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.

moving on

When I wrote about pushing myself about 6 weeks ago, I wasn’t sure about my level of perseverance . . . if could I do it.  I can last 4 days on most ‘do this daily’ kicks and find myself distracted before I finish things.  This time, two factors have supported me: my wonderful accountability coach Trisha Findlay and a vision of what I wanted to achieve.

Last year I took an online course with Karen Ruane called Swathed in Stitch.  The samples were in a folder, minding their own business but I hadn’t finished with them . . . I had an idea that had been bugging me for quite some time.  An idea, and it’s turned into a plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel.  (Sorry about that, but I loved Blackadder and when I think or say “I have an idea” the rest just follows although not always said out loud.)  While the plan has still yet to see the light of day it seems to have developed and gained strength. The thought of it sent me back to the samples which are now all over my hastily and cheaply made design board . . . a very large unused canvas that was hiding under the bed, and an old white, winceyette sheet

A month later I have made what I need to carry out my plan but have yet to see about framing which is likely to be hellishly expensive.  In the meantime I want to move on to other things so I have mounted the samples and bound them into a book using Japanese stab stitching.  The cover has a photograph of the contents and while the samples were never meant to be seen without a 5-7mm space between them, I’m satisfied.  Satisfied but not content with the final outcome . . . yet.

Cover with stab stitch binding. Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Cover of sample book with stab stitch binding.
Wendy @ Late Start Studio

A glimpse of what lies within. Wendy @ Late Start Studio

A glimpse of what lies within.
Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Two things that have always fascinated me are spider webs, and more importantly, looking through gaps at what lies within, the partially obscured, the intentionally and unintentionally hidden whether it relates to a view or a person . . . I’m curious.  As explained by the Johari Window, I am captured by the  façade, the blind spot, the unknown . . . I go to a play and watch the actor not delivering dialogue, I watch the listeners and constantly look for authenticity.  I think there could be a series here although not necessarily using the same medium.

And those ‘other things’ I want to move on to?  I went to a weekend workshop with Nicki Stuart, an encaustic artist, and I bought things . . . and in a week I’ll be off the Whangarei to the Fibre Arts NZ event to spend 5 days working and learning with Australia artist Peta Lloyd . . . she’s issued an invitation to break some rules and experiment with printing, books and wax.  How could I possibly resist?

low growing fruit

There is a certain wisdom in harvesting low growing fruit however if that’s all you do, sooner or later you’ll forget how to climb trees, forget the triumph of getting to the top despite the risks along the way.   Your ability to stretch up and out will atrophy over time and all you will be left with is low growing fruit which is nowhere near as ripe and sweet and the fruit at the top of the tree . . . that fruit will be left to the ones who are brave enough scale the trees and those wonders who can fly.

A second problem arising from indulging in low growing fruit is that you get used to a varied diet . . . a menu dégustation or tasting menu is delightful however not a way to eat for life.  Being able to do a lot of things in a mediocre way is not, I imagine, as satisfying as being able to do one or two things really well.  And before there are objections about my work not being mediocre, that is my opinion based on how easy the result has been, the effort, the practise it required, and while compliments and admiration is lovely I want to feel I have worked hard for something I am satisfied with. Yes, there’s a perfectionist streak which, for the most part, I keep in check . . . but I won’t give up high standards for my work.

Focussing on a few things won’t mean I lose my range of skills, not does it mean ‘ll never exercise them again but for years I’ve fed low growing fruit, often because I’ve squeezed in time or the financial ability to indulge in what I want and sometimes because I’ve been scared to push myself, however lately, I’ve wanted to stretch up higher and find sweeter options.  Which fruit are my favourite though?  I don’t really have favourite colours, types of music etc. I like variety!

While I thought I might sort out, finally, what I want to focus on during the completion of a diploma over the next two years, it just wasn’t going to work for me.  The alternative was an accountability partner.  Someone who would help to keep me on track, working to a plan, and because they receive my reports of triumph and stumbles, that will keep me honest with myself.

I’m really fortunate that one of my talented friends, Trisha Findlay, has offered to take on the task and for two weeks I have done most of what out set out to do. I plan (too much) for the week, write my objectives, review them the following week and write more.  To reach my goal (the top of a tree) I’ve decided to start by spending part of my time clearing away some of the underbrush, the unfinished work that is weighing me down and part of the week doing some work from Experimental Textiles by Kim Thittichai.  I have the book from the library and want to do some work from it to get some ideas flowing before I need to return it . . . how I would love to attend that course but unfortunately I’m half a world away.

Next up, and it is up, through the branches, getting the odd scratch, snagging my clothes, will be more of this earlier experiment . . .

Making mesh detail . . . unfinished and full of promise.

Making mesh detail . . . unfinished and full of promise.

. . . among other things of course, after all, it is a while since I did much tree climbing.

