enjoyed going through the references though.  I still couldn’t get myself to actually start creating.  I wandered through the house, sort of searching for something to move me.  It just wasn’t happening!  I started feeling guilty about the time I wasted and thought about what I should have/could have been doing.  Well, that wasn’t extremely helpful, as you can imagine!  I finally thought, maybe if I do something simple, something that doesn’t require a massive amount of planning, I could get myself moving.

I went into the spare bedroom (my studio for mosaics) and looked at all the plates, cups, bits and pieces in all the bins.  I hadn’t done a mosaic for at least a year, I think.  I found an old cabinet door stashed with other art and decided I would give it a try.  I would make the door into a mirror.  That is to say, I would mosaic the outer BORDERS of the door, and place a mirror in the center part.  It didn’t take long to get me going.  I enjoy the process of looking through all my goodies, dishes I had forgotten about, deciding what colors I would use.

My sister gave me a vase that used to sit in her daughter’s bathroom.  I have always liked it.  It had light bright colors and lots of swirls and curls.  I would make it the focus of the mirror.  I took a hammer and hit it.  It cracked into several pieces and I was back in the saddle.  Yay!

Working on a mosaic feels much like trying to work a puzzle. (which oddly, I am not a big fan of normally) I do not like crossword, jigsaw puzzles or sudokus.

But mosaicking is very relaxing and satisfying. I created a pattern from the colored swirls and quickly got into a groove.  I found myself not wanting to stop at the end of the day.  That is always a good feeling!

The week went by quickly, and I did not have enough time to stay at the work.  I did, however make time this past weekend and finished the gluing.  I am now ready to grout it and polish the mosaic. The grout really completes the work, as you can in the before and after pictures. Amazing.

There are times in everyone’s life when things are boring, not motivating, we feel lost, unsure of what to do…. When I cannot get myself to make art, I worry that it has all dried up and there isn’t any more talent left inside of me.  I panic, thinking I am done for.  It is all gone.  What will I do if it doesn’t come back?

I took a short class this past Saturday; only 2 hours.  It was Needle Felted Landscapes.  It was crazy fun!  I have never done anything like that before.  I was nervous of course, but Lisa, the instructor, made us all feel comfortable and helped us to get moving.  It was wonderful and inspirational.

I am telling you this because it is another way to get out of the doldrums, and change directions.  It helped me get excited about making art again.  It might not help every time I am in the dumps, but it did this time.

I guess what I had was an artist’s block, like writer’s block.  The creative juices are still here.  They just got clogged for a bit.  I look forward to making more art.  Spring is here, and I just might have a new spring in my step!

Go make art!

ANOTHER THOUGHT, MAYBE WHAT IS NEEDED TO GET RESTARTED – HIT SOMETHING WITH A HAMMER.

Is it done yet?

We might recall asking this when baking cookies or a cake with a parent.  I am sure you can imagine using that phrase in many different situations.  This month’s blog will continue to focus on art and not cookies, although I wouldn’t mind having a few right now.  But that is another problem.

How do you know when the painting, sculpture, fiber art, etc. is done, if you don’t have a recipe, or pattern to follow?  Students ask me all the time.  It’s a subjective question and answer. 

Is it done when you run out of paint? Or is it when there isn’t any more white space showing? Is it done when you can’t include any more details? Is it done when you have made your work look like it is a copied photograph?

In order for me to know when I am done, I need to know what my destination is before I ever begin. How can I relay my message in the simplest way? Am I accomplishing what I set out to do?  I ask myself this throughout the whole process of creating an artwork.  Unfortunately, there is no cut and dry answer to the question. It is like taking a trip; you have to have a destination and a route to know if you have gotten there.  Sometimes it is fun to not have a plan and just let things happen.  That doesn’t usually work for me though, so I like to know my intentions at the get go.

I would consider myself more of an impressionist artist than a realist.  I do not like when I get bogged down with too many details. I do not believe it necessary to include every blade of grass or ripple in the water to convince the viewer that they are looking at a landscape. If I paint or draw two lines vertically and make them not perfectly straight, and then include a few lines reaching out to the sides from those vertical lines, you may see something that could resemble a tree. If the viewer knows what a birch tree looks like, do I really need to put every single notch in the tree or make sure I include every single black/grey bit in the bark?  My answer is an emphatic NO!  I have to leave something to the imagination.  I want to let the viewer fill in the blanks.

Most artists, especially new artists or those who work only occasionally, tend to work too long.  Often, less experienced artists believe they have to show every last detail so the viewer knows for sure what they are seeing.  This concept has driven many an artist to knives, and scissors. (not for use on themselves!) I cannot say this enough!  Including all the details, will NOT tell you your work is done.   It doesn’t always improve a work or make it more DONE. 

This is one reason I love painting with fabric.  Not only does pattern and color play into the imagination as people look at my work, but they are forced to look closer to understand what they are seeing.  No, I am not an abstract artist, but when I get it right, people will see things I didn’t intend to put into the piece. They see impressions of all sorts of things. I consider my work done when I leave enough not done.  I hope that makes sense.

I am not always successful at knowing when to stop.  If I look at some of my past work, I can definitely see that I should have stopped sooner than I did.

