Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Back To The Studio After a Fallow Period

Welcome to my new blog. It's been over a year since writing in my old and now deleted 'Stratawax' blog. I thought I could find that lost blog via the 'Wayback Machine' but nothing came up, so here I am on a perfect stormy, rainy afternoon in the SF Bay Area writing a new one! Oh, if you're looking for something on the internet as far back as 1996, you can search for it there.

This weekend I sat with many of my studio notebooks and found the notes for a topic I was planning to write about in the Fall of 2007 -- "Resolving"... I never wrote in a studio notebook nor did I paint or draw again until December of 2008. Yes, 2008 was a big year for me -- my mother confirms it was the 'worst year' of my entire life! And, I can't argue with her on that!

So, not knowing exactly where to start, I've decided to pick up where I left off writing. In fact, this is exactly what I did when I returned to the studio to paint again continuing with my series, "Private Lines". Isn't this what your therapist says when you flop in her chair and aren't sure where to begin and she says, "Just start with where you are right now?"

This is now for me. As artists opposed to non-artists, we have certain personality traits I feel we face more regularly which frustrate us and get in the way of making art. There are several traits and 'resolving' is one that was significant to me in 2007. To roll it forwards, I have reflected on the past 4 months in regards to what happened to resolve/unfreeze my blockage to create again.

Resolving has different meanings for every artist and at different moments. For me, it wasn't just about resolving a single painting, but finding my way back to studio life again as an abstract painter. I never lost the attraction or need to paint. I just couldn't create. The dreaded sources of blocks -- self-doubt, situational blocks, fatique, anxiety, depression, conflicts between life and art...you know this internal process. This time it was the longest block and I have to call it another 'fallow' period' in my life.

Having a certification in Expressive Art Therapy and working in that field for over 10 years, I couldn't hide from understanding what was happening to me. I had to relax, take the pressure off and wait. The process was slow and I was definitely blocked. The real unthawing moment finally arrived through helping my daughter (16) with a Christmas Art Project -- gifts for her 13 teachers. Artistically gifted as she is, I shared 1/2 of my studio table with Livvy and provided her with all the materials she needed. I didn't care that I gave her access to my fine art supplies -- Golden Paints and small museum-grade cradled canvases. Someone had to do some art! ( I remember raiding my Dad's graphic artist materials at age 11).

The simple process of gathering and setting her up awakened that process inside of me. I had to show up for her. Patience and doing something familiar in the Studio can be the beginning of a thaw for an artist that has experienced a lengthy fallow period. Sorting through my materials excited for her was the initial portal back to painting. I didn't paint, too much pressure to make a painting. I brought out pastels and a sketch pad. After a day of that, I brought out the oil paints, painting circles on Sumi, that got boring fast and in a few days I dived in and set up. Painting in Encaustic (pigment, resin & beeswax) media has a serious set-up factor! I was excited and the anxiety subsided.

I pulled out the most recent set of paintings. A set of 16 12"x12" birch panels. There were 6 finished pieces and 10 blank panels. Holy shit! How was I going to get back into that series? This was also my new direction into mixed media (graphite, oil, acrylic & wax). Studio notebooks!!! I had kept great notes with paint mixing information and color charts!

Again, "resolving" came back to challenge. I knew I had to finish what was started. This returning to resolve and finish could help me find the thread to move forward. At the time it was my only thread. It was hard work but it sharpened my chops. Resolving pushes you again to work harder and to make your art as good as you can make it.

Through my process came the latest series, "Rearranged" which is my current work and expanding rather quickly. Yes, my life has been completely rearranged in many ways.

The work is always intuitive for me as I work with color and the grid is moving around and floating shapes are appearing and disappearing without a plan.

As artists, living in the studio is what we have to do. Some days we are in the zone and then there are days when we just have to sweep, paint the studio door again or whatever it takes.

It feels great to be painting again! And, now the writing block has thawed as well.

"Incubation & Fallow Periods"

If you're honorably wrestling with artistic questions subconsciously, that is, if you're doing the work of writing or painting but without pen or brush in hand, you may still consciously feel blocked and frustrated. Ideas in art often must incubate, just as ideas in science often must incubate; but neither the artist nor the scientist feels fully content as he lets his unconscious do the work. Still, you must sometimes wait. You may be in the minority and have symphonies come to you whole, as they came to Mozart. But even then you must wait, as Mozart did, for the propitious carriage ride during which the symphony courses through you. Or you may be in the majority, in which case you must sometimes wait on a given piece for days, weeks, years, or even decades, as Beethoven sometimes waited for his musical bits and scraps to come together as symphonies.

-Eric Maisel, PhD
Creativity for Life


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