Back to the Brush
Becoming a mother has certainly influenced my artwork during the last two year. It has taken my time, of course… but it has also made me ten times more productive with the odd five minutes. It has given me new ideas and it has changed my methods of working. Most noticeably it made it much easier to create installations than paintings.
For me painting is something that takes my whole self for days or weeks at a time. I need at least three hours at a time, preferably a full day at a time when I paint. I need to live in that work for weeks and keep coming back to it or it will move on. If I wait too long the piece in my mind will out-evolve what I’ve painted and I need to rework everything each time I come back instead of finishing it and moving to the next piece. I haven’t been able to do much painting in the last two and a half years.
What I have done is installation work and sculpture. Most of the intense creative work in those has been mental instead of physical. Building the piece becomes half engineering in parts of the process. It often requires making separate parts that may or may not take my full attention (like winding 300 balls of yarn for example). Some aspects of making my installations can be as absorbing as painting (or have even involved painting), but so far they haven’t taken as much time as I take to make a stand-alone painting. I can do a lot of this work from home (or to bring in pieces wherever I go). I can pick it up and put it down easily and it can fit into the odd moments of a non-art-work day. Some parts take more concentrated creative time, or special equipment (laser cutters and kilns and such. Those things I go to Techshop or the Crucible for. Drawing I do out and about, or in museums, not in the studio. The result is that I spent very little time in the studio the last two years.
It kept me from the studio, but it pushed me farther into a facet of my work that I could maintain at full steam under the new conditions, and I’m pleased with that work, and I have gotten opportunities to show it over the same period of time I have been studio-absent.
In the last six months I’ve gotten some of my time back… but it has all gone into installation and sculpture work for specific shows.
At the moment I have two potential installation projects on the horizon… but I have a window of time to paint. On Tuesday I got down there and literally dusted everything off, took off the sheets and looked around. There is a new piece to start, freshly gessoed as of yesterday. The source images are ready. There are pieces left hanging that I’m continuing (such as the skin painting below, which got a good few hours into it).
I have several such pieces haunting my studio and the recent trip to NYC made me want to reclaim them. Everything is ready for me to start on the new piece my next day in the studio.
It feels wonderful to hold my brushes again!
Life will throw interesting challenges, and if you are good you make them add to your practice instead of diminishing it. Money, time, space, (for many creative people, mental health) these are so often the issues, and yet our struggles with them can produce work that might not otherwise occur to us. Sometimes constraint produces more than abundance.