I am working on a fabric painting of birch trees and I have been for some time already. I have gone way too far in the details of the trees and I am very unhappy the way it looks. I should not have made so many tree shapes, all of similar sizes. I have torn off pieces and added other pieces, thinking I was fixing things and making it look better. I only have made it worse. I was trying too hard! When I started this painting, I intended to create a background of Fall colors, giving the impression that the sun was shining through the trees.  I am sure you can picture it in your mind without any help.  Because I over worked the Birches, I see only messy disheveled blobs of fabric.  I kept changing my mind about what was the main subject and what I wanted it to look like. I lost sight of my destination.

I can usually tell when a painting is not going well because every step seems difficult. All artists , no matter what level or medium, reach a point of no return on some work.  When it is time to tear up the paper, rip up the canvas, dump the glued fabric and just start over. Like most people, I am not a fan of failure, but you know that old saying, “We learn most from our mistakes.” I admit it, it is true.

So here is the question again.  When is it done?  When I can stare at my work for ten minutes and be pleased with what I see without wanting to change anything!

Less is more.

Go make art!

Where do you make your art?

When people ask me what I do for a living, and I tell them I am an artist, they often say, oh do you have a studio and is it open for visiting?  Well, I have a “studio”.  A room in my basement and a spare bedroom.  Not exactly visitor friendly, but it is “my studio”.

The idea of an artist’s studio sounds so glamorous and romantic.  I would stand around in a smock, wear a beret, and hold paint brushes and a martini in my hand at the same time.

Nice thought, but since I don’t live in a movie it is anything but glamorous. I have a basement room in our house, that is filled with fabric in one section and stained glass and supplies in another.  The spare bedroom is filled with shelves of mosaics, dishes, cups and more.

I generally wear clothes that have paint and glue or grout on them and I don’t drink martinis.  At least not during working hours!

Every once in a while, I come across an article or magazine about artist studios.  They do indeed look pretty dramatic, so organized, and aesthetically appealing. Looking at the photos makes me feel jealous and envious of the beautiful working space. I sometimes think, “Oh if I had a space like that, I would be able to create so much more and be inspired to be adventurous.  Maybe some artists do have those beautiful studios, but it doesn’t make them more successful.

When you make art, it doesn’t matter where you do it.  If you only have a dining room table, then that is where you make your art.  Sure, it would be nice to have a big space, but if you don’t, you do with what you have.  We cannot use a lack of space as an excuse for not making art.  Your art may be limited in size by where you work, but you can still do it!

When I started creating art, I did only have a dining room table.  As our living arrangements changed, though, I managed to get a bit more space with each move.  It has always worked out somehow.

I dream of having a big beautiful art studio, however, based on my history and the future, which of course I cannot see, I am just guessing I will continue to learn contentment working in my basement!  At least I don’t have a commute to go to work!

Go! Make art!

Do you enjoy teaching or making art more?

I just completed a private class for 2 days. It was such a fun and exciting class and the response from the 2 women was fantastic!  It was the first time students created on a larger surface and for more than one day.  Each one did an amazing job of making their idea come to fruition.  I was really pumped from that class.  Whenever I teach, I always have a knot in my stomach before class starts.  I associate it with stage fright.  It does not feel good! I know I am prepared, yet it happens every time I teach.  It is always for naught.  I relax in a few minutes after starting, and I am successful. Of course, there are times when I think I am not explaining a technique clearly enough, or when students struggle through each step.  Teaching is very satisfying for me, though.   I especially enjoy when students are immersed in their work and “get it’.  I would guess that teachers of all kinds have the same feelings when the lightbulb goes on for students.  I have been blessed by the number of students who have taken my classes!

It is impossible to make a choice between teaching and creating.  I can squirrel up in my studio and get lost in the process, quite easily.  I like the solitude and the freedom to move at my own pace.  Most often, I stare at my work more than I am actually “creating”.  I always thought the only way I could thrive was being around people. The interaction with the world fed me, excited me, and nurtured me.  I thought I could not work alone.

When I stopped working at the coffee house, I struggled with the silence.  How could I get anything done?  What was feeding me? Who would I interact with?  What would motivate me?  What good is being alone and not interacting with others?  I know some of you are laughing at that statement because I am such a chatterbox!  It’s strange though, I cannot do serious artwork in a group setting.

When I finally surrendered to the stillness, I discovered it was quite nice!  I became comfortable being with myself.  I discovered how to enjoy the “me time”.  I am very fortunate to have such a supportive husband who encourages me to be creative.  I work for several days at a time when I don’t see anyone except Robin, and it is glorious.

Then, I begin to feel lonely.  I know it is time to step out into the world again and interact with people.  It doesn’t have to be a class, but I need to spend some time talking with people.  I am a social butterfly and enjoy the company of others.  I am fed and charged when I have opportunities to be with friends.  Teaching fills that need and although I know students are rewarded from taking a class, I often think I get more from it than they do.

The bottom line is this:  I need both teaching and creating time.  I am content working alone, and I am inspired when I am teaching, because I really do love to see and hear what other people are thinking about and to see their ideas!  The satisfaction I feel when going home after teaching a class is wonderful.  I am always tired, but the gratification I feel is always similar to the “buzz” of finishing a painting. It is just “delightful”.

I need both!

Go and make art.