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

 

my response to an offer

Recently, The Textile Artist made me an offer, 3D Mixed Media Textile Art, almost to good to refuse and if you’re in need to good, sound advice (this based upon the content of the site) it might be perfect for you.  I turned it down . . . yesterday I received an email asking for feedback which I responded to thus, albeit with a couple of minor fixes and changes:

I guess I’m feeling deluged by inspirational posts and offers of courses and resources and in danger of spending more time looking at the work of others that developing my own.  I have far too many read books on my shelves (my own and from the library) and ‘bookmarked’ web sites, more than I can hope to give adequate attention so I have unscubscribed from many blogs (not yours) so that I can focus on my own work.  As a mixed media ‘maker’ and someone who has always tried anything and everything it is time to focus and the only way to do that is to withdraw a little from all the wonderful work and wisdom available and simply do my own work . . . follow my own wisdom.

I appreciated being asked why I’m not partaking of what is obviously a wonderful offer as it has made me bring to the surface and articulate what has been gong on in my mind for a while now.

And might I add I’m still very tempted?

experiments continued

Having liked the results written up in my post, experiments with plastic, I decided to try different combinations of black and bright colours.

Black gesso and black acrylic under brights (magenta vermillion and cadmium yellow medium).

Black acrylic and India ink as the top layer over the bright colours.

In each case (black under/black over) I used the medium at full viscosity or watered down.  I also used the magazine-wrap plastic as well as cling film.

The results were similar to before however the most effective, in my opinion, was when I used a diluted top coat as more of the previous layer shows through.

Diluted India ink over bright acrylics and magazine wrap plastic . . . I forgot to dilute it prior to application so I spritzed it with water. Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Diluted India ink over bright acrylics and magazine wrap plastic . . . I forgot to dilute it before application so I spritzed it with water.
Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Bright acrylic over black acrylic and cling film. Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Diluted bright acrylic over black acrylic and cling film.
Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Brights over black gesso and magazine-wrap plastic. Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Brights over black gesso and magazine-wrap plastic. Unfortuantely I put the black smudge on after with my grubby fingers.
Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Even the magazine wrap plastic looked interesting after I'd used both sides . . . I'll probably use it again knowing that it will leave remants of colour behind. Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Even the magazine wrap plastic looked interesting after I’d used both sides . . . I’ll probably use it again knowing that it will leave remnants of colour behind.  Hmmm . . . I wonder if I can stick down with a matt gel? 
Wendy @ Late Start Studio

I used Atelier Interactive acrylics for these samples. I bought them myself however if Atelier wants to subsidise my play experiments that would be lovely!

And now that my curiosity has been satisfied it’s time to put all my paints away otherwise I won’t get some presents made and of course I can’t tell you about those because my family read this blog.  Maybe I’ll lay our some cardboard first and make gift tags . . . I’m thinking of white under and over pastels.  So just a little more playtime perhaps or is this perseverance beginning to blossom?

practise makes perfect (if that’s what you want)

This morning after I read The Muse Whisperer on Quinn McDonald’s blog I got to thinking how all creative tasks involve skills plus ideas and then about where, or how, I get my ideas.  I realised that unless I’m working on something I don’t become inspired.  I need to be ‘thinking with my hands’ (thanks Quinn), exploring the properties of a material, in order to generate unique ideas.   Sometimes they’ll come when I’m walking the beach or working in the garden, not thinking of anything much, just noticing what is around me but usually, real inspiration comes when I’m completely engaged.   Ideas come and take on a life of their own through the materials.  Occasionally I’ll set out to make something and end up with something completely different because I listen to the idea . . . or is that the muse?

The other part of completing a creative task are the skills required to actually produce it.  I could have the most ingenious, fantastical, original idea but without the skills to carry to it out the idea would be like a bell without a clapper.

I read once in a book about Tai Chi that there are three aspects to mastering anything; talent, teaching, and perseverance.  You may have a truckload of talent and the best teacher available however if you don’t persevere you won’t master what you’re trying to learn.  You can take talent or the teacher out of the equation and a level of mastery is still possible if you persevere.  This applies to learning anything.

So what ever I want to learn to do, I can . . . as long as I show up and do the work . . . daily.

As a result of turnng up today I've learned more about acrylic paints and what effects I can get from leaving plastic on it as it dried . . . I know I can use it but I want to experiment with using plastic of different thicknesses. If you look carefully you'll see I have used a large size bubble-wrap on the magenta. Play is a great way to learn. Wendy @ Late Start Studio

As a result of turning up today I’ve added to my skills and learned more about acrylic paints and what effects I can get from leaving plastic on it as it dried . . . I know I can use it but I want to experiment with using plastic of different thicknesses. Can I control the effect?  If you look carefully you’ll see I’ve used a large size bubblewrap on the magenta. Some of the bubble wrap had traces of yellow paint on it, traces of which stayed behind when I peeled it off so I stored that bit of information away as well.   Play is a great way to learn.
Wendy @ Late Start Studio