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Challenges Not Anticipated by the Artist

Hello everyone! I’ve been absent from my regular Friday blog posts for a little while haven’t I? There are some extremely good reasons for this. ‘Busy’ doesn’t come close to describing it. However, my brain is still tired and my thoughts a tad on the mushy-side. So please bear with me as I attempt to explain my short absence.

Work, work, work:

December 2020 and these first two weeks of January 2021 turned into some kind of ‘perfect storm’ of many, many important deadlines and events for myself and my husband. Some of them were the regular holiday-related events. Others were a bit more complicated. Involving a lot of paperwork and scheduling. Oh! And I forgot that I decided to run a sale at my website shop.

I had begun the physical work or creating several entirely new pieces for an art exhibit at the Käytävä Galleria at Matara here in Jyväskylä in October 2020. By December, I was working non-stop at finishing the artwork for the show. Working on them occupied all of my time. It’s all I did from the time by rear-end hit my desk chair in the morning, until my husband told me it was time for bed.

It needs to be noted that I could not have completed the artwork for the exhibit without the tireless mental and physical support of my husband. He absolutely did yeoman’s duty in getting his own work (business, creative and the running of the household) done. In addition to the additional paperwork. AND taking care of me while I created artwork!

Then he went and helped me hang the exhibit! Damn. I knew I married the right man.

Art exhibit:

The artwork I created for Käytävä Galleria at Matara will be on exhibit until 5 February 2021. All of the pieces are for sale except for two. I plan on adding the pieces to my online shop the week after I take the exhibit down in February. The two pieces that are not for sale are ones that I feel additional work completed before I could offer them for sale.

I will be returning to Matara on Monday 18 January to complete a few repairs to a piece that was damaged slightly in transport. Pictures and videos of my artwork will be added to my Instagram and my website, so that those who are unable to see the exhibit in person.

Important lessons:

First, let me say, DAMN. Creating a body of new artwork for an art exhibit is hard work! I’m no stranger to creating pieces of artwork for exhibits either. I

specifically decided to create all new pieces of artwork for this exhibit. Initially because any artwork displayed needed to be hung on the wall. This alone would have been enough of a creative challenge. But there were additional challenges that I had no readily been aware of.

There were two major differences in the way in which I found myself thinking and physically working on the artwork. #1) I was creating an entirely new body of artwork from scratch. #2) I am the only artist being shown in the exhibit.

Clearly there were going to be some lessons to be learned. Important lessons that will potentially aide me in the creation of additional artwork for subsequent art exhibits in my future.

Let’s look at #1:

Being  a solo art exhibit, there was a great sense of freedom and control. I could create whatever I wanted! Creating entirely new pieces of artwork would be fantastic! Ideas that I had been putting off, or pushing to the side could be explored. New materials and techniques could be utilized too. Whoo-hoo! Cool! Let’s get started!

One of the largest challenges for me from the beginning of the physical art creation was the fact that I was working on multiple large pieces at the same time. Over the past few years, I’d unconsciously continued utilizing one of the parameters of the Creative Experiment: Do not start a piece of artwork until the one you are working on is completed.

This became problematic, as each of the pieces of art I was working on for the exhibit needed to be worked on simultaneously. I managed to work on several pieces at the same time during some of the initial stages of construction. Mostly during the cardboard, newsprint and glue portions of creation.

Endless juggling:

As time wore on, and I was working on more details for each individual piece. I was having a harder and harder time putting one piece down to work on one of the other pieces. My mind would become so wrapped-up in working on a single piece of artwork, that I would spend too much time working on it. While leaving the other pieces alone.

To combat this, I created a graph with a section for each piece of artwork. The graph detailed the specific work that needed to be completed for each individual piece until it was finished. This did help quite a bit. But I think how I used the graph requires some finer tuning to be more effective for me as a creative.

I plan on working on these challenges while creating the artwork for an art exhibit that is a little less than a year in the future. The different challenges that I experienced creating my most recent artwork and readying it for exhibition will no doubt be of help!

And now, #2:

Showing my artwork in a solo exhibit is something I’ve only done once in the past. That was at the Jyväskylä Kaupuniginkirjasto (translation: city library). That exhibit contained pieces that I’d spent the better part of two years creating. The fact that it was only my work displayed was new to me.

Prior to the exhibit at the library, I’d only participated in art shows in which I was one of many artists showing their artwork. One of the more comforting emotional aspects of a group show is that you’re not alone. There are other artists there showing their work. You don’t have to shoulder the success or failure of a group art exhibit alone.

While my husband was helping me hang my work yesterday, all I could think about was how panicked I felt about showing my artwork. It went beyond “Will people like my artwork?” and on to “What if my artwork falls off the walls?” and then further on to “What if people purposefully damage my artwork?” and then finally, “What if people who dislike my artwork then start telling other people how much they think my artwork sucks?!

It may sound strange to someone who doesn’t create artwork on a regular basis. But taking my artwork and hanging it up on a wall and letting other people look at it can be an emotionally terrifying experience. When I say that there are parts of me across town hanging on a wall for people to look at and judge. I’m not kidding around. It makes me feel very vulnerable. And at a loss of control.

Closer examination:

If you’ve been reading my blog posts for any length of time, you know that the challenges of detailed above will be more closely examined over the coming weeks. Coping strategies will be formulated and practiced so that I won’t feel at the mercy of my emotional and physical responses.

Methods of planning out my physical art creation and work will also be implemented. In fact, I was outlining what I wanted to start working on earlier this afternoon. I spent a half an hour running them by my husband before I took a much needed nap under layers of warm, toasty blankets while I watched more snow fall outside the window.

So now what?

Well, I have a lot to do! There is now the time to start implementing some changes I want to make in how I create my artwork. In addition, there are things that I have been pushing back that I can now start outlining and working on. I’m looking forward to seeing how everything pans out muself.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.

 

 

 

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Spinning Plates

Outright panic:

The past week has been a blur of work for me. There are so many things to do and not nearly enough time in which to do it. Or at least sometimes so I think. Most of the time, those thoughts come to me as I’m trying to go to sleep. I’m seized with a momentary thunder bolt of cold, stomach-twisting panic. Usually something along the lines of “OH GOD! I WILL NEVER GET THIS ALL DONE BY 11 JANUARY!

After the panic wains, I drift off to sleep thinking about what I plan on doing the next day.

Terribly dull:

Where I am at in the creation of this artwork for Matara is exceedingly un-exciting, all told. Today, I’m finishing up the last of the paint work on a few pieces. Most of the work that I’ve been doing for the past four or five days is the application of sealant to each of the painted pieces.

