After spending two years on the creation of a few large format mixed media artworks, each measuring 28x40 unframed, I indulged the short and sweet pleasures of small works.
When it was liberating to just draw for the joy of it, it was just as liberating to make art without the massive time commitment that my larger works required. These pieces, some that fit in my hand, took less than a day to create.
Art as experiment
Most of my larger mixed media collages took several months to complete. At some point, I get attached to the vision that’s unfolding throughout the process and that is when risk enters the picture. With such an investment in time, you carefully consider what you’re going to do next. Fear is not a particularly creative element. It restricts. And playing it safe is not my thing.
But these small works. They’re like sketching. They are fast, free, and invite experimentation. So I tried new things. Acrylic paint. Cutting up drawings from my sketchbook and giving them context with collage elements. Drawing a new subject. Using a different color palette. Experiments are valuable. It’s how you learn. And when failure is a welcome learning experience, you lose the fear.
A reset button for creativity
Small works are liberating. With less of a time investment than my larger pieces, they reminded me of how art, risk, and experimentation interact. My first large format piece started off as an experiment. But as I spent more time developing that theme, attachment grew, along with expectations. For me, this is a creativity killer and slows down the process. Moving to these smaller pieces, all intended for gifts, was like hitting the reset button on my creativity. When there is nothing to lose, you are free.
Photo by Anthony Debenedectis, Show curator
On a first-Saturday art weekend where openings were happening from Asbury Park to Brooklyn, artists and art lovers came to the small bayshore town of Atlantic Highlands to pay tribute to Frank Leahy. Curated by Internationally-known area resident Anthony “weird’eye’one” Debenedectis, the show featured artwork by all who haven shown in Frank’s gallery, A.J. Dillon. The gallery is now part of the Atlantic Highlands Arts Council.
it was great to catch up with some artists whom I have not seen since the last show there, and to talk with those who came to support the show.
We have the capacity to be stewards of this Earth. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. And it may come out as an additional layer of meaning in some upcoming artworks. I love what I see at Antler PDX. Much of the artwork shown there speaks to me as commentary on our attitudes towards nature. I’m also an avid outdoors person. It pains me to see litter on a hiking trail. Why come out into nature and leave a trail of garbage behind you? I think about the ethics of farming. And why we are outraged at animal abuse but turn a blind eye to inhumane practices on factory farms. I don’t rant or lecture here. But as I work, I see traces of this story starting to manifest. Like in this detail of a new piece below.
The Keansburg Mural Project
When you spend several months worth of free weekends on a project, you can't help but invest your heart and soul in it. Especially when you see firsthand the positive effect it has on the people in a community. Like Keansburg. A small town on the Bayshore. Still recovering from Hurricane Sandy.
i'm still not done with this one. But it's getting close.
Ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, many New Jersey shore towns faced damage and economic hardship. Keansburg was no exception, and I'm excited to be joining a talented group of local New Jersey artists to provide mural art as part of a town wide revitalization.
We have a Kickstarter to help us pay for supplies: primers, paint, brushes, and so on. Every little bit will help our effort, from sharing the Kickstarter to making a donation.
In the spirit of fearlessness, I took a chance and added paint. After months of work. A risk. My first reaction?
I hated it.
It was so different from what I saw slowly progressing. It jarred me. My heart sank. I wished for a real-life UNDO button. I felt like I ruined what was turning into a favorite piece in this series. All that time spent working on this, only to destroy it in seconds.
I put it aside for a few weeks. And then I opened the door again.
It's not so bad. In fact, I'm starting to love it. Paint is so... juicy. I can see where it's going again. The chance I took revealed a new, better direction.
Saturday I plan on getting back to this. More paint. More risks. More love/hate/love.
It's like life, isn't it?
In the back of my house there's a room. It's a room I want to spend more time in. It took me a while to turn this room into my studio. But after years of random storage, boyfriends moving in and out, and the clutter of a busy life, this room finally became a dedicated art studio.
It helps to have a space that embraces all things creative. There are no chores here, unless it's picking up the fallen pieces of paper that accumulate under my table while working on a collage. There's inspiration in the form of artworks purchased from friends and local galleries.
Supporting other artists always yields creative karma. There's light: tiny fairy lights on the ceiling, a massive LED panel, and a moodlight that washes the wall with my choice of color. I have a thing for house plants, so there's always something green and living. It's a space that's ready, inviting, and waiting.
Whether you are crafting, dancing, meditating, or whatever your passion, give it some room. We all have those adult obligations. We work. We have families. Friends to keep up with. All the trappings of life. If you are a creative person, you may find your soul aching. So give your passion a space. You will find it a welcoming retreat from the routines of everyday life. You'll find yourself, who you really are. This is where your life finds balance.
I'm used to trying to create an exact likeness of my subject. Always with an end goal, an expectation in mind. Kind of stifles the creative process, doesn't it?
Enter Blane, a good friend of mine and entrepreneur. He was in a rut. He needed an outlet for a recent burst of creative energy. But he never really explored art other than as a spectator. I agreed to help him learn how to be a creator. We took these huge sheets of watercolor paper that I had. For subject matter, I took the skull of a buck and placed it on the kitchen table. I told him to draw, but he couldn't look down or care about the end result. I just wanted him to make a mark on that pristine white sheet without any fear.
I set the timer to ten minutes and joined him in the exercise. Why not. I needed to loosen up, too. We each sipped a little bourbon, and picked at a plate of sardines and crackers. I forget what kind of music was playing. Probably funk, or some Norwegian folk singer. It might have been Moddi.
Rebokk was still around. Old skinny cat checking us out. And it was February. Cold and the damp of the Jersey shore made the cold stick to your bones. For ten minutes, we were going to draw, and we weren't allowed to look and we weren't allowed to care. Those were the rules.
What we ended up with was a mess, each mess uniquely our own. While Blane started applying swashes of deep crimson (and some glitter) to his, I studied mine for a bit, It was chaos. Lines everywhere. Distorted. Wandering. Searching. But there was also some sense to it. The more I looked, the more I saw where I had been, when my eyes were traveling across the skull and transcribed the path to paper. I took some paint. Mixed a light earth tone. A bone color. And applied it to an area of several shapes, keeping some edges raw but finding a boundary in one of the lines and keeping that defined.
What happened there was the start of this theme. I thrilled at the exploded chaos of the initial drawing combined with the slower, more methodical process of developing a likeness by pulling out selected shapes and lines. It's a process that exhilarates and scares me at the same time. I like that. There's risk. There's the unexpected. I may choose the wrong shape or line. I have to think. But every time it teaches me something. It teaches me to let go.