Monday, July 1, 2013

Threads and Journeys

From Cill Rialaig  12x112" acrylic on canvas © 2012 Janice Mason Steeves

There are always threads aren't there, that connect one thing and another in our lives.  I wrote last week about the threads that connected many events in my life that week.  This week I found some new connections.

In preparing a slide presentation for Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts near Victoria, BC, where I'll be teaching next week, I've been looking at images of the paintings I did at my artist residency at Cill Rialaig in Ireland last fall.  I haven't looked at the work for a while and in fact tended to dismiss it as only experimental work.  I've put it on a shelf in my studio and haven't looked at it since I came home last December.  My artist talk is about Journeys: a short version of how I came to be doing the work I'm doing now-where it came from, what influenced it, and what I learn from it.

Sometimes we don't know the strength of a painting until we put it away for a while.  I was using acrylics in this Cill Rialaig piece, a medium I am not very comfortable with or familiar with.  I was surprised-when I looked at it after all these months-at the strength of this painting that I had done in such an experimental manner.  I was surprised also, to notice the similarity between this work and my current work.  The use of shape, line and strong value contrast are present in all of the paintings.  I often tend to dismiss the work I do at artist residencies as simply playful and exploratory. 

In my workshops, I always encourage a playful approach.  So often artists come to workshops with the intention of producing a saleable work of art in a 3-day workshop where they are learning to work with a new medium!   It's a tough job trying to encourage people to let go of the product mentality and simply explore.  That doesn't mean that I feel that finished paintings can be slapped together in a few moments of play.  There is the analytical piece that is important to balance that sense of play.  But it is the playful exploration that leads the way.  It comes first.  There is a sense of detachment to it too, where it's the process that is important not the results.  In fact the results (at that moment) are very secondary and when they become important, it no longer is play. That's the moment though when really creative ideas are born-that moment of detachment and freedom.  The analytical part comes later.

 In putting together my presentation this week, I clearly see how important this attitude is in my own work.  In April, when I was trying to get back to work after a month-long hiatus from the studio, I painted on small sheets of paper in a very carefree, experimental fashion.  I came gradually to realize that this process produced some strong pieces as well.  They shared a close relationship to the Ireland work although I didn't think of it at the time.  That creative process led the way into what has become a body of work.

Although I've spent way too much time this week putting together my presentation, I'm delighted to see how much I've learned from it.....the threads that have been woven, the connections made.

Go and play. Run around. Build something. Break something. Climb a tree. Get dirty. Get in some trouble. Have some fun.”  Brom, The Child Thief

Lines of Desire 1332   16x16"   Oil/cold wax on panel © 2013 Janice Mason Steeves
Lines of Desire 1341    40x36"  Oil/cold wax on panel  © 2013 Janice Mason Steeves