Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Waxy papers and a piece of cloth

Whether the next project is boxes, bowls or as yet half formed ideas for something yet unspoken, each requires a bit more imagining, free-form exploring, sketchbook developing and journal musing before I actually feel I am committed to a new body of work.

In a way this is quite a novel way of working for me. Leaping in and seeing what happens is more my style in the studio but in the current spirit of change, I’ve been feeling the need to act like a “proper artist” and do a bit more exploratory preparation so I can at least pretend that I know what I am doing.

I have started doing a bit of experimenting with encaustic monoprinting, using a makeshift system of baking sheet heated over an electric hotplate as my printing bed. Here I make marks with encaustic wax pigment bars melting unctuously directly on to the tray before laying down paper on top to make the print. It is a mesmerising and compulsive activity and indeed much paper and wax is used in just observing obsessively as the molten pigment draws the paper to it, flooding and owning.

Then I remember that this is about sample making - different papers, different colours, using tools to manipulate the spread and line of the wax, adding ground graphite to swirl in plain wax pellets.
Making notes, scribbling ideas that just might make the next print so irresistible.

Then right at the end as I need to finish up or I miss my bus, I grab a strip of natural crumpled linen with straggling clots of threads and lay it on the waxy plate. And it works. This is quite different from the effects with finer rice and tissue papers, rather more like heavy textured handmade khadi paper. The slubby fibre tangles acted like resist leaving uneven trails across the surface.

Mmm gorgeous marks...




Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Choices

Now I'm launching myself off the precipice with hopeful intent - no free fall with terror this time. The studio awaits, seemingly also keen to get started on a new adventure...

Where will I begin?

I survey the space.

Mmmm - there's a devilishly alluring gathering of rusty metal shards on the table. Some printing with them onto a variety of papers and cloth would be a fruitful use of time, I think.



Ahhh - my attention is drawn to the group of encaustic bowls I was experimenting with. To make another would be a pleasing rhythmical activity, curved layers of paper and wax combining into a satisfying just right for cupping-in-the-hand structure.



Ooh - but there is my collection of seen-better-days wooden boxes. Part of me can't wait to start transforming them into the still mysterious project I have named "Box".



But not yet.

Choice can be like change sometimes - excitingly attractive but potentially ever so scary too. What if I choose the wrong thing? All too clearly, I can imagine the parallel universe where I opted for the other, just not so sure about this one though...

Sitting. Breathing.

It's ok. I don't need to rush.

I will just be here, play and explore and think what if I make marks here, add colour there, gouge or smooth.

That's all there is to it.

No big decisions.

The rest will unfold.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Flowing Forward

Depression and anxiety have been daemon accomplices breathing in tandem with me. They translate their warped view of reality into my subjective experience, silencing my anguished cries, leaving me feeling powerless to act.

My work pattern has been dictated by the rhythms of my daemons; they rage rabidly and I am left fearfully paralysed seeking shelter; their bad-wolf snarling calms unexpectedly and I might try to express some emotion, to expunge the voices with some creative endeavour before the fury starts again.

And so it has been for so long.
But with seasons turning and with much time given from those who care about me, there are changes.
I know how lucky I am.



These days I try not to heed the harrowing whisperings. I work more often to my own rhythms.
New ideas for finished pieces are emerging.
I detect new flows.
And that is hopeful.
More than that it is tentatively exhilarating... and I breathe.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Letting go part 3 (or transformative space)

Clearing space is a much under glorified way of spending time.

There is an obvious usefulness in the activity of course, creating tidy, uncluttered areas in which to work without the distraction of too much muddling stuff.

But that’s expected.

Almost without fail whilst a-sorting, I will find a vital mislaid scraping tool or fabulously marked paper fragment that might enhance the next piece I make.

Fortuitous but not life changing.

This time though, this super deep clean of my studio left me feeling elated.

Unburdened.

The act of destroying my work was not some frenzied attack of self-loathing. (I know too well when that is the deal.)

This was mindful purpose.

