Getting and staying in a work groove has always been a challenge for me. In February of 2012 I became a mom to an amazing baby boy, which has made it immeasurably more challenging. I’ve had to reshuffle the pieces of my life to see what still fits around the all-important new role of mom, while juggling the other indispensable roles by which I’ve always defined myself.
Fortunately, my husband (also a teacher) is incredibly supportive of my pursuit of artwork, as well as a devoted dad, so thanks to him I am able to spend some much-needed time in my studio. When I need to kick start myself, I usually go to pears first; they are my favorite still life form, and while they can pose a challenge, they are like old friends. Once I’m warmed up, animals and landscapes are ultimately where my interests lie. Charcoal is my most comfortable medium, so usually I begin with a straight-up still life, and then start to take things apart from there. I get inspiration from looking at how the Cubists dealt with shape and form; I generally prefer the work of Braque over that of Picasso, perhaps because I’ve always been for the underdog, and Picasso tends to get all the attention when Cubism is mentioned.
Depending on my mood and my current projects, I have a few other go-to artists who always help me restock my creative well: Franz Marc for animal imagery and simplicity of form; Kandinsky for color and pure “expressivism”; Cezanne for the aspiring painter in me; and the drawings of the Mexican mural painters for their raw graphic power, especially those of Orozco. Contrary to the stereotypical image of an artist, I can’t draw or paint when I’m sad, so my work generally doesn’t reflect any overt political or social message.
When I set out to create a piece of artwork, sometimes I am merely flexing my creative muscles, like a distance runner going for a light jog. Sometimes I feel ambitious enough to challenge myself with a “marathon”, where I’ll set the bar high and know that it’s going to take many sessions- and in some cases, many years- before I arrive at a conclusion. I like to have some idea of where I’m going, but also keep myself open for the work to evolve. Creating a piece of artwork involves a give and take between the creator and the thing being created; it starts to take on a life and direction of its own. I feel satisfied at the end of the journey if I’ve figured something out along the way- interpretation of shape/form, or the delicate balance of value/contrast to control a composition, or, better yet, a facet of the complex challenges of color.
My ultimate goal is to set up and maintain a consistent studio practice, like a continuous thread running through every day. To continue the running analogy, a painter friend of mine once put it this way: “Painting is like training to be a marathon runner. You can’t just show up at the starting line not having done the legwork and expect good results; you have to run every day, at least a little bit. Some days it’s going to feel terrible, and sometimes it’s going to feel great. But the most important thing is to just show up and do the work. And eventually something transcendent will happen, even if the journey was somewhat painful.”