Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Refreshing Your Creative Practice, Week 5

Labor Pains

This is the final week of the online course. There will be one more phone conference but the group members seem to all feel the call to choice-making and action. Leslie raised the question this week for us all to consider: What do you need to reach your goal?

My goals sounded clear enough; launch new work for an exhibition in June. Implicit in that outer goal are more challenging ones, however;  believing in my inner guidance to direct me as I create and in my artistic abilities to produce good work. So what I need to reach my goal is confidence in my artistic abilities.

Since I set up that action plan, I’ve been working steadily on the first new piece. Sometimes it has been fatiguing.  Repetitive work takes perseverance.  That’s the physical part of the process.

However, it has been the emotional end of birthing this first new piece that has presented the greater challenge. My original design on the sample didn't work on the larger piece.  At the very final stages of completing it, I tried  a number of options and ideas and all I did for two days was rule each one out. That’s when the doubt and anxiety started to climb.

This weekend turned into a veritable labor and delivery scenario. I was scared -- scared of failure, scared of mediocrity -- of disappointing others and myself. Making the final choices to finish the piece and trusting my choices felt like the labor of childbirth  --but unfortunately the images of pink, healthy babies got thrown out the window and scenes from Rosemary’s Baby crept in.

My inner critic kept telling me I had built up the expectations too high in my and others’ minds for this firstborn piece in this series  -- and this child would arrive scrawny and and red-faced and screamin' ugly.

But I persevered through the labor and birthing process, through the fatigue and fear and not knowing what the outcome would be once I washed away the water soluble materials to view the finished product. I did all the positive self-taught that Leslie has  reminded us to do during this course and gently worked to soothe away the distress and anxieties. I took on the the job of being my own midwife.

Birth Announcement

I did it!! On Sunday evening, February 21 at 9:oo PM, a new work entered the world!

Here it is stretched out on the floor after washing and pressing. Although the darker letters may look black in this picture (wrong lighting), they are actually shades of light to medium gray.

I woke up yesterday morning with ideas to flank it on both sides with two pieces that can work individually or create a triptych. My thumb is out of my mouth, I don't feel emotionally needy and desperate and I'm confident in the work and the ideas that are driving it.

The lure of staying with a series like this is believing that by creating a container for exploration, one will move through the expected variations and then begin fleshing out the unexpected, the exciting. 

Sketching ways to combine and install these long narrow hangings, it’s becoming apparent to me that the ideas I’m getting for these are becoming more sculptural. It’s exciting.

There are no guarantees that any of these new ideas will work and it feels a bit like I'm using my hands to feel around in the dark, but I know that even in the dark if you wait long enough to get used to it, faint outlines will appear and you can navigate.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Refreshing Creative Practice, Week 4


Planning. Focus. Commitment. Action. All excellent words for the working artist, but not everyone knows HOW.

For the fourth session of Leslie Avon Miller’s Refreshing Your Creative Practice telecourse, she presented a goal setting rubric to help artists commit to action. The acronym for it is SMART.







Here are the components for a plan:

Build on strengths

Cultivate excitement

Starve problems

Feed solutions

This week’s assignment? Write a series of action steps and time lines to accomplish a specific, measurable goal. Each person in the group interpreted and responded to the idea of planning in a slightly different way, one of the best things about sharing a process like this in a group.

Since I  have a very specific exhibition scheduled at the Adirondack Center for the Arts in June and July of this year, my plan revolves around my commitment to create new “Pages” constructions for the exhibit.

Pages 3 full

To refresh your memory about this series, here is Pages 3.

Just choosing the name “Entwining Alphabets” for the exhibition has started a flow of ideas and imagery that are helping to clarify my work with letterforms.

So here is a condensed, edited version of  the short term goals in my S.M.A.R.T. plan:


 Create 10-12 new constructed silk Pages pieces for Adirondack Arts Center gallery exhibit titled "Entwining Alphabets" by June 1, 2010

1. Set up and follow monthly production goals: Complete two pieces by March 1; 2-3 pieces by April 1; 3-4 pieces by May 1; 3-4 pieces by June 1st. I can do this because I have worked out many of the issues for this series in the six pieces that I've already completed in this vein and know that it takes approximately 5-6 days to construct each piece.

