My journey as an artist did not begin with watercolor but with a strange and vibrant liquid called Alcohol Ink. Since June 4 2015, the day I first dripped ink onto tile, I've been creating art or planning art or thinking about creating art every single day! True to form, I threw myself into creating with inks for two years and eventually (in April 2017) I inked a field of poppies and a blazing sun. These two pieces led to a children's book, and then, in September of 2018, a full gallery show.
Fast forward to autumn, 2019. I still come to the table every day, but now my focus is with watercolors. Dipping brushes into pigments, making friends with them along the way, I am trying to go as far as possible in this precious time life has to offer. However, an increasing awareness was creeping into the bliss: I was chasing something yet unnamed.
Much as I enjoy the watercolor, I'd been having trouble capturing the heart of my art. Despite obvious enjoyment, growth, and successes, something was missing and had been replaced by a nebulous sense of separation.
Where was the thrill that I'd felt moving ink across ceramic tiles? My approach to inking was atypical, using forced air, centrifugal force, gravity, and even fire to move the ink, avoiding brushwork as much as possible. I missed the feeling that came from those earlier sessions with alcohol ink and one morning, staring at a blank page, it hit me! Who ever said I had to give up my process completely? NO ONE, that's who! The solution was easily within my grasp.... maybe my two skillsets could be mashed together.
The poppies seemed like the perfect place to begin. The first version had been painted with alcohol ink on tile, using fire to achieve the vibrant blooms. Of course, fire was out of the question on paper, but what about forced air? I'd created the original grasses and stems by blowing ink across the tile. Could I use this same exciting technique with watercolor? Would the colors hold their own? Would they even budge on the page? There was only one way to find out.
About the only thing watercolors and alcohol inks have in common is they are both wet pigments. There would have to be a shift in approach to color and flow. I spent the morning testing colors, brush loads, dotting in and lifting off, and pushing paint with air from a tiny hole at the end of a long hose blowing air.
The background was laid down with a brush and, once the sky and ground were completely dry, I flipped the switch on my magic vacuum (my custom made blower, see photo below) and worked swiftly, placing and blowing paint to build up a grassy hill and delicate stems reaching up to the sky.
It wasn't the ink that I was missing. It was how it moved, and how we learned to work together! What a joy to discover the willingness of watercolor to try something new, too!
I can think of two reasons: 1. Knowledge is power and, 2. Art is an inside job.
It is helpful to know, as artists, the more we learn about our medium the greater our power to create from our hearts will grow. It is also helpful to know that moving from one medium to another does not require leaving your entire skillset behind, in fact, that's probably an impossibility as everything you ever do goes with you to the next thing. And, as I have just learned, trying to force a separation will likely leave things feeling a little 'off'.
What do I wish for you? I wish you the courage to listen if that little voice inside that begs for a new direction, a crazy idea, and or even a mash up of old and new ways of being! Start mashing and see what happens. Even if things don't look quite right at first, you will have learned. That has value even if you throw it away or paint over it or on the other side or toss it in the box under your desk. What you create has something to say - sometimes only to you, and sometimes to many, but it always has a story to tell.
As for art being an inside job, it's important to remember that being an artist means you and only you make the choices about what to create and how to get there. It comes from inside of you and YOU bring it forward. There are lots of wonderful books to read and gifted people to learn from, but ultimately the one who decides what goes on the page and how it gets there is the person in the mirror. If you think about it, the page is just a different kind of mirror than the one hanging over your bathroom sink.
It can be easy to forget that art - - - YOUR art - - - matters.
Here's a thought that gets me through the inevitable times of self doubt -
an urge to create
is a tiny piece of God
My magic vacuum:
If I wanted compressed air, I'd have to figure something out myself. Lyme Disease had wiped us out financially and I couldn't justify the expense of a compressor! So, I wandered through my house gathering up materials that seemed willing to help. Our hand held Oreck, rubber tubing from the kids' science projects, duct tape, and my mom's old cake tip brought me to where I needed to be!