Category Archives: Emotions

Naturally Occurring Processes

Recently, I’ve had a few people ask me how I create the artwork I make. Specifically, there were a few who asked me if I did any kind of sketching prior to the creation of my work. It sounds like an easy question to answer. It’s a yes, no, or ‘sorta’ type of question. If you’ve read anything I’ve posted here in the past, there is no such thing as a ‘simple answer’ for me. I’ve got to make it insanely complicated and dissect my whole personal history of sketching, so that I can answer, yes, no, or sorta.

I’ve had sketchbooks for as long as I can remember drawing. My early adult manner of keeping a sketchbook solidified when I was in art school in the early 1990’s. I’ve always found proper drawing paper incredibly intimidating, so the vast majority of my sketchbooks were 5 by 7 in. (12 by 18 cm approx.) Mead 5-Star Spiral Bound Notebooks, college ruled. I did a great deal of writing in them, along with drawings and sketching out ideas for illustrations, prints and hand-bound books. Yes. You read that correctly. I was learning how to bind books, but chose a mass produced sketchbook for myself.

There was a period of my life in which I lived the greater part of my creative life inside of my sketchbooks. They were always close at hand. I was very possessive of them, never letting anyone look at what I was writing or drawing. By the time I moved to New Mexico, the vast majority of my physical art creation were direct photocopies of selected pages of my sketchbooks, hand-painted and sometimes altered. I was letting people see portions of my sketchbook, but edited and altered them as I saw fit.

I’m sure that these sketchbooks are largely unintelligible, due to the subject matter I was writing and drawing about, as well as my incredibly bad longhand writing style. I coded some things within my sketchbooks, on the off-chance that anyone would read them. When I was in my early teens, my younger brother read portions of my personal journal. When I complained, loudly and through tears, to our mother, I was made to feel as though the invasion into my privacy did not matter. That left a deep mark on me. I leaned-in to my horrid handwriting and added codes and abbreviations to deter/confuse anyone who might attempt to pry into my private thoughts.

My privacy was invaded again as an adult, when people in the small office I was working in went through my sketchbook and journal when I was out of the office. They could make heads nor tails of anything I had written (remember: bad handwriting and codes) or drawn. My personal style is very Dada and Surrealism influenced, so my drawings meant little to them. I’m led to believe my co-workers did this because they thought I was writing down things about them.

Nope. I was just writing about how depressed and unhappy I was. (insert shrugged shoulder emoji here.)

When I began teaching art in the public schools, my daily Class Notes became the place in which I did a great deal of writing. This writing was a form of reflexive writing, used to assist me in being a better teacher. I had a form that I printed out, with four sections. I filled out the day and time, the class grade, teacher and the lesson taught. I still wrote in code. Again, there were times when my clipboard was out of my control. Although, now that I think about it, my handwriting was enough to disguise everything. ANYWAY, these class notes were kept for use by me, with occasional usage by others, like classroom teachers, or principals. They really did save my bacon a number of times, and in a variety of ways.

After moving here to Finland, I began making my own sketchbooks, partially because I wanted to, and partially because the types of note or sketchbooks I wanted were out of my price range. Even though I can create utilize much more complicated bookbinding techniques, I go the easy route with my own note and sketchbooks; a saddle stitch. I use recycled carton board for the covers, and loose-leaf notebook paper for the inside pages. I like the graph paper that is used here in Finland. It lends itself to drawing as well. A little folding, a little stitching, some tape and ephemera decorations and voila! I have a sketchbook. I do sometimes use a sulfide drawing paper, but not always. It depends on the mood I’m in, or rather, do I really want to hunt for the drawing paper.

My current sketchbooks are filled, just like my previous sketchbooks, but not in the same amount of detail (and not nearly the amount of depression) that they once were. I feel like there has been some switch flipped in my brain regarding the amount of sketching or drawing I do prior to beginning a piece now. I just don’t feel like I have to, or need to spend days or weeks drawing before beginning work on an idea or theme or doll. I’m choosing to call this the ‘Pinto Rule’.

