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Studio Updates

Studio Update: Taking Creative Risks

Studio Update: Taking Creative Risks

by Callie Garp

January 28, 2024

January is a tricky month for me, though, judging by the swirl of angsty memes I’m seeing in my Instagram feed, I’m not the only one. The start of the month is so dark. And so cold. And it’s the start of the new year, so there is all this hope, but also some anxiety around what the new year will bring. Will I blossom into this year? Will I set goals and fail to meet them?

January was very busy with life and kids and, characteristic of western New York, s n o w. The kids had an entire week of snow days this month. A whole week.

Despite all of that, I have surprisingly maintained a pretty strong creative flow this month.

The other night my partner and I sat down together at our dining room table and played with all sorts of art making supplies; gouache, liquid watercolor, water soluble pencils, pigment based inks, acrylic inks, even acrylic paint. We messed around with making textures and swirls of color on paper, adhesive labels and paint chips. This was so much fun for me, and something we’d started doing together in the earliest months of our relationship. Do you find it’s easier for you to take “risks” and potentially “waste” creative time with experimental play when you’re doing it with someone else? I think that my brain justifies it more easily because I categorize the primary task at hand as social engagement. I’m less critical of whatever I happen to be making or doing outside of socializing. Hah. Even if that socializing is hanging out with my partner in our dining room. But this is equally true when I’m hanging out with my best friend. 

I want to get more comfortable with taking creative risks regardless of if I’m spending time making with another person or working on my own. Especially when the kinds of creative risks I’m talking about are like… making chaotic marks on a paper. Or splattering some ink. Or just being more responsive rather than over-thinking things like composition and color. There’s a time for that kind of thinking, of course, but I think I would benefit (and my art would benefit) from more play and less thought. 

I suppose this is all a long-winded way to bring up the age old debate between process-focused vrs product-focused art making. Both are valid, but right now I need a bit more balance after years and years of the pressure of focusing on making art that someone else would want to buy.

So, I’m sorting through some of that in my brain and in my making. I’m back to working on multiple projects/art pieces at once, and I think that helps a bit with that; it takes away some of the preciousness. 

I’ve started a piece I've had in my mind for over a month. When sorting through all my things in the attic, I discovered a binder full of neatly organized drawings from when I first started Fabulously Feminist. There was the drawing for my ‘Heck Yes Permaculture' illustration! I’d completely forgotten about it, and certainly had no recollection of drawing it on tracing paper… I had always rather liked this drawing, but the illustration was from the early days of my mixed media/digital illustration work, and I’d finished it on Gimp to the best of my ability… which is not equal to the best of my ability now. As soon as I saw the sharpie drawing I knew it would be perfect to re-work, and as a way of coming full circle, I decided to do it in traditional media. So, I have this illustration up on my easel, inspired by the original but a bit more considered, and set out in gouache and colored pencil. It feels like a fun, low-pressure way to continue doing what I have always done in one way or another: mash up a bunch of references, play with color and texture, and make something beautiful.

At the same time, I’m finishing up all the Emotional Bird drawings in my 6x9 sketchbook, and also working on smaller collages and collage elements.

Compared to my digital art workflow with procreate, I’m noticing that I am far more productive in traditional media, even collage. I think this isn’t because it takes me less time, but because I enjoy it so much that I just keep working even after I have met my art making time goals for the day. I think this is worth paying attention to, even if I have glimmers of … guilt? for not having worked digitally in months. I think my therapist would say that is inappropriate guilt. Like if I’m enjoying the art making then it isn’t work, then I’m just goofing off, and goofing off is bad. And that’s just dumb. 

What I've Been Reading: 52 Ways To Walk, Annabel Abbs-Streets

What I've Been Listening To: Revival, Deerhunter

Watching: Sandi Hester


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