review and reflection

Recently I took a workshop with Lisa Call, Working in a Series . . . the pods in the last two posts are what I made as well as the one below, however they are not the most valuable outcome.

A Promise: Strings Attached Encaustic seed-pod, rebar wire, harakeke/flax, amethyst chips, silver crimps. 40 x 25 cm Wendy @ Late Start Studio

A Promise: Strings Attached
Encaustic seed-pod, rebar wire, harakeke/flax, amethyst chips, silver crimps.
40 x 25 cm
Wendy @ Late Start Studio

I think perhaps I need to start this post by explaining that my earlier day-job was as a collaborative consultant, working with classroom teachers in order that they might better meet the needs of the range of students in their class therefore critiquing teachers is something I do automatically.  When I’m in a class or workshop I listen carefully to the language that is used when the teacher talks to other students as well as noting the response they get and I give feedback.  I tell teachers what I see that works for others and me, what they obviously very good at . . . often what teachers do is unconscious however making overt the positive aspects of their teaching makes a good teacher great.  That said . . . what did I think of Working in a Series?

My goals were to go deeper, to have within the series I constructed a body of work that I could extend with a view to exhibiting and integrate some of my skills and interests and I feel very satisfied that I have met them but what else have I gained?

The workshop, and others, is outlined in detail on Make Big Art and although not stated, is primarily for 2D artists, Lisa says as much in one of her recorded lectures. Had I realised that, I probably wouldn’t have taken it however that would have been my loss.

Each week I received a recorded lecture about the focus for the week as well as the week’s assignment.  There were eamils with links to read for further information about the focus, and about artists that illustrated the challenges posed by the week’s assignment.  Our small group posted our assignments in a private Facebook page and after a couple of days, we met on-line for our feedback based on the work as well as the critique that we wrote.

Significant input + significant output = significant learning

My learning came out of learning how to critique my work, the feedback I received as well as listening to the feedback Lisa gave to others, and contemplating how the weekly focus applied to my work and, importantly, becoming increasingly aware of how I function as an artist.  My learning can only continue as I use the skills, the notes and links I have, as I develop my work in any media . . . . which brings me back to the 2D/3D issue.

I’m not the only 3D artist who has taken the workshop and although almost all the examples of artists work presented are 2D artists, the points that Lisa makes apply to 2D and 3D, and her feedback demonstrated her wealth of knowledge in the field of 3D mixed media art.  I wasn’t disadvantaged although a little tweaking would make it more inclusive, e.g more 3D artists profiled.  (Can you tell I’ve not been asked or expected to write this?)

So who would I recommend take the workshop?  If you’re needing a push, are lacking somewhat in self-discipline, wanting to dig deeper rather than continue with what you know, wanting to learn more about ways to develop a series, take it . . . all of those points applied to me.  It doesn’t matter if you’re beginning or experienced.  The range of skills, the range of media, all of these Lisa responds to individually.  Her feedback is invariably supportive, constructive, and focussed on what worked, and the next steps each artist might take.

Finally, I’m now thinking about where to next with my pods/promises and not rushing headlong into something completely different (of course I do have some other irons in the fire because that’s the way I am) . . . for me, that’s a great result.

the fight is over

I’ve finally decided to accept me just as I am, to go with the flow . . . water is a powerful force and I could do worse than to emulate its properties.

I have always wrestled with developing habits that would lead to some sort of self-improvement or help me towards a goal.   As a child I did not practise my music, do my homework or even remember to feed my guinea pigs on a regular basis nor do recall being encouraged to do so.  My children could well say the same and although I remember asking them if they had homework, I probably did it irregularly. As an adult there is very little I do regularly but that may have something to do with having had a working life regulated by appointment times and school bells.   Routine and I?  Well it’s always been a difficult relationship: I have a low threshold to boredom and for me, Routine and Boredom seem to have some sort unholy alliance.

My latest attempts to instill some discipline into my practice have all ended up as failures.  My attempts to place limitations on how many directions I go in . . . playing with encaustic medium almost didn’t happen and, right now, I’m really enjoying its possibilities.  And that’s it . . . words like limitations, discipline and routine give rise to a negative, almost visceral reaction however possibilities makes my Self sit up and smile and start to sing.

