My final (take home) assignment for printmaking was to make an impression on the world. Hmm… That’s not vague at all. But really, I understood the assignment: don’t be literal about it, and honestly, do what you want- everything we do is leaving an impression on our surroundings, people, our world. So the question became, what medium or in what way did I want to relay my work and idea? I wanted to continue with what I’d been doing in studio- layering things, using water color, keeping true to my aesthetic: a soft pallet and organic feel to the work. That is me. Now what about the impression I’ve made on the world? This, to me, could best be relayed through the words of others. I’m just me, it’s what I do every day. But I don’t know what I’m really projecting onto the world, so I asked. Via Facebook, I sent out a mass message (I did select through my friends, I will admit, there were some I thought it best not to include in the experiment- and I was also compelled to later weed through my “friends”, anyhow-) I did want a variety of opinions, so I included a large variety of people. Again, I admit, it was kind of scary putting out there, “what kind of impression have I left with you?” and simply wait for the responses to come in. I knew not everyone would, I’ll be the first to say I hate large Facebook group messages and I always ignore them, but it was actually a little hurtful to see “so and so left the conversation”; however, the responses I did receive, definitely made it worth the while. I had no idea what to expect, and who to expect anything from. I ended up with a little over a dozen responses out of about 90 in the “group conversation”. Most of which made me cry- I’m such a sap- but I had no idea of the genuine emotion I’d get with the feedback, or that I’d even evoked such by knowing these individuals. From their emails, I copied and pasted the replies in a number of ways, and collaged them together creating one piece made cohesive through watercolor. I feel very good about the work, and it was really rather therapeutic in some ways- by letting go of control, having people tell me quite honestly how they feel from knowing me, and then creating something from their words. It was an experiment, and a risk, and one that I’m glad I took.
These last two weeks have felt like a different world- another life. The end of my studio time is nearing, and I’m already looking back in aw. It has been more than a learning experience, yes, I have learned new techniques, but I have never in my life been reminded so well as to why I’m an artist. My printmaking professor told us today that he had an epiphany about his work just over a year and a half ago (in a field that he’s been creating with for over twenty-five), when he realized all he needed to answer were two questions: what do I want from my art and how do I get there? He has had the resources, there is no doubt and he freely admits that, but he recognizes he wasn’t being honest with himself as to what he hopes that his art achieves, and more importantly, he wasn’t using his resources to get him there- other artists! Don’t be afraid to ask someone about their methods and techniques if it’s something you admire. Don’t be afraid. That’s an important lesson I believe I’ve learned in my time spent here. Last week, as I mentioned, I was in a sketchbook class that truly pushed me for the first time in years. It was exhilarating. A few of the mottos in the class were, “get out of your own way”, “draw more, think less”, and “nothing is precious”. This last one was really key for me. I may be a bit of a perfectionist… and I probably spend a bit more time on things than I should… My sketchbook professor was, I’m pretty certain, constantly shaking his head at me (or at least at my back- but I mean that with love). He just wanted to push me, and if that meant subtly poking fun at my attention to detail, then so be it- it needed to be done! And it worked (it’s true Patrick, probably more than you know). So, after a week of pulling and prodding at my inner artist who can just let go and create, I am now in a week of intense printmaking. I almost burst into tears this evening because my press was running too slow. All I could do was repeat to myself, “there’s no crying in printmaking, there’s no crying in printmaking…” and I pushed through. The results, I can’t help but boast, were amazing. I avoided printmaking the entirety of my underclass study. It was, in my eyes, too rough, harsh with color, and in general, abstract, to please me as a medium that would accurately portray my art. My work is every bit the opposite of those qualities- I like a soft pallet, organic shapes, and generally there is even the slightest bit of realism in what I do. Printmaking also seemed like it would take all of the control away from me. When I approach a work, I generally have a distinct view in mind, and I was not ok with giving that up for the potentiality of unknown-ness through printmaking. Well, I can assure you, that way of thinking has quickly flown out the door. As Patrick so implemented in me the first week, you have to get out of your own way, and you can not let something be so precious that you stop it from being the unique, beautiful, one of a kind work that it’s meant to be. What has blown my mind is that somehow, in this crazy printmaking process- creating a plate that I didn’t even understand how it was going to relate once “inked” and “pressed”- my prints turned out to be me. I stuck to my aesthetic- I did subtlety in my work, I did organic and sometimes detailed shapes, and I used color like I didn’t think I was “suppose to”. My plates weren’t like anyone else’s in class, and honestly, I was scared. The pay off? I can’t even express how much of “me” came through- so much so that I wasn’t even realizing it, but my classmates were pointing it out to me! It was an incredibly satisfying experience, motivation, and a real life lesson, sometimes we just have to get out of our own way.