I was invited by to join in the Blog Hop Project by artist, Ahavani Mullen. The project consists of answering some questions regarding my creative experience, art, and process:
What are you working on?
I recently went to NYC and bought some natural pigments (mostly crushed gemstones, and minerals) to mix my own paint. I have also been researching how to make your own pigments and inks from natural fruits, vegetables, plants, etc. I love the vibrancy, and settlement qualities that these natural pigments provide. And most recently I have been painting more with espresso coffee. I love the rich Sepia color and building layers with this seemingly common “paint.” My color palette has become even more limited and I’m finding beauty in more brown tones, neutrals and lots of negative space. I have been working on paper more.
I have been fairly prolific lately. When I am not in the studio, I am often at home painting outside. Even though it has been a sweltering Florida summer, my watery paint dries so fast outdoors– and I can accomplish 5 times as much than I can in the studio.
How does your work differ from others?
I’m not sure. In a world where everything has been done, I’m not really sure that I’m all that unique. Unconsciously, I have noticed that once I have mastered something, I tend to get bored, and I move on to something else in order to keep things interesting, and hold my attention. Once I start to feel that there is a formula, or predictability to my work – I start getting antsy and notice a transformation. Some years it is a subtle shift, other times, drastic. I paint a lot, and I love experimenting and exploring new materials; change usually occurs the more I work and push the boundaries.
When you are an abstract artist, you don’t really have traditional subject matter to draw from. For me, inspiration comes from memory, experiences, intuition, mood, energy, and how different colors react with each other. My paintings often become a conversation with self. Over the years I have developed my own gestures and marks that make up a visual language. It becomes a vague form of communication that I can only understand.
I believe that discovering new materials, exploring new concepts, and learning new techniques are essential to growth. I know some artists that have been painting the same thing – the same way for years, even decades – with little variation. And even their current bodies of work look like clones of each other. I’m not sure how they attain satisfaction – perhaps they prefer to feel safe in their complacency?
I just know that would not work for me.
Why do you do what you do?
Mentally, the whole process of making art is grounding and therapeutic for me. I start getting fussy if I have not been to the studio in a few days. I work intuitively, enjoy the solitude, and my process allows me to clear my mind, and relax.
I have always been a creator and an artist. As a young child I was always making something, or crafting. I just know how to make things using ingredients, that involve a process, and patience.
Superficially, I do what I do to make money. Being an artist is my job. I wish I could say something more articulate and inventive – but in reality I need to pay for my health insurance, rent, a new car, and I just don’t subscribe to the whole starving artist mentality. I like nice shiny things and enjoy traveling.
However, I do paint for myself first. I try and produce work that I’m proud of and not massed produced. I then put it out there, and see how it goes (how it is received.) I wish I could pretend I’m saving lives or something, but in reality I’m making art that matches your sofa. And I do it for money, so I can in turn buy myself a sofa.
How does my process work?
My creativity begins with a constant state of awareness and appreciation for everything around me. I am always noticing patterns in nature, color trends in fashion, the way inanimate objects harmonize with each other, etc.
In the studio, I start recording my experiences: I begin with an already primed gallery wrapped canvas (or thick watercolor paper) – and add another layer of clear gesso. I have found that clear gesso offers this “tooth” that regular white gesso or primer does not provide. When I start layering the watery color (concentrated fluid acrylics, inks, gouache) on the canvas I get more interesting pools and settling of pigment. I like to layer the paint: Some colors are transparent; others are thicker and more opaque. After the paint has dried, I like to go back into the painting with vine charcoal, oil pastels, watercolor crayons, or makers. I enjoy involving many different components, in order to create surfaces that are rich, lyrical, and visually interesting.
Lets face it: I’m an artist, I know I can be a TOTAL flake at times. Most creative people I know can be that way. It is hard to balance your creativity, personal life, home, and business. I tend to get hyper focused on my work and ignore many details in the real world (like sleep.) I just have too many ideas swirling around in my head. (I used to be worse – but am sooo much better now thanks to ADD meds.) So, as a creative business person I have to try extra hard; take every precaution and steps to stay organized and ensure I stay on task (some people can hire others for this.) I also get migraines, and have had family stress – and it seems like I’m extra forgetful when those occurrences arise. I have three TO-DO lists. One for home (like call landscapers, replace outdoor light fixture, etc,) one for studio/art business (commissions, show deadlines, order business cards, etc,) one for personal stuff (like do taxes, doctors appointments, etc). If I don’t write it down I will forget. If I don’t put it on my calendar I will forget. And even then, I may still forget. The other day, I even had to write “take a bath” on my daily to-do list – just so I would not dick around too long in the morning. My BF was laughing his ass off.
