30 January 2012

When Uncertainty Lingers

While I may have identified that fear has been keeping me from my studio, it is not the only reason. Uncertainty also plays its part. Not an uncertainty based on fear of failure such as, whether I should paint or whether I am good enough. But uncertainty about what to do with paintings when I am done.

And by that I mean, how do I turn them from painted cloth into a finished artwork*? Should they be stretched and framed? Matted and placed under glass? Or combined with patchwork and stitch to reflect my other creative interests?

 *(That's not to say that all paintings must be finished. Some can just be studies for larger pieces. And some can just be--gasp--failures. But some I do want to finish.)

My instinct has been to add patchwork and stitch. I came to painting through quilting and I want to honor that path. Also, I like the contrast between a painted surface and a pieced/appliqued/stitched surface.

But the question has been: what type of piecing/stitching/applique?

My initial inspiration was the border I added to this quilt started in a class with Robbi Joy Eklow. I liked how the strippy border brought out the colors of the vases.


This weekend I decided to dive in and see what happened. I was feeling a sense of trepidation and that blasted uncertainty. A pep talk from my husband convinced me that all artists have to try things--keeping some ideas and discarding others--and that it was only through the act of trying that I would figure out what I wanted.

I took a painting that I was not thrilled with, figuring that I couldn't really hurt it, grabbed some fabrics that coordinated, and pieced a strippy border. I played for quite a while with border widths, numbers of borders, and so on. I still felt frustrated and unhappy with what I was doing. But I forced myself to make a decision and finally sewed it together.

And when it was done I looked at it and thought "meh." It is pretty, I guess, but staid. I emailed Cynthia with a stream-of-conscious venting of my concerns. She had a couple suggestions and then asked me one question that really made me think,"What does not staid look like to you"

I immediately grabbed my art journal and sat down. I came to a few conclusions:

  • I want to incorporate some type of patchwork/stitching to honor that part of my creative background.
  • I don't want it to feel as though I am just adding a series of static borders. The example above is just static borders. If I just use static borders, I might as well just painet on stretched canvases and use a store-bought frame. There's nothing wrong with that; it's just not what I want at this moment.
  • Most importantly, I want my voice/creativity/hand to continue across the entire piece--from the painting all the way to the outer edge. The finishing needs to reflect my own voice as much as the painting does.
  • Some descriptive words that resonate with me include: layers, fabric, paper-cloth, tattered, raw edges, frayed, stitching, embroidery, applique.
So I decided to embark on a small series of studies to figure it out. I'll paint a number of small 5" squares. And then I'll try different ideas for finishing on each. I'll keep a record of what works and what doe not work, so that I don't have to reinvent the wheel.

I feel a renewed sense of motivation. I'll start today by buying more primed canvas by the yard. Then the rest of the week will be about painting during my spare moments. Next week I'll face the uncertainty and play with different options. I'm really quite excited!

Do you have any suggestions on ways to finish these paintings? Anything you've seen elsewhere that works well? I appreciate any comments or thoughts you may wish to share!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have no ideas on how you should finish your paintings. You sure did not get your creative juices from your mother. When you were asking what you should do with your paintings, my first response was give it to me. But, that's how moms are. So proud, just like when you came home from school and your creations were put on the fridge. Love, Mom