Thursday, September 4, 2008

How to Make Art

My intent is to do art and write about the doing of art, but it turns out I'm a one-or-the-other person. When I'm working with paper, fiber, fabric, glue, paint, and tape, I have lots of thoughts about the artwork I'm doing; about the way I felt writing the piece of the book I'm now gluing down; thoughts about publishing, whether through traditional channels (now mostly global corporations), alternative sources like small presses and zines, or on the web. My brain is a hotbed of fascinating ideas.

Only trouble is that to write down those thoughts I'd have to stop making art, and stopping doesn't seem to be on the agenda these days. I'm in a whirl, in a twirl, in a swirl of art making. I thought the handwork I've been doing for the last few years (embroidery, quilting) was fulfilling my tactile creative needs but apparently not. At the moment I'm ahead by 19 days, and I see no signs that I'll slow down in the near future. I haven't scratched the surface of ideas. It crosses my mind to make some larger pieces -- 12 x 18, or twice that -- but right now being able to conceive and complete a design rapidly (especially compared to my hand embroidery and quilting) is making for a dynamic project.

I think about working in a series, but that option isn't yet the right one. I can do two similar pieces at a time, but then another idea takes over, and away I go in a different direction. On the other hand, this is a series; there are existing parameters. Each piece is 4 x 6. Each piece uses some bits from the book. Sometimes the bits are the entire background. Other times, I use only a sliver. Sometimes I use the printed text as is and add motifs to emphasize or reflect the text. Other times, I paint or Sharpie or watercolor or tear the text so that the words are de-emphasized.

I do five or six at a time and then line them up on the mantel. Then I stand back and admire them. Whichever one I've done most recently is my favorite . . . until I do another one. Later, I re-evaluate them, checking to see if each one is complete enough to be mailed. Often, the answer is no. The piece needs something else: some stitching or more text or edging or something as yet to be determined. Oh, what fun I'm having!

On the other hand, I want to document this process, and after-the-fact documentation is rife with the errors of memory. As often as possible, then, I'll make notes like this one. I would also like to include notes with each post that document what I was thinking or what was going on around me (for instance, a zombie movie or a political speech) as I made the art. But that, too, is secondary. If/when the fever of art-making slows down, I'll have time to do that. For now, the fever burns.

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