Process Diary and Some CreativeTips from Charles Bukowski via Tom Waits

Tess Farnham, acrylic on artist's panel: Lily of the Valley

Last night as I was poring through my collection of gardening catalogs, tearing at pages with white flowers mostly: roses,  irises, magnolia. . .I was thinking about the mixed media piece I wanted to finish, but also getting an itch to paint again.  So now I’ve taped more photos over the drafting board and small easel, assembled my brushes and paints. . .the prints from Chagall and Degas are permanent fixtures. Sometimes I add or subtract things, but the photo(s) in the bottom right corner is/are always changing from project to project.  Mother Nature has a way with the arrangement of color and line and I like to follow her suggestions for abstract.

This is almost a spiritual activity for me. I am particular and superstitious about these two things; the same way a little kid can be vigilant about avoiding cracks in the sidewalk, I am persistent about avoiding a naked workspace. After I finish one project and clear the easel or table, I go to the basement and take out a new canvas or wood panel. . .depending on the project, a sheet of Arches, Canson Mixed Media or Mei Teints paper. I may not touch that blank slate for days; nevertheless, I find its placement necessary. It’s my dreaming time, a time for walking past the table or easel and imagining the possibilities.

Chagall Museum Paintings, Nice, France

Image by Jon Himoff via Flickr

In the same way, I also like to have drafts of poetry or blog posts accessible. . .folded fabric and patterns. . .the spices set out for a dish I plan to cook.

Last night, I also spent some downtime reading Sylvia Plath, Rumi, and Robert Bly.

I need to rest in between projects as well. I have to crash. . .to sleep for hours and hours, I guess to incubate and charge my batteries. I think perhaps it’s part of what we do as artists, these periods of intense creating followed by quiet time. Perhaps it’s just mania followed by depression. ..I’m not sure. . ..the scariest feeling being the one when I fear the sleepiness won’t go away. ..I won’t ever write or paint again. ..or be able to stay awake.

And on this final note, I will end with an amazing clip of Tom Waits reading Charles Bukowski, two of my favorite artists, guys who are quite familiar with the reality of the outsider stance and the very real feelings that lead to it.  I hope it inspires you.  . . .

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From Collage to Canvas

One of the ways I like to jumpstart the creative process is to sit in front of music with a lapful of  assorted magazines and a pair of lightweight padded scissors.  Images can come from most anywhere, not just magazines though, and as type this, I also feel a twinge of pity for the person who inherits my hacked-up coffee table art and photo books.

I also like to shop yard sales, thrift stores and book sales for fodder.

Most forms of media fall into the category of fair game when I am searching for just the right image or language to finish a collage narrative however.

As a result, I have amassed quite a collection of cut-outs methodically and obsessively stored  and organized in notebooks, file folders, and sealed plastic containers.

The activity keeps my hands busy, but it also keeps me in a constant state of daydreaming, imagining and exploring all the surfaces and textures suggested by the photos.

It’s a cheap thrill, I guess. . .but somebody’s gotta do it.

Sometimes stories come as I place images next to each other based on shapes and colors

and sometimes I begin with a story in my head or a loose idea.

Mostly I just like to play though, and proceed with no particular place to go.

Here is the story of a pastel painting, one that began with a tiny artist trading card I made at a friend’s house.

First the baseball-card sized collage, enlarged for the blog:

You may already recognize the woman in this collage as having been mistaken for a famous gunslinger’s girlfriend/wife.  If you guess her name, leave it in the comment box.  🙂

Tomorrow I will show you where I took it from here.  From collage to pastel painting.  🙂