Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Evolution of an Idea--How I Create Art

I recently spent two weeks in Oxnard, California attending Katherine Chang Liu's workshop.  It is more of an art retreat than a workshop, as Katherine does not demonstrate any art techniques and rarely shows her own work. She works with 20+ artists as we all grow and strengthen our artwork under her tutelage.

What happens for me each time I go to these retreats is that an idea evolves and blossoms. A round shape turns into a salmon egg, which turns into a series of the life cycle of the salmon. A painting of myself under a night sky turns into a series about the decades of a woman's life looking into a night sky--what she sees in the stars and clouds above her.

This time I went in with an idea of painting about the difficulty of girls receiving an education around the world.  I had been focusing on women's issues for some time. I had a folder of photos with me that I'd taken of my 7-year-old granddaughter's hands and upper body this summer. The idea of girls reaching for books was my original idea. So my first painting done in the workshop began there.

Reaching for an Education
15 " x 22"
Mixed Media
As I looked at the many arm and hand photos I brought with me, I was inspired to paint many girls reaching toward a book. As I talked to Katherine about the idea, the book became an aged paper. But what would go on it? As I worked diligently reproducing the photos into drawings on my blank paper, I got the idea of taking fabrics from the top 10 countries where girls are least likely to get an education. Thanks to the internet, I was able to search for these fabrics. As I labored over painting the fabrics, the blank sheet of paper remained a mystery. I didn't want to put words or made up language-looking symbols on it. Finally Katherine made a fabulous suggestion--math symbols! Math is so universal. The final dilemma was figuring out what to do with the arms and hands. I really liked the white against the patterned fabric, but the shapes did not show up well throughout the piece. I did not want this to be about race, so I chose to paint two of the hands dark blue. So this painting, the beginning of my next series titled "Teach Me," came into being.

Teach Me
22" x 30"
Mixed Media

Now that I'm home, the holidays have gotten in the way of my studio time, but I have completed the second piece of this series. This has involved some experimenting. As you can see, this child has braided hair, which is actually braided paper that I collaged onto the child's head. I also ended up cutting through the paper to make the braids more realistic. (This would only work with 300 lb. paper.) This piece has been narrowed down to the fabric of one country, Niger, one hand and one symbol. Can you guess how this series will progress?

Teach Me: Niger
30" x 11"
mixed media