Friday, September 27, 2013

Floral Inspiration

These are some shots of flowers on my regular walking route that I thought I'd share.  I've got inspiring beauty all around!


A moment of soul-baring

So much has changed recently.  For some reason blogging about all of these things - moving, job changes, etc - just doesn't feel right.  What does feel right is that as a result of all of these changes I find myself sitting outside sipping coffee and looking out across a Caribbean landscape.  I find myself with what I've always wanted, more time to devote to my art, and with that comes a weird kind of pressure and an even weirder kind of mental 'push back'.  

 Quickie sketch of how I'm feeling - not how I look, just how I feel!
Faced with the freedom to develop my art career my Left brain starts in on me, telling me what kind of art I should be doing, how many hours I should do it, how I should feel while I'm doing it.  As much progress as I've made in the past years to stop self-identifying with my L-brain voice (or 'chair-voice' as I like to call it, because.. reasons) it's still present and in times of stress or change it's hard to not listen to it. 
'If you're going to call yourself an artist every drawing or painting you do should be beautiful'
'People don't get to do art as a career, there's too much competition out there, you aren't good enough'
'If you are getting to do all of this art you should enjoy it, every minute of every day, if you don't love every minute you're not a real artist'
'You should do art of things people want to buy, but not anything that's already out there because that's just derivative'

'Did I mention that you're not good enough - your art is (insert contradictory critiques here - not spontaneous enough, not planned enough, too subtle, not subtle enough, too unusual, too mainstream)'
You see, chair-voice is insane.  Its arguments are usually contradictory and always stressful.  So why do I even listen?  Well one thing I do know is the most sure-fire way to shut chair-voice up (and all the voices in my head) is to do art... that's part of why I love it.  And yet if chair-voice gets a good grip on my mind it can be hard to shut it out.  It's also good at coming up with self-preserving excuses to not work on art, usually in the form of 'Oh, you should update that thing on your website... it would be really good to make a list of your art inventory... you should look for websites on art pricing and time management and....'

And on it goes. 

This morning I was reading the blog of an artist I greatly admire, Tina Mammoser, and she was talking about 'morning pages'.  You know, first thing in the morning writers should have a notebook on their bedside table and write in it, people should jot down whatever is on their mind or they are inspired to write... something, anything.  For an artist it can be an exercise in just getting some drawing done every day - which is so important, and yet during times of stress or distraction can get skipped.  

After reading her post and thinking 'well, what would I sketch if I were to draw something right now' the first thought that popped into my head was 'a blossom'!  You see the beauty of where I'm living now is that there is beauty everywhere... you can't walk down a street without glimpsing the most gorgeous blossoms, and that's without even looking a the ocean or mountains.  I turned a deaf ear to chair voice, who had many other ideas about what I should do with the rest of my morning, and grabbed my cheapo sketchbook.  I went out in the front yard and said 'hi' to the big Caribbean caterpillar on our tree and plucked a blossom from one of the shrubs.  Without any particular goal or censure I just started sketching... 

I started by just drawing one petal - chair-voice was yelling at me to draw the whole thing and draw it well, and simultaneously reminding me that I don't draw flowers and it will probably turn out ugly.  So to combat the self-doubt that was stalling me I decided to just sketch one petal.  As so often happens I became completely engrossed in my blossom - the shapes and curves of the petals, the construction of the stalk, the play of the colours and sure enough I couldn't stop and had to draw the whole thing from a different angle. An hour of art (and some coffee) later and I feel so much better about everything!

I'm not going to commit to doing morning pages every morning, or schedule a specific time or a certain duration of minutes or hours I'll spend doing this - those all sound like suspiciously chair-voice types of things.  Instead I will just remember how good sketching makes me feel, and on those days when chair-voice is particularly strong I may start by just drawing a doodle, or a part of something.  And when I feel myself failing I'll just visit Tina's blog again!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Finding my Artist's Voice - Chapter 5: Do What's In Your Heart

That sounds very trite doesn't it?  It may be trite, but this is the idea that brings me back to the beginning - my award from the ISSA.  This may sound silly, but I was nervous when I submitted my pieces to the ISSA show this year, nervous that they might not actually be accepted.  The ISSA is a new society with the main purpose of promoting scratchboard as a legitimate and separate medium of fine art.  Therefore they have to be specific about 'what is scratchboard'.  You can't promote a distinct medium if there are pseudo-scratchboards or things that might more rightly be classified in a different category in your flagship show.

