Note: I’m still enjoying using the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone for taking random photos, and lately, I’ve started using the “shake to randomize settings” feature because it’s fun and occasionally leads to some interesting results.
Note: This extremely long post was even longer. I chopped out a significant bit in the middle which will likely become a post of its own at some point. I tried to edit this to make it somewhat cohesive and have it make sense, but just as in art, I do tend to overwork my writing as well, so … I'm going to post this now just as it is. If it sits on my iPad any longer, I'll keep editing it until I no longer feel like posting it. Maybe that would be for the best, but well, where would be the fun in that?
If you had told young me that when I reached this point in my life I would be devoting my creative energies to channeling my subconscious feelings and thoughts using the automatism techniques of the early surrealists, I'd have laughed and walked away from you thinking you mad. My opinion of artists who threw paint at canvases to see what stuck or just started smearing paint around without doing ten thumbnails and several sketches was … that they were hacks. This applied to famous artists with works in museums as well, like Pollock (who I seriously loathed back then). Some of this was a backlash to my feeling like I had no control over anything growing up, and some of it was a direct result of my earliest art education being provided by artists who controlled every aspect of their creative process (and thought modern artists who didn't do that we're hacks). Part of it was also, of course, a symptom of being young and knowing everything.
Young Orb demanded complete and absolute control of every single tiny aspect of her creative process and would never EVER leave anything at all to random chance. That applied to just about every area of my life when I was fresh out of high school. During college, I used to wake up in the morning and write out my daily agenda … in fifteen minute increments, and I stuck to it. Yes, I planned what I would be doing every fifteen minutes all day. My art at the time was, to put it as succinctly as possible, planned to death. And then, once I finally did get to work on a piece, it was worked to death. Looking back across the decades, it's no surprise to me now why I hated every single painting and sculpture I created. That hatred was my inner voice telling me to stop holding on so tightly to control and see what happened. But letting go of the things you learned in youth is hard, and so it's taken me a while to even come close to letting go of my impulse to control every dab of paint or stroke of pen.
The last five years ago or so, I played with letting go and just grabbing the paint colors that moved me and painting the shapes and textures that felt right in the moment, and I found it relaxing. I also found that once I was done, even though I personally hated the finished work, other people loved them and they would sell almost as soon as they were finished. Instead of reacting to this positive reinforcement by letting go of the stranglehold I'd always had on my creative process and doing more free association train-of-thought work, I doubled down on my desire to control everything and went back to doing pen and ink drawings. While they are whimsical and people love them (as do I), they are 100% planned and controlled, right down to the ten thousandth little dot. There is something within me that does not want to let go of control of anything, even when the entire universe is telling me it's the right thing to do.
Then last year happened. Last year was a very bad year. I won't bore you with details, and most of it is intensely personal anyway and not really fodder for public blog posts. The end result was that my muse stopped speaking to me, and my creative abilities dried up. I not only couldn't create any artwork, I had no desire at all to even try. On several occasions, I considered giving away my tools and supplies and hanging up my paintbrushes for good. It felt like my artistic years were at an end. I'd had dry spells before, but never any that lasted so long or felt so final. Luckily, I have people in my life to tell me when I am considering doing something rash like emptying my studio space of everything one might create with, so it all just sat there adding to my feelings of doom and gloom. I just had to have faith the dry spell would eventually end.
Early last fall, I found myself wandering around a craft store looking for something my mother needed, when I saw canvases primed black. I knew such things existed, but I'd never seen one in person, so I bought a small one. I think I secretly hoped it would inspire me to paint something on it. Well, it drifted around the house for a couple of months until one day I decided I was going to create some art even if I didn't feel like it and even if I hated doing it and couldn't stand to look at the end result. I tore the plastic off that small black canvas, grabbed my silver ink pens, turned off my brain, and this was born…
When I stepped back and looked at it, the first thing I realized was that I didn't hate it. The second thing I realized was that I hadn't planned, controlled, or even put any conscious thought into its creation. I'd just sat down and put marks on the canvas where marks felt like they wanted to go. I had completely let go of the creative process and just channeled this from wherever it is my creative thoughts come from. I was thrilled enough about finally accomplishing that (and that I'd actually created something), but that it didn't suck was just an added bonus.