Why do I keep trying different things? In the hope that something will enthuse me so much that I fall in love with doing it and never look back?  That we, the activity and I, will be romantically entwined for life and . . . what?  We ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after?  Like that is ever going to happen!  And before you go telling me that it just doesn’t work that way with ANY passion whether it be something or someone, I know, I wasn’t born yesterday!   I’ve given up trying to limit myself or form beneficial habits.  I gave it a damn good try many times . . . giving up is just not the same as giving in.

There is much written about the positive effects of having a daily regimen and having a daily practice and I don’t discount it but it simply doesn’t work for everyone . . . and it’s not some virtue and I will become, by some miracle, a much better person on the inside if I somehow crack this Sisyphean task and do something ‘good for me’ on a daily basis.  Read it here now . . . I will never be that person, who when asked about the secret of their success will say, “I XYZ EVERY DAY AND HAVE DONE SO FOR X YEARS.”  The only thing I do almost every day is get up, use the bathroom, make coffee and take it back to bed and read (a book or online) and I have done that since I did my MEd which I completed in 2002 (working full-time I could only do the necessary reading between 5:30 and 7:30).  Now, I wake when I wake and shower when I shower . . . I don’t wear a watch.  And while I try to hand the car keys in the same place there is a second thing I do . . . I make all sorts of stuff.

For me, trying to set up a new habit opens the door to those voices that tells me I have no will-power or won’t-power, I’m hopeless.   The loudest voice of all, tells me positively screams at me that I’m lazy.  I then spend most of my energy digging a hole to fall into and then have to struggle to get out again.  No more.  No more will I set myself objectives that need to be done daily at a certain time.  I shall continue to be haphazard in my approach to what I do.  My weekly goals will continue but always have the rider “unless something more interesting turns up.”

Recently I decided I would draw every day, make marks if you will, the ‘authorities’ (and yes I know, I have ascribed that title to them . . .  they haven’t, however most of them are teachers so, to some extent, they have).  The most I ever managed to keep this up was for 10 days straight and then something happened and I never got back into it.  Maybe it was a visit from my grandhearts (who love to draw), a particularly stunning morning that demanded I go for a walk or perhaps I got waylaid in the workroom on my way to make coffee and didn’t get out of my pyjamas until 11:00.  Does it matter?   Did time stop?  Was there some cataclysm in some corner of the universe?  (And such is my level of spontaneity, it is now 12:15m and I have not showered nor had any breakfast. And don’t get me started on the difference between being impulsive and being spontaneous.)

For me, having to do something kills a lot of the pleasure . . . this probably means that deep down I’m a hedonist but that’s okay . . . I’m sure the world can cope with a few and might be the better for it.

By now you could be wondering what started all this ranting and rambling.  Yesterday on Face Book I read ‘Action opens the door.  Consistency keeps it open.”  You might nob in agreement and say that’s fine, that’s true, but for someone who will have the epitaph “She Analysed” on her gravestone, that isn’t good enough.  First I finished admiring the penmanship and use of watercolour and then, perhaps because it doomed me to failure, perhaps because I am a bit of a pedant around the edges, I found myself disagreeing with the word choice . . . big time.

Consistency (Oxford Dictionary)
consistent behaviour or treatment. “the consistency of measurement techniques”

synonyms:evenness, steadiness, stability, constancy, regularity, uniformity, equilibrium, unity, orderliness, lack of change, lack of deviation
Consistency was perhaps used with the idea of turning up, applying yourself on a regular basis but more and more I realise I can’t do that . . . it’s just not me.  I think perseverance is what keeps the door open . . . persevering thought the discomfort, extending to a point just a little out of reach, not giving up until you can stand back and know, deep inside, that you did well.    For me, consistency and development just don’t go together.

Maybe I’m splitting straws but in my mind the difference between consistency and perseverance is a bit like the difference between equality and equity.

