For today's challenge, scroll down to the end.
Perhaps you’re more fortunate than many of us who are feeling worn down by the challenges of the pandemic, the politics, the natural disasters and the isolation from one another. And … perhaps not.
Being an artist who works mostly in solitude, even when painting en plein air and exploring cities and mountains throughout the world, my day to day life wasn’t seriously altered by the pandemic. My travel plans were cancelled, of course. For the past five or six years I’ve spent more time traveling than I’ve spent at home in New Jersey. This year was different in that I left New Jersey for only a total of ten days.
I’m fortunate to live in a high spot in a rural area, surrounded by fields, edged by woods. I have a great view of the sunrise, the sunset, the movement and ever-changing shapes of clouds, the rise and fall of the moon, and the sparkling stars at night. I can step out of my back door and walk for miles without wearing my mask. Even so, the gloom found its way through the milky way to rest upon my shoulders. I miss seeing and touching my family, friends, acquaintances and strangers. I miss the shared moments of discovery and laughter. Now my conversations are pixelated.
One of the positive results of staying at home is that I’ve spent more time contemplating why I paint, why I painted in the past and why I continue to paint. I contemplate the skills I have and the skills I wish to have. Most importantly, I ask myself “What do I want to do with my skills at this point in my life?” And … what part do I wish to play in the world of art? Do I want to exhibit again? Do I want to teach live workshops again? Do I want to continue teaching online? Do I want to just fold into myself and wander the world exploring with pen and brush, learning about other cultures, meet new people, reflect on the history of mankind?
Another positive aspect of staying at home is that I’m slowly sifting through my lifetime of artwork in sketchbooks and paintings, some that have never been exhibited, some that aren’t good enough to exhibit but have something of value to me in them that keeps them out of the dumpster, some unfinished, others just piled up for no particular reason at all.
Being as prolific as I am, I’ve continued to move from one phase to another, one focus to another. As I sort through old work, I find a great deal that surprises me. Some of the work I kept, in spite of the fact that I really hated it, I now see with new eyes. I see the marks of my inner artist that I was blind to before. I see why I painted what I painted. It was never about the subject, it was always about the shape and about movement and about patterns. Often, the subject is nature because nature offers an infinite variety of shapes and colors and color combinations.
It became clear to me about twenty years ago that it was movement through space that inspires me the most. If a sketch or painting doesn’t have a sense of movement that I can feel as a physical sensation, it’s unsuccessful and unresolved. My subject matter is diverse and even my styles are diverse. As a result, my body of work can be very confusing … even to me.
This past year has been, for me, like living in a house of mirrors … confronting the many aspects of myself as a woman and as an artist. It’s been fascinating, frustrating and freeing.
By the end of 2020 I felt as if I walked in a fog throughout the day. I needed to jolt myself off the path of the downward moving spiral. My remedy was Dala Art. Creating Dala Art always brings me joy. Circles and spheres always bring me joy. So obvious. So clear. Even as a young child I drew a little circle somewhere on my piece of paper. I never knew why. I still don’t know why. I do know that I still find myself doing it, even if it is just a bit of splatter or a fleck of paint. Circles delight me. Isn’t that why I love utility covers, plumbing, marbles, globes, water towers, puddles, street lamps …?
Right now I’m gathering together bits and pieces of work that I’ve done, inspired and driven by circles, spheres or spirals. I’m reviewing it with fresh eyes, looking for something else that might be hidden within the good, the bad and the ugly … a key, a clue to which direction I might now take, with my tools and lessons learned packed inside the pockets of my inner artist’s tool bag.
There’s a whole wild world of nature right outside my back door and the celestial wonders above my head. There’s no lack of inspiration. Not even the pandemic can isolate me from my inner artist and her limitless energy, her will to create and to manipulate shapes, values, textures and colors.
I’m looking forward to this journey into 2021.
Gather together either the original or photos of the following pieces of art you've created at any point in your life:
1. one to three pieces that you think aren't very good at all, but you hang onto them because there's just something about them that you feel connected to (you don't need to know why you're connected)
2. one to three pieces that you really love even if you don't feel they are the best representation of you as an artist and/or your skills as an artist
3. one to three pieces that you are the most pleased with ... for any reason.
4. one to three pieces that you feel exhibit your skills but that you don't truly feel connected to.
Pour yourself a cup of coffee, tea, wine, whatever is your pleasure, and sit quietly with these pieces, letting your gaze go where it will. Don't try to think or to analyze. Do your best not to make any judgements. Just observe and take notice of your physical sensations and your emotions as you gaze at the pieces. Spend at least fifteen minutes just gazing and taking notice of whatever thoughts pass through your mind and whatever feelings you experience.
When you are finished gazing, begin writing down some of the thoughts you had and describe some of the feelings you had. Keep writing and allow more words to flow onto the paper. Don't worry about grammar or writing in complete sentences. Keep the pen going and write whatever comes to mind. Try to write for about half an hour.
Go for a walk.
Share with me, if you wish, whatever insights you may have experienced.
Tweak this exercise in any way you wish. Your work is a mirror for your inner artist.
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Thank you for joining me on my adventures.
Chris Carter - Artist
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