Sunday, April 17, 2016

Art Journal: Class Demo

A demo I did in my recent class. Someone spotted a face in my random paint splatters, and I just went with it. I
think it looks vaguely Asian... like a kabuki mask. 
Over the month of March I taught a class at a local senior's centre. I wasn't so sure about the teaching thing... I'd done a couple workshops, but they were short enough that I couldn't really get to the core of my subject. It ended up being more like a step by step thing than an actual class where I imparted any kind of wisdom. This class was different... not only because I had more than a few hours to get all my information out, but because the class was based on the thing I have struggled with for most of my artistic life: how can we generate ideas?

That was always the thing that was my biggest stumbling block. When I was in school it was something we never touched on. Everyone else seemed to be overflowing with possibilities, while I doodled in my sketchbook and stared at my blank canvas wishing something... anything... would come to me. It really sucked. And it made me feel like I was somehow less than the others. Less of an artist. Not creative at all, in fact. And that, combined with all the other stuff... the brutal critiques, the absence of technical instruction, the complete lack of support... made me reluctant to label myself "artist". 

Twenty years later and I've figured out how my brain works. For me, anyway, it's about latching on to something that fascinates me, and working through all the crappy ideas until I get to the good stuff. Sometimes it takes a while. There's writing, there's reading. I am usually obsessed with something for a while before it starts coming out in my little books. The books themselves are like some little time-travel journey through my brain... a working through ideas until I hit on the thing that I think I can take somewhere interesting. I brought a pile of these journals with me on the first day of class, and everyone had a chance to take a good look while I babbled on about how important it was to work in a series so your ideas have a chance to percolate and the easiest, most obvious things get out of the way. It must have had some sort of impact, because everyone showed up on week two with a book started, and an idea ready to go.

One thing that really impressed me about this class was how open they were to everything. I have some pretty unorthodox ways of working, especially when I'm beginning a project... I start without any idea of what I'm going to do, I use all kinds of homemade and improvised tools, I work with what shows up rather than planning everything out. I'm a fan of painting over things that don't work. I got no resistance from this group. The tried everything. It was awesome.

I hope I'm like that when I'm "old". But you know, not one of them seemed old to me. Could be because I'm no youngster myself...the older I get the less a difference in age seems to mean. But I think it was more their spirit of adventure and openness to new ideas. That's the thing I need to hold on to.