Working my way through “Art and Fear”
One of my favorite art books is Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking (David Bayles, Ted Orland). It is not a how-to book, nor is a book about inspiration. It is about the work of making art. It explores the process of making art and why it doesn’t get made. And it addresses those voices in our heads-we all have some voices:
–That is just bad.
-Who do you think you are?
-Her work is way better than yours.
-Okay, so you made one good thing. You can’t make another piece that good.
-You have no talent.
-Art is for the gifted-you’re just not that good.
-Mom (Dad, spouse, friend) was right-you are not good at this stuff.
-No matter how hard you try, you’re not going to be any good.
I consider myself lucky-I don’t have a lot of negative voices in general, but at times I do hit points of insecurity and then those voices well up inside me and shout.
And they are shouting right now.
I haven’t really made art or been creative for over 6 months: there’s been the remodel, a particularly busy spring teaching season, 2 moves in 6 months… I’m rusty. And I’m feeling insecure. It happens. I know the best thing to do is kick myself in the butt and just get back in there and start creating. And then the creative juices will begin to flow, right? Right? I feel like I am working my way, page by page, through all the insecurities addressed in the book.
So I started back in with a charity quilt and that felt good. My new space is BEYOND AWESOME and makes it so much easier to create! I have fabulous lighting, a cheerful and bright room, well organized tools and fabric, a great view and even a TV. It truly is life altering to have a space to create in that suits me.
I resolved to respond to the call for entries to Pokey Bolton’s “Live Your BRIGHTEST Life: A Tribute to Yvonne Porcella”. It is a juried show for “Quilting in the Garden” at Alden Lane Nursery in Livermore, CA, September 24-25, 2016. Digital entries are due Aug 6 and the pieces are to be 18″W x 26″L. I feel compelled to create a piece for this tribute, whether it is accepted or not.
Yvonne Porcella in many ways created this whole world of art quilts, well not the art quilt itself, but much of the infrastructure that allows for our work to be shown, recognized and respected. It was her vision that created Studio Art Quilt Associates, of which I am a passionate supporter. I met her twice, very briefly, and I was in awe of her. After her passing, I purchased her autobiography, “A Memoir-Defining Why“. I have a love of autobiographies in general, but hers was just so genuine and well written that I could not put it down. Her life was extraordinary and unique. Her light influenced many along the way, including me.
So I have a desire to honor her by producing a piece that somehow celebrates who she was, a daunting task for a rusty, insecure textile artist!
I don’t know if this has ever happened to me before, but I have the title in my head, well ahead of the finished piece: “Y 92”. “Y”, because she tells a funny story about her name. People would hear her name and want to spell it beginning with an “E”, so she would say “Yvonne, Y”. Some heard that as “Why” and would look at her puzzled that she would question why someone needed to know her name. Okay, it’s funnier to have her tell that story.
And “92”, because a psychic once told Yvonne that she saw her at 92. Yvonne’s response was would she be vertical or horizontal at 92! My desire is to make a piece that honors who she was, incorporates some of her color and whimsy, yet be my work, influenced by her.
I set up my work area by posting some of my favorite pieces of hers, just to keep me on track and to provide inspiration. A piece of fabric from Amy Butler’s Love Collection also provides inspiration.
Yvonne did use silk at times, so this was an opportunity to dig into my rich silk collection.
I selected colors that I thought she might have used and pre-fused 6″ x 10″ pieces with MistyFuse. Yvonne was also fond of using MistyFuse because of its ability to bond without altering the hand of the fabric.
My general thought was to create a whimsical, colorful, floral piece, somehow incorporating Y 92. I started by raw edge fusing silks to a light-weight cotton to create my background. I needed a good deal of value contrast so I know it looks a little dark here. Stay with me.
I also pre-cut flowers and leaves of a variety of sizes, shapes and colors to eventually fuse to my background. This was a really fun part of the process. The space and organization of my sewing area made this so much easier and pleasant to play in than my old space.
I am now to the point where I am composing the piece. I have a preliminary composition which is not yet fused down and I’m feeling both pleased and insecure but I’ll still keep working. I don’t have a nice tidy ending to this post as I am simply in the middle of creating the piece. I will share it once I’ve completed it.