We all make mistakes in life, but it is up to you to learn from those mistakes and not repeat them.
For a few years I was traveling back and forth to NYC so much, and recently to San Antonio, TX to spend time with my Mother. In order to do so, I really had to use my time wisely while I was in the Florida studio. Every moment was spoken for, in order to adhere to my deadlines. I don’t have too much wiggle room in my schedule. There were so many late nights and early mornings that my days were running together. Let’s face it – I work my ass off. In fact, I think I may have already written a blog post about this very same topic – but forgot.
That being said, it seems like in the last year or two I have had sooo many problems with people (not just one, but several) I have worked with professionally (or potentially worked with) – and they have serious problems returning phone calls or emails in a timely manner (or even at all.) And I’m not talking about a day or two later – but 2 weeks later or more (or never) – long enough that I either forgot that I contacted them in the first place, or I had to follow-up a few times. If it were an isolated incident – that would be forgivable, as you never know what is going on in people’s lives. But seriously, I know everyone is busy, and it is not all about me, but I can’t help but feel a bit taken for granted, taken advantage of, and/or that my time has been disregarded – especially since most of these people are repeat offenders. As I am not the only artist in your life, YOU are not my only client. However, I do NOT make you feel like that. It is called professionalism.
Buying art is such an emotional process for people – which is why I put up with so much (frustrating) indecisiveness. I have to be patient, positive, and encouraging, and remember this is a HUGE deal for some people. I work with some people who are buying their first piece of original art – and they need to feel like they are making the right decision, because it may be a lot of money to let go of. I am often expected to keep impossible install dates – and I end up staying up long nights for weeks on end – putting a rush on your project; then slap on a smile and some extra heavy-duty concealer when I deliver the work so you don’t think I’m a meth addict. I can get past all that, because while I complain – deadlines, and challenges are all about being in business. They make things interesting, cause you to grow, learn from your mistakes, think fast, and trouble shoot. However, some people can’t be bothered to pay artists on time, get important details to the artists before the project begins, answer questions, or respond to price quotes. That is the part of business I hate. For some reason, they don’t get the fact that if I have one kink in my schedule it can throw the whole project off and impact successive projects. I then have to do things the long, hard way to overcompensate in order to still meet deadlines. And then it starts to become a vicious cycle: I’m sleep deprived, I become forgetful, and I slack off at home, and personal life…. I have really learned that if I overcommit, and am not properly compensated for it, then I tend to get angry and resentful; and who wants to work that way? And I have no one but myself to blame.
Really, I hate to even complain. In the grand scheme of things this is the most trivial bit of drivel I have ever written in my entire life! I even started to make myself want to vomit. I’m mean – I realize I am not saving lives or anything, and this is a first-world problem. I should be thankful that I have any work at all. In an essence, am selling non-essential luxury items to people. And believe me I am EXTREMELY thankful!
These days, we have about 6 ways to communicate with each other on a daily basis (in person, by phone, text, email, computer chat, mail), in an age of smart phones, and iPads. We constantly know what is going on in the world, yet we are still communicatively crippled. Go figure.
If you want to read a new book about a retired NYC financial executive who meets an artist on an island and they fall in lurrrve…
Oh, and they each have a Chihuahua. And the dogs dig each other too…
(I illustrated the cover)
When you have a book on Amazon, there is a little thing at the bottom of the “Product Details” that states your ranking, like this:
So, for shits and giggles I clicked on the top 100 books. Hillary Clinton’s new book is in the top 20. No surprise there, she has lots of fans – but the real shocker is that she barely has a two star rating for a top 20 book (out of 1000+ reviews.) And those are from people who actually like her – because you know that no self-respecting Republican will buy that book (at least new) and put money in her pocket. I almost felt sorry for her. The consensus is that it was long, boring, cold/superficial/safe, lacking substance, and ghost written. Most people were disappointed that it was lacking in candor, and honesty….
New small paintings on paper are in the shop!
These paintings are very personal to me: They were created when I was spending time in San Antonio, TX as my Mother was dying from Cancer. I would hole up in the guest room at night and watch bad reality television and paint away trying to clear my mind, yet stay busy.
They are on 140lb acid free paper with a smooth vellum finish. They come temporarily mounted on a 16×20 white backer board and protected in a plastic sleeve – ready for you to pop in a frame of your choice.
I FINALLY got a few photographed. I still have many more to finish up and flatten – but there is a learning curve with water media on paper – and the whole flattening part. It was taking so long for these few to flatten and dry, I thought they were going to mold. But now I think I have a better plan. I will be adding much more in the next month, so stay tuned.