Dozens and dozens of coats of sealant are applied to my painted pieces. It’s not exciting work at all. Well, not exciting for me until I get past say about five coats. Then the surface starts looking the way that I want it too. It’s strange. There is no specific number of coats of sealant. It’s done when I know it’s done.

Paint, repeat (x3 to 5):

The past week has contained a lot of painting. Painting for me is much more challenging during the long stretches of darkness in Central Finland. My general rule is that I do not mix any new paint colors once the sun goes down. The greater part of one day (around four hours of decent light) was devoted to simply mixing paint!

Once the paint was mixed, I did a few swatches on the pieces to be painted. I had to remix the pinks I used for the doll I’m calling Pink Paddle Cake doll twice. It may sound strange, but I wanted to get a pink that was close to the shade of the pink Necco wafer candies.

The doll I call #10 and another doll that is simply being called the organic one, have been painted as well. The paint was applied in a similar way on both of them. The first layer is an abstract application of four shades of paint (blue for one doll, and violets for the other). Once that layer was dry, sponges were used to add more visual interest and texture to the surface of the piece. The final layer was applied using either aluminum foil, a foam fruit wrapper or bubble wrap.

Antlers or horns:

I never know what to call them. Are they horns? They are kind of antler-ish too I think. I have no idea. I use wood that I find outside near our home. It’s almost impossible for me to come home without some interesting looking stick to add to my collection of art materials.

#10 and the organic doll both have antler-horns. #10 has three and organic doll has two. These pieces don’t get a coat of gesso, just a coat or two of white. Then the color I want them to be. They do get sealant as well. But nowhere near the number of coats that the dolls get.

Full plate:

I’m still creating for my Go Marielle account on Instagram. A new post each day, as well as a longer story on Wednesday. Every work day begins with creating the Go Marielle Advent Calendar posts that I’ve been posting this month. All of my other online/social media work is done in the morning too. Two to three hours is spent on this every morning.

I feel as though I’m failing though. I keep a close eye on my traffic on my website and online store. As well as my numbers of views, likes, followers, etc., on Instagram. My numbers are just not good. In many areas, they are falling. I’m still not using hashtags for Instagram after my shadow ban. I’ve begun using Instagram Stories more. I make sure that I post every single day on my personal Instagram account as well.

Aaaand my numbers keep falling. I try not to let it get to me. What I’m creating right now does not make for terrifically exciting pictorial posts. I’ve not been able to update my shop offerings because I’m working on artwork for an upcoming art show. It is inevitable that some plates are going to crash to the floor while I’m trying to keep them all spinning.

The world is going through a lot right now. My numbers stink right now. I’ll get through it. One foot in front of the other.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.

 

 

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Metaphor

Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking about how my personal artistic media choices can be interpreted as a self portrait in and of themselves. These tools, techniques and materials anchor me firmly in my own past as well. It’s interesting how they all are shaped into the artwork that I create.

Overthink something? Me?

Initially, the metaphor came to me while I was waiting for the bus sometime last week. The metaphor being, that I am much like the artwork that I create.

I’m a bunch of (seemingly) haphazardly selected bits of cardboard. That are cut and glued together in <almost> a symmetrical manner. Then covered with loads of old, torn newspapers and glue. Then slathered in layer after layer after layer of gesso, paint and sealant. And finally decorated in a way that would make an ancient Roman think, “Hmmm…perhaps a little less would be better?

Please allow me pick-apart and explain my own clumsy metaphor.

The Cardboard:

Used for the substructure. Never, ever meant by me to be seen, much less understood completely. Seen by most people as trash. Or perhaps something that needs to be put out and recycled into something better.

Symmetry?

Even when I’m making a concerted effort to be symmetrical in the creation of my artwork, it is almost never quite correct. It’s never completely even. Exact symmetry makes me uneasy in that lizard-like part of my brain.

Torn Newspapers:

Again, something that most people see as trash or recycling or both. However, a newspaper has an original purpose. It delivers the news and information that a community needs to know. From the weather report, to cultural events, to major decisions made in all levels of government, all the way back to movie times and advertisements for local businesses. Newspapers are meant to teach and inform.

Layer after layer after layer:

Even to me, this seems a rather good stand-in for the physical human form. Tendons, muscles, veins, fat, skin, bone, teeth, etc.

Horror vacui:

Yes. I do seem to fear an undecorated square centimeter in my finished artwork. To me, decoration is like Jell-o, ‘there’s always room for more‘ as I see things. It keeps the viewers eyes moving from here to there. If their eyes stop, they might see a flaw.

This is very much a fear-generated coping mechanism of my own psyche. Rooted in the intense and sometimes debilitating fear that I am completely unworthy of any kind of friendship, love or admiration in any way, shape or form by those around me.

So what does this mean?

In a nutshell, it means that my choice of artistic media and accompanying techniques are right for me. Mediums like clay and wood are ones that I find very attractive. They each have their own unique ways in which an artist can express themselves. However much I love working in them, they don’t fit me like the paper mâché work I have been creating fits me.

I derive a similar level of personal creative satisfaction from paper mâché as I do from sewing and doing needle work by hand. My aforementioned clumsy metaphor regarding my utilization of a paper mâché technique gives me something to anchor that sense of creative satisfaction to.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again on Friday.

 

 

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Paper Mâché: Beginning the Work

Beginning

I keep a sketchbook for all of my ideas. It’s not expensive. In fact, it’s about twelve pages of A4 paper, folded over and saddle stitched together. Usually, I make three or four with graph paper, and then two or three with inexpensive white drawing paper. This type of sketchbook works well for me.

A great deal of my sketching is more mental than physical. There is a lot of time spent thinking about the ideas. Moving it around inside my head. Looking at it from different angles. Deciding on themes, colors, sizes, etc.. prior to any serious sketches being made. Sometimes, more thinking and more sketches are required.

What I try hard to keep in the forefront of my mind is to allow the artwork to be itself. If I feel as though I’m forcing an idea or a concept, I drop it for a while. Ideas can always be returned to in the future. Describing how I know when I’m forcing an idea is difficult to pin down. I suppose that at this point in my artistic career; I just know.

Once the idea is decided upon, it’s time to start putting it together in real life.

Patterns

Some pieces require me to create pattern to ensure adherence to a specific size or shape. An inexpensive school-grade graphed paper is used for this. One of the pieces that I’m currently working on required me to create six tiered half circled forms. The patterns I created made sure that the finished tiers were uniform from top to bottom.

There are times that a pattern piece needs to be heavier, because it’s going to be traced many times. I transfer these types of patterns to carton board. It’s easy to trace around and stands up to more abuse.

