Sunday, February 12, 2023

This year's daily art

In November I usually start thinking about daily art, and what I'm going to choose for my project in the coming year.  I had pretty much narrowed it down to some kind of collage, whether paper or fabric, but didn't have any details in mind.  Then when I went to the December retreat from my fiber art group, I was delighted to find that Santa Claus also came.

Santa aka Joanne Weis, who has been one of my closest art pals for more than two decades.  She has experimented with every conceivable method of surface design (dyeing, screenprinting, laminating,  painting, etc.) and every conceivable fiber (silk, hemp, linen, cotton, nylon, etc.).  She always does considerable testing to develop a palette before embarking on a new project, and often prepares a lot more fabric than she actually uses.  And for years, she stashed her unused fabrics in drawers.

Then last year she decided she needed the drawers, stuffed all the fabrics into big bags, and brought them to the retreat. 

I let others in the group go through the bags for more than an hour, cherry-picking pieces that called out to them, and when everybody else had enough, I packed up everything that was left.

Two huge bags worth.  And realized that clearly Santa wanted me to do fabric collage as my 2023 daily art.

I have defined the project as follows:  All fabric must come from Joanne's leftovers.  I can add hand- or machine-stitching of any kind, plus notions like beads, buttons or found objects.  Most days I will finish a collage, but occasionally I can hold it over to another day (or two) as long as it's documented at the end of each day.

This one took several days to finish (Day 1 here)

I haven't felt this exhilarated in a long time.  I find myself getting up in the morning and thinking about what I will do in the studio, and the daily stitching is usually the first thing I tackle when I get there.  (By contrast, toward the end of the year, my daily painting got to be a chore, done after dinner with the same enthusiasm as kids have for the last bit of homework before bed.)  Often I spend some time preparing fabrics for future days, cutting them into small pieces, maybe putting the pieces through the wash to fray the edges, maybe auditioning possible combinations. 

I haven't posted any of the collages on my daily art blog yet, but that's on my to-do list.  Meanwhile, here are a few of my favorites.  Obviously I'll be telling you a lot more about this project as the year goes on.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

A long-overdue update -- part 1

At least one of my faithful blog readers has noticed that it's been a long time since I posted anything, and wrote to ask me whether something dire was going on.  Thanks for asking, Karen, and no, nothing awful has happened on my end, except that for some reason I have gotten out of the blog habit and will have to perform some brain surgery on myself to get back in.  So I will do a couple of posts to bring you up to date on what's been going on since last fall.

First, an update on my daily art.  After 365 paintings in 2022, I came to the conclusion that I love to paint, but I have no ideas that I want to express in that medium.  I love the paint on the palette, the paint on the brush, the feel of the brush on the paper.  I love mixing colors and watching the accidental effects of wet-into-wet.  But throughout the year I struggled with what to paint.  I would get an idea, usually by copying from somebody else, and paint it more than once to see if it might strike a chord and stay with me.

In the past, when a student in my workshop or a blog reader would ask me whether they had my permission to use a technique I have used or taught, I would say of course you may (nobody owns an idea).  And if you like the technique, make it three times and by then it will change enough that it will belong to you, not to me.  I tried to apply this rule of thumb to my painting.

I've posted about the faces I painted based on black-and-white photos in the paper.  I did that 52 times, and maybe10 of them were pretty good.  But they were getting repetitive, and I didn't think that they in any way belonged to me.  

I thought maybe if I put some stitching into the paintings it would resonate, since stitching is so integral to the rest of my artistic life.  I made several with hand stitching, and a few with machine stitching, and again, I liked them, but there was no surge of desire to keep on making them and after ten tries I stopped trying.

I had a nice long run at the end of the year with 15 paintings following the tutorials of Vanidas Mangathil on Instagram (he's also on YouTube).  I loved painting the little people and I highly recommend his instruction if you're into painting little people.  But after two weeks I didn't see any signs of them moving into my art space.

By the end of the year, I had decided that I was done with painting.  In fact, I even cut up a bunch of pages from my painting sketchbooks to make my Christmas ornaments.