I was still not in a great place for creating, and it would still be months before my desire to sit and work returned at all, but that piece gave me hope that my artistic days were not yet done. It also gave me ideas. I didn't have the mental or physical energy to act on any of these ideas at the time, but I did spend a great deal of time thinking about them. I also spent a lot of time reading about the early modern masters and their techniques, and I even delved into some deep reading of Freud. I hadn't set out on my studies with any particular goal or mission in mind. I'd seen a painting by Max Ernst with some textures that intrigued me, and that lead me down the rabbit hole into surrealism, automatism, and channeling subconscious thoughts into creativity.
For the last couple of months, I have been doing experiments with a new process.Finding it's limitations and how far I can take it and what it can do. If you've been following along on my blog lately or follow me elsewhere on the internet, you've undoubtedly seen some of this year's work. It's felt good to be doing work again, even though I am still not mentally in the headspace I need to be in to get any important work done. The crap from 2013 has started bleeding over into 2014, and my life feels a little out of control. This has lead to me wanting to control ALL THE THINGS, but thankfully, I've been able to channel that urge into decluttering my house and bringing order to my junk, and when I sit down to work on art, it's a very freeing and relaxing experience. As it should be really. I do my best work when I'm coming at it with happiness and joy.
Now I have a roll of primed canvas sitting in the corner of my living room. Almost one hundred square feet of it. I've never had so much blank canvas in my possession before! I'm taking the “Go big or go home!” mantra to heart. I'm going big. I'm not sure how big yet. I should probably start slightly larger than my prior works before jumping into painting something larger than I am tall, but you know I have been having urges to just buy a bunch of paint, rolling the canvas out on the driveway, and going crazy with it. For now, I'll resist those urges, but I would expect to see something really large from me sometime in the near future. Unfortunately, before I can even think about working on anything large, I have to get my workspace ready, or really, I have to figure out how and where I'm going to work on these large things. Always something, isn't there?
But at least I'm not scared to face that huge roll of bank canvas and am actually looking forward to it. I caught myself formulating plans for what I would paint on it, and I stopped that in its tracks. I've gotten so good the last few weeks at just letting go and painting, and it makes me feels so calm and at peace, I really do need to leave the control freak part of my personality out of the art and keep it busy with organizing anddecluttering my household and bringing order to that aspect of my life. My artwork no longer needs to be so organized and controlled. My artwork needs to go wild, just like my inner child. LOL!
Let's say you are silly enough to call someone you know to be a night owl at 8 am on a Saturday morning, and let's say they don't answer. Then let's say you send them a text message a few minutes later asking “Are you awake?”, and they yet again do not respond. If it then pops into your head to try calling them one more time and they answer and after ten minutes you notice they sound groggy so you ask “Were you sleeping?” and they say “Yes!” … do not then chatter on for another fifteen minutes about your recliner purchasing crisis before finally saying “I'll let you get back to sleep.”
Look, I'm pretty good about answering my phone, but I am not tied to my phone. Additionally, there are a variety of situations when I will not answer my phone but will call back as soon as possible. When I'm sleeping, eating, bathing, driving, working on art, or when my hands are in some way unclean or wet. Sometimes I don't answer my phone when I am fifteen minutes from the end of a movie, or am having a conversation face-to-face with another human being, or when I'm otherwise engaged in something that requires my attention. Also, I do sometimes go outside or shopping or for a walk and do not take my phone with me. I know, that's crazy talk, but I grew up in an age when you could call someone and they just wouldn't be at home to answer. Why, I even remember when answering machines were not a thing! It was sort of nice to not be required to respond to calls (and now also texts) when you were out doing something. Few things in life are so mission critical they must be dealt with instantaneously.
This morning's recliner incident is a perfect example of something that was not at all mission critical. I'm helping someone get a new recliner. I'm already a bit cranky about that, because it's going to require me to take two days of my life to drive somewhere, put the thing together, get it in place, and then get rid of the old one, when I have a million problems of my own that need solving (and no one jumping to assist me with them). But I agreed to do it, and so today we were going to order it online and settle on a day next week for its arrival. But … at some ridiculous hour this morning, said person realized it was going to be too large for the available space. Well then, wait until I call to do the ordering and then tell me not to bother. That would annoy me far less than being awakened well before I planned to be awake!