Of course if it really is consistency that makes the difference between me just mucking about with art supplies and being an artist I’m really sunk.   Regardless of whether it does or not, I’m off to persevere in my making and mucking about.  My plastered forms are waxed and ready waiting for me to apply colour.   Next week I could be weaving, embroidering, making more charcoal, a book or perhaps even drawing or painting, miracles do happen . . . but  whatever I do, I’ll be making because that’s what I am . . . a maker (which is not too far from my childhood nickname of Mucker and that’s fine by me).

Plastered forms ready for waxing. Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Plastered forms ready for waxing.
Wendy @ Late Start Studio

And my mottos?  1, Necessity is the mother of invention and 2, Strike while the iron is hot . . . .and there a millions of power sockets in this world.

is it beginning . . . or not?

This Diploma of Art and Creativity I’ve enrolled in, the package for distance students arrived and I avidly went through book that accompanies the DVDs.   To my dismay there was little there I wanted to do, I’m not really interested in drawing or painting people, landscape, or a still life and these aspects feature heavily.  Please don’t misunderstand me, this is not a criticism of the institution and the quality of the materials is great . . .  it has nothing to do with that . . . it is their relevance to me.  I’m a maker with a primary interest in textiles, a mixed-media person who enjoys exploring the qualities of a material (even paint however I’m not particularly interested in creating representational paintings)  Perhaps I should have known better after I left the end-of-year exhibition underwhelmed and disappointed that there was little that interested or intrigued me.   Some lovely artwork but the only textile in sight was a piece of hessian stapled in folds, ‘last minute’ to quote the artist, to a wall as an exploration of the fabric’s qualities and that type of installation art just, well it does nothing for me and has little to do with textiles although that was indeed the medium.

There were plenty of forms to fill in and I do hate forms, and, horror of horrors, a questionnaire.  I loathe and despise and will resist filling in questionnaires to my last breath.  Fill your life in on this form, put yourself in a box on this questionnaire  . . . no thanks!   So much rebelliousness has surfaced, it’s never far below, and I’ve once again had to stop and look at the driver.  I’m the driver, never the passenger, in my life so I need to look at this rebellion surging up with objectivity and talk it through with a friend . . . who fortunately for me rang when she read my mini-rant of an email.  In this instance my Inner Rebel has an investment in the things as they are.  The Inner Rebel is emotional while the Questioner is objective . . . and I wonder and question a lot!

Now I need to say at the outset that there is no compulsion to use any of the resources I have been sent on DVD and in the supporting book.  I can work independently, set my own goals, do the work, record my hours, keep a visual diary or workbook, work through the creative process and send it all to my mentor who will do what good mentors should do . . . give me constructive and supportive feedback based on my goals (which he might have helped me formulate), maybe challenge me, offer some guidance.  I’ll need to be accountable for putting in the hours, conducting my own research and arranging and any tuition I might need.

Giving that I will be finding instruction elsewhere, books, courses etc., and the word ‘textiles’ does not feature anywhere in the literature, my question is, is access to a mentor all I’m going to gain from this?  It’s not entirely about the money however the fees do represent a return flight to Europe!  From New Zealand!  The longest distance possible!

Or I need an accountability partner?   Someone who has the similar needs, form a reciprocal  relationship where we make goals, work to meet them and then report back . . . we’d give each other constructive and supportive feedback, maybe challenge each other, offer some guidance.  Hey!  Did that sound familiar?

I will have 8 days to become convinced that this Diploma is good value and right for me.

A little something I've been playing with . . . local stone, harakeke/flax, pearls and silver crimps. Wendy @ Late Start Studio

A little something I’ve been playing with . . . local stone, harakeke/flax, pearls and silver crimps.
Wendy @ Late Start Studio

 

playing at work

Just because I haven’t posted anything for a while doesn’t mean that I have been idle on the creative front.  Yes I know I was intending to post daily over the school holidays but what with noisy builder’s electric saws whining away and then the bashing of hammers as they replace the cladding part of my house, and the wonderful distraction of my two grandchildren, well, it just didn’t happen and what is more, I have NOT been beating myself up over it.   But since returning to work . . . I have been playing as part of my work.

