Sunday, November 16, 2008

Playing Poker for Paper Clips

Have you ever noticed how much bolder you get when the stakes are way low? You still deal the cards, play poker and bet -- BIG bets! --because instead of real money you substitute paper clips or buttons or M&Ms and suddenly you're bluffing, raising and calling and having one heck of a good time!

Lowering the stakes is a technique that can come in handy for artists too. Obviously I'm working very commitedly to build a body of work. Can one be too committed, too goal directed, set one's expectations too high? When the stars align and every creative choice falls into place, commitment and direction add more fuel to the already glowing bonfire. But after a period of intense work and productivity, it may be more self-destructive than constructive to force or try to keep one's creative burner cranked up to "High" when the energy just isn't connecting with the work.

It seems to me that my wisest choice between now and the end of the year is to let go of the goal to add three or four more finished pieces to this series and stick with playful exploration and experimentation. On Thursday I painted the piece above using a combination of monoprinting and direct application. It has wonderful movement and feels relaxed and natural. The letter forms have more spontaneity and looser edges than the sheer ones I've cut out previously. I envision combining the two eventually rather than choosing one or the other.

For the next five or six weeks I can create these small works and use them to experiment with different ideas for stitching -- and making this choice releases a lot of tension. The work feels fun again, my sense of adventure is back and my paper clip pile is almost immediately responding by growing and growing. Pretty soon it will be downright HUGE.


  1. I love this piece. It grabbed me and then my eye wandered: alive,free and speaking. This 'play' is definitely inspiring. So exciting to see what this may one day influence. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. Hi Jeanne, It's good to see you ease the pressure on yourself, and allow experimentation and play. This piece has vitality, rhythm and wonderful shapes. The artist's path can be bumpy sometimes, smooth sometimes. Stay the course! Rosemary
    Rosemary Claus-Gray

  3. I see why you like this so much. It does have wonderful flow - I really like it. You are absolutely right about how uptight we can get when unduly pressuring ourselves to perform. Some times a little play produces more than all that serious focus. The key is balancing the two, of course!