Feeling a bit lost is almost always part of my creative process. After all these years, I'm still getting used to that. (You'd think I might welcome it a little more by now. Ah well, this being human is quite a ride.) Same is true for lostness in my life... and these days there are extra helpings of unsure and Mystery to go around. Maybe you feel that way too?
I decided to get curious about my discomfort, and spent some time exploring the theme Bewilder for the Brave Joy Collective September art & practice. This line came through: Sometimes our disorientation or confusion can become an allowing space, where we are found by a new way.
I really believe in humility, and surrendering my over-control... and yet-- allowing myself to get lost in the creative flow, letting it lead me, isn't always easy for me. Sometimes it's unreasonably uncomfortable not being in control. Some of that is heritage I think, and white supremacist perfection culture, and some of it is just being really nervous about messing up. :-) But over and over, if I cling to an early thought or my own map of what I think should happen, creativity just doesn't flow. Again, this is true in my art and in my life, both. Weirdly-- or not-- in the long run I actually enjoy being somewhat surprised/confused along the way, then found again. In the end, it's more meaningful and definitely more fun!
No surprise, the process of making art on the Bewilder theme involved me having and dropping plans several times. Thankfully, I was more able to open up this time and see what emerged-- trusting the shapes I wanted to make, the ideas that showed up for A Wild Thread.
So I thought you might enjoy these process photos of a little bewilderment in my studio. :-) Sometimes it's an encouragement to see something beautiful come out the other side. I always need the reminder that it's worth it to stay faithful to my curiosity and to follow the thread of faith.
Blessings to your threads and flow too.
First sketchbook notes. This painting process began with a curiosity about feeling lost, and whether/when that was ever a good thing. Originally, I had an image of leaves growing through a calendar page, taking over my plans and productivity.
I spent quite a bit of time finding a simple calendar page graphic that I liked. It was fun to cut out the boxes and break through the rigid format where I wanted leaves, vines, thread to poke through.
I set the calendar aside, and began the first watercolor strokes for what I thought would be the background of the painting. I wasn't at all sure what would happen and I decided not to sketch-- just to allow the shapes to come. The first strokes became the river. Reminds me a little of Georgia O'Keeffe's Blue River... if I can be so bold to imitate a hero of mine.
It's always a bit nerve-wracking to add more marks if the first few are so pleasing. These black ink marks look scary, but to me they were intended to create a strong space or depth for Mystery, or a passage through. Could look like a darkness or a wound too, for sure. I knew I would soften them later with more paint layers on top.
What a treat to go for bright green and make a lush landscape! A friend said she hadn't seen that much green in my art for a long time. Sometimes I feel more hopeful, other times less... in this case, more. :-)
These days, my spirit and my art want more texture, more energy. I feel so much more satisfied when pencil line work brings a certain kind of depth and movement. Aliveness.
At this point in the process, I took a break for life and other work responsibilities. Thankfully, I often get new ideas or guidance overnight if I have paused. In this sketch, the image is simplifying. The calendar dropped away to make way for the beautiful landscape.
The Mystery space also became a nest! After I cut them out, I must have moved these eggs around 20 different ways. Tiny little adjustments make a big difference to how the balance feels.
I adapted silhouettes from birds I found online, then it took a lot of time and math to correctly size them for the cut-outs.
A picture of my art ingredients for the cut-outs. Sometimes I prepare them all in advance, the way a sous chef might prep cooking ingredients. (In the TV cooking shows, they call this "mise en place.”)
My favorite tiny scissors! They did me another good service-- these small bird cut-outs were really tricky! That's a photocopy of the bird silhouette laying on top of watercolor paper painted with black ink.
Clipping out another bird into its freedom…
I couldn't shake the first idea of a thread running through this image, even though the calendar was no longer there. I chose a teal wool yarn that I've used several times before in fabric art images. To place this wild thread, I slit the background page and pushed the yarn through with a pin tool usually used with clay. The yarn didn't want to be bossed around-- I had to follow its wishes and use the curves it suggested.
I like these sideways photos that really show the texture. The wandering yarn is really cool in person. :-) I tacked it down very, very gently with archival YES! paste.
Here's the backside of the original, so you can see all the poke-throughs of the yarn and stones, bird legs, etc. Sometimes the underside tells a fascinating story all its own.
Fascinating threads aside, I had to invent some way to cover the backside yarn and slits, so my art photographer wouldn't pull the yarn by accident. I was happy to remember my old roll of gummed hinging tape-- still around from college art classes!
Nearing the end of the process, I got out the original calendar page again just to see if it wanted to come back-- nope! I couldn't bear to cover up the surprises that had emerged along the way. In the last several pieces of art, I've often let go of the stressful bits I start with, allowing the more wholistic or peaceful invitation shine through.
Thanks for following along the thread of this creative process. May your wanderings lead you to fresh and beautiful territory!
With blessing-- Melanie
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