Friday, February 26, 2010

About Art: Keeping Motivated in the Midst of Winter

On bone-chilling days in northern Wisconsin, wind sweeps the snow in drifts; and darkness of short days prevails. The mind and body slow down. The natural inclination is to curl up under warm blankets and hibernate, longing for the moderate temperatures of spring or autumn. No wonder it’s often difficult to feel energetic and motivated to create artwork in the midst of winter.

Last September Debbie K. from Madison commissioned me to do a pastel painting depicting a ski trail. How thankful I was that she wanted me to create a painting but I put it off until January to begin. I had been busy teaching numerous classes in the fall and then during the holidays I didn’t work in my studio too often.

I entered my studio in early January only to find a pile-up of neglected clutter including used gift wrap; and papers I needed to sort through such as entry forms for juried art shows having submission deadline dates already passed.

However, I vowed to be more organized and productive; and to embrace winter to its fullest this year and I’ve had better results - a higher energy level to create more art. What did I do differently? I listened to the message I received in a fortune cookie: Do not give up, the beginning is always the hardest.

You have to begin somewhere. I picked up one piece of paper at a time and either tossed it in the recyclable bin or threw it out. Clearing clutter is a great way to make room in your mind, releasing pent-up energy. In a calendar planner I entered art events and deadlines for themed art show submissions so I wouldn’t miss any.

It was difficult to get started on Debbie’s painting but I picked up one pastel stick at a time and got back in the swing of painting. So much excitement began to bubble up that I decided to create not only one painting but a series of three ski trail paintings. After all, working in a series is a great way to capture the essence of a particular subject. When Debbie and her husband Tom arrived in my studio they enjoyed viewing all three and selected their favorite to purchase.

Many art shows with themes were planned in my community this winter which also ignited sparks of creativity for me. In seeking subject matter for The Really, Really Red Hot Show at Art Beat of Hayward I carried my camera during walks, taking photos of red objects along the way including a red house and a red taxidermy shop. The warm color red contrasted icy cold

Taking a camera along wherever you go is great way to be observant, staying connected to your surroundings. Capture those images that excite you. Spread out your photos on a table on occasion and select subject matter that will be exhilarating to create.

Regarding the Red-Themed art show, a different idea arose, inviting me to create a series of six red flower oil paintings on small 5 inch by 7 inch oval canvases. Sometimes those ideas feel like a gentle tugging of an undertow.

Let commissions and invitations to enter themed art shows motivate you. However, also stay tuned to the inner voice, the muse, which invites you to reflect on ideas originating from within. Perhaps it’s a series you’ve always wanted to explore. One idea will lead to many more.

Monday, October 26, 2009

About Art: Judging the Show

As I walked through two large rooms of the Washburn Cultural Center, I gazed at the art exhibit titled “The Gathering” which included stunning drawings, paintings, weavings, original prints, mosaics and sculptures - seventy-four works by members of the Chequamegon Bay Arts Council. Though the show was considered an unjuried show because members of the arts council
were invited to select one or two pieces of their own creations to display, three works would be chosen by a judge to receive awards. Being the judge of this show, how would I be able to select only three pieces to receive monetary awards?

To stand there absorbing all the contrasting colors and textures stimulated my senses. How similar to experiencing autumn in Chequamegon National Forest which surrounds my home - a magical place where vibrant red maples contrast deep green pine needles and rich brown oaks. It would be a challenging, if not impossible task, to choose three trees to receive awards.

In preparation for this difficult task I made guidelines for criteria - a judge’s sheet to rate each work of art. I jotted down points for different categories:
originality - How unique was the work?
medium - How did the artist handle the materials?
composition - How were the components arranged?
presentation - How was the finished piece presented to the viewer?
design - How were principles such as harmony, variety, contrast, balance, movement and dominance/focal point used?
judge’s personal taste - How did the work communicate to me?

As I looked closely at each piece I found myself lingering in front of some longer than others. Those were the ones that spoke to me at a personal level.

Personal taste is a significant part of the selection process. If another judge instead of me walked through this exhibit they would probably select different pieces to receive awards based on their own criteria and personal taste. Therefore, if an artist does not receive an award or if their art is not accepted into a juried exhibit, he/she shouldn’t be discouraged.

The motivation behind creating art should never be to please a judge. I tried that once. I created two pastel paintings and entered slides of their images to a juried show in California where Wolf Kahn was to be a judge. Since I love the blues and purples he uses in the shadows of his landscapes I exaggerated those colors in my own landscapes. Surely he would like those! Much to my dismay I did not have either of those pieces even accepted into the show.

After tallying up individual scores for the works of art, a graphite (pencil) large drawing of a botanical image titled “American Lotus Pods” by Nancy Rainville received the prestigious CBAC - Chequamegon Bay Arts Council Award. Jill Lorenz received a Juror’s Choice Award for her lavender-glazed ceramic sculpture titled House # 11. Ann O’ Nemus received the other Juror’s Choice Award for a large, abstract oil painting titled “Deco Proscenium” which had a balance of darks, lights and movement.

Since three other pieces had also received high scores I received permission from one of the show’s organizers to award those works non-monetary Special Merit Awards. Those went to Judy Hanne Gonzales for her vibrant painting using the medium of gouache depicting chairs titled “Algodones, Mexico;” Jan Wise for “Dreaming with the Moon,” a small, mysterious acrylic painting on canvas; and for a pastel painting “On the Water” by Mary McHugh depicting a figure in a boat in a lush landscape.

I wish I could have given everyone an award of excellence for taking all the steps necessary for creating art: for being receptive to an idea; having the courage to follow through, bringing the idea into form, then delivering the finished works to display in “The Gathering.” They all stimulated my senses and will stay with me for a long time.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My first post

Welcome to my blog! On this site I will share my reflections about various subjects including art, writing, life, nature and enchanting dimensions.