(Okay. Long story longer. I had a photo teacher while I was getting my art education degree who counseled me regarding writing good art lessons that were in compliance with the state standards and benchmarks for art and education. A good lesson would fit nicely, and the standards and benchmarks would fall into place within the lesson, some lessons you might have to rethink or work a little to make them fit, while other lessons just did not fit and would never fit, maybe. So, just put them aside and work with the lessons that do. Applied to my own personal art creation, I use this rule to use and keep the good ideas, the ones that won’t leave me alone mentally. The others, that require too much effort to stuff them into my sketchbook. Put them aside and let them be.)

In New Mexico, I created very detailed sketches of the dolls that I was creating. Full-on colour sketches with over-lays, etc. And while I like the work that I did, there seems to be something missing in it when I look at it now. I think that’s because I know what the sketches looked like and how the finished work failed to live-up to the vision I had for them. The doll work that I have created here in Finland has, by comparison, very little sketching or planning done prior to the actual artwork being created. This has been practiced for the past two years through the Creative Experiment.

The Creative Experiment was meant to just give my creativity a little jump-start. It evolved into something far more complicated for me creatively speaking. In a nutshell, I did no sketches and just started working with the materials in front of me. I felt as though I needed to be more comfortable swimming around in the ‘grey space’. One of the unexpected outcomes from the experiment was that I stopped needing to sketch or draw so much. I was still drawing and sketching, in my mind, but also in three-dimensions, while I was creating the work. And the ‘sketching’ that I’m doing happens more as performance, while taking this shape and putting it with that shape, in the physical world. My sketching is me playing around with the forms that I build out of cardboard and papier mache.

I still sketch. They’re really rough though. Mostly shapes and colours. I may work out how I want the limbs to look. How I want the eye to travel when looking at the piece. I do still enjoy seeing how different ideas smash up against other ideas on the pages of my sketchbook, but I don’t ‘live’ there anymore. I don’t have to anymore. My handwriting is still awful and yes, I will always write in code sometimes. And no, I will not share my sketchbook with you, and woe be unto the person I find pawing through it without my permission.

Woe. (insert a stern look here.)

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

 

Breakdown the Pretence

Marcel Duchamp New York, Bicycle Wheel 1951 (third version, after lost original 1913) MoMA

What is the problem you are solving for?

I’ve been thinking about this question for quite some time as it relates to the artwork that I create. I’ve been pulling at strings to see where they go. I’ve found myself surprised at what parts of my thinking and feeling that these strings have become attached to. There are times in which I become impatient and pull a little too hard on that string, from a little too far away. Then I find myself knee-deep in an emotional mess that will take me days or weeks to mentally clean up. Curse my never-ending curiosity! Curse my never ending impatience! (insert angry fist shaking at the sky)

The aforementioned question is related to what I think is simple envy. Envy of artists and creators that have found a level of acceptance and/or acclaim by I guess what you could call, the ‘larger professional art world’ as well their levels of financial success. As the mortal sins go, envy is one that I do not like seeing within myself. It can get ugly unbelievably quickly. I spreads and begins poisoning all thought and emotion. This the thread that I have been tugging on.

I have recently had some small successes in selling some of my own artwork. It’s been nice to have some extra money coming in. I’d like to be able to make that continue. Small sales successes are super-nice and I am insanely grateful to those people who have purchased my artwork. Maybe doing that would keep envy at bay for me?

No. I don’t think so, because I’ve been looking at the question all wrong and being far too simplistic in my answer to myself.

The artists and craftspeople who are successful are working their collective asses off. They hustle hard. Then they go and hustle some more. They are dedicated and keep plugging away, making pieces of artwork to sell. Packing it up and taking it to art and craft shows. Putting it all up. Tearing it all down. Turning around and doing it again, and again, and again. The whole while, they’re making more artwork to sell. (Insert the sound of a needle being ripped from an LP)

Wait a minute, what was the problem I was solving for again? Oh yeah. I make my artwork for me. In the words of Colin Moulding (XTC), “I am the audience.” I make the artwork that I want to make, when I want to make it. I do not make artwork for an imagined customer. It’s great when people do purchase my artwork. They’ve seen something that they like and they like it enough to give me money for it. I don’t know what people in the ‘greater art world’ think of what I make. I never seem to get far enough along in the process of showing my work in well established galleries to find out what they think. (shoulder shrug inserted here)

There have been times in my past where I have made artwork expressly for sale, but I never quite got the knack of it. It never felt ‘right’ in the sense that I don’t feel like I was being true to myself and my own need for free creative expression.

