Friday, September 23, 2011

Being True to Your Art

Monet in Pasadena
Growth as an artist has never come with gentle ease. It has always come with an in-your-face wave of frustration that make me change direction. I am facing that right now. It’s time. I have felt it coming on, but was so busy with traveling and teaching that it was easy to overlook the obvious.

I just got back from a week in the Hill Country of Texas or, for you non-Texans, San Antonio. It's a beautiful part of the state looks like El Dorado Hills in places, except for the humidity and cowboys.  I received an email when I got there from a friend asking me if I got a call from Houston IQA? Surely, she wrote, those 2 quilts got an award.  No I haven’t, I wrote back, is this the week? Then one of the girls in the guild I was lecturing at said she had seen my quilts on my blog and that I must have gotten a call.  No, I didn’t. I went to the next guild and was asked the same thing again. Your quilts are amazing and you didn’t get a call? No, I didn’t get a call! The call. The call?

...and Our Flag was Still There
I didn’t get a call. Yes, it was a little disappointing. It has made me stop and think about my art. But then I realized, with a big exclamation point, that I am doing art, not quilting. There is a big difference. And I am teaching art, not quilting and I am showing my art in my lecture, not my quilting. That my art has even been in these shows is a fluke. The quilting world is one of the first venues that recognized my art work. When I had my first gallery show it was me and a watercolorist together as equals, 2 artists creating flowers. 

Maybe I have outgrown my viewing field. It has been a wonderful and safe place, but maybe it doesn’t fit any more. The quilting world is changing and so am I. That is the way it’s supposed to be as a growing artist. Change hurts and is uncomfortable. Do you remember, as a child, having growing pains in your legs? I had those really bad as a tall girl. I am having them again and I am feeling the pain and that pain is making me reassess my path.

Folsom City Gallery
As an artist you are competing with yourself all the time. I am always trying to create something better with each piece I make. I have never let competition with other quilters interfere with my art. I found that doing that robs me of my creativety. Are you just running for the prize, or the next best work of art?  In the quilting world you are competing not only with other wonderful quilters, but also with the next best sewing machine, the greatest wonder thread, the next fabulous technique that comes with 6 new products we all have to have and so on. It really isn’t conducive to pure creativity.  I have tried to protect myself from that. I might have slipped a little.
First gallery show at  Shelburne Museum in Vermont
So let's grow and go for it. I discover wonderful things about myself with every quilt I make. I am stretched, tested and pushed by these works. I am attached to them because of what I discovered about myself while creating them. I don’t need an award to know they are good and meaningful.

My art on the same grounds as Mary Cassatt. Wow!
I fell into the trap we all need to avoid.  Did I want to value my art and self by what awards I received (or didn't) or by what a judge said?  Absolutely not.  Remember that the critics did not like Van Gogh's brush strokes.  He turned out OK.

These 2 quilts where made because they had to come out as they where monumental points in my life, not for others to judge my stitching. That's the difference between art and quilting. It is disappointing to not have won anything but I will get over it.  And I have.  I teach this all the time and now I have to remember my own advice: You lose part of your creativity when you make a piece of art for a show or competition. Be true to the art and make it because you have to, for you!  I am proud to say I did that with these 2 art quilts.

I read an artist blog called The Painter Keys by Robert Glenn;  Today he had quotes from artist Harley Brown that reminded me of what is important in my art.

3 of my favorite qoutes from Harley Brown:
Look for and make your opportunities happen; they are not going to come rushing up to your doorstep. But sometimes they'll be looking you right in the face.

If art takes up much of the artist's time, then it makes sense that she/he be 'lost' in the euphoria of creating. Isn't that one of our ultimate purposes in life?

Without underestimating the value of talent, it's not the most important attribute you need to become a successful artist. It's not even second. More important than talent is desire. 

I couldn't have said it better.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Today's Garden

Today's garden was soft and quiet. The light was just perfect to snap these wonderful shots. Its going to be 100 degrees today and looks like it could rain but right now there is a cool breeze blowing. We have the doors open and the air feels so fresh.
My 8 little pumpkins are almost ready to pick. You can tell that fall is around the corner. Makes me feel like Martha Stewart.  It's fun to hear the neighbors say with suprise, as they walk by,  Look - she has pumpkins!  I have promised a pumpkin to each of the 4 little kids that live next door.  They are so cute. I hope the Great Pumpkin comes this year - I will be here waiting in my patch.
My garden has always been an inspiring retreat. It's not perfect by any means but the beauty of things growing seems to keep me grounded.  I can't help but see God's hand in every corner.  I am so grateful for this little yellow house.
This is the time of year I start to think about my next creation.  I wander throught the garden almost every day before I go to the studio.  I study my photos and look for something that moves me.  Today, the reflection in the bird bath caught my eye and those big creamy roses.
The moring glories are overtaking the climbing rose bushes. You can hardy walk throught the garden gate without them wrapping around you, too.  Soon this hardy vine will die back to nothing come winter. 
Then, next summer, they will return to overtake the yard again. I did a quilt in 2005 of this vine dominating the fence. Its called Afternoon Glory because the flowers turn a different color in the afternoon - they are light blue in the moring and lavender in the afternoon.

We have 2 bird feeders. These little finches let me walk right up to them and snap there picture. Joe has all the birds and turkeys in our yard named and trained.

Yes, I said turkeys!  Do you think it's time for me to get Joe another dog?  This is Tom.  He actually calls to Joe for his food.  Yes, Tom has trained Joe.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of 9/11 and I wanted to remember it in my garden, next to nature. Our world changed that day forever. Even living on the west coast our family was very much affected.  My only son is now a Marine. He was 14 that day. We all seemed to change our priorities. We need to remember how precious our country is and how what we value can be taken away in an instant.

This moring in the peace of the garden, I prayed for the famlies in my neighborhood, in our country and the world.  And I prayed for young men and women whose lives and futures where forever changed that day .
Like most people, I get caught up in this busy world of hustle and bustle, too, but let's us never forget 9/11 and remember to give thanks in the peace of our gardens.  And if you don't have your own garden, please come and use mine.