Archive for June, 2016

Handling Hurdles

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

Those who have been reading my blog for some time know that although travel experiences frequently serve as inspiration for my work, the extended time away from the studio is always very disruptive to my routine and productivity.  As I considered how to overcome that hurdle this spring, wanting to get back into a consistent work flow after a month’s absence, I recalled that “hurdle” is not only a noun—a barrier in my path to be gotten over—but a verb to describe the very act of getting beyond it!

My trusty thesaurus confirmed that most of the synonyms for the verb are positive, reflecting joy, energy, and playfulness.  Terms like leap, jump, and vault suggest a joyful challenge, while words like caper, spring, and gambol (though literally synonyms of “leap” rather than “hurdle”) reminded me that hurdles can be overcome with playfulness and a sense of fun.

So why was I finding it so difficult to get back to work?  Was it fear?  Lethargy?  Loss of focus?  Had I simply forgotten the joy?  It was hard to say.   In any case, the hurdle must be faced.  It’s awfully difficult to get over any hurdle by turning away from it.

So I filled my water bucket, picked up a brush, and began playing with a watercolor sketch I had left only almost completed.  Using a palette of completely different colors, I set out to add greater depth of value, experiment with increasing contrasts of saturation, and dipped into fresh colors I hadn’t used in the initial applications.

Root of the Issue (#160501w)

Root of the Issue (#160501w)

It was fun!  (Why should I feel so surprised?)  My brush began to cavort across the paper, gamboling with the bounce of a spring lamb.  The painting took on fresh liveliness, and I began to feel the positive power prevail.   I was back on track and primed to keep at it!

Depicting the Experience

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

Travel often takes me away from the studio for days or even weeks at a time.  These excursions are fun, informative, and usually provide me with sufficient photographic reference material to work from for quite some time to come.  But it also interferes with the continuity of both my production and my ongoing studies.  The question about how to make the most productive use of my time is always in the back of my mind.  If I focus on art, it usually takes time and attention away from the people my husband and I may be visiting or limits the range of what we spend time seeing in a new environment.

So I usually find it necessary to compromise, taking quick shots with my camera, trying to quickly commit to memory the color relationships, characteristic lines or rhythms, and details that attract me to the scenes I shoot, and then moving on to actually experience and enjoy the situation or event.

Recording a photographic or painted image as an isolated scene is usually not sufficient to endow the image with much meaning.  It is enriched by the experience surrounding the image so that when I begin to draw or paint the scene a viewer can sense more than the scene alone can express.  What is the physical and emotional atmosphere?  How does it affect my feelings toward it or experience of it?  What do I want to share with others about my response to what is happening? To make the most of my time, I need to be able to imbue my work with a sense of the overall experience, even as a journalist expresses through an anecdote a microcosmic expression of a larger story.

This spring, I took a long cruise that limited my access to all but very simple equipment – mostly pens, pencils, and a little watercolor travel kit.  One of the great pleasures I found during our days at sea was the opportunity to meet an informal group of creative women who were working on various types of textile work.  It was a relaxed group who all managed to accomplish quite a lot in our limited time together.  We met almost daily to chat, pursue our various arts or crafts, and share designs and ideas; and we quickly developed a lovely rapport.

Meanwhile, I took advantage of the rare vacation opportunity to indulge my own art. So I focused on sketching and quick watercolor studies of members of the group.  In the following sketch I tried to capture the sense of comfortable camaraderie we shared while pursuing our work.

160443w Knitting & Nattering

160443w Knitting & Nattering

The ladies graciously served as unselfconscious models for me, and I hope I was able to leave them with unique, personalized mementos of our time together.