I had created these pieces. I discovered, explored and honed skills. I developed narratives, questioned and challenged myself. All that could not be destroyed just by the act of cutting up, by removing the work from being.

It is not lost - I absorbed it all both good and bad. I made the commitment to progress during all the time of making and now I had just let go of the physical reminder of that transformative process.

Transformation might take a lifetime to manifest itself.

Recognising it might just take a random act of space clearing.


Photo from Kim Ayres Photography



Friday, 20 November 2015

Letting Go part 2 (or the art of making space)

What does an artist do when unsold work starts to dominate the studio?

If they were newer encaustic pieces then I might scrape the wax surface back and start again on the wooden panels.

But this work predates all my encaustic explorations. Numerous highly textured canvasses, some bubble-wrapped, stacked under tables, racked against diminishing wall space and taking up shelves threaten to stifle and ensnare me by their very presence. Somehow they don’t even seem relevant to what I do now, so immersed I feel now with my encaustic work. Would I want to put them on show and say this is what I make?

A craft knife rests on the edge of the table... I thought I had tidied my tools away.



Just one then to see how it feels...

I look down at the floor. It definitely needs sweeping again. A mound of torn, mangled canvas with wrangled staples and threads lies there.

I carry three stretcher frames across the floor. I know someone who will use these.

This is good and getting easier.

Another and then another.

As I slash and wrench, I inspect the years of making in my hands.

Interested, inquisitive, surprised even, but not dismayed and definitely not grieving.

By the end of the afternoon only two remain, reprieved with sentiment.

Exhausted.

Still breathing.

How to deal with lack of space…

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Letting Go part 1 (or needing clearance)

I would finish the piece I was working on then I would have a bit of a tidy up in readiness for all the new stuff I was planning to do.

That was the plan.

Space.

I needed more space.

The necessary clutter of work in progress is at once comforting and restrictive. I am oblivious as time passes and chaos creeps in like silken tendrils, first to caress reassuringly ( I am in my lovely studio, after all with my making treasures abounding), then to smother as I search with feverish frustration for that very particular paper, cloth or scraping tool amongst the mounting detritus of all that creative doing.

So to do a bit of sorting and reorganising is refreshingly restorative.

Open the windows, turn the music up loud.

Time to breathe and get moving.

Tables scraped and cleared. Tools cleaned and rehoused. Paints back in box. Painty rags pinned to wall for future possibilities. Papers, fibres and threads dealt into ordered bundles.

Floor swept (stopping only occasionally to wonder at accumulating patina).



This was it. Taking control. New beginnings again.

Stop.

Mmm, I could do with a bit more space.
There’s still a lot of stacks and piles…

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Adaptation

In the first days of the millennium, my oldest daughter had a stroke when she was just sixteen.


Six months later, after learning to talk and walk again and use her non dominant left hand for everything, her consultant said that the best we could hope for now was "adaptation". Brain repair as such was as good as could be expected and learning to live with it was the only likely option.


Adaptation rang hollowly then.

Adaptation was no more than a consolation prize.

Adaptation was the badge of honour on childhood sport's days proclaiming: "Well done for taking part!" when everyone knew you just weren't a very good runner.


I thought that it seemed such a small offering then, some amorphous invitation to embrace change in the wake of what had rampaged and dashed.


But this is not really about my daughter, though her story is monumental and complicated.


Rather, with the passing of so much time and life, I reflect and view adaptation instead, as one of the most desirable human conditions. The ability to accept change as inevitable and to bend with it allows us to develop in unexpected and delightful ways. Adaptation, as well as necessary for survival, can be gloriously empowering.


I don't believe in Fate or any grand plan.

There are no guarantees and there's no such thing as "fair".


I believe I make personal choices for how I deal with all this life stuff. Sometimes I make mistakes and feel stupid and hurt. But nothing remains the same for ever. Adaptation allows me to explore new ways of living so long as I remember to breathe as I limbo dance through challenges.

And remind myself to be grateful.


And the art stuff is just another part of that.


This is what this blog is about.