This morning I’m getting ready to leave for my artist’s residency at Vermont Studio Center. The past week has been a blur, mostly spent on the computer wrapping up some projects that had to be done before I leave, trying to prepare and freeze all the good stuff from the garden and the CSA that wouldn’t get eaten by the guys while I’m gone, and tearing through the studio trying to figure out what to bring. Since I’m driving, I have the luxury of bringing pretty much whatever I want, though I did decide that panels are too bulky, so good – there’s one thing I can eliminate.
So I thought this whole residency thing was going to be just about the most exciting thing ever, but as usual, my Doubtful Self has decided to start talking to me and giving me all sorts of reasons to be apprehensive about it. Suddenly I started to feel a whole lot of pressure. Doubtful Self said, “You need to make sure you don’t waste this time. You need to make sure you create something important and awesome, or else what’s the point?” Of course, there’s two ways to look at this, one of them being that it’s just a big vacation and a chance to make art, free of the pressures of daily responsibilities and little things that we don’t realize are taking up a whole lot of time until it’s too late – Internet, I’m looking at you! But Doubtful Self wouldn’t hear of it. She said, “This is a chance to start doing something with all those ideas you keep having but claim you don’t have time for.”
It’s so true. I have somewhere near 267 ideas – 4 or 5 of them very well formed in my mind – that I could really make some progress on. But which ones? When I have too much choice, I freeze. I know that setting limits is a fantastic way to be really creative, but I’m really scared of getting there and realizing too late that I had set the wrong limits. So I’m going to load up the car with a whole bunch of stuff, and just see what calls to me when I get there.
Meanwhile, as I was going through and organizing the studio, I found some cool stuff. It’s always great to look back and see things from the past, because sometimes you can mine it for new ideas. These are little collage studies I did quite a few years ago (2005?) in a workshop with Barbara Lee Smith and a British embroiderer whose name I can’t remember now, sorry! We used lots of papers – black, white, and gray – and created textures on them with all sorts of marking tools – pens, pencils, ink, paint, rubber stamps, and some fun rolling rubber stamp thingies. Then we took all of those papers and tore them up and collaged them onto 9-inch square backgrounds and added more marks, fabric, stitching, or whatever. Looks like we were eventually allowed to add in a single color. The idea was that these would serve as studies from which we would then create a larger work out of fabric. I remember doing a quilted piece, but who knows where it ended up. Anyway, I think these were quite instructive as compositional exercises.
And here’s another set, done in a workshop with Jason Pollen, I have no idea when. Lesson learned: Always date things, because you never know when you might care again in the future, and your memory is not going to be as good as you might hope. These are 7-inch squares of black paper, onto which we made first marks with white gesso and then tinted with acrylic paint. The big takeaway from this workshop was the little squeeze bottle with a steel nib used for drawing fine marks. I still use that all the time. This is why workshops are so valuable. Even if you don’t end up using much of what you learn, there will always be a nugget of pure gold that feeds your psyche and/or process.