Some pattern pieces are organically shaped. Making patterns for those also helps in construction. Especially if the organic shape is complicated. Or it needs to fit into a very specific place within a larger, paper mâché piece.

It should be noted that as I have continued working in paper mâché, I don’t cut out patterns for every single piece of cardboard and carton board. In the beginning, I measured every tiny little piece and had a pattern piece for EVERYTHING!

When all needed pattern pieces are completed, then it’s on to cutting out the card and carton board.

Cutting it all out

When using patterns, it’s fairly easy to get started. Pencil or ballpoint pen work well for tracing pattern pieces onto the cardboard. When I’m choosing the corrugated cardboard for a piece, I look for the stronger cardboard for the outer portions of the piece. Weaker, flimsier cardboard I can use within the structure to give it more strength.

The weaker, slightly flimsier corrugated cardboard works well for creating curves. For tight curves, I score the corrugated cardboard so it bends a bit easier. For bigger curves, I usually roll the corrugated cardboard over a cylindrical form. It holds the shape just fine.

For the large, six tiered doll that I have been working on, I did have to sit down and do a little math to figure out how tall I wanted the finished piece to be. Would 7 or 9 cm in height for each tier work better? The drawers needed to be taken into account as well as the space around them. Again, my personal time and experience factors into a lot of my decisions. In the end, I go with what I think and feel is “correct”.

Now to the glue!

Attaching the pieces

Once I have the main corrugated cardboard structure the way that I want it, I begin gluing it together. In my previous post, I mentioned the glue that I use, Eri-Keeper. I have a deep and abiding love for this glue. It does exactly what I want and need it to do. I understand that I’m also a person who doesn’t mind getting my hands messy and sticky as well. So I understand when someone might rather use a glue gun!

If you would like to see some of the work I have been putting together using my own paper mâché construction methods and techniques, take a look at my Instagram here. When working with a very symmetrical piece like this one, I made sure throughout the entire construction process, that I kept the center (90 degree) marked so I could see it.

This six tiered doll was constructed in sections. Each tier was completely separate until I put it together using the bamboo skewers and wooden plant stakes. The construction was planned this way, so that I would be more easily able to create the drawers within three of the tiers.

The drawer holes were measured and cut out of the corrugated cardboard. Then the inside walls were added. They’re not hard to create. The space from top to bottom of the drawer space was measured. Pieces of corrugated cardboard (with the corrugation running vertically) were cut. They were put into the space and marked for length. Then cut to fit then glued in place.

Adding stability

Now, I may be just a little paranoid about my finished paper mâché artwork falling apart. So I add a lot of structurally stabilizing corrugated cardboard to my artwork. In the pictures you can see here of a pervious piece, there are so many little pieces of corrugated cardboard!

Remember that flimsy corrugated cardboard I mentioned above? I use a lot of this inside the cardboard structures. Sometimes it’s used to shim-up a wall or to support a very thin dividing wall. Sometimes it’s little rectangles that I glue in between an internal structure (like a drawer) and the outer wall. This is done so that the outer and inner walls don’t buckle or bow while drying.

This buckling and bowing will happen when you begin adding the newspaper and the PVA glue to the outside of the cardboard structure.

Veneering

Corrugated cardboard isn’t the strongest material on the planet. When it gets wet, it begins to come apart. This has a lot to do with the kinds of paper fibers and the way the corrugated cardboard is created. When newsprint and the PVA glue are attached to it’s surface, it will get squishy. Then when the piece as dried, more often than not, the corrugations (ripples) can be seen through the layers of newspaper and PVA glue.

Again, I’m a little nit-picky about certain things. This ripply surface makes me nuts. I solved the problem by using carton board as a veneer over the top of the corrugated cardboard. The entire surface of the six tiered doll was covered in cookie and porridge cartons, as well as some toilet paper rolls.

Measuring wasn’t really required. I just laid the pieces onto the cardboard and traced them. There were some spots in which the carton board didn’t match. It was more important for the thickness of the carton board matched.

And anyway! It’s all going to get covered with newsprint and PVA glue anyway!

Prep that newsprint!

The size and complexity of a piece I’m creating determines the size of the newsprint pieces that I need, as well as the way that I tear them. Any kind of newsprint will work, as long as the paper isn’t glossy. Glossy papers don’t work! Save those for paper collage work and book making projects!

If you’ve followed my paper mâché artwork for a while now, you know that some of the pieces I create have all kinds of oddly shaped elements. Each of them use a differently torn paper. It’s important to note that the newsprint needs to be torn, not cut with scissors or a utility knife.

For the internal parts of drawers, and where legs are attached, I use thin strips of newspaper. They are about .5 cm wide by about 3 cm long depending upon the specific piece. Larger, flat areas I use 2 cm wide by 3 cm (approximate!) pieces of paper. There are some really tiny pieces I’ve created in which I needed a 1 cm by 1 cm or smaller pieces of torn newsprint to work with.

For some pieces that are not flat, I will tear the newsprint into strips and then again, against the grain of the paper. Giving the paper a somewhat jagged looking shape. This allows the newsprint to adhere to an irregular surface better. I used this kind of paper a lot while creating the head pictured here.

Attaching the newsprint and glue

In the previous post, I mentioned that I use an inexpensive white PVA glue to attach the newsprint to the cardboard forms. A little water is sometimes required to thin the glue a bit. I buy Memoris-Precious Askarteluliima (Craft/Hobby Glue) in 500g bottles. The amount of water needed to thin it a bit, is about 5 to 10 ml. for the entire 500g bottle.

I’m not a person who minds getting her hands messy. For large areas, I usually just use my hands. When there are smaller areas, or I just cannot get my hands into a space to attach the newspaper and glue, I use an old #6 watercolor paint brush. First, I paint down a little glue, then pick up a piece of newsprint with the same sticky brush. I place the newsprint where I want it, then paint it down with a little more glue.

This method sounds time-consuming. And it is. Or perhaps I should say, ‘and it can be’. However, it gets me the results that I want. For pieces that I will be adding gesso, paint and sealant to, three or four layers of newsprint and glue are enough. I make sure to alter the direction of the newsprint in each layer. This helps the surface to be stronger.

For pieces like this one, a finished thickness of 1 to 1.5 mm is enough. There will be additional structures placed inside this piece. So the thinness of the surface is okay.

This and that

While adding newsprint and glue to a piece, I do make corrections as I go. There may be a place where it seems a bit crooked, or too thin. Added layers of paper and glue can help to disguise that. You can see in this piece, where I will have to do some creative paper applications to cover this up!

Sometimes, the time it takes for individual pieces to dry makes me impatient. This isn’t surprising. I’m an incredibly impatient artist. Some paper mâché artists use a hairdryer to speed up the drying process. Personally, I’m not a fan of doing this. It’s possible to dry out one spot a lot, while another spot may still be really squishy. I prefer to let pieces dry overnight before I continue working on them.