It’s been rather more than just doodling in meetings (it helps me focus) because I’m working with a wonderful teacher in a class of 12 and 13 year olds creating individual journals about their developing personal identity.  The class teacher is working on an inquiry about careers based on their strengths and skills and I am augmenting that focus by having them uncover at their personal qualities and eventually, setting some goals.

The planning incorporates several areas of the curriculum: the Arts, PE & Health and Literacy.  I am excited beyond measure!  One of the resources I am using is Violette Clark’s Teen Dream Journal DVD and her book Journal Bliss . . . they’re so user-friendly for teachers!

This afternoon I played around with three very simple versions of the same page, complete on the left and incomplete on the right so the students can see how they are developed.  I’ve used just basic script, circles and lines.   I kept to the KISS principle . . .  Keep It Simple Sweetheart!  The letters for the heading for the first spread are cut out of squares and rectangles of magazine pages . . . a technique I will show them tomorrow.  The heading on the second spread, in Big Fat Letters, was demonstrated last week.

Adding circles and dots to text.

I wanted to show the students that the addition of circles and dots to their writing (on the left) makes a big difference to the overall appearance of the text.

Personal Qualities

This time I want to introduce the students to ‘the piano test’ which I first used in a class about two years ago. We were working on some visual presentations and to have the students critique their own work I had them prop it up on a piano and take four big steps back to view it. This page lacks definition and I’m hoping that is what the students will tell me.

Gone dotty

Again I wanted to show the effect of using simple shapes, lines and dots, and the power of a border . . . this one is just a wiggly line. I also left my pencil markings in the circles so that the students can see that just a little planning is helpful!

Any feedback is welcome as eventually, I’m hoping to come up with a resource for teachers of any skill level on art.

a travelling journal

This morning I found out that I had won the opportunity to make an entry in a travelling journal.  Quinn McDonald over at QuinnCreative is celebrating 1,500 blog posts!  I’m in awe of that tally.  She posts daily, has great insight, provides on a variety of topics and creative endeavours, and what’s more, she responds to people who comment.  It’s one of the blogs I check in on daily.

So there’s Quinn, a model of consistency when it comes to her blog . . . and here’s me with my sporadic posts.   I bet she’s no less busy than me, in fact I bet the only difference is that she’s got different priorities and probably a tad better organised.

My priorities are fine, family and friends first and work after that – I guess I’m in there too somewhere but where?  I think I need myself up the list and make myself more visible!

Spring is definitely here which is a good time for new beginnings mmm?

And what have I been noticing?  This, I pass by this sign on a regular basis and had to stop and take a photo.

Baby OpenI can see nothing right with this sign.  It is on the end wall of a small grocery shop, the wall itself has been painted as if it belonged on a pre-school or crèche although I can’t see one near by.  There are big advertisements posted for grocery specials in the shop . . . and this!

The figures look happy and excited as they follow the arrows, but the sign points in the other direction!  Why?  A ‘Shop Open’ sign I can understand but ‘Baby Open’?  And no, I haven’t been playing with the photo.  What is it all about?

I guess it would be simple enough to go into the shop and ask if they know, but sometimes puzzlement is a delicious feeling to hold on to.  It makes me smile.

taking lessons from the wise – 1

I’ve had grand-daughters here for 4 days – so what did I learn?the boucey logExpensive play equipment is not needed when the river and the tides leave it for free.

Dust is something else to draw in and so are salty windows.

If you need to see outside and the windows are opaque with salt spray, go outside.  Easy!  And don’t waste time washing them before a storm!

Walking on the beach, running up and down sand dunes is more fun than hanging washing, although it has to be done.

The day has begun so don’t waste it wondering what to do – just go and do it.

4-year-olds wake up happy unless they are unwell.

Apparently I have more lines from smiling than frowning.  4-year-old logic says that means I’m happy a lot.

Occupied shells smell bad – don’t take them home.

Always take a bag to the beach for the treasures you’ll find . . . pockets are not big enough although it does make you edit what you’ll keep.

