So I have been here at Mammoth Cave just a few days and in that time I have taken 3 cave tours and a guided hike where I got to know some of the rangers who work here and know all about the park. I also have explored the park on my bike and am generally getting the lay of the land. When I am moving around and bouncing from place to place, I am pretty content. However, when I am at my little house here, I don’t exactly know what to do with myself. I have never been left to my own devices in such a way ever in my life. Ever. It’s at once blissful and terrifying. Art (capital A) seems extremely daunting, even though I am jotting down ideas as they come. So I am starting small. Little sketches, little experiments. I found a wild turkey feather on the ground and made a little drawing of it.
I collected some walnuts in the park (which I found out is permitted at this particular National Park) and processed them into a dye bath….
and I put some paper bits in to see what would happen. I was pleased.
I have also spent some time chatting up the scientists who work to keep the park natural and healthy. I visited a freshwater mussel growing facility and talked to a guy whose job it is to know all things invasive… and keep them out. And so I did a little embroidery.
All of these are just little sketches. Little ways of getting my feet wet and greasing the skids for more work. Today was the first time I actually could sit still long enough to get any real work done. Hopefully that trend continues!
It’s a delicate balance, this work thing. On the one hand, over-scheduling myself can put me in the position of not having enough time and energy to make quality work (while still keeping up with life itself.) On the other hand, too little work to do makes for artistic stagnancy and that can quickly spiral into dangerous psychological territory. Ideally, if I can pluck away at some larger ideas while staying loose with smaller daily things I can stay balanced enough to do my best work as artist, mama, wife and friend.
Recently I signed up to be a part of The Sketchbook Project out of Brooklyn, New York. This is a really great project that I consider to be something of a community art project. None of the artists donating sketchbooks to this project are getting paid, in fact we paid to do this. But here is how I look at it. It’s exercise. People spend billions of dollars each year on exercise for their bodies, why not pay a small fee and a bit of time each day to exercise your inner artist? The first step in all this for me is to gesso all the pages in the book which is a moleskin brand blank book.
Generally I don’t use the moleskin books because of the paper. Great for writing or even just pencil or pen drawing, but it doesn’t take watercolor very well. With the gesso on the pages, they become more like blank slates that I plan to do collage work and maybe some paintings as semi daily exercises outside of my own sketchbook work (which try as I might not to, I still can take too seriously). The book is due back to Brooklyn by January 2011 and will have a life of it’s own once out of my hands. It’s good for me to do this sort of thing and let it go.
My theme for the Sketchbook Project is “I am a Scavenger”. This is pretty much true, from nature bits to quotes to my own ideas, I am constantly scavenging around for new and potentially usable stuff…
Meanwhile, I have been working on an embroidery for a quilt I am making for a special show in the fall. Here is the beginning…. just blocking in colors and getting the generic form of a howling wolf into place. Already I love her and she seems to have some wonderful personality. I will post more on this project as it comes nearer to fruition. If any of you blog readers are crocheters or thrift store shoppers, I am looking for crocheted doilies (approx.3″-8″ diameter) to be a part of this piece as well. Please contact me if you’d like to contribute!
But for now, I am back into the studio to draw my new favorite thing I read about in a book last night…. cave pearls!!! (I think cave formations will translate nicely into wax this fall!)
Here’s the dragonfly I embroidered inspired by the real one I have preserved in my freezer. Although this isn’t the greatest scan of it, I am pleased with how it turned out. It is subtle on it’s black background (I plan to wear this scarf and don’t like to be too awfully gaudy with my accessories!). I was also able to give it just enough iridescent sparkle to allude to the real thing, which is why one reason I think dragonflies are so enchanting in the first place.
Often I find myself following what I think of as “threads”. These are ideas or concepts that interest me, but perhaps for no currently apparent reason. When this happens I’ll google the interest, or better yet, hit the downtown library and look up books that are related to it in some way. Since dragonflies were on my mind the other day, not only did I draw one with thread, but I looked up the symbolism behind them, and what that wisdom might offer. What I found seemed fitting, like maybe I needed to read it and was meant to find it…
Meanwhile, another promising thread I am currently following is cartography. Both an art and a science, the study and production of maps gives people what they feel is a firm understanding of a particular place. What I am interested in is the deeper meaning behind the concept of a map. Can we map time? Experiences? What might that look like? And what about the places in our minds. Herman Melville wrote “It is not on any map; true places never are.” I am interested in reinterpreting existing maps, creating maps of the unmappable.
This is where my thinking is on this drippy, gray (but thankfully, somewhat unseasonably mild!) day. It feels invigorating to be in research mode. Fostering new ideas always puts a spring in my step. We’ll see how this manifests in the studio….