There are a lot of essential parts of my personal creative process and how it interacts with the paper mâché techniques I use. To be honest, most of the time while I’m working on a piece, I’m so focused on what I’m doing that even I may not be completely aware that I’m actually doing a specific thing at a specific time.

An example of this would be how I plan out the sequences of work during the creation of a paper mâché piece. Some things must happen before others. And I just ‘know’ how to do it. There’s not a tremendous amount of thinking done regarding this. Again, this is just time and experience at work for me.

Now what?

Anyone reading this two part blog post now has an idea of the tools, materials, preparations and work (mental and physical) that go into how I create my artwork. As I said previously, I know that I’ve left all kinds of stuff out. If I wrote a totally faithful step=by-step account of what I do, the blog posts would be the length of a book!

Thanks for reading, and I will see you again on Friday,

 

 

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Paper Mâché

This post became very large, very quickly. Because of this, I’ve divided it into two parts. Part one is this following post and the second part of the post will be posted on 16 November 2020.

In this post, I’ll be discussing why and how I began working in paper mâché, as well as the materials and tools that I use regularly in the creation of my own artwork.

Isn’t paper mâché for little kids?

Prior to moving to Finland, I had never created any of my own artwork using paper mâché. As an elementary art teacher I had taught a few lessons over the years that utilized the art form and accompanying techniques.

My personal use of the paper and glue method is partially inspired by some of my former students with allergies. Specifically, allergies to wheat, requiring me to find a substitute for the flour and water paste commonly used for paper mâché elementary school art projects.

It should be known that I have never had anyone sit down and teach me how to work with paper mâché. What I know is what I learned from personal experience as a child, then as an art teacher, and now as a practicing artist. YouTube, as always, has been instructional, as well as various personal art websites detailing paper mâché materials, tools and techniques.

The remainder of my paper mâché education has been gained by creating my artwork. In the rest of this blog post, I will detail, as best I can, my personal paper mâché tools, materials, techniques, as well as any tricks I’ve found along the way.

Materials: Corrugated Cardboard

Part of the reason I began using paper mâché was because a great deal of the materials are free or incredibly low cost. In addition to being low cost, the materials are incredibly common. The two main materials I use are newsprint and cardboard. Both of these materials are quite easy to lay your hands on most of the time.

Most of the cardboard, specifically, the corrugated cardboard, that I use I pick up at the Lidl. Lidl staff stock the shelves in a particular way, having large rolling bins that they chuck empty cardboard boxes into. The staff at the Lidl I shop at are so used to me picking (neatly) through the bins that I don’t get a second look.

Time and experience has taught me what corrugated cardboards work the best for my own particular creative needs. Corrugated cardboard from cookie box shipments (Sondey brand) are one of my favourites. The corrugation is small and strong. Most of the time, it’s two layers of corrugated cardboard, laminated together. The box usually has a heavier glossy paper finish too. These features make it good for what and how I create my artwork.

I take a retractable box cutter with me to Lidl. Any box or carton that is large or oddly shaped I can break down quickly. Again, at this point, none of the staff at Lidl seems to be bothered with this. The smaller pieces just go in my shopping bags for the trip home.

Materials: Carton Board

Carton board is different from corrugated cardboard. Carton board is the lightweight, kind of grey-ish-brown-ish papery-card-stock used in packaging like cereal boxes or frozen pizza boxes. My husband does all the meal planning and cooking for us, and knows when I might like a carton or box. I trim-off the bits I don’t want from these cartons and store them in a reusable shopping bag.

Most of the carton board is used to veneer the underlying corrugated cardboard structure. Some smaller elements of a larger paper mâché piece may be constructed completely out of carton board that I have laminated together using glue to give more strength to the piece.

I will talk more specifically about how I veneer the corrugated cardboard structures with carton board in the second part of this blog post on Monday. Wood veneer is very common. My technique is similar. I just use carton board instead of wood.

Materials: Newspaper

We don’t get the newspaper, but we do get a small free city newspaper every week or so by mail. They are saved in much the same manner as the cardboard and carton board. Several months ago, while putting the recycling into the bins, I came across several bunches of newspapers (that we don’t receive) still in zip tied bundles. Several of them came home with me.

Materials: Glue

There are two glues that I use. Each having a different purpose at different times during the construction of a piece. For gluing cardboard pieces together, I use Eri Keeper. It’s a Finnish brand of all-purpose glue that has a strong hold, especially with cardboard. A glue gun can be used. I just find them expensive, messy and cumbersome.

The glue I use when applying the newsprint to the surface of the cardboard form is an inexpensive white PVA craft glue, thinned with a little water. I don’t like using this kind of glue for anything other than paper mâché. White, PVA craft glue has a bond I find too weak. However, when used with newsprint, in many consecutive layers, it works extremely well.

Tools

For the type of artwork that I create, several tools are used. But you really don’t need incredibly specialized tools to work with paper mâché. A ruler, pencil, cutting blade and a safe surface to cut it on is enough to start out with. Metal rulers are better than plastic or wood though.

There are also several other tools that I use. A compass, a protractor, a multi-use piercing tool and a self-healing cutting mat are also useful. For small pieces that I’m applying newspaper to, I use an old paint brush instead of my fingers as well.

Tools: Cutting Blade

Since I was a freshman in art school, I’ve used an X-Acto knives. An X-Acto knife and replacement blades even came with me to Finland! The blades are a little expensive here, and frankly aren’t what most people use. Retractable cutting blades, the kind you can snap the dull bit of the blade off, are much more common here in Finland. They’re also much less expensive!

It took me a little time to get used to using this kind of cutting blade. But I like it a great deal. My index finger of my right hand doesn’t ache after using them. Plus, they are retractable, so I’m much less likely to cut myself. Personally, I use the cheapest ones from Flying Tiger and the slightly more expensive ones from Motonet.

What’s important is to find the type of cutting blade that works the best for you. One that you’re most comfortable using. And remember to be safe! Never, ever cut toward anything that might bleed! The latter being a reminder to my students when they used anything sharp to cut in the art room.

Even more supplies and materials

There are other tools and materials that I utilize when working in paper mâché. Bamboo skewers in different sizes, small wooden plant stakes, toothpicks, pens, pencils, erasers, markers, scissors, various plastic containers (recycled) to hold torn paper, glue and other supplies, just to name a few. There will be more about these incidental types of tools and materials in Monday’s blog post.

Hmmm…

Wow. This post got very long, very quickly! And I haven’t even gotten to my personal creative paper mâché techniques! Don’t miss the second part of this blog post on 16 November 2020!