The reasoning behind calling so early? So I wouldn't be thinking about it all day. Yeah, well, I wouldn't have been thinking about it all day. When I sat down for my afternoon coffee, I'd have remembered I needed to get the recliner ordered. Until then, I wouldn't have been putting any great effort into stressing out over someone else's seating purchases. Really, this whole thing boils down to extreme selfishness and LOOK AT ME PAY ATTENTION TO ME. Now, I'm going to be thinking about it all day, because now I'm angry about having been awakened way too early for a totally stupid reason. The next time this person finds the perfect recliner, I'm going to be even more cranky about having to help them with it.
And while I'm on a rant, it would be nice if the Jehovah's Witnesses from the Spanish church around the corner would make a list of the Spanish speaking families on my street instead of knocking on my door early every Saturday morning and asking me who on the street speaks Spanish. It's been a freaking decade of Saturdays. Get organized. Buy a map and a pencil and write some stuff down on it and stop asking me the same question! Well, at least they've stopped asking if I speak Spanish. Baby steps, I guess.
Okay, I feel slightly less cranky now. Only slightly, because I was still awakened far too early today. I guess I'll have yet another cup of coffee and look at my list of things to do. Maybe I'll do something. Maybe I'll end up going back to bed … and ignoring both the phone and the front door.
It all started with needing new dinnerware due to breakage, and a new dish rack for by the sink, so my dishes wouldn't break in the future. What has followed is two weeks of organizing, cleaning, and clearing the excess junk from all my kitchen cabinets. I certainly didn't feel like doing it, but the new dish rack is smaller and I won't be able to store as much stuff in it, so everything had to go into the cabinets, and everything wouldn't fit.
Of course, one thing always leads to another, and after I had the dinnerware/glassware cabinet squared away, I had stuff sitting on all the flat surfaces in the kitchen that had to go into other also full cabinets, which is how I ended up having to do ALL of them. Believe me, if at any point all the things I wanted to keep had been in a cabinet somewhere, I'd have stopped days ago. This project has been totally and completely unfun. I'm not kidding even a little.
But … now that I'm down to only the one cabinet containing small appliances I only use once every ten years, I can stop this madness. I should go ahead and just get it done too, but I have othe things I need to be doing and more importantly, other things I want to be doing. Like not getting up and down off a kitchen chair a hundred times in a day because I'm too short to even reach the second shelf in the upper cabinets. My leg muscles hate me. My arms aren't all that happy either. Too much bending, stooping, squatting, stretching, lifting, and carrying!
Even though I've been really grumpy the last two weeks while doing all this necessary but wretched housework, the end result has brought me a great deal of joy. I now only own kitchen things I will use, which are not old and busted and unusable, and I know where all these things are when I want to use them. Even better, I can open any cabinet or drawer and not have things falling out on me, and I can reach right in and get the thing I want without it being a pain in my ass. It's nice. It makes me feel like an adult. Also, being able to throw out so much old crap I should have never moved into the house makes me feel like I can finally start dealing with the Box Room. I'm getting good at getting rid of junk.
The last thing I need to do is decide on new dinnerware. I'm pretty sure I have. When this all started, I bought a couple plates and bowls in a pattern that I'd been eyeing for a while, just to see how well I liked them in use. I've liked them rather well. Today, I noticed they have gone on sale, and coincidentally, I also happen to have a $10 off coupon for housewares at Target. So, I suspect I'll be ordering them later tonight. They aren't perfect, but they are close enough to what I want, and the price is right.
Next up, I start going through my art junk and throwing out a bunch of junk hiding in my storage boxes. This project will be much harder than the kitchen cabinets, because I do seem to get attached to weird pieces of trash when they give me artsy ideas. But still, the stuff stacks up, and it sits around and never gets turned into art, and now I'm back to just doing paintings. It's time to clear the debris there too. I need space in my house and life (and brain). When the Box Room is finally turned into an official studio, then I can get back to collecting weird pieces of junk I find in gutters. Right now, I just don't have room for it anywhere.
