What does the work want?
My friend Graham and I have been doing micro art activities for thirty day sprints as part of the way we communicate with one another. They are also experimental exercises in dancing with the schedule I currently have being a full time caregiver for my mother.
Small daily acts do add up, and, with shaping and vision can produce satisfying results. Our first sprint was around music and quotes and resulted in a two-person dialogue that may or may not become a public performance. Our second sprint used images from the past and the current day – along with short prose. We are about to begin our third sprint.
The point is, I haven’t totally put aside my creative endeavors, they are merely taking different forms right now. And I have found that by taking even the tiniest steps consistently, my inventive gears stay lubricated. By sharing, I keep an inspired conversation alive.
Life happens, and so must the work. Graham offered up the question, “What does the work want?” Now I think of the question no matter how big or small the task.
Collaboration experiments are part of the solution. The work wants to happen – and so my task is more or less to step out of my own way. And the work happens all along
Graham expressed an interest in my process, starting with the doodles I use for my paintings. He has a technique for manipulating the drawings. I like the results – so – I have begun digitizing decades of sketches. Another collaborative project that is less a sprint and more an amble – as I feel like it. There is no timetable to it.
Bonus! Something I have been meaning to do for years is finally happening as a result of working together! This is work done in small moments and the actions are already yielding successful outcomes.
That brings me to this current piece, Sparks from the Archive.
Graham had asked for a piece of art for his birthday. He thought perhaps an original scribble on a piece of paper would be nice. Despite our tiny art experiments, I didn’t think that way. I made something bigger.
Sparks from the Archive was inspired by a doodle.
I went through my collection of blank cardboard and picked a size I liked, pulled a doodle from my archive and got to work on it. The process took a few days of thinking. At first I went through my doodles and began creating the archive for Graham to sift through – I’m saving my drawing on Dropbox and letting him pull designs as he pleases. As I cataloged my work, ideas flowed.
This doodle pleased me and I got to work.
I initially used white oil stick to draw out the design. The quick drawing could have been enough, but I had to continue, make choices around color. The “quick project” took time. I announced to my family that I was working on art and I needed the space to do so. They they left me alone (thank goodness – announcing I am working doesn’t always have results). My sister arrived and she was able to help take care of my mother so I didn’t have to have too many interruptions. I had a few interruptions, but not very many.
There was a point when the background was empty and I thought, “okay, I could stop here” – but – there were a few tension points and I had to keep going.
Decisions needed to be made! The bottom needed to be filled in and I had to create the bottom. I filled in the top with orange. The gold on the bottom foreground looked weak – so I filled that space with gold. That seemed fatal – I was overwhelmed by it. The orange and gold felt too tense, I got queasy. I went back in with terpenoid and removed as much gold and orange as I could.
The terpenoid seemed to leave a stain. The colors looked very dark because the cardboard was damp with the terpenoid. I decided, I had to leave the painting alone at this point. I went out. I had to get out of the house, the studio, and stop looking at the piece.
After painting for five or six hours, I had forgotten to eat or drink water. A few times my foot cramped up. Besides needing to look away from the work, I physically had to take a break.
Overall, throughout the day, I reached about two or three points of tension. The last one that pushed me felt like, “Oh my God, I feel like I’m gonna be sick. I just overdid it when I colored in all the gold.”
I decided to leave it for the night, I’d pushed the piece too hard. I went for a drive – thought perhaps maybe changing the yellow ochre to red. I was at a serious point of tension. There was nothing I could do but keep going because I had to have this painting done by the next day.
When I returned from my drive I was pleased to see that the darkness had dissipated. The terpenoid had dried and the colors lightened up.
What to do next?
I decided to sleep on it.
While resting, it came to me to add more cobalt blue on the on the top of the square in the middle, and how to use red.
I added cadmium red and went over it with cadmium orange and a little bit of white.
The result looks like lipstick. I was very happy when Graham said, “Ooh, I really liked the Lipstick Red.”
He was surprised and loved his birthday present. He even made digital art from the piece.
It’s called Birthday, here it is:
In the end, I think I did the right things. I enjoy using cardboard’s qualities as an aspect of the design – I like to allow the color and texture to show through. I don’t want the paint to be so thick the surface can’t be seen. This piece has a lot of unpainted surface area.
This piece is balanced and has movement. It’s not static. And I’m pleased.
What does the work want?
The work wants to keep moving, to flow, to be done in the spirit of curiosity, fun, and play. It wants to be integrated, to be a part of life. It wants to be alive – to leap and flow and dance.
Thanks for reading!
Elizaville, New York
September 22, 2022