Thursday, 15 September 2011

On stories and starting to draw

Greetings from BocBoc. I am feeling so lazy today that making a sandwich seemed like a major creative task. That's what neighbourhood cafes are for, isn't it? So here I am with my steak baguette keeping my head down over the ipad because the talkative neighbours have also just arrived and I " vant to be alone".

You asked me about the art in London:
Did you mean that it bored you looking at them? Or as the artist, you'd be bored with that little variation between pieces and would need to move in "bigger steps" between pieces?
I wasn't exactly bored, but I was a bit disappointed that that was all there was. I think I was not bored becuase I was busy figuring out why I was disappointed! Which has led me to think a bit about why I was disappointed, which has lead me to think about what I like when looking at and making art. What can I say? I have a long commute, I have lots of thinking time!

Anway I came to a couple of conclusions. I like each piece of art I see to tell me something new. I like it to come with a story or a message or just some new thoughts about techniques or results. The story does not have to be overt, it doesn't even have to be what the artist intended I got from the art. So, sometimes the visual elements of the art can be very similar but, in my perception, it is an entirely new story. Nnnene Okora's work includes some sculptures that are dress like. All very similar in constuction but my response to them is different because to me they evoke a dfferent woman, in different circumstances, wearing a different dress for different reasons. So, each sculpture tells me a different story. Or maybe it is that it sparks something in my brain that inspires me to tell myself a different story. Same result really. Except that the latter version would explain why I might hear a different story than the viewer next to me.

But with the Owusu Ankorah Pieces I found I was interested in the first one I chose to look at. I enjoyed looking from a distance at the optical illusions and close up at the paint texture. I was interested in the flyer with the artist statement on and I was able to look and receive what I thought the artist was trying to say. But when I then went to look at the others there was nothing new in terms of message. The rearragments of he elements created visual variation but did not impart to me new ideas. And that is what disappointed me.

So from that, I had confirmed what I probably already knew about myself; that the piece needs a story for me to feel it is an art quilt. Now that opens up a whole other debate about what an art quilt is doesn't it, so let me explain. I use that term here in a very personal context and am not intending my definition to be applied to the work of others. I tend to see what I make in three distinct categories. First, 'home' quilts. These are the things I make to sit or sleep under. I am not going to call them traditional quilts because sometimes they are and sometimes not. But they are utilitarian in purpose. Those quilts I make because I like to be warm and because the process is relaxing and often is a a useful creative spark to something else.

Then I make 'kit and magazine quilts' I do these to support the business of my friend and supplier of African fabrics Magie Relph, because I enjoy introducing others to new ways of doing things and because these quilts provide a little bit of income to support my fabric habit. I also really enjoy writing the articles that go with them.

But neither of those are really what I feel I am striving towards. That is to make 'art quilts' and by that I mean quilts that tell a story, that make people think, that send a message other than "look at me I am pretty and warm". So with most of the Twelve quilts I start with the story and illustrate it as best I can. Which means, to FINALLY answer your question, I meant that I would as an artist have to have either a different story for each quilt or a different chapter of the same story. It would not satisfy me to do say a series of Little Red Riding Hood quilts, each with the wolf/ grandmother in bed. One under a log cabin quilt, this one with a lone star quilt, this one with a four poster bed, this one wih a futon etc. meanngless variation for the sake of it. I get bored. I want to communicate with my art quits not just be decorative.

Of course that's just me. No reason for anyone to feel the same way. The comment Joyce left on my orignal post about If I needed to sell work I might feel differently is a good one. Fortunatley I will never be in that position though, having no intention to support myself with art, so I can remain pretentious without financial concerns. (Unless Greece being bankrupt means I will lose my job. Does anyone understand what Greece defaulting on its loans actually means for anyone else?! If you do and it means I will lose my job would you please not tell me.)

I haven't done much more sketchbook work - well, a bit:

The top oneproves that lips are not my forte! I like the second as a design if I am going to stick to literal African Ladies. It was a photo of Indian women but I changed their clothing. The third is a great cheat as I used the ipad as a light box and traced. But I have decided that I need to give learning to draw in general a chance. I decided that merely drawing was not going to help as I was likley to just repeat mistakes. So I ordered Drawing on the Right side of the brain by Betty Williams. I thought that when I was on holiday in Bath in October it would be the ideal time to learn. I have just read the first chapter with a little ice cream.

I am promised that through drawing "the treasure secretly gathered in your heart will become evident through your creative work." Well that sounds good.

I also liked the quote from Robert Henri,
"When the artist is alive in any person, whatever his kind of work might be, he becomes an inventive, searching, daring, self- expressive creature. He becomes interesting to other people. He disturbs, upsets, enlightens and opens ways for a better understanding. Where those who are not artists are trying to close the book, he opens it and shows there are many more pages possible."

So if you will excuse me now I must go and learn how to be disturbing. Can't see that being too hard.....

Helen

PS Later.... The first instruction in the drawing book is to draw three things, a self portrait, a portrait from memory and your own hand so you have a record of how much you imorove from pre-instruction to the end of the book. I am not showing the first two but here is my hand. You will have to guess as to how much is is a bad drawing and how much I am actually burdered wth deformed hands :)

1 comment:

Terry said...

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is a brilliant book! You will be amazed how your hand drawing will improve. Have fun with it.