"Have you been making a ton of art since we've been on lockdown?"
I get this question ALL the time.
The answer is no.
Truth is, I've hardly touched a pencil let alone a paint brush.
No one prepares you to how you should feel during a global pandemic.
On one hand, its been amazing because it seems I have an unlimited amount of time with my family--something I craved all throughout my work week. It seemed (and still does) so backward that other people were with my husband and my son more than I was on a regular basis. I'm not even one of those people that works 40+ hours! But between my two jobs and multiple expectations I put on myself let alone the ones that are on me as an employee, it has weighed on me.
Get up. Get dressed. Get myself ready for work. Do I have everything I need for work? Did I prepare enough for my class? Is Gabriel dressed yet? Does he have enough time to eat breakfast AND brush his teeth before school? Are we going to make it in enough time without being late? Where is his backpack? Why is he taking so long to get in the car? I forgot to pack his lunch.. just throw something together. He hardly eats lunch anyway. Damnit I wish he would eat more. Speaking of food..what am I going to make for dinner?By the time I pick him up from school, gather everything for job #2 I'm not even going to be able to think about what to cook...
Do you see how this is complete madness? Day in. Day out. Every day. How did I get here? How is this my life?
Am I thankful for the life that I have? Absolutely! I have a husband and a son who love me more than anything. I have two rewarding jobs that I thoroughly enjoy every single day. We have a community of supportive, encouraging friends and family that would bend over backwards if we needed anything. We own a home within the city limits of Midwest America where everything is quite literally at our fingertips at all times.
What. Is. The. Problem?
I think that's just it.. It's the balance.
The constant tension of trying not to sink because of one simple misstep.
Somehow that tension has always driven me forward. Like the gasoline for your car. With this pandemic, I don't have that same electric feeling of just keeping it together that I have become so accustomed to. Its like it is a part of me me now like the color of my eyes or length of my hair. Without that electricity, I don't really feel like myself. It definitely feels like there is a missing piece somewhere in there at least.
If I am inspired by my daily striving--striving for good, striving for a real moment, striving to see humanity as it really is.. then of course I would be lacking the motivation to create anything.
It doesn't feel relevant right now. I know that is untrue, but I still feel that way nonetheless. My daily grind, I am realizing, is much more than just a crazy schedule.
All that being said,
I have hardly gotten any work done whatsoever since COVID19.
I know it won't stay that way. Its not that I don't have orders coming in. I actually have 3 commissions that are set to go, but it has just taken me this long to realize where my drive went.
It wasn't my fault it left.
It won't stay gone long if I have anything to say about it, because isn't that what I always do anyway? I. Find. A. Way.
I just have to find a new grind because the old one was taking more out of me than I was getting from it.
I guess its time to turn that all the way around and find a new normal.
While in art school, I remember being told I would "never have a space like this again" or I would "never have a community like this again."
First of all, let me just point out that this "community" were a bunch of early-mid twenties college students who were still trying to figure themselves out. My time in the studio that was provided by my university (with a tuition fee of course), seemed like a far away fairy tale at times. During my third and fourth year in the program, I got married, got pregnant, and had our son the summer before my last year of my BFA. To say I did not treasure this coveted studio time was an understatement. It seemed like everyone else around me had endless time and energy to give to their work while I was waking up 2-3 times a night making bottles and changing diapers, then getting up early and going to class.
I look back and wish the timing of things would have been a little different. I know that everything will end up happening when its supposed to happen, but I do remember thinking.. "is this the best time for this?" over and over again. The early stages of our son's life were spent with a sleep-deprived momma and a daddy that worked second shift. When I did have the time to actually go the studio, I was tired before I even got there. Try getting some quality work in under those circumstances.
It was tough.
Fast forward six years later, we own a home in Cincinnati, Ohio--complete with an unfinished basement with surprisingly great natural lighting, a huge industrial sink that will not be ruined by paint splatters.
