Sunday, March 7, 2010

Where I Stand Sunday

As the buds pop out...maybe we are too late, but we needed to trim a lot of lower branches off of trees where we drive the lawn tractors to mow this season. Tired of hitting our heads or knocking off our hats - kind of thing.  This is the apple orchard.  Hubster had the chain saw cranked and I pulled the limbs out of the way so he wouldn't trip over them as he moved along.  (We may have looked like "Saw - the Return".)  We probably trimmed about 10 trees for now.  Hope it didn't harm the trees by being a little late in doing this, but it HAD to be done. 
Some of these poor trees had NEVER been trimmed or taken care of.  So, on to today's thought..

This is a charcoal sketch of a Great Horned Owl, who has been in my thoughts a lot lately - something about a little black and white visitor that was possibly taken care of without the use of a varmint gun.  It could have been a piece to go in a frame eventually, but if you look closely, the paper has little nubs in the surface. I have had this drawing pad forever...and never noticed this finish before.  It really shows if you blend the surface charcoal.  It's called OMNI, so if you ever see it in the store...know that it DOES have a tooth to it, an unusual one at that.  Only about 1/2 done, it is one that won't make it past this point...I am irked at this surface.  This is just ONE example of what I am writing about in today's post.

I have come to the conclusion, that it's true, 'art dies' when it stops moving...kind of like this blog lately.  It's important for me to paint or draw or create - that is how I express myself and interpret my world.  Lately, the process of doing art seems to be hanging up - I am not satisfied with the outcome.  I have no problem with having ideas to be creative - no 'block' there.  
However...the last two weeks have been a big frustration for me. It happens once in awhile.  I take myself seriously while I stand at the easel.   I think, I plan, I execute.  Nothing has changed in the studio...I have everything I need.  Something in the process isn't right.  (Sometimes I have technical issues with the materials - as above.)  When this happens, I step back and watch myself.  I dream about myself doing art, I think about myself doing art, I pine away to be in front of the easel - non-stop. There's being an artist and doing art and then there is a whole other world to address - being a homeowner/domestic doer...sometimes there is an imbalance.  I try to let it flow and roll with it.  MOST always it works out.  Right now? It isn't. (Ready for analysis and prognosis, doctor..☺) 

What do I do in the meantime?  I keep trying...I realize that I need to spend less time actually 'doing art' while in this state - maybe painting in little spurts instead of allowing myself this great big let down after working for hours, only to shake my head and wonder what is wrong?  Most importantly I realize, that doing the OTHER art things would maybe be a good idea.  Like reading magazines and books, blogs and viewing websites (it's like going on a gallery walk), sketching usually irons the kinks out.  I have noticed that this happens more when I take too long of a break between 'doing life' and painting.  More than three or four days...this gremlin will creep steathily (unseen) into my studio. 

I see this condition like it is an applause meter - you know (those of you who are old enough) - the needle on the half circle responds to the clapping and cheering in a modulation of high and then lower and then higher and then lower...that's how it goes for me...right now that meter reads real high as I go into the studio, but it wanes as I paint.  Right now?  The heat is on, the music is churning and I am headed out there.
Now, my question to you is - does this ever happen to you?  What do YOU do when it happens?  Feel free to leave a comment.

BTW - Where I Stand Sunday is an ongoing photo essay examining the different places I spend my life standing. Too often we take for granted the everyday places we spend our lives walking on. If you'd like to join me by posting a photo on Sunday of places you've been on your blog/photo hosting site/website, leave a comment on this post telling me where I can find you/your photo
and I'll add a link to my sidebar so others can find you.


Claire Beadon Carnell said...

How ironic...I feel as though I have been going through something so similar at the moment. I get so excited to sit down and paint, and then when I do, nothing has been coming out quite as I want it to.
Having had these periods before, I have learned that they usually precede some tyoe of growth in my work - the 'frustration before the storm' as I like to think of it. If I find I am messing up every canvas, I take a break and just read my art books, look at the art on the internet, and regroup.
Sometimes it simply is just 'life' getting in the way of art, and I have to address the outside business before my inner muse feels free to work.
Do you think this happens to all of us creative types? My guess would be more so than not, but I really do appreciate the eloquent way you espressed it in your blog today.

