Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Perpetual Self-Generated Studenthood

One of my favourite artists, Robert Genn says that the above state is the best way for an artist to thrive. I agree but then that is true about everyone, not just artists. You have to be continually learning, trying new things, asking questions, getting feedback, honing your skills and reaching for something beyond. It gets you moving forward so you avoid stagnation and boredom. It also keeps your mind sharp and flexible. All good stuff. I think he also suggests that you don’t have to keep taking classes. Just get your butt into the studio (or wherever) and do it. The greatest part of learning comes through the exploration you do in there.

In reading Robert’s Twice Weekly Letters, I’m developing an envy of the speed with which painters can produce their art. At least he makes it look fast in the videos! Though I know some artists spend a very long time perfecting a painting, it still just seems so much quicker than so many of the crafts that turn my own personal crank. I needs must be more content with the process than the product since the producing takes so much time that the product often feels kind of anticlimactic. I’m not interested in creating so many things that I would have to sell some or be overwhelmed. What does a painter do when their walls are full if they don’t plan to sell? So far I haven’t overrun myself with tea towels or socks. (Getting close on the latter though so I’ve taken to gifting them to special people!) Nearly each piece I make has a reason for it’s existence, even if that is just to learn something new. Hmmmm…seems like I’m back at the “studenthood” thing again.

I’ve thought a lot about why I must make things and I’ve come to the conclusion that I Just Do. It has nothing to do with selling, because I don’t sell my work. It has nothing to do with “making a statement” because socks and blankets don’t make much of a statement. (At least to most people!) It does however have something to do with living in the midst of my own “creations” and seeing and using them daily. Ultimately the urge…no, obsession to just make things is there in my head all the time. It almost hurts not to be working on something every day, whether it’s actually producing it or just thinking and writing about it. Planning the next projects, doing research on techniques and patterns, chatting online with other similarly obsessed, whatever. When I go on holiday I pack my craft supplies long before my clothes. If this was a job, don’t you think I would need a holiday from it? I’d rather take a holiday where I can craft all the time and all the other stuff like cooking and cleaning gets done for me. Just pop a cup of tea down beside me every so often, call me for meals and provide me with a comfy bed when I just can’t keep my eyes open any longer! Oh and a masseuse on call. A few friends to craft with would be nice too. Don't want much, eh?

I’m not saying that I’m not fickle in what I choose to spend time on. Today knitting, tomorrow weaving, the day after spinning or dyeing or kumihimo or beadwork or dollmaking or who-knows-what. If I actually stuck to one thing, do you think I might actually get good at it? I know I’d get bored for sure. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka the Yarn Harlot, who obviously understands “fickle” crafting!) says that knitters think differently than other people because we are familiar with small things added one at a time that grow into something large and complete and beautiful. I like to think that applies equally to woven picks, little beads, crochet loops and other small elements of our crafts. I also like to think that because we understand intimately how things are interlinked and built one upon another and how if bad things happen to one part (dropped stitch, broken thread, sickness, pollution, hatred, war) it affects every other part of our project, our life and our world. Perhaps the way to fix some of these things will also be understood in the same way: unraveling back and doing it up right again.

Wow! That’s way more philosophical than I ever usually get. Guess I’m feeling introspective today. Maybe it’s because I get to look at this out my study window:

The Serbians! They’re working on the siding again today and I hope they finish this side soon. I closed my window just to keep out some of the racket but I still feel as if they are right in the room with me. It’s a bit disconcerting to say the least! They are very polite though and don’t look my way. At least when I’m looking at them.

1 comment:

Peg in South Carolina said...

I see you too get Genn's newsletter. I think it is quite fabulous and use his thoughts frequently as jumping off points in my own blog. He has so much to say that is applicable to weavers and other fiber artists, not just painters.