Wanting to work: a beadworker’s temptation toward watercolors

At least occasionally, I have the draw to work with two-dimensional art media. Given my predilection and draw to/need for writing (which is strong) and beadwork (slightly less strong)…there is a question of whether I really need anything else, or if these two pursuits are enough for me. In particular…I love exploring color so much, that it would seem rational to enter a field such as watercolor. The major hesitation I have…is subject matter, and its interrelations with established fields of meaning.

Of course, that just means I have to create my own meaning, doesn’t it.

Art History and predominant culture value some works over others

Working through Art History classes clarifies how cultures influence the art forms coming out of them. My own culture is not the same as the dominant culture surrounding me, so it makes sense that the art forms I have chosen, are different in underlying philosophy than the art I see around me. When looking at major genres such as portraits, landscapes, still lifes — there are reasons for the choice of subject matter which are not necessarily reasons I, in particular, have for creating art.

My own current work — not in painting or drawing, but in beadwork — would likely fall under “Decorative Arts” and not “Fine Arts”, if it were even considered Art at all. Considering the difficulty I experience when making things to others’ specifications, however…I do find it possible to say that what I do is Art. I wouldn’t have reached this point without help from others around me, however. I have a tendency to undervalue what I do, for the sheer fact that I can do it — because it’s possible and (relatively) easy for me.

It can be emotionally difficult to seriously pursue something most consider a, “craft,” and not an, “art,” at least if one is seeking to be looked at on equal footing. It can also be hard to find resources for this craft (or art) — which is a reason I’ve developed a bit of a library on technique and pattern, not to mention suppliers. To look at the great art others have done (even though they may not call it “great art”), can cause one to want to try one’s hand at it, as well — knowing that proficiency only comes with many hours invested. However: this reminds me of…a maxim that I realized consciously, within the last year.

Worthiness

Just because I admire someone, or their work; just because I believe their work is important or a worthy pursuit, or I value their creations; doesn’t mean I need to be like them, or to do what they do. It — also, fairly obviously — doesn’t mean that what has worked for them, will work for me. We’re different people. This is something that I didn’t really clearly understand until going through the Library Science program and becoming a Library Assistant.

Librarianship may be a worthy pursuit. But is it a pursuit I want to take on? Do I want to be the person who has to do it? If so, what are my impressions of what it takes to succeed in that role? Do I have that? Can I build that, if I don’t? Will I want to build it?

I have reasons for having stopped my visual art practice. A lot of them, actually. Some of them are valid; some of them simply undervalue what I do naturally and well. Others feel more like excuses to bow out, because I have a sense of what I’d have to do to make my own path in the field, and it seems too overwhelming to take on.

Art isn’t easy, despite what people who aren’t artists, tend to think (until they try it). Nor is it always, “fun,” or even, “pleasant.” I often refer to what I do as, “play,” because that is essentially what it is; but, “play,” is also, “work.” It’s really evident on the days when I opt not to play, and it feels like rest.

An aside:

It may be that I’m much more at home with Jewelry, and particularly with glass.

I do kind of wonder what it is like to make glass beads. I haven’t gotten into it because of the dangers of retinal damage and (possible?) silicosis, or other chemical exposure. There are things that can be done to abate possible health consequences: my issue is that people don’t always take safety precautions seriously (and, especially in learning situations, can endanger the health of others, in addition to their own: as when I walked past a student who blew enamel powder [i.e. ground glass] off of her desk instead of sweeping or wet-mopping it. Luckily, I had on a respirator and knew not to breathe in. Three months later, she still had a cough).

This is the same reason I did not put myself back into Chemistry at University…though various Art classes aren’t necessarily much better, when students ignore the admonition not to blow pastel dust into the air (it’s meant to be tapped off of the page), or not to spray fixative in a non-ventilated indoor area. Many people do not…understand that the world is not a playground. Not everything in the world is especially made to be safe.

I’m not supposed to do tight work?

In any case…pen and ink plus watercolor has been on my mind, recently. This is kind of the antithesis of the work that the head of the Art department did, while I was taking classes. I did really admire her, even as much as she discouraged me from doing what I did best. She kept trying to get me to “loosen up” with my artwork, although I believe at this point that working tightly may just be part of my personal method.

Since exiting that situation, I’ve found a lot of people doing tight artwork online, who are apparently un-engaged with the idea that working more loosely is better. When I was in the Art program, I did not yet realize that becoming like other people was not the best route forward for myself. It’s something I know now…at nearly 40.

Creative Process

There is the fact that when it comes to Visual Arts…I don’t have the track record of being engaged enough to keep up momentum. When dealing with my two major media — writing, and beadwork — it’s easier. With beadwork, I make a piece and note what I might want to change to improve the outcome, next time. Then next time, I follow through, noting again what didn’t work and what to try next; this is an ongoing process. With writing, I have a tendency to go off on tangents within my piece, or — as with this post and my last one — realize that what I have to say is best split into two or three separate, shorter posts.

I’m still dealing with this where it comes to the non-blog sections of this website. Writing hyperlinked texts is something that I have had some experience with, but not in such a free-form way as I have when I define my own subjects and parameters.

The point is: there is a process to creative process, and if a person is engaged in it, each piece created raises more questions and possibilities which can be explored in later attempts. I don’t really have a lot of recent experience, with watercolor — at least, not at this point. It’s not that I don’t have the materials; it’s that I have a tendency to think and write about things rather than doing them. If I don’t write these thoughts out, they can build up into unexamined blocks.

Additionally, having an established creative process helps me break out of the paralysis of all the reasons why I can’t or shouldn’t make art.

Steps forward…

Now that I’ve spent this time meditating on it: when I was in the Art program, the closest I came to a personal direction as regarded subject matter, was drawing, painting, and photographing plants. Within that category, I mostly loved weeds, flowers, and produce…it was easy at the time to find neat little things to paint. I had my own reasons for this (which still hold), and maybe I should go back to it, at least as a starting point.

Published by Haruna

Haruna is a Librarian by training, currently pivoting from Public Services into Technical Services. Their undergraduate major was English -- Creative Writing, and they hold an additional small degree in Art (i.e. Visual Arts). Currently, they are trying to figure out whether to place their energies more into language and language arts, or producing handcrafted jewelry, for the interim...

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