2. Practice positive self-talk DAILY about my work and myself. Believe in my talent and artistic ability and use affirmation, law of attraction, positive thinking to keep myself balanced and centered as I work. Affirm that I am a gifted artist, that I continuously attract the right and perfect opportunities and meaningful associations with others as I grow and expand and mature in my work and vision. I am a conduit for powerful work.

3. Continue to sample each idea/variation before beginning a full length work and commit to staying with the idea as I start creating (I have this tendency to "what if" myself over the edges of high cliffs as I'm working -- at the moment they feel like brilliant inspirations, but often create new problems. I need to get these "brainstorm" ideas down for future experimentation but also complete the current vision before leaping into the next one.)

4. Get all these pieces professionally photographed in small groups as I go.

5. Select one work or detail for postcard. Order these by April 15; have them shipped to arts center by April 30.

6 Prepare mailing list and labels for up to 200 contacts for arts center and mail to them by April 30.

7.  Send out pr notices to local and regional publications about the exhibition along with a hi-res image by May 15.

8.  Review and revise artist statement and portfolio and prepare to ship these with my work.

9. Pack and ship all work to arts center by June 4, 2010 with hanging instructions.


Because this is a very disciplined and product oriented list, I need to add rewards to indulge my playful, inventive side over the next few months. Here's how I will do this:

1. Give myself one day a week to "play" in my studio with painting, calligraphic marks and experimentation that will fuel new ideas for this series and others.

2. Make sure I continue to do my jazzercise classes to keep my body energized and to satisfy my "inner dancer." Take walks and get outside whenever possible.

3. Write and share my progress each week and applaud myself for every step forward.

4. Set up a weekly "artist date" for stimulation and a break. Saturday morning I went to a demo by a print maker at a local college and enjoyed seeing her work and process, so different from mine but definitely stimulating.  This week I’m attending a Syracuse University fiber art alumni opening and exhibition.

5. Socialize! Seek out and enjoy quality time with fellow artists.

Making work for me is the most exciting and challenging activity of my life. Combining my art practice with healthy lifestyle choices and happy interactions with family and friends is a prospect that both excites me and fulfills me.

I envision this year as one in which I SOAR -- not alone and predatory like a circling hawk, but in a supportive, bonded community like geese!


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Refreshing a Creative Practice, Week 3

Momentum. What a lovely state of being. The ideas pour out, my notebook pages fill with notes, sketches, quotes and insights. It seems that an image or idea serendipitously arrives daily to add another log to the creative fire. While inside me this vortex of energy pulses with strong intention and direction, on the outside I am engaged in the most menial, repetitive and tedious of activities, cutting out letters that will become a new Pages piece. It is the first one I've started in over a year. Interestingly enough, I am picking up again exactly where I left off, the time consuming task of cutting all the elements that I will use in this piece.

A piece by Mark Fox that is part of the current exhibition "Topographies", at the Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo.

This piece by Polly Apfelbaum is also part of the same exhibition.

For week three in our Refreshing Creative Practice course Leslie slowed down the pace during our teleconference call with a guided meditation. As we relaxed and got centered and comfortable, she suggested that we imagine ourselves projecting ahead in time 10 years and visualize meeting ourselves. Extraordinary exercise to contemplate yourself ten years in the future, consider what you will look like, where you will live and what you will be doing and feeling. Me at 70? -- a radiant and strong presence. I looked and felt vibrant, energetic and confident. A future self to inspire the current one.

Members of the class have responded to Leslie's invitation this week to share the names and works of artists who inspire them on our class blog. After recently visiting the Topographies exhibition at the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo, I'm currently quite inspired by Mark Fox, Tara Donovan and Polly Apfelbaum. The works included by these artists in the exhibit were all 3-D installations that involve repetition. The interaction between the materials and the space and the dimensionality of the works have been in my thoughts since I first encountered them. It was the first time I had seen Apfelbaum's and Donovan's works in person. They touched a chord.
Polly dyes and cuts each piece individually for the hundreds and hundreds of pieces that comprise her floor installations. I find that information wonderfully reassuring right now!