What is my art practice about?

What is my art practice about? This is a question which I’m occasionally forced to address, usually when filling out those dreaded exhibition proposals.

I’ll start from the points I easily know and perhaps by pegging those down a shape may emerge.

I’m obsessed with the human female form. Yes I am one so that helps but also I strongly feel that there is too much public representation of a very narrow set of female figures. I’m adding my voice to the story. I can’t single-handedly readjust this direction but through using my family and friends, though generally myself primarily, as model for a lot of my work, but I am widening the canon.

All artworks my original
I am a sex positive person. I do not believe sex is a dirty, secretive thing. It is a pleasure that we humans can and should enjoy. I am conscious of being a strong role model for my two daughters. A large part of sex for women is how they feel about their bodies. Extrapolate this idea further -if they don’t see their bodies represented as an idea of beauty, they may easily not innately know that they are beautiful and furthermore acceptable.

I am sure that I also paint myself as a larger body for my own well being. Putting my form on the canvas separates the end product from me as a person so I never truly feel that it is exactly me. It’s not me. It’s a view of me but it’s not me. I don’t know if it’s narcissistic. I feel quite divorced when I’m applying the pigment. Lines and curves, tone and colour are all I see. Posting images on social media doesn’t even feel like exposure.

I say all this and yet to some degree I occasionally get self-conscious when someone in a public gallery asks if I was the model for a particular piece.
No doubt to a degree part of my way of working involves arrogance. I have to show some bravado that I know what I’m doing. My lack of formal art school training rears its ugly head every now and then but I’m not really interested in spending multiple thousands of dollars for something which may or may not benefit me. A friend started studying art formally a few years ago and she learnt a slew of practice how to information which I think could be very useful. The next section of her education was more cerebral and that’s where it lost me. A lot of conceptual art passes me right by.

When I start a piece I don’t always know where it is going. I have an idea that may or may not pan out. It’s generally more interesting when things don’t go to plan. In fact, I like it when things go ‘wrong’ either from a technical point of view, compositionally or due to other factors. It forces me to come at it from a different angle. 

I know that I’m talking around the thing that is my art practice. I find it very difficult to easily answer the question. In fact, I’m not sure I even really know the question. Perhaps that is part of where I get lost. My art practice is mostly exploration – what it is like being a woman in this time, with my unique set of experiences yet drawing on some universal themes that others, not only those who identify as female, can relate to.

SHIT OR GET OFF THE POT

On making my art AND on making myself as an artist.

There are times when I doubt myself as an artist. Well many times if I’m to be frank. (‘Glad you’re being Frank’ I can almost hear my children chorusing).  It usually comes right about when I have to fill in an application form for an exhibition submission to a gallery. I’m starting to build up the CV of previous exhibition experiences. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet people I consider part of my tribe who have welcomed my emerging art status.

The part I most often trip over is the ‘schooling’ bit. I’ve done some tertiary study it just wanted in relevant areas or even completed. I’d like to imagine that I’ve picked up the odd relevant thing in my 44 years of life though.

So this is where I feel somewhat in limbo. I’m 44 years old so I’m not newly-realised-into-the-world-kind-of-emerging but I’m certainly not seasoned-showing-my-art experienced either. I don’t even feel near the middle. I’ll concede to feeling 30% of the way. On a side note, I heard recently that most people experience doubt about projects etc at the 30% in and 30% to go marks. Maybe that helps explain it.

I’ve never formally studied any art. Local living and learning centre courses of which I’ve done a few years worth, apparently don’t count. I’ve a friend who started painting with me around the same time I did. She’s now in her second course studying Fine Art at a fine tertiary institution. I’ve had chats with her about this and I can’t say it draws me towards incurring a substantial higher education debt for a few lines on an application. I struggle with conceptual art and find myself alienated from of abstract, performance and even video art. Even the world installation can be off-putting.

I would like to increase my practical knowledge about techniques and different media and even relish the idea of associating with fellow creatives on a regular basis but this appears not to be the real situation in most tertiary education facilities.

Occasionally I browse a short course, adult education catalogue and see what is offered. Then usually I jump to the more immediate YouTube to satisfy my curiosity. I am aware that there are many things that I might learn from fellow students as well as my teacher in a class situation that I may never discover from YouTube alone but instant gratification usually wins out. I also like the small but useful tricks of rewinding, pausing and bookmarking sections where I want to study in more detail. The internet provides an incredible wealth of information about the technical side of certain mediums, though I also hit up the art supply store peeps too.

