One of the aspects I most love about the creative path I’m following as an artist is that there is never an end point. I often reflect on this when I explore new ways of working, learn a different approach or play with processes in the studio. I look at what I created a year ago, last month or even last week and compare it to what I created today. And always I see growth and, most excitingly, more new possibilities.
Initially when I began focussing on my artistry again after a long (and I mean about 25 years long!) break I was overwhelmed by what seemed to be an incredible amount of knowledge that I would need to acquire and the skills I would need to develop. I was in awe of masterful artists and I still am! However, along the way with each struggle and achievement realisation began to dawn. I listened to respected artists talking about their process and I began to understand that every artist is placed somewhere along a trajectory of growth with a final destination in infinity. The learning is never done. The opportunity for reinvention and growth is never over. Therein lies the joy and pain of creativity. The only option is to embrace it.
Nowhere is this more apparent than when I visit an incredible exhibition of a grand master and see a remarkable journey of creative expression from a youthful artist to a revered elder and icon. This was very evident when late last year I visited ‘The You Beaut Country’, a survey of the spectacular career of John Olsen, one of Australia’s most distinguished artists. John is still painting and innovating at 90! How inspiring! By the way, this outstanding exhibition closes February 12 at the National Gallery of Victoria (Australia) so if you are in Melbourne, don’t miss it.
So my position now is rather than fearing what I don’t know, I lean into it, hard! And I delight in knowing that there is so much to learn and the challenges I choose to take will only strengthen my confidence as an artist. And, I might add, my confidence as a person in general because art, of course, has a habit of reflecting life.
I will admit, though, there are some areas of learning as an artist that take me way out of my comfort zone. One particular subject has always held great attraction and made me feel anxious in equal proportions. So currently, under the inspiring tutelage of United Kingdom based artist, Gillian Lee Smith, I’ve been facing my fears and exploring new frontiers and a landscape of a different kind; the subtleties, irregularities and ambiguities of the human face.
I can’t fully explain the source of my fear. Perhaps it is because the face, is the mirror of the soul and to honour it with truth takes courage. Or, it may be that, as the face is something we all know so well, there is pressure to achieve a likeness, especially when it is that of one we love or even our own face. Do I really know or want to know my own face in every detail? Does anyone?
My interest, as always, is in expressionism, impressionism and abstraction rather than realistic representation. As I work through a beautiful progression of exercises, I’m quickly forgetting my fear and finding much pleasure in capturing a fleeting emotion or an imagined expression. How quickly anxiety vanishes when we stop worrying and start doing! In only two weeks, I am already working more freely and looking forward to capturing more emotion and atmosphere as I progress.
So here is a little peek at what’s happening in the studio. The focus on most of these pieces has been on shadow and light and creating dynamic impressions. I'll keep you posted on my progress.