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again on Monday.

 

 

 

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Two Art Exhibits

Exhibiting my artwork:

2021 is going to be a busy year for me.

Not long after I had announced that I would be taking a short break from blogging, something unexpected happened. I was contacted by the Suomen Käsityön Museo regarding my artwork. More specifically, I was asked if I would like to exhibit my artwork in a window gallery that the museum has.

It took me a few minutes to mentally digest the invitation offered to me by the museum. Part of me thought that perhaps I was reading it incorrectly. Another part of me thought that I was sent the invitation by mistake. But it was a real, sincere invitation to exhibit my artwork! Cool!

So, long story somewhat longer, I will be exhibiting my artwork in the window gallery of the Suomen Käsityön Museo in Jyväskylä during December 2021 until February 2022. I know that it seems like a long time off in the future. But from where I see it, it’s right around the corner!

Matara exhibit:

Part of what I think is incredibly cool about the Suomen Käsityön Museo exhibit, is that it is at the end of 2021. I am exhibiting my artwork at Matara in January 2021. My year begins and ends with me exhibiting my artwork! Honestly, part of me is a little scared by both of these exhibits. It’s kind of a ‘put-up or shut-up’ set of circumstances for me as a working artist.

Communicating my ideas:

I have been working steadily over the past few months on the new pieces of artwork that I will be exhibiting at Matara in January. What I’ve discovered that creating a cohesive body of artwork is a much different experience than creating a single, stand-alone piece of artwork.

The Creative Experiment was one in which I worked on one piece until it was finished. Once finished, I started another. No piece of artwork was left unfinished. And no new piece of artwork was started until the previous one had been completely finished. This experiment had many different goals. But focusing on one piece of artwork at a time became increasingly important as the experiment progressed.

A different point of view:

When I sat down and started planning the pieces that I wanted to create for the Matara exhibit, I couldn’t just think about one piece of artwork at a time. A theme needed to be chosen and woven through all of the artwork that was to be created. The theme could vary in the degree to which it applied to each individual piece of art. But it needed to be present.

There was also the interesting creative challenge of creating new pieces of artwork that would be displayed on a vertical surface to consider. How would the themes I had chosen to with translate well in a vertical format? Would the themes be apparent to the viewer?

A big question for me was; what if the themes began to change as I worked on the individual pieces of art? This is an extremely frequent occurrence for me while I’m creating my artwork. Could the changes of theme in individual pieces of art alter the entire exhibit?

Organization:

To make sure that I wasn’t overwhelming myself with the endless possibilities of ‘what if’ questions, I needed to give myself a mental structure to adhere to. Something that wasn’t too confining. That could change according to my individual creative mental requirements.

A book format seemed logical to me. The exhibit is a story. The theme is the subject of the exhibit. Each piece of artwork is a chapter in the story. Additional themes and ideas can be woven in to each individual piece of artwork. A beginning and end of the exhibition are required as well. Even if that ‘ending’ requires a sequel.

Once I had decided on the book metaphor, I just needed to adjust where I wanted to put pieces of artwork in the exhibit. There’s also been some tweaking to each piece of artwork here and there. This was done to make sure that my artwork was accurately telling the story I needed it to tell.

Nothing is set in stone:

The aforementioned mental (and creative) organizational methodology may seem a little rigid. But I don’t see it that way. Changes in how I work creatively are always, always, always on the table for me.  Nothing is ever set or carved in stone for me!

There are parts of my personality that are super-flexible and this helps me to evaluate what working methods are beneficial, and which ones that aren’t. If the book metaphor ceases to give me the creative results and mental security that I need, then I’ll change it.

So, now what?

I will continue working on the pieces that I will be exhibiting at Matara in January 2021. As well as formulating new ideas and exploring new themes, materials and techniques for pieces that I will exhibit in December 2021-February 2022. Along the way, I will continue creating Go Marielle stories and posts. And creating and adding new items for sale in my online shop. And then there are the weekly blog posts…and Patreon that I want to get started.

Yeah. I have plenty to keep me busy.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Monday,

 

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How I Create Go Marielle

Why did I create Go Marielle?

I’d been thinking about doing something like Go Marielle for quite a long time. Simply put, I wanted to combine my original doll artwork with a story telling medium. When I began thinking about the idea, it seemed large and kind of un-doable to me. There were so many moving parts to the project.

I worried that I didn’t have the right computer programs or technical know-how. And that my camera skills and equipment were sorely lacking.  To be honest, all those things were true. They weren’t going to change any time soon either. But the idea still wouldn’t leave me along. So I wanted to give it a try.

What’s the worst thing that could happen? No one would like what I made?

Getting started

A central character was needed. The 12 cm tall dolls with boots I’d been making seemed a good choice. Their size made them easy to transport. I had made their faces very simple, so altering the photos as I had planned, would be easier.

Interestingly, I chose another doll for the central character while I was in the planning stages. Malvi was the doll I had chosen initially. But by the time she was finished, I had created several additional 12 cm dolls. Marielle was one of them. She just seemed…I don’t know, right for the role? Marielle had a je ne sais quoi that Malvi didn’t.

My husband helped me to come up with the title Go Marielle! I liked the translation into Finnish, Mene Marielle! as well. It has good alliteration, which is something I like a great deal.

I now had my main character created, as well as a name for her stories. Now to get some pictures taken.

Always taking pictures

I now never leave the house now without Marielle in my bag. Or more often, just tucked  inside my jacket pocket. Traveling with her this way means that I can take pictures on the fly. When-ever and where-ever I feel like. On the bus. Taking a walk. Looking at nature. Reading a book.

I may take a series of pictures for a longer story, or I may just get one or two pictures for a single daily post. There is some longer-term planning done for specific longer stories. In these cases, I need more detailed plans for when and where I will be taking photos with Marielle.

So far, the vast majority of the photos have been taken outside, or in stores and other public places. Natural light is the best for an amateur photographer like me. There are plans for a bedroom for Marielle in the works. I just need to find the time to build it!

Computer based programs

Remember, I’m a one-horse operation with a shoe-string budget! I have two different cameras that I can use to take photos, but the vast majority of the Go Marielle photos are taken using my Samsung mobile phone. It’s just convenient to the way in which I structure the Go Marielle stories. I can take pictures quickly and conveniently.

My computer is an older MacBook Pro. I use the Preview feature for the viewing, sorting, renaming and resizing of the photos. Adobe Photoshop is not something I can’t afford right now, so I’m using GIMP 2.10. There are some parts of GIMP that are less than intuitive. But I’ve been fortunate that there are YouTubers with good tutorials that have helped me quite a bit. It’s an excellent alternative to Photoshop.

