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.


  1. I so enjoyed reading this post! Yes, to the birthing process and yes, to loving the baby and bringing it into life. Congratulations on first steps and good first steps in this most beautiful exploration of yours...Here is to rich art making experiences (not always easy) that have their very own and beautiful outcome!!

  2. And yes, to thinking sculpturally about installation possibilities. There is so much implied movement in the way the letter forms interact in this piece, I keep imagining that element carried into the final presentation of it. It looks delicate enough to move with the slightest breath of air, and I am visualizing the veil of ambiguity such random shifts would lend the piece. Or being able to walk around the piece, hung away from the wall. What might I see through it? How might it mediate the three dimensional space it occupies?

    You see, far from disappointing, you've succeeded beautifully in engaging at least one of your followers! And I love that physical and mental rush of a torrent of "What if's". Especially when it happens even before the second cup of coffee. Thank you Jeanne!

  3. To Blue Sky Dreaming, while I didn't expect this to become such a birthing process, like you, I truly do consider this a beautiful "child" of a very worthwhile exploration. Thanks for writing to say so!

    And Nikki, the feedback that there is "so much implied movement in the way the letter forms interact in this piece" is exactly what I envision creating in them. I am working on that dual-sidedness. While now the structures hang about 6-8" away from the wall, I am working on designing ones can be viewed from all sides. Many ideas for mounting them as well. And early mornings, before any coffee at all, are often the times my best inspirations arrive!

  4. Jeanne, just to let you know I'm camping on your doorstep waiting for the next episode. The birthing process has been most enlightening!

  5. Creating new work is indeed painful but just as in childbirth, when the expected creation arrives the pain is forgotten.

    I love the delicacy of the new piece and look forward to seeing it hang. It is calling for sisters.

  6. Robyn, come right on in -- we'll have a lovely cup of tea and celebrate FLOW.

    Terry, yes, many sisters! And each one builds on the previous one, so now I'm making twins, one to flank each side of the first one. And will continue to work outward from this center. And then, perhaps sculptural pieces will begin to emerge that move off the wall totally (and that's when I will knock on your door!)...

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