Whether it juries in or not, I want this to be a fun, affirming journey. One of the points in Art and Fear is that you may have to make a bunch of mediocre art on your way to make Good Art. I’m betting on Good Art. The story continues…
I will be linking up to Nina-Marie’s Off the Wall Friday. I always check out the links because each week brings something new and intriguing.
Just purchased the book. Thanks for sharing your story . It helps to know others go through similar episodes. Good luck with your entry…
Thank you Frances. You will enjoy the book!
I hear you about the fear, especially the “what if this piece was a fluke?” All I can offer is the trite “do the work.” And you seem to be doing that. Good luck with your entry.
Thank you Joanna. It’s not trite, it’s true, I know it is. But on this side of it I find myself questioning…
I like how you are jump starting yourself. You usually don’t fuse, right? Welcome to my world! I love it. But sometimes I too, feel like crossing over to piecing.
No, not a fuser but this has been fun and free. You are the Master of Fusing girl! It’s all about the composition and the fusing makes it a little more freeing to experiment.
Linda Jorgensen Jones says
Thanks for sharing your process. Since I am very “left-brained”, it’s interesting to know how the more creative “right-brain” works on a project. Whether your piece is juried in or not, I hope it is something you love and are thoroughly happy with. Good luck and happy “art creating”. That sounds funny, but I think you’ll understand.
Yes, it is art creating Linda! Thank you for your support-feeling pretty insecure.
Dolores Miller says
Virtual pom poms are wildly shaking at the image of you playing in your fabulous new space, inspired by Yvonne’s spirit, working on, working through! YGG!
Awww, thank you for the pom poms Dolores! I respond well to pom poms. I am just plowing ahead, ignoring how I feel and just trying to create something of worth.
Carol Larson says
when I purged my studio last year I found three copies of this book. I must have thought I needed it, three times over! I can’t say I’ve read it all the way through though as I am too busy making art!
THREE Carol?? That’s like me and my Hot Piping Tool! I can’t wait to see your whole series.
Peggy Martin says
“Art and Fear” is one of my FAVORITE books! Have read it at least 4 times. Have you read “Steal Like an Artist”? That one is also a must read, and very short. I think I already told you about Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic” – just reread that one this past week. It is full of stories and inspiration to motivate us to just show up and do the work in order to get the creative juices flowing.
I need to go back and re-read Steal Like an Artist. And I haven’t read Big Magic yet at all-okay, gotta go find copies to read! Thanks Peggy!
LeeAnna Paylor says
I loved and admired Yvonne so much. When I met her at Houston, she hugged me, and I burst into tears.
What?! I don’t know… just some kind of spirit to spirit thing I guess.
You might be headed into a new style Jenny… and you’ve had a tremendous amount of change lately, and on the stress o meter, even good change is stressful (such as getting married or having a dream job)
Meanwhile, this is an awesome project. I love silk, and color and line. All restorative. LeeAnna
She was so gracious! Um yeah, stress???? It is fun playing with the silks!
Jenny, I love how you eased back into the studio, first with a charity quilt, then a fun tribute to Yvonne. I had never thought to use a muffin tin to sort small pieces. What a great idea!
Thank you for the encouragement Gwyned. Yeah, the muffin tin-just came to me as I was fussing with all those wee little pieces!
Margaret Blank says
I’m thinking I need to order that book…Yvonne’s, that is — I already own a well-read copy of Art and Fear! Who do I think I am? Who do you think you are? Who did Yvonne think she was? Like Yvonne, we can’t let The Voices stop us…I look forward to seeing this piece in all of its quilted, colourful glory when you’ve finished it. :-)
I think you would enjoy it. It is a full view of her life from beginning to end. And yes, it’s all about quelling The Voices.
judy Warner says
What a great way to get back into creativity – (of course, you have been being creative all this time, just not on fabric); I got a copy of that book after you wrote about it once before and find it so valuable; a charity quilt is a great way to start back; and Y92 definitely looks like you have found your creative powers again! Have fun!
Sometimes I need to fight to keep it fun-sounds weird, but it can be a struggle sometimes. This piece is certainly a departure from my recent work and a welcome one at that!
Janet McElroy says
You will get through this difficult time Jenny I know you will. I do wonder if it is the sheer size of the SPACE you have now dominating you a little…
Thank you for the encouragement Janet! I’m enjoying all that space so far. Just hope to keep things clear.