To put the stories together, I’m using Canva. My husband had been using it for quite a while. He suggested that I give it a try. There are parts of Canva that I find really, really frustrating. It makes me wish that I could just magically have Adobe Illustrator at my disposal at times.

For me, the lack of finesse with the fiddly bits, like color, text and layering is what I find the most frustrating. But I know that’s because I have experience and training with more creatively flexible types of programs. Canva is a great tool though. With a price that is more easily absorbed for me at present.

Processing photos

I’ve begun to wear a path in the creation of the different daily and twice weekly longer story Go Marielle posts. All photos need to be uploaded to my computer. There are some days that I upload 60 to 80 photos, then others when I may upload 2 to 3 photos. I never completely know how many photos I will take on a given outing.

I sort them into two categories; longer stories and daily posts. I then go through all the photos, discarding ones that are duplicates, or blurry, etc. I resize and rename the remaining photos. Then it’s time to sort the photos into sequences that make sense for the longer stories.

My aim is for 10 photos, as Instagram posts have a limit on how many photos can be posted at once. More often than not, the stories either fall well short (around 6 to 7 panels) or well over (12-18 panels). Instagram has stories that I think I may look into for posting some of these longer stories.

Once the photos are chosen, sized, named and sequenced, they need to be color corrected. I admit, this is something I do not enjoy. My color correction skills are at best a bit ham-fisted. And I am painfully aware of this. Once they are all color corrected, I need to go through and remove the faces embroidered on the doll in GIMP. This can take anywhere from 10 minutes for a couple of photos, to almost an hour for a longer story.

Once the photos are completely processed, I upload them to Canva and begin putting all the pieces (photos, faces, text) together into a cohesive story.

Creating the faces

All of the pieces of Marielles face need to be dropped in and placed individually. Each piece of the face is drawn by hand. I don’t have a printer or scanner, so I photograph them instead. These photos also require photo processing on my computer (Back to Preview and GIMP!). The style in which I’ve drawn them is incredibly simple. So my rather clumsy work around of photographing my drawings doesn’t suffer too much through the photo processing.

Each of the facial elements has the backgrounds cleared, so they can be easily placed into an existing photo. Each of these facial elements are uploaded to Canva. I can then pick and choose from them after I finish writing the story.

Writing the story or text

Once the photos are sequenced in Canva, I drop in the text. I have an idea of what I want the story to be while I’m taking the initial photos, but nothing is ever carved in stone. Decisions regarding the final story aren’t made until I have the sequence of photos finalized. And even then, I sometimes pull out or add photos, as the story dictates.

The rough draft of the story is left at least overnight, so that I can edit it with a clear mind the next day. Usually it takes one or two story edits before I land on the story I want. Even then, I know I’m no great writer. There is a lot that I still have to learn. Fortune has graced me with a husband who’s a writer, so he’s there to help!

I have established days in which I work on the stories and the daily posts, so that I can leave them alone for a while before editing them prior to publication on Instagram. My Tuesdays and Fridays are largely spent working on computer on Go Marielle and other things, like blog posts.

All of the stories so far have been a learning lab of sorts for me. Discovering what works, what doesn’t. As well as finding the direction of the whole idea itself. I feel as though I’m getting closer to figuring out what I want Marielle herself to sound like. But again, I’m still in the discovery phase of this whole creation.

Adding the personality

The story dictates the facial expressions that Marielle will have. Happiness, shock, anger, frustration, surprise, etc. I want to show the emotion without being too complicated in the final product. Eyebrows are essential! So much emotion can be conveyed with an eyebrow!

There are times in which the angle of the photos makes it challenging to add the correct type of face. Especially when it comes to the eyes. I’m just kind of plowing ahead and trying to not let myself think too much about some of the really wonky angles and perspective that some of the finished stories have. I keep telling myself that the fantasy element of my storytelling and art creation allow for some of this wonkiness.

There are times while working that I need a new facial feature. My clumsy ‘draw and photograph’ method makes quick work of this. However, it should be noted that even the most simplistic facial feature usually requires two or three drawings on my part in pencil and pen, then looking at it on computer before I make a decision regarding which ones to keep and continue processing by removing the backgrounds, color correcting and resizing.

Finishing work

Once the photos, faces and story are completed. Then it’s ready to download from Canva. Each of the longer stories and the daily photos are downloaded so that I can give them a last look before posting them. If I’ve forgotten a face, or there is a spelling error. It’s caught at this point.

Now, here is where Canva becomes frustrating for me. I have had difficulties getting the smart phone version of the program to work on my phone. A work-around was required. The longer story and daily Go Marielle posts for Instagram are then sent to myself via Gmail. They can then be downloaded from my Gmail to my phone. I know this a clunky solution. But for now, it works.

I usually ‘batch’ my daily Go Marielle posts, and send myself several daily posts at once. Then I download each daily post as needed. There is a part of me that is always terrified that somehow my files are going to get lost or corrupted. Having a copy hanging around in my Gmail for a little while quells those fears. Yeah. I’m weird.

Hashtags

Hashtags are a bit of a headache for me right now. I’m doing some experimenting with them. They don’t seem to be working the way in which I would like them to. Well, the English language hashtags aren’t working as intended. The Finnish ones are fine. But this is an entirely different post!

The take away

What I have learned so far is that there is a lot more work in creating the daily and longer story Go Marielle pieces for Instagram. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the creative work a great deal. It’s just a lot of work! There are long-term plans that I have for Go Marielle. So I know that the investment of time and energy into building the foundations of the project are well worth the effort.

The take-away for those people who read and enjoy the Go Marielle posts that I post each week is that there is much, much more work going on behind the scenes than perhaps non-creatives know about.

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Friday.

 

 

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New Body of Work

Why create new artwork?

I have an upcoming art show taking place during the month of January 2021. It seems like a long way off in the future, but it’s much sooner that it seems. Creating new artwork specifically for an art show of my own is an amazing multi-level opportunity for me. On one hand, I get to make new and different artwork. And that’s always a good thing! On another hand, it’s good for publicity for myself as a working artist.

It’s just a jump to the left.

The biggest challenge of the gallery space I will be showing my work in is that the artwork all must be hung on the wall. There are no pedestals or cases for three-dimensional artwork. Everything I display must be able to hang on a vertical wall. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I do enjoy an artistic challenge. The learning potential for me as an artist is something I couldn’t pass up once my brain started chewing on it.

