Earlier this year, I attended an artist residency for a week at the beginning of February. I almost don’t want to share the info with you, because I want to be able to attend again next year and apparently it was super hard to be accepted. But I will just have to roll the dice and leave it up to the universe – perhaps other artists need more help than I do? Anyway, the retreat was a Master Series Residency with Steve Aimone, located at the beautiful Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, which is known for hosting some of the most prominent artist-in-residence programs in the country. I don’t know Steve on a personal level, but as a teacher, he is such a gentle soul, incredibly intelligent/knowledgable about art, and knows how to ask you the right questions in order to get you thinking about your own work, and encourage the creative juices to flow. He specifically knows how to relate to and communicate with women on a level that most men do not. I would not describe myself as overly sensitive and/or easily offended – however most artist can be, and this nurturing environment and approach was recognized, and appreciated. This was my first “continuing education” workshop of sorts since leaving college – and thanks to Steve the transition was an easy and humbling experience.
I was so excited to be there that I’m pretty sure I did not even sleep 30 minutes the first night (and I looked like death the rest of the week because of it). I also experienced a brief wave of sadness (the weird kind of sadness, because you realize you are so thankful and happy) – as it occurred to me that I was so starved for creative companionship, advice, and connection. I feel so creatively isolated on this small island – and it was so incredibly refreshing to be around these like-minded individuals (only abstract artists) who were so serious about becoming better artists and honing their craft. Everyone was excited to learn new things about technique, problem solving, new materials, and about themselves through their art.
There were all levels of artists represented at the residency, and it was cool to be able to openly observe everyone while they worked, how they set up their work space, incorporate such different/creative materials, resolved problems, and learn how everyone approaches their personal creative process. Artists are such diverse creatures, and it was invigorating to listen and engage in ideas while learning and evolving myself. Most artists, like myself, (or at least the artist I admire) are more PROCESS oriented: Connected and immersed in the process making of the work as a “system” that is open-ended, curious, problem-solving, exploratory, innovative, individual, invested, and connected – as opposed to (final) PRODUCT oriented. Most artists at the retreat seemed to carefully plan or premeditate their intent with the work, or series, while I tend to approach things more intuitively and see where things take me. This sounds odd (because most people wish they could approach art making like I do) – but I wanted to try and get away from that unplanned “intuitive” behavior that I have always relied on, in order to place limitations on myself, and attempt to create work with more of an objective, underlying grid, and goal. Or at least balance the intuition and intention. It was a challenge to constantly re-shift my focus on creating a successful push/pull, instead of the loose, organic circular moment I tend to gravitate toward. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone – which is what keeps things interesting for me. (I don’t know if any of this makes sense.) I swear I learned more about myself and creating art than I did in my 7-8 years of college. In fact I’m not sure what I learned in college (if anything.)
It was such a luxury to be able to paint 12-14 hours a day, have all my meals taken care of, and not worry about the distractions of daily life. The overall result were these very ‘quiet’ paintings. Even more muted, with texture, and editing than I normally do/use – and I love how peaceful they seem. Several of these took me awhile to resolve while considering all of the layers and shapes that were floating and sliding around, all the negative space makes me feel mysterious and sterile, yet complete (if that makes any sense.) They are not too crazy “out there” – or at first glance even appear all that different from my current work, however, the underlying structure, rules, and intention I was striving for have already become a catalyst for my new work in progress (photos come).
Anyway, I’m anxious to see how all this hard work pays off in the studio in the next few months/year. I am my own worst critic. I came home feeling invigorated, yet like all my old art was absolute crap, that I never knew thing about art, and wanted to paint over all the work in my studio. I am especially anxious to tackle all the unfinished “stinkers” that I have lurking around the studio – haunting me. I am trying to not view them as unfinished failures, but as challenges. I need to edit more, and continue to work through the layers instead of losing all hope when something is not instantly coming together. I also need to abandon the notion that work is ever really finished – but just cast off during important moments.
“To finish a picture? What nonsense! To finish it means to be through with it, to kill it, to rid it of its soul!” -Picasso
I am spoiled in the fact that things/creativity normally come fairly easily to me. But I also know that I get bored with things that I feel like I have really conquered/accomplished – and that is when a shift in the work usually occurs for me. It is my (new) intention to incorporate more areas of discomfort or discord – to engage the viewer more – both in a good and bad way. Even if something irritates you that is better than being glossed over as a “purdy picture that matches the sofa.” I don’t really want to create such safe, pretty, obviously feminine art – but work that has more dimension and soul. We will see if I can do these things.
Now that I have been back tackling the “ghosts” of unfinished work, I do miss the connection with other artists, but this “alone time” has forced me to explore this new phase of growth in my process on my own terms. I have been spring cleaning in a sense, and already revisiting old work. Here are a few “problem children” that had been sitting around the studio and I have taken the time to (mostly) resolve after coming home. Either I am just tired of working on them, or they have become some of my favorites – none the less, they have been released from the nest: