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Voices and Visions, Artist Statement

It’s been several weeks since I have blogged, and the reasons are many. Some new responsibilities as my mom’s caregiver, due to her shoulder replacement surgery in October, lots of hours at work, and a new custom order, among other things. Also, I keep trying to think of the perfect topic that will be entertaining to my audience and informative. And yet, when I do that I feel like I am not being my genuine self, and that leads to more inertia. So instead, I decided to share my artist statement for my new poetry illustration series, Voices, and Visions. So here it is.

Desert landscape with pregnant woman and plants
This is an oil painting which depicts the feeling of creative block. It is symbolized by the desert landscape and the pregnant woman, as well as the bean plant growth cycle.
Two figures in a barren landscape with a teddy bear and leaves.
This oil painting is an interpretation of Robert Frost’s poem, The Secret Sits. It is also inspired by a music video by the Cranberries, called Ordinary Day, in which the main character chases her younger self to try and resolve unfinished business.

Voices and Visions

 How does an idea for a painting get born? For me, it’s sometimes a memory being re-played, hearing a song lyric that resonates with me, reading a poem that lends itself to telling a story or visiting an inspiring art exhibit.  This series focuses on the connection between stories described in the written word, such as poetry, song lyrics, and quotes and the visual narratives that illustrate these works. The works may describe a feeling, a memory, a season, or some universal truth described in color, metaphor or symbols. Perhaps this series has been percolating in me for years, since 2005, in fact, when I graduated from McDaniel College with an art degree. My art mentor, Steve Pearson, who is now (Assistant Professor at McDaniel College), sparked an interest in me about how to make artwork that communicated personal truths and ideas.

To facilitate the creative process, he recommended that I keep a sketchbook and collect artwork that inspired me. This process would help me to identify the themes that mattered most to me and to write a content-based artist statement. Lastly, I created a series of work that described these themes through color, symbols, composition, etc.  It’s been several years since then and I have had a lot of experiences since then, read books, listened to music, attended concerts, had different jobs, and pursued different artistic subject media, such as the portrait, and more recently still life and landscape. But I keep coming back to artwork that has a meaning or a story to tell in my artwork, and especially to the portrait which was the first subject that ignited my interest in art. One significant event that sparked this recurrent theme, and they are: 1.) A drawing class that I took at Frederick Community College.

In January of 2015, I took a drawing course at Frederick Community College in Frederick, MD. One of the final assignments I tackled was to illustrate a poem using pastels.  A major challenge in this assignment was to find a poem that had some concrete images to illustrate and not a poem that was too esoteric and abstract. I chose Robert Frost’s poem, Ghost House, which has an abundance of concrete imagery. The first lines, “I dwell in a lonely house I know, that vanished nearly a summer ago and left no trace but the cellar walls…” (Frost) gripped me with a strong visual picture.  I immediately thought of a derelict house and tried to create a narrative about this haunted house.

Slowly different images popped into my head, a derelict house, a ghost bride, a tree, a path, and some crows. To facilitate this process, I collected artwork that inspired on Google image searches and checked out library books on vampires and fantasy creatures. My next step was to create a Photoshop file collage with images based on this poem. I completed the artwork by creating a drawing based off of the collage and finished with soft pastels. To create this current body of work, I have followed this same process of creating a notebook of images that inspired, and piecing them together in PhotoShop to create my own unique compositions. I also did searches on Pinterest for the artwork of interest and looked for examples of poetry illustrations to see how other artists have tackled this subject. And I read books on poetry or did Google searches to look for poems that lent themselves visual depiction. Some of the poetry that has inspired these works is verses written by Emily Dickinson, Maya Angelou, Robert Frost, and T.S. Elliot.

Thank you for stopping by and reading my artist statement! Have a wonderful week!

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What is the Creative Process?

I am writing about the creative process this week in an attempt to provide a behind the scenes view of what it takes for me to bring an idea to a realized concept and finally a completed painting or drawing.  My inspiration for this blog post comes from an article by Amanda Truscott, entitled, This is What Creative Inspiration Really Looks Like, on www.skinnyartist.com.  I believe inspiration, or what the Greeks termed, “the Muse” is something which must be sought after in order to be found. Although it may seem to be a sudden insight, in my experience, it is not an isolated light bulb moment. Sometimes, indeed often, bringing my artistic visions to life it is the result of a hard-won battle of trying out different ideas in sketches, paintings, etc., to test out a compositional idea or a color scheme. Sometimes these ideas work, and sometimes they don’t and I need to make more revisions to the color schemes, composition, etc., to make it a successful artwork. Other times, I have to start over the painting from scratch.

For example, in my ongoing poetry illustration series, Voices and Visions, it has been a combination of hunting for inspiring poems to illustrate; these poems need to have some visual imagery and themes that lend themselves to storytelling, in order for me to consider them as potential candidates. So far, I have found a few poems written by Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and T.S. Eliot, whose works have several identifiable themes such as hope, time, and the artificiality of modern life. After reading the poems, I researched literary criticisms to identify possible themes that seem to suggest a story or feeling which I  translated visually through specific symbols or color schemes. I followed up these steps by looking for artwork by artists whose artwork has a narrative theme, such as Jacob Lawrence, Faith Ringgold, and Andrew Wyeth. When I found artwork that inspires, I pasted it into a sketchbook for future reference. Finally, after these steps have been completed, I created a photo collage in Adobe Photoshop of found images that I locate online and modify in Photoshop by creating several layers and layer masks. When I was pleased with the composition in my Photoshop files, I printed them out to scale, and then traced them onto my substrate of choice using carbon paper and pen, usually to cotton duck canvas or cold press watercolor paper. The painting is then completed in watercolor paints or acrylic or mixed media. Finally, I worked on the painting for 1-2 weeks, making revisions as I painted.

In addition, the backbone of the creative process for me is always the deliberate practice of the fundamentals of art, such as drawing or painting, so that when I finally find that intersection between deliberate practice and purposeful searching for inspiration, everything clicks. Although this process may seem instantaneous to others who were not there to watch the process, or read my blog posts, it is a painstaking process. It is not simply talent which I was born with that brings my visions and goals to life, it is a decision followed by a series of actions. It takes willpower and self-discipline to practice drawing and painting every week, and to continually seek out artistic inspiration through Pinterest searches, reading art books, watching documentaries about artists on youtube, reading poetry books, literary criticism, creating inspiration sketchbooks, etc. Moreover, it takes grit and determination to stick with a painting even when it goes wrong, and to figure out what went wrong so that I can critique the artwork

and decide what strategy to pursue to make the artwork sing.