The challenge of creating and displaying work vertically also dove-tailed nicely into some ideas that I had been mulling over for quite a while.  In the physical world, display/storage space within my own flat is at a premium. Some of my artwork has begun going up onto the walls as a result. I’ve not been completely pleased with my results though. New methods will need to be devised

Part of that dove-tailing I mentioned, is also thematic for me in the creative sense. The concept of how we ‘store’ and ‘manage’ those intangible portions of our human experience. Where do those memories reside? How do some remain while others drift away into the ether? What effects do these memories, ideas, beliefs have on our present day existence? Do we need to have a place to put these things?

How I create artwork:

The Creative Experiment series of dolls fundamentally changed how I go about creating my artwork. Until just a few weeks ago, I was still unintentionally following one of the original parameters of the experiment; working on a piece until it was finished before starting the next piece. Even when working on the larger Play Set dolls (paper maché) I was still adhering to this parameter.

This method of working just wasn’t going to be efficient for the creation of this new body of artwork. This being said, I felt as though if I began working on several pieces at the same time, that the quality of the artwork would suffer. Suffer mostly because I wasn’t being completely present in the moment when working on an individual piece. I would lose the meaning of what I was creating in the attempt to make more artwork faster.

One bite at a time:

At first, I was a little confused as to exactly how I was going to create the new artwork for the show. The methods I’d employed during the Creative Experiment have served me very well, creatively speaking. But in creating the artwork for this show, I do not have the luxury of spending a month or more on a single piece.

As I went through my drawings and writings over the past few months, distinct themes began to emerge. The themes began to tell a story. I began to see each separate piece of artwork being a chapter of that story. The thematic structure I’ve begun to create has given me something to ‘hang’ the created artwork on.

When I approach each separate piece of artwork as a small part of a larger whole, my brain settles down. I become less anxious. I feel confident that I can work on multiple pieces simultaneously now. This is taking more planning on my part. I’ve outlined six new large pieces that I will create. These pieces will be using papier maché techniques. I’m also integrating a lot of the smaller dolls that I’ve creating as well.

Work has already begun:

Most of the pieces that I’ve been working on that are specifically for the art show are smaller, sewn components. The six small (12 cm) geometric form headed dolls are for a piece that will be in the show. The skeleton doll (30 cm), as well as another doll (30 cm) are also intended for the art show.

I’ve also been collecting a lot of the free materials I use in my artwork as well. Lidl is always a great source of card and carton board. I stumbled-upon a treasure trove of newspaper a month of so ago, and came home with a backpack overflowing with it! With autumn here in Finland, I can also venture outside for natural elements like wood and stone as well.

So now what?

I guess I would say, stay tuned. Because as always, I will be taking a ton of pictures of my artwork as it progresses to share with you!

 

Links:

How to Eat a Whale, Shel Silverstiein

Let’s do the Time Warp Again!; Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

 

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Creating New Small Dolls

Over the past week, I’ve begun work on a new group of Little Lady Dolls. One of the big reasons for this is that I just wanted something small to work on. Designing and building the large paper mâché Play Set Dolls, like Audrey, Kiddo or Crystal is incredibly satisfying to me as an artist. But they can also take such a very long time to create. My mind constructs the finished piece at a speed that the physical world just cannot compete with.

While I am still thoroughly enjoying the creative process, there’s a portion of my mind inhabited by the ever-impatient toddler who wants everything done right now. I can usually keep her relatively quiet. Mostly because the Play Set Dolls have so many individual moving components to them. With each completed part, my inner inpatient creative toddler is pacified a little bit. For me, this makes imagination and creativity flow a bit better.

Larger Little Lady Dolls:

A few months ago, I created what felt like gargantuan sized 12 cm tall dolls, based on the much smaller 6 cm Little Lady Doll pattern. I made three test dolls with the 12 cm pattern. Only one of them I considered a success. Two of the dolls were a full 12 cm tall and the third is 10 cm. For two of the dolls, the clothing I made just bothered me. It just didn’t look right. Putting my finger on precisely what was wrong with the dolls proved difficult, so I placed them aside and started work on Shirley and her doll house. I could always come back to the 12 cm dolls at some point in the future if I wanted to.

The yellow top on the light green doll just looks wrong to me. The colors are okay. I think it has something to do with the scale of the doll and the clothing style. This type of swingy, a-line top or dress looks great on dolls that are 5 cm tall and under. On a 12 cm doll it just looks so wrong to me. The 12 cm doll wearing overalls looks fine to me. In fact, she’s the one doll of the three test dolls that I consider a success.

The 10 cm doll is the worst of the three dolls. Her proportions are all off. The pant legs and arms need to be either longer or shorter. I thought that making the doll a little shorter would make the a-line top work. Nope. It somehow made the proportion problems even worse. The hairstyles are the only elements that I like for the above two dolls. The rest of them, especially their clothing is just…yuck. That seems so mean, doesn’t it?

Practice Makes Better:

These three dolls were practice. No one hits a home-run their first time at bat. The same is true for artists. I call my practice dolls ‘The Alpha Versions’. They are more or less, a proof of concept for me. I’m not looking for them to be perfect. And anyway, there’s no perfect in the practice of art making. It’s all a series of educated attempts. Sometimes the attempts are successful to a degree. There are times in which the attempt is just an abject failure, not even worthy of a picture as reference. Practice is practice. I learn what works, and what doesn’t work. The failures are where most of the learning takes place in my opinion.

Failure is not a bad thing. If you learn from it, and then make changes when making a second, third or fourth attempt, you are amassing quite a bit of knowledge and practice for the fifth, sixth and seventh attempts. Failure isn’t a bad thing until it prevents you from that eighth attempt at success. You may not realize it at the time, but you get a little better each time you try and (maybe) fail.

This was always a difficult concept to teach to the students in my art classes. It was therefore part of my job as an art teacher to give these students a safe place in which to fail. This made failure just part of the overall art-creating experience. And in the long run, it taught students to be okay with not being terrific at something the first time they tried it. Failure taught them to pick themselves up. Dust themselves off. Look at what they did. Make a new plan. Decide on a new course of action. Then to implement it.

Open Mouth, Insert Money:

I’m practicing what I’m preaching by giving the 12 cm dolls another try. There are some ideas that I’ve been wanting to try out on this size of doll. Smaller dolls would not necessarily work for them I think. “I think“, because I do not know. The 12 cm dolls may be an abject failure within the confines of this new idea that I have. Who knows? No one will, not unless I make the attempt.

Making shoes is one of the worst parts of doll making, in my opinion. There is just something about it that I cannot seem to get my brain around in concrete way. I’ve made the above kinds of boots for dolls previously. They’re fairly easy to create. Yes. They look like Ugg boots. Having the dolls wear them isn’t so much a fashion statement, but a means to have them stand on their own. As much as I dislike making doll shoes, I still work hard to create dolls that can stand on their own. Two legs or six, I want them to be free-standing.