Winter weather doesn’t matter if you can keep warm. bare feet again!

Cold feet are okay and to be expected if you paddle in the winter, and of course you should!

It makes no difference to a child if no housework is done . . . as long as it doesn’t lead to food poisoning.

If it has to be done, vacuuming, or anything else, is more fun if you have some music playing while you do it.

Disappearing into a good book is learned young and its to be recommended at any time of the day . . . or night.

If you’re 7 and find a piece of wood shaped like a pterodactyl’s head, you don’t think twice about bringing it back from the beach and making it into one.decorating the wings

A little sister can help, especially if you let her know what to do.  “Draw anything you like between the blue line and the green line, okay?”

Flying PteradactylMy house seemed very quiet and empty this morning.

And no, I am not going to do the dusting, wash windows or vacuum . . . I’m going for a walk along the beach while the sun is shining.

I think I am finally learning how to prioritise.

 

a significant change of pace

I have done nothing but day-job work all week, arriving home happily tired and usually with some professional reading.  I know it will settle down but in the meantime the poor bear didn’t get mended, very little of my grand-daughter’s cardigan got knitted and I didn’t open my little Moleskine all week, not to mention the brocade quilt!  I’ve been productive and busy so why give myself a hard time about it?  I know I am not Superwoman, don’t want to be Superwoman, never aspired to be superwoman, in fact the whole concept of a superwoman stinks!  Ah, I feel better now that I’ve given her a small ‘s’ which is all that particular friend of my inner critic deserves!

Starting work full-time after a year’s part-time work and 3 months of being unemployed has been quite a shift – albeit an energising and intellectually stimulating one.

With winter coming on I start each day with a 20 km drive through the countryside just after sunrise and reverse the trip at sundown – I don’t even mind the smell of the occasional truck full of sheep as they remind me of sheep being driven down the road past my father’s shop when I was a kid – I’m immediately transported back and can hear the sound of their feet on the macadam, the dogs barking.   Smells are so evocative aren’t they?

Monday and Friday, as I leave the beach behind for the week, I leave even earlier when it is still dark and arrive home with the sun just setting beyond the horizon of the sea.  There is something I find truly wonderful about leaving a sleeping town in the early hours of the morning – I love that sense of adventure and new beginnings that it engenders.

The day job.  I have absolutely wonderful colleagues – knowledgable, generous, hard-working, humourous, caring – and a job that requires us to be endlessly creative in how support people to solve the difficulties that face them each day.   I just love a challenge and think perhaps creative problem solving is my strength – I just wish I was as adept when it comes to my own!  Maybe I am . . . when you’re so close in, sometimes it’s hard to be both objective and yet free in your thinking.

On Friday (yes you North Americans, it’s a perfect, calm, sunny autumn Saturday morning here), I attended a day of strategic planning – more wonderful colleagues meeting up with a clear focus – and had some reading to do about goal setting to overcome the discrepancy between the current situation or conditions and what was desirable.  I came upon the words CONSTRUCTIVE DISCONTENT.  Fantastic descriptor don’t you think?

I’ve never considered discontent or criticism to be necessarily negative although many do – to me it’s simply a signal that change is needed.  The trouble is, when I read a phrase that resonates such as ‘constructive discontent’ it rambles around in my mind and I start thinking and thinking and thinking and . . . you know what I mean?  I need to DO something with this!

So while I haven’t been terribly creative in the evenings, my days are endlessly challenging and satisfying.  Lucky me!

Lucky me this morning too – a plunger (French press) of coffee, return to bed, laptop, favourite blogs, washing on, sunshine pouring in – and to top it off I have a fresh new copy of Cloth Paper Scissors that was delivered to my mailbox!!!

I’m one very happy woman!Walking to the beachAnd with this just 2 minutes from my front door?  Blessed in the extreme.  Of course life throws up challenges which I sometimes struggle to keep in proportion, but . . . life is so good.

Now, what to do, what to do. . . .?  The library have found a copy of Jill Berry’s Personal Geographies on interloan for me, my machine is calling, I want to call some friends and . . . I think I need more than just a weekend!