My question is answered. Envy has been abated.

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

PS: Here is a Santigold song, L.E.S. Artistes that I’ve had as accompaniment in my head for the past week.

 

Mental Bonfire Making

I have an incredibly distorted view of how I’m seen and understood by the people around me. My assumption is that people do not like me. Whatever situation I find myself going into, I actually think to myself, “Now remember, people don’t like you. You are loud and obnoxious. People will hate that. Oh yeah, and you’re fat too. People hate that as well.” I tell myself that I need to compensate for these deformed bits of my personality and physicality, as well as preparing myself mentally and emotionally for ‘Personal Interaction Scenarios A thru ZZZ’. I seriously hear the flipping of a rolodex in my head when thinking about my mental and emotional ‘contingency plans’.

I’m constantly surprised that I have friends who actually willing to spend time with me. As a write this, I’ve got plans this afternoon to meet up with some friends for our annual Christmas cookie exchange. And even thought I’ve known these lovely people for more than four years, I’m still surprised that get invited to do things like this.

Until meeting, dating and marrying my husband, I had an incredibly ‘transactional’ understanding of the concept of love. Romantic love, fraternal love, all kinds of love and friendship, etc., it had become hard-wired into my mind that if I wanted someone to love me, or simply want to be my friend, I needed to give them things (gifts) to make them love me or at least tolerate my company. The more things I gave them, or did for them, the more likely it would be for them to love me and accept me for the loud, obnoxious, lumpy creature that I am.

What does this have to do with anything other than explaining how incredibly messed-up I am? This malformed part of my emotional functioning is one of the foundations upon which stands career as an artist. That is to say, my hesitation and difficulties in creating a more stable artistic career for myself.

As I’ve written previously, my artwork is personal and comes from weird mental and emotional head-spaces of my current and past life experiences. Having this as inspiration for art work creation is well and good, but when money is added to the equation, my mind and heart race and panic begins to set in. (As I type this, I can feel my heart-rate increase.)

Uhh…what are you talking about?

Money makes me panic. Having too much money. Having too little money. Having exactly the right amount of money. It just makes me panic. I don’t like thinking about it. I certainly don’t like worrying about it. For me, money is panic and panic is not good. I like being in control of my mind and body and panic takes that control away from me, until I can wrestle it into a modicum of control.

Anyway, back to how adding money to the equation that includes quantities like my artwork. (Man. For a self-proclaimed ‘non-mathematical person’, I sure do use a lot of mathematical functions to explain myself.)

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I create a lot of artwork. I post a lot of pictures of my artistic process and how my work comes together in the physical sense. My most recent work has not been offered for sale, mostly because I don’t think anyone would want to buy it. I spend weeks working on individual dolls, and I feel as though the prices that I would ask would put off prospective buyers, with most thinking that my prices were too high for an unknown artist. Even calculating a price for one of these pieces sent me into a panic-spiral.

There are times in which I create art that I think might be something that an individual might want to purchase. I do at those times, offer my dolls, my artwork, for sale. When those pieces don’t sell, then enters my malformed internal ‘transactional love’ mechanism.

Allow me to explain via a scenario: I make a piece of artwork. It gets a lot of likes. People tell me that I should be selling this artwork. I feel love and acceptance, because people I have never met tell me they like my artwork enough to buy it. I post the artwork for sale. No one buys the artwork. Love and acceptance fading. Malformed internal ‘transactional love’ mechanism reinforced. Money = Panic bond reinforced.

Let me be the first to say, I KNOW THIS IS REALLY, REALLY, STUPID AND NOT AT ALL THE WAY THAT ANY OF THIS HAPPENS OUTSIDE OF MY OWN, TINY, INSULAR HEAD. NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE. I’m not so mentally and emotionally unaware that I do not know that this is incredibly, horrifically, insanely messed-up, and that all that ‘messed-up’ is totally on me. I grew up with this weird understanding of love as being something transactional. I know that the world owes me exactly nothing. I am free to make all the artwork I want to, but there is no law that says anyone has to like it and/or buy it. I know this. I know this. I know this. But this is the logical part of my brain, the emotional part of my brain is still madly scribbling complex mathematical equations on a chalkboard, sobbing uncontrollably and contemplating creating a bonfire of my artwork.

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