This is an edited version of a blog post written for Suzi Blu's Private Patreon Gypsy Warrior Blog. I realized I haven't really written about how I came to my current 'Springtime' theme for my artwork. I thought I had - maybe I only wrote about it in my journal. Sometimes I lose track of whether or not I have written things on my blog. So, consider this some catch-up. It describes the steps that brought me to my current theme.
I was interviewed for Suzi Blu's (Patreon) Gypsy Warrior Radio Show/Chat on Sunday, August 23rd. She sent some questions she planned to ask me, and we also took questions from the other Gypsy Warriors. Several of them asked about inspiration and ideas for artwork - where do they come from and how do we decide what to do? This is a complicated issue and it's likely different for every artist, but there are some common practices that many artists use.
How did I get here?
I am still working on these new ideas, but they are a combination of many different factors. Our harsh Indiana winters. My desire to create new artwork. Chance sketches. And a desire to get back to my MFA figures, especially my MFA Women.
I never used to mind Winter and I used to love cold weather. I hated hot weather. I never liked bright sunny weather and preferred it cloudy or rainy. But since moving to Indiana, the Winters have gotten to me. The past two winters here in Bloomington, Indiana have been harsh. The winter of 2013-2014 was full of record-breaking snow. We had the snowiest January on record, and the snow continued until April. This past 2014-2015 winter was full of frigid cold. We had unseasonably cold weather early, in November. Not as much snow as the previous year, but many days of temps well below freezing.
The cold and the snow wore me out and ran me down. I looked forward to Springtime like never before in my life. The warmth and the greenery were a relief. Everything turns this ugly brownish-gray with all the trees bare around here. Slowly everything turns green again as the leaves come back. When the trees have all of their leaves again, the greenery feels so ALIVE.
Early in May there were some Irises blooming by the bus stop, and I was compelled to get out my Journaling paper and make some sketches:
As usual, the Female Figure is never far from my mind:
I wanted to get back to doing big figures again. But I have done this twice here, and both times decided that they were just too big and impractical. I can't stretch a canvas that big - the stretcher bars would cost $100 for just one set. This red and blue figure was composed of 18x24 paintings taken off the stretcher bars and glued together, taped to the wall with masking tape. She was so heavy that she regularly fell off the wall.
Recently I realized: No, I didn't tear them up because they were impractical, or 'the wrong thing.' I tore them up because they scared me. Why? Because I couldn't see a way to...sell them, display them, ship them? Talk about getting ahead of myself. I can do this - I've done it:
Damn it, I want to work on a BIG FEMALE FIGURE PIECE ON CANVAS. If I can't stretch it, then I will tape it up and if it falls down then I will re-tape it up again. So I put up a piece of canvas and gessoed it.
Now, to draw in the figure. I had to determine the measurement of the head (which determines the measurement of the entire body). I base all of my figures on my own measurements - once I measured a photo of my naked body to get my exact proportions. Generally it's 1 head from chin to sternum, sternum to belly button, pelvic region, then the thigh measures 2 heads but the shin is about 1.5 heads. For my body, the sternum is slightly higher. Anyway, for a standing figure, the head would have been too small. I don't like for the face to be too small. I wanted it life size. Which meant I needed a canvas much bigger - or-? Well, it would be difficult for me to work on a canvas that is 6 feet tall - first, I'm short and it would be hard to reach. Second, the canvas would cover an electrical outlet, which I thought would be unsafe or possibly a fire hazard. So: OH the figure can be seated. It was then that I realized the canvas that I tore down to size, taped up and gessoed, was too small - damn it.
Well, what now?
I had one piece of canvas left, which I had taped around my big drawing board and gessoed for extra gessoed canvas. I tore off the edges and stitched them onto this big canvas to make it bigger, using my sewing machine. Now the canvas was big enough.
I sketched out some ideas and made a rough draft on a piece of Stonehenge. I was also thinking broader about message. What is she doing? Warmth. Springtime. Greening of the landscape. I decided something about this would be my theme. It could also be a metaphor, for me: finally blooming, blossoming, growing my ideas into artwork, growing as an artist.
I wasn't sure yet what she would be doing, but her left hand (controlled by the Right Brain) is open, reaching. The right hand (controlled by the Left Brain) is tightly closed, holding back, hesitating. I proceeded with the drawing, knowing the answers would occur to me in time. Sometimes when I have a general idea, I need to start working before I decide what to do next. I have found that if I spend too much time thinking about what I'm going to do before I actually begin working, it wastes a lot of time because once I get started things become clearer and an idea in my head may not look right when executed on paper or canvas. I still try to balance too much thinking with working things out on the page.
I looked at her, considering, looking over sketches on Journaling Project paper that I had taped to the wall. I kept writing in my journal, gathering ideas, putting down my thoughts.
I wanted to add some color. I bought some craft paint, because it's so pale and has just a bit of color. I wanted to get away from bright colors. But suddenly I needed some bright color on this figure. I have no acrylic paint other than white. Or watercolors. I came home from the Eye Dr. (because these days it takes all day for my dilated pupils to go back to normal) and spent some time with her. And it occurred to me: I have Neocolor II crayons. Use what I have on hand!
I wrote words like HESITATION and NO SHAME across her body, and used a brush and water to spread the color.
And took a Selfie:
I didn't really think about why I used red and green, but Steve said it made her look like she is a flower blooming.
Meanwhile, I have been working on this Art Journaling piece for several weeks. I couldn't decide what to do, but, inspired by Amy (Tan) Tangerine and her scrapbooking, I glued down some Journaling pieces and kept working on it:
And the question came to me: Will this be My Springtime?
And I have my theme: Springtime
Not just literal Springtime that occurs in March and April, but my own blossoming blooming time, my own greening of my life, my artwork, my potential.
Now, what should be above her left hand? What was I just drawing recently...
Well, kind of recently - the beginning of May. It is now the end of August SEPTEMBER. In between there was a lot of writing, sketching, gathering of ideas, examining of old ideas. There are so many things I have tried in the past that I wanted to incorporate into my artwork that I never resolved: stitching, embroidery, printmaking. Also, I ran out of PVA Glue and white gesso. I finally ordered them, plus Matte Medium, from Amazon. Often I need art supplies, but I have to wait to get them. Real life goes on in the meantime.
Now that I have PVA glue again, I glued on a piece of Stonehenge so half her face can be drawn on canvas and half on paper. I like to glue on paper and tear it back up because it leaves a nice texture behind.
So, where am I now? This big stitched-together canvas in-progress will be full of experiments and things that I have wanted to try. I will keep working on her until I decide she's done. And on I go from there.