I have been trying to get myself to sit down and write a studio update for some time now. What’s the block? What’s stopping me? I suppose it’s because my art making practice feels so new, so fragile that I am worried if I start to write about it, if I look at it too closely, it will shrivel up and die like one of my neglected houseplants. Or, I suppose, more accurately, a houseplant drowning in too much water, soaked day in and day out until the roots mold over and rot.
And also, writing. Sometimes it comes so naturally to me. Words flow out of my pen or through the keys on my laptop and I am spinning out thoughts faster than I can get them down. But, so much of my new making process and practice has been about not consciously thinking. Letting the work happen, keeping my hands moving, just focusing on continuing to make.
So, why write studio updates, then?
I think it’s a good way to keep my formal artist practice in the front of my brain. It’s easy for me to push it aside when there are seemingly more pressing issues at hand like making money, kids’ lunches and daily chores. Writing about my art and my art making practice is a good way to remind myself that this also matters. Here’s the written proof! I’ve done this in the past and found it to be a good tool. I might get self-conscious about the quality of the writing, or the blog posts as products for a reader to consume, but I also know from experience that my writing gets better the more I do it. And, isn’t there inherent value in seeing another person who is also going through the slog of trying to get back to art making?
I have been trying to think more critically about my daily activities. What are the things I do that support me? The habits that feel good? Making art isn’t just important because it supports my identity as An Artist (whatever the heck that means) but also because it feels good. The act of making, either with/through collage, drawing, painting, drawing digitally, gardening – it helps me.
I think writing, which in a way is just another act of making, helps me, too. Maybe someone reading this, if anyone actually does, will glean something positive, good or helpful, as well. For now I am going to try very hard to set that particular thought aside and ask myself what writing about my art making can do for me, and then lean into that.
Last summer, inspired by my partner’s wacky and loose collage work, I started fumbling through the process of playing around with different materials and crafting some collages. I hadn’t done this kind of work/play since I was in high school, but the process reminded me so much of when I used to scrapbook. And how I loved to pour through magazines and paste together weird words and images. As a teen, I felt the resulting pieces were profound. Perhaps they were!
It turns out that collage has been an invaluable practice in returning to art making for me. I think part of it is that collage, meshing together several different images from a variety of sources, is naturally how my brain approaches all sorts of art making. Even when I was composing large oil paintings, I was referencing several different images and splicing them all together in one painting. I used to feel very self-conscious about this, as though it somehow made me less of an artist, less original, less capable, less good. My undergrad professors used to sigh and say, quietly, “You know, you really need to be taking your own reference photos. Making your own images.”
Well, hogwash. The reference is part of the content, part of the context. Part of why I needed to make the painting in the first place.
I like that with collage there is the immediacy of that. I am reacting and responding to the visual language of my world, and finding some way to say something about and with that.
The images come much more quickly to me than they did even a few months ago, and that’s exciting. What takes the longest time, I find, is the actual crafting of the work; cutting out all these tiny bits and intricate details. That leaves space in my life for my hands to be very busy, my eyes to be very focused, and my mind to mull over the things I have been processing in therapy and in my life. It’s completely possible that collage has been instrumental in my healing just as much as it has been a tool to help me get back to making art.
What I've Been Reading: The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
What I've Been Listening To: Line Of Fire, Junip
Watch: My Collage Process