Sunday, March 28, 2010

My Patterns File

When I speak of My Patterns, these are not sale items but are a collection of all the paperwork involved with my artwork carefully filed in one place. One element of my organization plan, which is rated very high on my list of necessary things-to-do, is the careful keeping track of and containing all the bits and pieces of each new project from the beginning sketches to its conclusion. My system is fairly easy and goes far towards keeping track of stuff especially in the middle of the designing debris and chaos. It is most helpful during those times when I am designing and working on more than one idea, doing what I call ‘leap-frogging’ from one project to another. Who does not work on more than one task? The brain becomes tired with concentrating on only one design challenge at a time.

Each artwork begins with rough sketches as I try to capture the essence of an idea. As I zero in on the plan and begin to expand the concept, I will pull out a crisp, new 9 x 12 clasp envelope to make ready for containing all the bits and pieces: sketches, procedural notes to myself, and anything having to do with the design at hand. As time marches forward, the envelope is labeled and filled so nothing is lost because of chaotic studio effort. If the project is extra large in size, a 2nd envelope is started for the master pattern and any related sections used to make templates.

When the title for the art is determined, it is written on the envelope, and eventually a listing of contents is added for quick future reference. Each envelope is placed in alphabetical order in a metal filing cabinet, where each creative endeavor can ‘talk’ to one another about their high-ho times in my studio. Yes, my imagination tells me, that the envelopes start whispering to one another after I close the drawer.

This filing cabinet is important because I am able to return to artworks done years ago, open an envelope to refresh my working memory of any project. What did I learn from it? I have also on occasion borrowed from past work to launch a new and different one. I call it piggybacking, which makes further use of a great deal of designing effort performed earlier. I do not always have to re-invent the wheel with every new creative tasking.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Inner Voices?

I appreciate musings about how to find the inner voice because it implies there really are voices that whisper motivational messages into the inner sanctum, which force the creation of superb examples of artistic talent. Oh, what if I do not hear the voices? What is wrong with me? And, if I hear conflicting advice from the sanctified ramblings, am I ready for the funny farm? The simple answers are: Don't worry...Nothing, and...Maybe, yes.

Let us become a little more realistic about that inner spirit each of us possess. Is one suppose to actually feel its presence, guidance and influence? The voice you are suppose to hear is YOURS, you are the Muse, and not some ethereal spirit waving a magic wand over your head. In order to tap into that part of your being, you have to give it space, quiet and freedom to do the back-flips you expect.

Your Muse requires frequent feeding, something like fertilizer we spread upon the flower beds to make the blooms pop open. A complete Muse fertilizer may have a variety of ingredients: Books, music, time alone, silence, sleep, change of scenery, nutritious food, sensual contact, moving at a snails pace as in slow down. The special ingredients are a little different for each of us. For me, in addition to the ones already listed, a glass of a very good wine, and the daily walks with my dog and husband are important. Ho-hum? Not at all, such things provide needed diversion for my Muse.

My Muse requires time and space for massaging the ideas and influences that may contribute to the really big idea worthy of my time and effort. She does rebel when overloaded with too many expectations, and she will shut down, go flat and stall. For many artists, we are our own worst enemy, in a sense, because we place such demands upon our Muse. We beat on her, expecting instant results, inspiration and blinding insight. We demand she run the marathon, meet the deadlines, weave fabric into golden panels, crank out those pieces of art to inspire awe from the public, and to keep up the frantic pace. Our personal Muses are often overworked with no time allocated to recuperate, repair and prepare for the next round of creative activity. We provide little time for getting anything in order and expect everything to be sensational. And, when it does not happen, we think "there is something wrong with me".

For those having a problem with kick-starting your Muse, give yourself permission to take a break to refresh yourself and your Muse that so much is depended upon. She's in there, she's just tired and needs a vacation from her benefactor. Or, perhaps she needs a boost with another plan of attack, another perspective, or a re-evaluation of the other priorities that weigh on the creative processes.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Trumpets of Spring

In my past posting, I mentioned the yellow crocus that had survived the ice storm, and announced that the jonquils have bloomed. This cluster is ever faithful and poked up through the dark brown soil when I needed a boost in spirits the most. How can anyone be a grump when she spies the resounding joys of jonquils? These perky blooms are the ones I used last spring as inspiration for one piece in my garden series last year.

Back Fence Conversation

This time of year, there are many articles written offering help on many topics. Recently, I read an article about recommendations for starting home improvement projects and was struck by how similar the suggestions were to what I generally follow when creating my pictorial art.

Plan-Plan-Plan. Winging it can be an artist’s best friend or the worst enemy. Acknowledge the difference. Establishing goals and milestone markers fall under this idea, too.

Spousal support. No one needs a spouse laying cinderblocks on your creative path, stopping forward moment. Frequently, a spouse views these creative impulses as silly until the first works are sold, then suddenly, the light goes on and understanding is reached, as in "You can actually make money doing this stuff?"

Ask for Help. Plowing ahead can ruin some great projects. Asking for help does not mean you are committed to following that help or direction. Example: I ask my husband frequently what he thinks of a new idea I have or what he sees during the initial stages of a new work. I also tell him up front that the question does not require him to make a decision or take action. It is just talk, feedback that I need, and I may not follow his advice. He has learned to understand what I am asking and does not sulk when I ignore his opinion or suggestions. No spouse? Establish a small support group of artist friends to handle this concern.

Be realistic. Do you want to invest the time and money? Do you have the skills to do the project? If not…

Develop the Skills you need. Take classes and workshops. Read. Research. Experiment. Do the baby steps that will advance your mastering of skills and techniques required to reach the anticipated end results. This step also has great long-term benefits because an artist’s next project will be better than the last one.

Create a Budget. Determine the limits you are willing to spend if you have a tight budget. This is simply making the most of limited resources in order to reach the artistic goal. This may also suggest that conflicting budgetary demands may require re-evaluation and family cooperation. Where can I save money elsewhere so that I have the resources for the new projects? Again, be realistic, focus and be choosy about the next effort.

Create a Materials list. Identifying the supplies needed in advance of starting a new work will reduce wasted time rounding up stuff, trips to the store, or waiting for the arrival of postal delivery. This step also saves money.

Buy the right tools. This suggestion is not meant to provide the go-ahead to buy more tools. Rather, it means having the correct tools for specific tasks that the project requires, which eliminates frustration, poor workmanship and possibly on-the-job accidents. Invest in good quality tools, the best that you can afford. You may have to be patient and save up for the quality. You will have them a very long time and you will be happier.

Take care of the tools. Properly clean, repair, sharpen, oil, and put away carefully at the end of usage means those tools will be available the next time. I still use paintbrushes that I bought 30 years ago because I bought the best I could afford, and carefully cleaned them every time I use them. I wipe off my good scissors, periodically clean the rotary cutter, and have my sewing machines routinely serviced.

Measure Twice. Cut Once. Carpenters know this mantra–by–heart because it reduces waste and mismatched seams. If one is an artist that free–cuts and doesn’t like measuring anything, this tip may simply suggest that paying attention to what you are doing may eliminate the pain and suffering of not meeting the expectations.

Be safe as you work. Developing good work habits may spare the artist injury from inhalation of toxic fumes, from the tools and from the lack of concentration as you are working. Be aware of your surroundings and what you are doing to protect yourself, but also to shield little children and perhaps your pets that share your workspace. If your mind is wandering, stop and do something else.

My final word of advice is:

A cluttered workspace leads to muddled thinking and chaotic working, which interrupts the workflow in general.