 It’s great to get out of a solo art studio and chat to someone else who is so enthusiastic about the minutiae of art mediums and the Melbourne art scene, as the lovely people at some of my favourite art supply stores. I found myself once having an in depth conversation about particular pigments days after walking past an impressive wall of wisteria – a scene that wouldn’t leave my mind. I needed to paint it you understand.


So I try not to over-think these things (an expression I heard from a friend a few years ago and I immediately knew what she meant). The way to make art and therefore makes myself as an artist is to just keep turning up at the easel.

SHIT OR GET OFF THE POT

Painting en plein air

I’ve a great travel set of watercolours and am enjoying discovering the pleasures of painting in the open. I recognise it is quite the established tradition but I’m a newcomer to it.

A little tweaking when I got home but most of the work was captured on site.

Lessons learned from playing with watercolour paints

I recently returned from a week on a tropical island with family. Naturally, I took art supplies to keep sane and allow me a legitimate excuse to steal some time and space for myself. Tubes of oils and acrylics seemed too cumbersome to pack so I only took a sketch pad, some pencils and my recently purchased and mostly untouched travel watercolour set.

Let’s just say I learned a thing or five.

1 – Time
Some things really can’t be rushed. Watercolour needs time to dry if you don’t wan’t areas to bleed and blend into each other. Who knew brute force and blind faith weren’t always the answer.

2 – I need practice paper to feel out the intensity and value of the colour that is on my brush. Only so much can be adjusted once it’s on the paper.

3 – Other people who have experience in this can be very helpful

4 – Less can actually be more. Cliche though it is this is true. Clarity of a single stroke can say/achieve more than multiple strokes.

5 – ‘Practice’ pieces can really work.
‘Proper’ pieces can often fail.

Good god – could watercolour be teaching me patience. Perhaps this is why I always knew it was something I wouldn’t do till I was older… Does that mean I’m older now? Wiser too? Ha!

Bucket lists

What do we think of them? Like them or not like them? Do you have one? How up to date is it? How long since you managed to tick something off it?

They can be good incentive to get you up off your butt and out there into the world. Some people really enjoy ticking things off the list. For me, I like to make sure that the items are actually possible to achieve….for me. No point having it full of highly improbable things like travelling to space or running a marathon – neither of which I should point actually appeal to me although I know certain friends for which these are very real events.

Basically mine has expired – not that generally I believe in the old ‘use by date’ concept. Fundamentally I reckon we’ve become lazy and want  someone else to tell us when it’s okay to use a product. Use your brain people!Look at it…smell it.. taste a bit of it. Cheese ‘past’ it’s use by date? – Fabulous it’s usually reduced and now it’s in peak ready to eat condition! My favourite!

I read some interesting stuff on the interwebs recently ( who knew this thing would take off like it has AND be so useful ) about an art project that harvested bacteria from a variety of human sources and developed some cheese from said innovative bacteria strains. 

Now, I know plenty will disagree with me but I was a little let down that the cheese wasn’t actually consumed by anyone. I thought it was such a missed opportunity to close the circle, if you like. Would I have tried it? Probably. I’m not too queasy when it comes to food. Cheese is essentially off milk anyway…
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2511272/Would-eat-cheese-HUMAN-FEET-ARMPITS.html

But I digress…gee I’ve never done that before (you, stop laughing!)

So basically I think I need a new bucket list.

There’s a slight problem. I don’t seem to want anything. My life is going so well in all aspects that I genuinely don’t crave anything. It’s particularly annoying for my partner at this festive time of year. 

My list used to include things like – eat a trashy hot dog and drink a beer from a plastic cup whilst watching a baseball game in America, have matzo ball soup in a Brooklyn diner, go to an uber cool NYC club and drink an over priced cocktail that I’d never heard of before. Yes, I see the theme too – food and drink and entirely acheivable.

So what’s on my new list – not much so far. Definitely eating and drinking around Spain and Italy. Visit New Orleans with my man who has great passion for the city. But mostly, I think it’s to do what I’m doing. Paint, write, cook, walk, laugh, read, talk, meet people, draw, play, take joy in each day and more.