Tuesday, January 1, 2013

There and Back Again

I don't really know how to talk about this year behind me, so instead I'm going to write a postmortem for the drawing-a-day project I just finished.

Six months ago, I was reeling in the aftermath of graduation and the IMC and a new job and the process of moving to a new apartment. There was a lot going on, and I was very, very overwhelmed: I started the drawing-a-day project I'd promised Iain McCaig I'd do with something like desperation underlying the 'I said I would do it therefore I will'.

I  had... no real clue what I was doing. There was some idea that I should be analyzing every step of the way (as self-reflection has always proven to be helpful for me), but since I started the project in something of a panic I didn't even know where to begin.

For the first few days I copied art and wrote about my feelings and reactions to the originals - and then I spent two months copying photos. It was a bad time for me: I was so incapable of approaching my own art that I couldn't even begin to think about self-generating, and as is pretty much always the case I was too close to even see it, even though I knew something was wrong. Iain McCaig's directions for the project had been a simple "draw what you love" and "draw every day", and I knew the goal was to rediscover the art I loved to make - but it took a long time to even find the path.

When I finally realized that drawing photos wasn't cutting it, that I was focusing on copying things I liked instead of making things I liked, it was... something of a revelation.

I've learned things about myself and my art over the past few months. It's easy to make the jokes about my endless flowey ladies - and trust me, I've made most of the jokes myself - but for all that they make up a significant amount of the project, I've figured out that it's not about them so much as it's about what I use them as a vehicle for.

Emotion has always been at the heart of my appreciation of art. Not the overt, dramatic kind that you see in a lot of things - but the subtleties, the things going on under the surface or behind the eyes, emotion that I could connect with even hundreds of years after the artist who'd shaped it was dead. And that's what my flowey ladies are an attempt at: a channel for these emotions I want to create, especially the theme of melancholy and longing that is emerging in my portfolio.

I could talk about discipline, or how really good structure is for me, or 2012 in general, but I won't. Because I called this project 'there and back again' pretty flippantly, in the same self-deprecating manner I called my painting-a-day project a 'Quest for Jenius' - and it's turned out to be far more of an apt title than I could have ever believed.

Over the past six months, I've been on a journey not to discover some new kind of art to make, but to get back to where I was about two years ago. I'm back there, at once on familiar ground but with an entire new world opened to me: I can see what I was trying to do, fumblingly, with The Narwhal Woman and with Saint Pangea, and I can see what broke to the surface with A Great Beauty and Bramble Weaver, and I am on firmer footing with my direction now than I could have even dreamed of when I graduated.

Which is not to say I don't have a long way to go. The idea of 'there and back again' is to take a journey in order to enable an even greater one to start.

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