These boots aren’t perfect. I will need to tweak the pattern here and there. Hopefully, I will get closer to what I want after making a few more pairs. As you can see, the boots are removable, at least for now. I’m not sure if I will attach them permanently or not. What I do know is that at this point, just after making the boots, these two 12 cm dolls look better proportioned to me than my previous attempts.

I’ve planned their outfits out a little bit. Colors have been chosen as well. I know that I will not be creating any swingy, a-line tops or skirts for them. See?! I’m learning!

Conclusion:

Practice is great. It won’t all look good. Some of it will look bad. In my experience, a lot of this practice will kind of look ‘okay’. The point is not to despair! Keep working, even when you’re not quite sure what’s not right, or where you might be going. Plant one creative foot in front of the other and do the work.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Monday,

Links:

Nukkekoti Väinölä: Maria Malmstrom has an amazing doll house site! Her miniatures are fabulous! Her designs just blow me away! She’s got all kinds of kits to purchase! Check out her online shop here!

Gepetto: I have a few pieces of Gepetto furniture. It’s super-cute and very easy to put together. They have multiple scales available and they’re kid-friendly. One of the pictures earlier in this post has my dolls sitting in Gepetto chairs.

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Autotelic Creating Artwork Utilizing Flow States

There were two things that I read over this past week that got me thinking about selling the artwork that I make. One was a response to a picture of my artwork posted on Facebook. The other being something that I read in passing on Instagram. At first glance, they don’t seem all that related to one another. It was only after unpacking them that I made the connections.

I had posted a series of process pictures of some small and tiny dolls that I had recently started making. Previous to this, I’d posted a picture of the neat, little, stacks of felt pieces that I had cut in preparation for making the dolls.

…I have often wondered if you have more than the allotted 24 hours in a day because of the volume of what you make with your gifted hands…how do you do this?!?!?

How do I do this?

Here’s a more direct kind of hourly break-down. he picture above shows twenty-two doll heads. Ten of them are for 12 cm tall dolls, and twelve of them are for 6 cm tall dolls. To sew, stuff and embroider twenty-two small doll heads took me around eight hours to complete. Attaching the abdomens to the heads takes another six (or more) hours of work. Sewing the base hair onto each doll head took me a little longer than eight hours. I started the arms and legs yesterday afternoon, and managed to complete six dolls limbs in around four and half to five hours.

If I were to be cheeky about answering my friends question, I would have said, “I just sit down and work. That’s how it gets done.” Of course, that’s just me being a bit of a jerk. And I would never answer someone so flippantly. But, my cheeky answer is the closest to the truth. I sit down. Work starts. Time passes. The work continues. My mind is occupied. The work is completed. In reality, it’s all just me entering a flow state.

Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’…

I’ve talked about flow state before in my blog. In a nutshell, when a person is actively working on something that they are very interested in, or perhaps extremely invested in, on a personal or professional level, a person can become so engrossed in what they are doing that time just kind of slips by with little notice. The work becomes the center of all attention.

For me, flow state isn’t difficult to achieve. However, I’ve made decisions about my life that have allowed me greater freedoms to do as I wish with a great deal of my time. My husband and I both work from home. And we don’t have children. Together, we have built a life in which our wants and needs are few. Outside distractions for me are extremely limited. I am free to create for hours on end, while not depriving anyone or anything of my attention.

My personality is also fairly autotelic. Which also just fits into the overall construction of my life at present. I create because I need to create. It’s great to sell my work too. Regardless of whether it sells or not, I will continue making artwork. Creation of art is not done only for the potential of a monetary reward.

Seven further qualifiers:

Owen Schaffer added what he calls the Seven Conditions of Flow to Csikzentmihalyi, Nakamura and Cherry’s work on the concept of flow. I think they’re very much in play while I’m actively engaged in creating my artwork.

  1. Knowing what to do
  2. Knowing how to do it
  3. Knowing how well you’re doing
  4. Knowing where to go (if navigation is involved)
  5. High perceived challenges
  6. High perceived skills
  7. Freedom from distractions

My friend expresses disbelief that this much work could be created in such a short amount of time. It’s not magic. The seven conditions almost seem like a set of step-by-step directions to me. Know what do to – CHECK! Know how to do it – CHECK! Not all of the conditions have to be present at all times either. Sometimes, I have no idea where I am going when I’m creating artwork. I suppose that the perception of the challenge compensates for no internal sense of direction at times.

It should be mentioned that this is not the first time that I have received comments like the one that spurred this post. Rarely are the conditions right for me to offer-up all of the information I feel explains this perceived ‘ability’ to anyone remarking on my high-output of artwork. Can you imagine offering up all of this information to a total stranger at an art show? A cocktail party? A cook-out? (Insert hysterical, off-putting laughter here.)

So yeah. (clears throat) That’s how I do what I do.

What was the other thing?

I’m kind of kicking myself for not downloading it. It was something that popped up in my Instagram feed. The post was by a ceramicist, and directed at potential customers purchasing original art and handmade objects directly from creators. It was something like the picture below.

I think that the text of the Instagram post that I saw was very similar to this one. There are several of these kinds of posts floating around on the internet and social media.

What relates the post to what your friend said?

When I’m in that flow state, and I’m creating. Time is gone. My art is in front of me. I’m working on it. Everything outside of my mind and my hands and my art is gone. And yes, for me, time is suspended. I derive an insane amount of pleasure from creating what I create. Sharing the artwork that I create with people, perhaps even selling some of it, that’s also amazing. The overlap occurs within the act of creation for me.

When a person buys my work, they’re getting a slice of the flow. My flow.

It’s like stepping into a stream and feeling the current of the water around your bare feet. Then reaching down and picking up a shiny pebble. It may have taken ten, twenty, thirty years for that bright, shiny pebble to make it’s way down from the top of the mountain. All the while, the water kept moving. And moving. And moving. And the pebble got pushed a little here and a little there. That pebble got to where it was from all that flow pushing it along right to where it was in your path and it grabbed your attention.

I encourage everyone to go out and stick your feet in a stream or pond now and again, if it’s possible. Or, you could go look for a your very own slice of flow in my shop. You’re choice. No pressure. I needed to get in my shameless plug for sales.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again on Monday,

 

Links:

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: TED Talk about Flow

Schaffer, Owen (2013), Crafting Fun User Experiences: A Method to Facilitate Flow, Human Factors International

Steve Miller Band: A live performance of ‘Fly Like an Eagle‘ or you can you can give the LP version a listen here.

Autotelic Personality: How Personality and Self-Perception Relate to Flow Propensity