Thursday, May 2, 2019

Reflections of not just water

     The week after Easter, my grandkids were off school, so on a nice sunny day (rare lately), we took them to Reinstein Woods, which is less than a half hour away, but I had never taken the time to visit. I heard they had lily ponds! Ok, I know it is early for them to be out, but I wanted to see if the place was worth dragging painting stuff there in the future.
      While my grandkids were delighted to see snakes (not me), heron, turtles, dragonflies, and hawks, I was thrilled to see ponds with water lily leaves surfacing. As I took photos of the landscape with wonderful reflections, I reflected on my own artwork.
See those red leaves poking up? Waterlily leaves!!
      I am inspired, like I am many times, by my watercolor teacher, Jody Ziehm. Last class, she shared her story of how she painted many nights while her young children were in bed. She always worked very hard, teaching herself and pushing her art in new ways. Her work continues to grow and refine.
     Like so many, I dabbled in all kinds of art media, always being told to experiment, try new stuff, combine media, abstract it all, but my heart was always in watercolor painting and fabric. I set those aside for working in graphic design/advertising and then teaching public school art. I amassed an arsenal of different tools and stuff, but when I had to retire from teaching, I ran to watercolor and quilting. Slowly, all the other media stuff is being given away when I can find it a home. What was it that stopped me from pursuing what I really love doing?
      Some was my reluctance to really put time into learning techniques, design and developing the craft. In art school, any type of realistic or development of drawing was disparaged. It was all about "making marks" and using as many different media as possible and leaving the work open to chance, interpretation and galleries. Teaching things like value, composition, and color were "too limiting" and "constricting". While just teaching those things can be deadening, I need a foundation to create on, and then creative process can happen.
    Ok, so I left school not knowing much and had to work to educate myself with art books and workshops (no youtube then). I sketched when I saw good compositions and art to figure out why it worked. I had the brain of an artist, but none of the skills. Over the years, I have worked hard to get them and wanted to teach them to kids. However, the prevailing philosophy is don't put effort and time into working through the "boring stuff" but to go with feeling, intuition and art being "therapy". If it doesn't work out, then you have no "talent", so go on the computer and copy and paste and throw every software option in. And if the first thing you do isn't frameable, it is not worth the effort. 
     I think I work harder on techniques, elements and composition the older I get so I have the skills to do what is in my head but has to be translated out through my hands. My observation and persistence continue to increase. And so, my art is closer to what I think it should look like. I keep taking painting classes and quilt workshops to gain another piece of the puzzle.
      Also, I was too concerned about doing something commercially viable. For all the work I did in graphic design, and all the money I spent on computer equipment and software as it became computerized from the 80s on, I never made much after paying the vendors and the bills to warrant all those hours and crushing deadlines. I was able to pay for the kid's activities and that was about it. When I taught public school, with the prep for 6 different grades a day and hundreds of students a week, teacher products, meetings, and mountains of paperwork, I never had the time or energy to work on any art.
      What if I had spent all that time and energy seriously painting and quilting? How much of a body of work could I have built and how far could I have gone? Could I have gone past the tipping point and done truly outstanding work and inspired others?
      Those are questions that I can't answer. But this I know- I can work hard now and use all I have learned to work as an artist. I can put the effort into sketching, planning, designing, observing, finishing and thinking about what I am doing. For me, this isn't hobby- if I don't create, I am weak and sad.
      Even if I never sell a thing, I will create a body of work that is positive and growing, as long as God gives me breath. I want my work to be a reflection of what is beautiful and worthwhile, regardless of what is in fashion or cool. Last February, I was spared from the consequence of a heart attack. Every day is a precious gift.
      What about you? As you look at reflections, what do you see?
See the painted turtle?


Debbie said...

Excellent post!! Self refection yields self expression. You did an excellent job with both.
Our creative freedom allows us to shift and change direction. The hard part is recognizing where we want to be.
I agree we need that foundation first, and I too had to work very hard to develop it so much later in life.

Quiltdivajulie said...

Wow - what an awesome post! so many good points but this one "For me, this isn't hobby- if I don't create, I am weak and sad" rings so true for me as well. I am a maker and I need to make. I don't make to sell, I make because I need to create. Thanks for sharing your reflections -- (and I don't like snakes either).

A Left-Handed Quilter said...

I see a good photographer - your photos have all of the qualities that you seem to think are missing in your art.
I also think that taking the time to learn all of the "boring stuff" creates a solid foundation for experimentation later on. First things first.

With quilting - I don't see much point in trying to create something awesome if you haven't mastered some basic sewing skills - sewing a straight seam - maintaining a consistent 1/4" seam allowance - being able to add a "non-wavy" border - if you haven't learned about value, composition, and color - and learned how to draft a block on graph paper (a computer is NOT required). They may be boring - but - to me - it would be like trying to bake something wonderful when you haven't first learned how to read a recipe and measure out ingredients correctly - you can "create" after you have learned the basics. Sometimes people aren't willing to invest the time it takes to learn how to do something well - if it's not fast and easy - they are simply not interested - ;))

Cheryl's Teapots2Quilting said...

Good post. I started quilting as a hobby, but now it is like my arm, a part of me that would be devastating if it wasn't there anymore.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the inspirational message.