But first, I think I'll take a few days to rest up and goof off and have some fun, because I am so tired of cleaning, organizing, and tossing stuff in the trash. LOL!
Before the internet, zines were a thing … a way to send photos, art, poems, rants, and other personally created stuff out to the world at large. Well, not so much “at large”, because the circulation of said zines was usually quite low. A thousand people subscribing would have been a big deal. Twenty five would have been average, maybe less. Anyway, zines were regularly –and sometimes irregularly– self-published magazine type things normally printed on the copy machine at the nearest library. Occasionally, they were mimeographed. (Anyone remember mimeographs? Ah, the smell!) They tended to be designed to use the least amount of paper possible and cleverly cut or folded to fit into standard sized letter envelopes.
There even used to be a whole zine called Factsheet Five about zines! It listed all the zines you could ever want to find in your mailbox. I loved Fact Sheet Five, and I loved zines. I don't even know how many zines I sent off for subscribed to, and traded with my friends. I found them all in Factsheet Five.
I always wanted to have my own zine. I'd occasionally make one, but it never got beyond the single original issue. Never got copied or sent out to anyone. I don't think I ever even showed them to anyone. Considering doing a regularly published zine seemed like a huge commitment, and who wants to just do a one-off thing? That's barely worth calling a zine! So, I did a few one-off things that probably still sit in a box somewhere in my life unread by anyone for decades. Or maybe I threw them away or lost them at some point. Who knows? As I've said before, I suck at keeping papers, important or otherwise, organized.
My desire to have my own zine was never lost or packed away though. I still daydream about it. I thought maybe using one of the many services and apps for creating magazines for mobile devices would scratch that itch, so I tried them out, but it's just not the same. They are too polished and perfect. Too clean and neat and tidy. They lack the edginess and rawness of a true zine. They aren't at all rough around the edges. Also, they don't unexpectedly arrive in your mailbox, and they aren't a tangible thing you can hold in your hand and spill coffee on before giving it to a friend or leaving it on the table at the neighborhood coffee shop.
Zines were like James Dean leaning against a wall smoking a cigarette or Jack Kerouac rolling on down the road. Yes, zines were cool like that. In a way, blogs are a lot like zines, only once again lacking the whole messiness of real life and handiwork. Once you'd printed about 25 copies of a zine, if you found a spelling error, you couldn't go back and fix it. It stayed. Oh well! Once you'd mailed them out, if you had second thoughts about that poem you wrote complaining about your mother, you couldn't delete it. Oh well! Blogs allow editing long after the fact. Zines were forever. They never forgot. Someone could find a zine of yours in a box decades later and read that ranting awful poem about your mom, long after maybe you've made up (or not). Tangible paper things have a life span far exceeding anything our modern digital world can create.
Anyway, I've been thinking about doing a zine. Like I said, I think about it often. They aren't so much a thing at all anymore. When you can get Tweets, and blog posts, and Facebook status updates, and Instagram pics delivered straight to your desktop/phone/tablet the second they are posted, waiting a month for someone to physically cut and paste together a pamphlet, copy or print it, and mail it to you by snail mail seems … antiquated. All the same, my inner teenager has dreams that will not die. She wants a zine, and she wants to do more mail art too. I can't seem to talk her out of these things, and I have been trying!
So … I'm going to actively investigate the feasibility of creating a monthly (or bi-monthly or quarterly) zine which could be subscribed to for a low, low fee (to cover printing and mailing as was the standard). I doubt anything much will come of it, but you never know. Maybe if I do it for a year my inner teenager will finally shut up about it and move on to some other thing she always wanted to do but never did. Not that I can think of any other things like that, but I'm sure there's something other than zines I wanted to do in my youth but never did. I mean surely there were right? Maybe not. I actually did do a lot of things when I was young. I just never got around to publishing my own zine.
But maybe I'll do it now. Maybe. Seems stupid and silly, which means maybe it'll be fun. Or maybe it'll be tedious and something I grow to hate. Maybe I'll just do another one-off and call it done for another decade. Many possibilities, many correct choices. I think I'll have a cocktail and contemplate this further on the Tree of Woe.