The easiest way to do art is to dispense with success and failure altogether and just get on with it. – Stephen Nachmanovitch
I am thinking of that other phrase from Rilke: and so, like children, we begin again to learn from the things. Over and over I return to the place in my studio of not knowing where to begin, or find my inspiration. It is time to experiment. It's time to play and pay attention to every thing– as if all things are alive with presence. I admire my friend, Rodney Hatfield, who plays around with all kinds of objects– including stencils, old pieces of cardboard, string and driftwood he gathers by the river. Just being around his work gives me a sense of permission. In his studio, he has a pile of paper on the floor by the stool in front of his easel. When one catches his eye, or he needs to turn away from his painting, he can spontaneously mark, tear, poke or paint on a scrap. (Big paintings have the habit of becoming so serious). These remnants– considered to be nothing special– of course, become wonderful sketches. He has books of them. He has a hand written sign above his easel that reads: Shut up and paint. The painting below is in the current issue of Art in America:
Rejected pieces of paper were the beginning of our collaboration. I was in his studio one day, feeling stuck, and he picked up one of the sheets on the ground that he had marked on and said: Here, do something with this. Now we have a collection of pieces that have gone back and forth, between our studios. Rodney makes me want to try things.
I have been playing and painting without any particular objective. But sometimes it takes more than just saying to myself: Play! I need to try something I haven't done before. Mary Beth Shaw sent me a small package of stencils to experiment with. If you don't know about StencilGirl, it is a great company designed from the ground up by an artist, and for artists. It is affordable, and they have many techniques and ideas for using stencils– including a book by Mary Beth.
I am enjoying this investigation– I haven't used stencils in my paintings before. I began by improvising with how to incorporate this new element. I love texture and pattern. All of the paintings you see here have some imprint from the Rieven Glyphs stencils, made from the typeface, Rieven. In this painting the stenciled pattern is on the right.
The paintings are small (5" x 5"), which for some reason, makes me feel more light hearted. They are all oil and mixed media. The one you see below (which has changed since last week), has a part of the stencil going across the top:
In the painting below I taped off part of the stencil to fit the vase shape:
In the next painting I combined my pattern of triangles at the top, and StencilGirl stencils in the vases and along the bottom:
In this last painting I wanted a leaf-like shape inside the leaves, almost like falling leaves within, and used a stencil for that.
Reading also is an integral part of renewal and invigoration for me. This week I have been enjoying Austin Kleon's Share Like An Artist and Stephen Nachmanovitch's Free Play. The latter is a classic I return to, and Austin's work is refreshing, straightforward and practical.
What are you experimenting with? I'd love to hear from you.