Would my newer stuff still be considered scratchboard?  I mean it is on ClayBord, and the main technique used in creating it is scratching (reductive) which is the definition... but there are other elements too.  At the end of the day it doesn't matter if ~I~ think it's scratchboard, it matters if the Society thinks so.

I struggled for awhile over this - after all this angst over what direction I was going with my art, what if the thing I'd decided on ended up not being acceptable as scratchboard?  I guess I had a bit of an identity crisis.  It was a good crisis though - because I decided that even if it were deemed to be not 'scratchboardy' enough it's what I wanted to do, and what I was going to do, and that was that.  

I submitted my pieces.  And lo... I WON the bronze award!  There was some AMAZING work in that show, I know my piece didn't win based on the rendering of the dog himself - though good, that part wasn't better than other pieces in the show.  The judges had to have chosen it at least partly because of my style, not in-spite of it.
Detail "A Dog Named Davinci" (c) Pam Boutilier
I could have told myself that my fears had been unfounded and it was dumb to worry about whether my new work would be acceptable to the scratchboard community, and pretended I'd never had any doubts.  Instead I was really glad I had those doubts and worries, even though they ended up being unfounded.  I saw the (imaginary) barrier and I decided to plow through it.. that decision was hugely important to the further development my Artist's Voice.  I not only love the work I'm doing now, but I love that looking through the ISSA catalogue my entries stand out with their brightness of colour.  I'm more proud of what I'm doing with my art right now than I have been for years - and that is worth everything.  That is what compelled me to post this series of blog entries, on the off chance that someone else is where I was last year and might benefit from my experiences
Detail "A Dog Named Davinci" (c) Pam Boutilier
So get out there artists and find your Voice.  Or if you already have it then be grateful you know what you love, keep working and don't take that knowlege for granted!!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Finding my Artist's Voice - Chapter 4: Let Go

You might have noticed the images I chose for the last entry - dragons, fish, human portraits... as I said, in my visit with my mentor I brought EVERYTHING.  Art going back 15 years or more.  Yes, I was that much in a muddle!

When we looked at everything and I realized though I really enjoy fantasy art, I really like human figure and portrait studies, and so many, many other things - the subject matter that inspires me the most are the animals.   In particular the pets.
 "Cali" 7x5" Scratchboard (c) Pam Boutilier
When I thought about all the media I've dabbled or worked in - coloured pencil, graphite, digital, pastel and finally scratchboard and clayboard with ink... the one that I am the most comfortable with all around is the scratchboard/clayboard.  And of those the clayboard is what I am currently most excited about.
 "You want to use *this* pillow?" Clayboard and ink (c) Pam Boutilier
Reference photo courtesy of WetCanvas Reference Image Library
Where I want to go is pushing my techniques with clayboard and ink, with interesting crops, with combining pet portraiture with fine art.  I think cats and dogs (and monkeys and lizards) are beautiful creatures, I don't know why we don't see more of them in general in art.  

So having determined those things, the next step... LET GO!
 Balloon Girl (c) Banksy
It doesn't seem like I should have to put this as a separate step, but let me explain.  Identifying your strengths and interests is all well and good, but if you don't let go of everything else you may still be mired.  Not making a conscious decision to let go of those other things means you still might think about doing a series of this other subject, or try making some of this other medium that you might market to a different group.  Letting go doesn't mean you'll never do those things, or that you will never touch another medium or subject matter - quite the contrary, I am always going to do life drawing and dabble in fantasy art.  But if you are truly looking for direction and clarity - let these other things go from your professional art plan.  If your brain works anything like mine then clearing your mind of these 'potentials' makes the path ahead much clearer.

And then, once the path has been traveled a bit, I may choose to fly off in another direction...
Fairie Flittermaus (c) Pam Boutilier