Monday, May 8, 2017

In Which Some Seeds Sown Long Ago Finally Sprout: Part 1

One of my favorite parts of my own working style is that I leave a lot up to my subconscious. I sketch, jot down brainstorms, make lists, do research, and play randomly, gathering seeds for future projects. It took a long, long, LONG time to do this on a consistent basis, to store ideas for a later date rather than strong-arm those passing notions into something before they are really ready. (Just because it is the first idea, doesn't mean it is the best idea.) This is big part of why you see me working in so many different styles, mediums, themes, and techniques all at once. My brain moves fast as does my interest so I try capture what I can and then move on.

I treat ideas like a gardener tends seeds. I sow the idea seeds in my subconscious and walk away, like bulbs you tuck into the ground in winter with a hope and prayer that you will see something of your efforts in the spring. I never know what - if anything - those seeds will become, either alone or in concert with something else. The majority fail to germinate; they are dead-on-arrival, just some passing fancy that doesn't stay on my radar for a variety of reasons. Rarely, an idea becomes something greater than its beginnings almost immediately. Most of the time though it can take years before something sprouts and I finally have that beloved "A-Ha!" moment. Almost always, those freshly risen ideas are never what I expected them to become...sort of like thinking you are planting pansies and ending up with roses.


A little over two years ago, I did a small series of sketches of primitive woodland animals, trying to distill the essence of the creature in as few lines as possible. Usually, I feel it necessary to convey every detail but here, I wanted to see if I could step back a bit from all that obsessive detailing and draw something very simple. I really liked my efforts but I couldn't see where to take these doodles at that time so...onward.

Last year, before I settled on the assemblage series, Figmenta, I did a bunch of very rough painting layouts all centered around animals. I had some bare-boned concepts but nary a unifying theme, style, or technique in sight. Figmenta, on the other hand, came together quickly and since I didn't have a lot of time to spend dithering over what I was going to do - I had to just get to the "doing" part - I turned the page on those sketches and moved on once again.

This year, I decided fairly early in the show prep process to return to an animals theme, seeking to pull on the energy and enthusiasm I had for the two-plus years I worked on The Motley Menagerie. I keep a private sketchbook/journal just for show development and one idea was to do a show entirely of portraits. As most steady readers will know, I've been immersed in yearbook-inspired drawings for quite some time so a portrait-focused show was not far afield. Since I don't feel up to doing human portraits on a scale larger or more public than my journals, my show concept quickly morphed into a collection of animal portraits.


I like to work in multiple small series united under a single, umbrella title. At this point, my 2017 show title still eludes me but for now, that's fine. I've been happily painting a series of cat and dog portraits while plotting some more "Woodland Hoodlums." (Yes, the Hoodlums were originally planned to be part of Figmenta but the assemblages asserted themselves early on and I simply followed their siren call.) Since I was looking for more sketch inspiration for the Hoodlums series, I returned to my "idea seed catalogs," aka my sketchbooks and journals.

I began playing again with simple drawings, focusing this time on bunnies as prompted by those 2015 doodles and my quickie layout ideas from a year ago. My head started buzzing because I felt something trying to break through. I thought maybe it would be good to just start a canvas with this fresh impulse in mind, even though it was going to take me away from the "portrait" part of my focus. You have to learn to recognize when your subconscious is ready to share with your conscious mind and take action. If you see a hint of green in the dirt, for goodness sake, get thee a watering can! So I began to paint, swearing to myself that I was going to take just a little time to see if anything of substance would result; if not, I would get right back to my other, already-in-progress ideas...nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that. It turns out, something new and fun was waiting for its time in the sun...

Part 2 posts on Wednesday...

3 comments:

Sheila Johnston said...

Thanks for sharing your process. I look forward to seeing the end results.

Jennifer Shelby said...

Can't wait to read part 2!

Loulou in Texas said...

Since it's Wednesday now that I'm first seeing this post, I'll just hop on over to your latest blog to see which bunny will make his/her debut.

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