a journal of observations, obsessions and inspirations

Artists & Craft

Artisan's hands fashion a clay pot

“First, one seeks to become an artist by training the hand. Then one finds it is the eye that needs improving. Later one learns it is the mind that wants developing, only to find that the ultimate quest of the artist is in the spirit.” — Larry Brullo

 

True confessions: I’m a gadget geek. I like to play with stuff, from electronic gizmos to antique tools. It pleases me to be able to choose the right one to do the job. I love the feel a brush, a hammer, a palette knife or a camera in my hand.

Explorations in the studio

A tool, any kind of gadget or thing, is a means to an end. Sometimes we don’t know how to get from point A to point B, or from idea to painting or page or photograph. Artists need their tools to help find the way to making real their vision. But we don’t need them to be complicated or costly.

What we do need is knowledge. No matter what medium artists use, they benefit from knowing the history of that medium. It’s a given that knowing how to use the tools is important. Mastery of technique is essential to the point where it can be pushed to the side of my conscious brain.

When that happens, I can focus on what’s in front of me, whether I’m sketching, shooting or inventing something to write about. I don’t have to worry about how to achieve it but instead, tap into the greatest tools any artist has: hand and eye, heart and mind.

Beginnings of inspiration

By the time I was 19, I’d planned to be a ballerina or an FBI agent and/or a brain surgeon, until I knew I was a writer. For the next [too many] years, intimidated by the power and the responsibility that writing demands, I distracted myself by working in any other non-creative field, from theatre to law.

Side journeys in my life led me to artmaking of all kinds. I latched onto photography and finally came back to books. This time around, I designed my own –  I made my own, crafted the paper from fiber and pulp, stitched the signatures of folded pages together, created the binding, all that. There’s an immense satisfaction in that crafting – creating something that never existed before – from hands full of disparate parts.

More ways to create

All the detours led me to photography and writing and my resulting work is, in many ways, an exploration of the creative process itself. Maybe it’s not always the path rather than the destination, but it’s what takes the most time, the most effort, the most get-up-again-when-you-fall. And in my book, you gotta love the process.

In painting classes, I stepped way out of the familiar and reveled in the uncertainty of the process.  Putting paint on canvas, I discovered, to my surprise, that abstract art starts with something— with some thing — and evolves from that.

I also learned how to finish a piece and how to keep going, because it’s the doing that reveals what needs to be done. Or as my painting teacher said, quoting his teacher, “Out of the act of painting comes a painting.” It’s the same with everything I do.

 

I’ll be posting opinions, memories and recommendations, some current and trending, others examining the centuries-old history of art and those who make it.

Consider this an open invitation to join the dialogue or ask and answer questions.

illustration:  potter forming a clay vessel