I have a space for our son to play if he wants to be close while I work, a bookshelf that holds inspiration and techniques, an endless supply of paint and other materials. Its a haven for me. Its something I didn't think we would be able to have until way down the road in our lives when we've "made it."
Let me tell you right now, that's a big, fat myth.
If I would've waited for that, I never would have had the space I have today.
A home studio was never something I thought I would utilize, though, if I'm honest.
I always thought I worked best away from home because that time would actually be dedicated to things outside of the home.
But after three years of working in my basement studio, its slowly become my favorite part of our entire house. What a relief.
This is just a little post to encourage all you creatives out there who just don't think you have the time or the space to make what you love and what you thrive in, that its not impossible. Quite the opposite, really. If you truly want it bad enough, you'll find a way.
You'll make it work. I did.
You often hear artists talk about giving "voices" to various people/things that usually go unheard. I am always aiming to do that--but not exactly.
My goal is to highlight what has always been in shadow. Hidden. Something that has always had a voice but didn't know how to use it in order for it to actually be heard in all its glory. Relief is found once they muster some courage to speak. I run into this pretty often with people that have come into my life over the years. They are anywhere from strangers I've just met, to young teenagers that I have taught and beyond. My husband (John) jokes that I have a sixth sense for when someone is hiding something--good or bad. Abundant with something, but the mystery still remains. Its almost like I can sniff it out before I am ever actually told of what they are holding back. Once they do express whatever it is they have been anticipating to tell someone, I just smile with an, "Ah, there you are!"
So, what does this all have to do with alleyways and fire-escapes? Not just any alleyway and fire-escape, mind you. To give you a little place setting, I work and spend a lot of time in a very historic part of downtown Cincinnati. It has so much history that spans from heartbreaking to exuberant. There are so many contrasts in this part of town, one can often feel confused while strolling around.
On one part of the block, there are new, state-of-the-art playgrounds and parks, on the other side are two neighbors screaming at each other in something that is a far cry from "friendly banter". Contrast. Award winning restaurants and starving veterans. Contrast. Million dollar homes and government housing. Contrast. A Mercedes Benz and a rickety bicycle. Contrast. All these things together become so normal that we don't even think about them anymore. They just become part of the back drop. Something you actually expect to see on this part of town.
We develop a sort of immunity to what is around us in way that can be very easy to dismiss. Until you actually stop to look around and take in what you are actually seeing versus what you have been conditioned to.
The dark alleyways posses so much grit in between the buildings that it seems it was there when the buildings were actually built in the first place. That doesn't seem out of place. That actually looks like it belongs. So what is the contrast here? It could be the fancy playground directly in front of it or the manicured mothers toting their children around to the new urban oasis. We try to make these things coincide but they are not always as seamless as we would like them to be.
This contrast is fascinating to me. I subconsciously bring my method of working into this realization. I will start by selecting an image with photograph of where I find these contrasts. I then start working with drawing materials such a charcoal and pencil to sketch out the angles and perspectives to obtain some accuracy of the image before painting. Once I collect all the information I need, I will then start on the fun part. Color and contrast. After working on this for several hours, (which can sometimes turn into days) I will need to give my brain and eyes a break.
I am usually working on two paintings simultaneously. While my brain needs this break, I will start with the abstract paintings. Color, shape, and contrast being the most important part of these works. It allows me to not have to think while painting. Instead, it allows me to be intuitive and use my instincts to complete a work. I can't help but wonder if these two methods of working are related.
Like I mentioned before about relieving the hidden subject from the shadows, I believe these "in between abstracts" are just as much a part of this body of work as the actual urban setting paintings are. In their own language, they are a visual representation of the person's spirit once they have realized they are heard and not abandoned to the dark alleys of our world . I aim for these paintings to be a token of victory through what the world tries to quiet.
