Wednesday, January 24, 2007

back in the saddle

When I learn how to post photos on this thing, I will post a new piece of work I just completed. I'm very proud of it, a conceptual hybrid called "Women's Lib". I used the bust of Sappho with a fedora thrown over the top of her and a tie thrown around her neck. Somehow it seemed appropriate to do this piece as the start of a series defining what I'm about artistically. I used colored pencil on colored paper, which most artists eschew, white being the most traditional choice. Colored pencil is a good deal like watercolor in its pigment transparency, and I've seen so many pieces done to great effect, almost like oil paintings in their depth and richness of color. But I depend greatly on the color of the paper as a local color and a means of harmonizing the piece. I also go from severely 3-D areas to flat shapes to effect contrast and "read".

I have to get used to breathing creativity. It has to be a way of life to find success as an artist. I actually officially started my journey in 1992. I really never expected to be successful, but an aunt of mine suggested I try colored pencil, so I did. I joined a drawing class to explore the medium and was told I was crazy not to continue in a classroom situation. I put a skirt on and tried to look somewhat put together as I went to our local community college to apply. I had babies at the time and it all seemed so insane, but something inside drove me on. A series of events unfolded after that that were so amazing I feel I have no excuse not to continue. But it's true-where we step out and risks, there are great rewards and great dangers.

As I look back, trying to put the present into focus, I think of the people I met in school. Who would have thunk that in a tiny Pennsylvania coal town with one traffic light I'd find some of the most accomplished artists in the country teaching traditional methods at a community college. All of the art instructors were working artists. I learned to copy Old Masters-shoot, I learned to oil paint! I never thought I'd do that. The students I went to class with were some of the most exceptionally talented people I know I'll ever meet in life. It was a rare time, and I've hopefully come to appreciate how much. I went to school at exactly the same time the man who became my studio instructor was there. He is brilliant and one of those rare people who found success in the art world immediately. He now shows work on the West coast. The creative bar was raised higher and higher as I graduated from the college and went on to work in his studio.

I went from housewife with a crazy dream to artist showing work in New York....quickly. Maybe too quickly. Somewhere the wheels fell off of my trike. I was working with several male 20-somethings and I couldn't keep up. I didn't have the energy or the freedom to draw until three in the morning, but I tried. Slowly my life was cracking into pieces. My nerves became so bad I started taking prescription drugs. I was torn between diapers and paint brushes and did not know how to reconcile the two. Studio life became everything to me in every way and I resented my "ordinary" existence. I couldn't think well on my own and felt everything I did had to be a masterpiece or I didn't have the right to create. One of my classmates committed suicide. Another had a nervous breakdown. Still another slid into a drug-addicted existence. The dangers were very real.

Fast forward ten years. I left the studio and found sporadic success doing local shows and commissions. Something inside told me my path was different than my studio mates, and it would take time to land on my own turf. But I think I have, and this time, I know where the quicksand lurks. I'm in a 12-step program and have a sponsor. I have a close knot of positive, encouraging friends I can share this journey with. I spoke with one of my studio mates over Christmas who struggled with drugs, and is now back on the path, applying to grad school-how wonderful to see his success and realize I want it, but I know sacrifices need to be made on both sides-my home life is equally important, so I embrace whatever level of success that affords. I have a valid say in the artworld, and I will speak. I will not be put off by naysayers, mostly the demons in my own head. When something doesn't work, I analyze why and don't make the same mistake twice. This Friday I take work to the faculty show at the college where I graduated. I chose pieces that say, "This is Sue", and I take Sappho with me. Whatever becomes of it, my work is my own.


Post a Comment

<< Home