Friday, March 29, 2013

(New) Beginnings


A dear artist friend and great inspiration through the years, Martha Marshall, shared this photograph from her studio recently on facebook along with the simple title, "Beginnings".   Oh how I love this image, this glimpse into an artist's environment that I admire so.  That table, saturated with paint, and fully used and abused is pure eye candy.  Marks left as recorded history of every blank surface that has ever been handled and altered by the artist's hands.  It is a thing of beauty in and of itself.  The stunning square paintings that currently sit atop the table in their various stages of completion are, of course, the real beginnings to be noted and without them, it would be an image of a work-space's history.  With them, it is a work in progress as a whole.  So inspiring!  Martha, in one of her comments said, "Sometimes it's necessary to just make a start.

Isn't that the truth?

Since my last post, I spent a few nights in quiet reflection writing about some things I felt I needed to face to begin a journey of rediscovery of my passion for painting, dreaming big, and really challenging myself.  They have been written as potential blog posts but I decided that they are too long winded and go deep in such detail (and ultimately are very personal), that I will keep them to myself, both for my own sake and for yours (this will be long winded enough on its own!)

Most of what I've been exploring has been the many excuses I've used that have prevented me in a number of ways in my life as an artist.  I went through each excuse I've ever sincerely believed, as well as any excuse I've made that a small part of me knew I could overcome if I just put more into it... and I blew them all away.  I realized that in some cases, there were measures I could have taken to have prevented me from being slighted or taken advantage of which led to me closing doors on future opportunities.  In another light, those experiences are things I should be very thankful for because they taught me important lessons and I learned them.  Now that I know better, why should I let the sting of some not so pleasant past experiences/mistakes sour the potential of something new?  For some others, I realized that it wasn't about the excuse, it was about an underlying need for approval, or a fear of failure.  Once I systematically listed them all and explored each one, I realized the common theme of taking personal responsibility.  I no longer wish to lean so willingly on excuses or even unknowingly refer to them casually like they are established truths.  Own my choices, my successes and failures, my action and in-action (especially in-action).  If I don't do something or take chances, it's really nobodies fault but mine.  It's that simple.   

The process of working through this and writing it all out made me want to go through every post on Make Big Art and write and write in response to every challenge, and push and push and somehow work it all out of my system and then I'd be a whole new woman.  Ha!  But... clearly... that isn't the answer.  In fact, it speaks to one of my biggest issues.  I can get so incredibly excited about a great big idea that before you know it, it has exploded into epic proportions and by the time I get ready to take action, it's just too huge, it has bloated into impossible-land.  Such is the case with my writing exercises.  They are great... to a point.  All of this cerebral activity makes me feel like I'm really DOING something about my painting when, well, I still didn't make any art this week (that is if you don't count carving a ton of stamps, which I don't, because it's pure production at this point).

So long story short, it's time to stop thinking about it.  It's time to engage.  I got a lot out of the mental exercises I did this week - it was a healthy, healing and excellent preparation - but it's time to get off the computer, out of my head, and get my hands dirty.

Sometimes it's necessary to JUST MAKE a stART.

(New work coming this week... in the meantime, visit Martha's blog for more inspiration!)

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Structures #111 by Lisa Call

Today I discovered a fantastic blog called Make Big Art by the immensely talented, contemporary fiber artist, Lisa Call.  The discovery could not have come at a better time.  I had just sent a "wah wah, whoa is me" email to my best friend and was resigned to that feeling sticking around and only escaping it/distracting myself from it by having a "lay on the couch drinking tea and watching Downton Abbey all day" kind of day. Before indulging in such behavior, I did a quick facebook check and that's when I was directed, as if by fate, to Lisa's blog.  It was EXACTLY what I needed. A real kick in the backside to propel myself out of a funk, harness frustration and transform it into productive energy (even if it was just in planning/plotting/list-making etc).

To put things all on the table, my painting tends to go into hibernation through the winter months.  I am so thankful for that commission (see last post) but other than that, I haven't done any other painting.  Well, except for one (that I'll share in a moment) that came out of a really angst-y place of discovering that I needed desperately to paint to get out some raw emotions.  It worked.  I felt relief.  And the end result reflected that raw emotion and the energy of the moment. 

©2013 Jessica Torrant
Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20 inches

So what have I been doing with myself all winter?  I have focused exclusively on my rubber stamp business, which has experienced steady growth since I opened the shop in 2010.  I am so thankful for that business because it has given me something I've never experienced with my art - a consistent income (well, as "consistent" as any Etsy based income can be) - and that's why I started it in the first place.  My intention for that shop came to fruition and there's so much room for growth but I've kept it somewhat in check.  Firstly, I don't want to get too overwhelmed with orders as all of my stamps are hand carved and non-stop carving isn't good for someone with a predisposition for Arthritis.  Additionally, ways I could/can grow require more investment cash then I can part with at this point in time.  It has been like Goldilocks's porridge for me - "just right".  

And yet, here we are, a day after the Spring Equinox, and looking back on all of these winter months, I don't think I've ever been so unproductive when it comes to painting.  I was fine with that until just the other night when I watched Pollock for the umpteenth time.  I couldn't stay up for the whole thing (plus we all know how that worked out) but I watched through the part of the film that shows him in his most productive, explosive time.  Seeing "him" (a very convincing Ed Harris) in his barn, on FIRE with passion and connection to what he was doing, set off triggers in me.  Reminding me of that incredible feeling, when you are really locked in and connected to the Muse, and uh... it's just such an intoxicating, amazing feeling.  I missed it.  I was hungry for it.  I was angry with myself for denying it for so long.  I was left with this statement that has been buzzing in my head, challenging me, at times berating me, other times seducing me... I AM A PAINTER!!! Which leads to... WHY AM I NOT PAINTING!!??

For me, denying painting has been an entirely financially motivated decision.  It has never been a reliable or predictable income in all of my years of devotion and yet... can I honestly say I've done EVERYTHING in my power to try and make a success of my art?  Absolutely not.  I've certainly done a lot, and I'm not trying to say I shouldn't be proud of all I've accomplished, but I'm sure other artists can relate to the burning questions, "What if I really went all the way with this?  What would that look like?  What would my art look like?  What would the manifestation of my greatest dream look like?  What is that dream to begin with, anyway?"

Well, I can't promise you (or me) anything concrete, but I am going to start actually asking myself these questions and seeing where the answers lead me.  If I need to make this journey public (which apparently I do) then it is out of a desire to hold myself to it, and not back away out of fear of failure or what others will think, or laziness, or any other excuse that holds me back or keeps me within the status quo.  I am going to use Lisa's blog as a tool to help me get there by accepting some of the challenges presented and systematically challenging myself and changing the way I think about my art, my career, money, what I want, who I want to be, and what I want to do.  

I'm not sure where I'll start with all this, but I'm going to read every post on that blog and figure out a plan for myself.  I'm going to try and document my progress here.  In the meantime...

Fellow artists, please share your thoughts in the comments regarding: 

* What work have you done to challenge yourself as an artist? 
* What blogs/articles have helped inspire you to grow? 
* How would you like to change/challenge yourself, your art business, or your art?