Pattie Wall said...

My guess is 'more so', also. Thanks for sharing Claire. Spent a little time out there today - feeling better. It's a good sign.

Victoria on Okinawa said...

Yes, same issues have been happening in my direction too. I get a painting to a certain point and I just don't know what to do to get to the next step, this is happening in the beginning stages of my paintings. I then try to review what has worked in the past or I go researching in my art books. Recently though it is coming in thoughts to me that I am not really doing my own processing that I am depending on what I've learned from others, like art books, and that I need to start working out my own process so that is why I am getting stumped even right at the beginning. So I am now just resting it out, cleaning up and rearranging the studio(due to earthquake issues this time)and thinking about how do I want to do things instead of looking to others. Georgia O'Keefe went thru something like this when she finally figured things out for herself.

Leann said...

If I'm having trouble getting excited about the art, then a museum or some gallery hopping usually works. But if I'm dissatisfied with my work, then I think I usually switch media for a while, sometimes even learning a new craft. Maybe because I'm so bad at the new thing the stuff I was doing before looks better.

Pattie Wall said...

Victoria - yes, Georgia did figure it out and it's not like anything anyone else was doing at that here's to stepping on out there! You go girl!
Leann - switching surfaces with pastels is a definite at this point...I am back to my old friend sandpaper...I know it works. Switching mediums would be a welcome change, also. Thanks for the reminder. The thing is, I had done oils so long, I thought that pastel (my oldest friend) would be that welcome change - not that I wasn't having a good time with oils. Well, I'll have to wait and see.

Anonymous said...

Boy, Pattie, very well said. Your post rings true for many artists, and you put it so eloquently. (Love the applause meter analogy!)

Yes, I've had similar feelings art times, and no I have no concrete solution. That said, here's what has sometimes helped to spur me...

When I find myself plateauing (is that a word?), I'll take a class in something I'm not good at. To dovetail off of what Leann mentions, when personal expectations are low, I feel ok to flop around and try things. As much as I love painting, I think I sometimes get bored.

Another thing I do more lately is set limits on myself. Right now, my biggest nemesis is time limits: 1 min, 5 min, 10 min gesture paintings (spurred by a weekly class I'm taking). Forcing myself to make decisions and be brave with brushes. Trusting my gut is not my forte. I'm also currently working on a painting with limited palette, or try left-handed (or right, whatever's not you).

With no specific show coming up and a world of media/style/subjects to play with, sometimes I play safe and just do more of the same. For me, RUT = boredom = lack of self-confidence = poor performance. When I try something new, I get psyched about the adventure.

Just my 2 cents (or, looking at the length of this comment, more like 11 cents.) :)

Pattie Wall said...

Thanks Tracy - your comment was more like in the hundred dollar range - from rich content! We should write a blog about these issues. Perhaps I got myself in a RUT by overprepping for a's kind of a let down when you work so hard getting ready, go hang it and it almost seems like your body and mind say, "Now what?" or "What's next - how you gonna top that feeling?" Wish I had more shows, then I could maybe adjust this unseen tendency to 'let down'. Thinking today may be the day to turn feels like it anyway. Thanks for your input! P♥A♥I♥N♥T O♥N!!

Lynda D'Souza said...

Interesting way of putting it Pattie and funnily enough I am going through it right now. When in this state I run to the library and pick up a dozen or more books and keep my nose in them until I feel ready to attack that blank canvas again. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us - makes me feel like I am not alone in this.

Pattie Wall said...

Books and magazines seem to be a necessary staple of an artist's diet. I can't tell you the number of books and mags I have personally acquired. (I now live in an area, where you need to request a book and WAIT.) My collection takes up half of my studio space. I love my reading and 'looking' materials. It's always a little revealing to share some of these thoughts, but so comforting in knowing you aren't the Lone Ranger. Thanks for sharing Lynda!