I can't think of a time when being authentic was a negative. I'm aware everyone is different in how they try to get their view across. But sometimes you just need someone to tell it to you straight with no frills. Nothing to hide. No fancy words. No looking around for the right reactions. Just telling you what they are really thinking and expressing a genuine concern/idea/belief of any sort.
Do you have doubts? Tell me. I want to hear about them.
Do you have fears? What are they?
How did they become a fear in your life versus just something you tried to avoid until you were faced with it.
Today, I met with two brothers, who are seemingly a dynamic duo. One brother is the painter. The other is the graphic designer. Together, they create beautiful works of art that are so much more than just pretty paintings. They tell a story. So much of their creative process is put onto a surface in a visual way. They have design elements mixed in with fine art and all the technical skills any painter covets. Their works are almost like a visual memory, as if someone were to peer into your mind while remembering a significant place or person or thing. They accentuate the important details (of their interpretations) that they find important and leave the viewer to finish the rest. I highly recommend giving them a follow on fb/IG and visiting their space in Ludlow, KY (jeffandjohnwinklestudio). http://www.jeffandjohnwinklestudio.com/prints-1
Something I have been learning (especially recently) is that every artist has a very unique career. There is no formula. There is no exact recipe to success. You just have to hone in on what you are actually wanting to make and who you want to host your works. Its not necessarily something you learn in art school. Every professor I had knew how to make a successfully crafted work of art, but I cant remember a single professor teaching me the business side of things. I'm not hear to place blame on anyone, but what is wrong with this picture? The art world should not be this giant mystery that no one really knows how its going to work. I have felt that way one hundred times over after finishing my degree. I knew I had a skill, and I knew people responded to my skill. But then what?
Jeff and John seemed to share this same frustration. How can we make it out here when it seems like so many people out there in present time are just barely furnishing their home without going into overwhelming debt in the process. So how can I keep making these works of art that are a "luxury?"
I have been processing so many different marketing ideas and themes for upcoming shows, but at the end of the day it keeps me wondering how am I going to do this long term? Is it even possible?
I know it is. It has to be. Sometimes I feel like it is all that I have that is still completely myself without the corruption of the world around me.
One thing I DO know for sure, is that it is so much better with other people. I've spent too many hours in my "zone" to know that its not healthy to stay there. I have to let people in, even when what I need to vent about might not make the most sense. I need people in my life who share similar fears and obstacles. I'm better with it. I have allies. I need to treasure them and learn from them in every way that I can. Sure, I will filter out what applies to me and what doesn't, but at least I will be sure I am not in this thing alone.
So thanks, Jeff and John for igniting a little more fuel to my fire.
When brainstorming for new works, I often find myself overthinking everything during the beginning stages. I try to always keep myself in a "learning state of mind" to where I am able to keep myself open to new ideas and materials.
Sometimes that can be freeing. Other times, it feels like a trap. It is freeing when the sense of pressure is off to produce what I actually want to create. It feels like a trap when I am frozen, in a sense, for the fear that I will not be able to pull it off because I am making my own rules (as if there are any ACTUAL rules in art-making). I realize that not everyone can work this way. I sometimes have to ask myself if I can.
I know that the starting point is always the literal hardest part of any creative process. In my personal experience, the fear of a blank canvas can be crippling unless I just go for it without any perfectionism on the forefront.
In the past, I have gotten around this difficulty. It might be gluing various textures/materials to the canvas and reacting to the shape and forms that are created. Other times, I'd hand some paint and brushes to my son (3 at the time) and let him just have fun with it. Leave it to a child to not have any boundaries.
The way I react to what is in front of me has always been very important in the art-making process. I'm resourceful. I have a skill for working with what I have and making it into something greater than expected. When the options seem endless, that is when I have trouble. I almost want some accident to happen to my canvas so I can work around it. How crazy is that? Am I crazy? Having no limits should be an amazing experience, but I just find myself craving the struggle of working with what I have because it is ALL that I have.
"Where do you find inspiration for your work?"