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Pondering on life

I’ve been making prints. Mono-type prints.

One day I spent 4 hours and made 8 or 9 prints. But only 3 were worth keeping, let alone offering for sale. Another day I spent the same amount of time but only one of about 6 was worthwhile. The 3rd day there were 2 and a possible 3rd.

Being an artist is not like any other creative business, for two reasons. One, it is the product stream, rather than the employment stream, that is so unpredictable. But the second is the most challenging. A friend who has run an eatery said the most frustrating thing was spending hours preparing beautiful food and have someone say, ‘I don’t like it!’ Selling art is just like that because art appreciation is so subjective. And it’s all based on emotion. My feelings as I create it. Your feelings as you look at it. Your favourite colours, or subjects, or styles.  
That 3rd day I showed my husband all the prints I had made and he immediately picked out one as his favourite, one that I had potentially discarded.
A painting might come together in an hour or take a year.  Making a print adds another dimension to that because, when ink on paper is subjected to pressure, strange things happen.
For a start, the ink thickens. This changes its tone. Different pigments react in different ways, some become darker or lighter, others more fugitive and some become greyer. With experience and a good memory you can almost predict these things. I say almost because there are other variables, too. How wet is the ink? How much extender did you use? How damp is the paper?
It is an exciting process, which is why I love it! But it can be frustrating too, because you can have a print that is almost ‘there’ and you add the final touch – and it ruins it.  
I’m so glad to know that life is not like that.  Yes, it can be unpredictable. There are times when we think we have everything worked out and then one little thing we hadn’t expected spoils things. But, when I make a print, I can’t ask the paper if it thinks this one will work, or enquire of the ink if it’s ready to play ball, or ask the roller to help me do it right.  Life is different.  Let me tell you how and why.
First of all, earth is not the first environment you have lived in.  You were in a world where everyone had spirit bodies, everyone except our Father.  He had been through much more than we could understand and He had a body of flesh and bone which could do things we couldn’t.  There were things we could do though.  
We could think and be creative.  We could study and learn, gain wisdom and knowledge, nurture talents innate within us. We could help one another and form friendships and be linked in families.
One by one our family members took their turn to go and live on earth. I’m sure we watched.  That’s why we sometimes have those déjà vu  feelings or experience an emotional response to places our ancestors lived.
One thing we knew when we were there was that Heavenly Father wants to help us. Everything He does is aimed at bringing us to the same state He has attained.  We also knew He would never make our decisions for us.  Freedom to choose is an inalienable right for all of His children, even though they make choices that are horribly wrong.
The second inalienable right is to change, your mind and your habits.  It’s called repentance and it works because one of our brothers was so perfect that He never made wrong choices and He loved us so much that He pledged himself to suffer for the things we do wrong.
His and our Father’s only objective is to bring about our immortality and eternal life. Because they love us so much, we can always turn to them in prayer and ask for advice. Unlike the paper and the ink, they are living breathing beings who have a better view of our future, and our present, than we do. So we never need to be alone.  We can guarantee that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are there whenever we need them.  
That doesn’t mean we get everything we ask for, any more than you would give your child whatever they pleaded for, especially if you felt it would be dangerous or not good for them. Prayers are always answered but sometimes the answer is no.
Have you ever been asked how to do something and taken time to explain it to the person, only to realise they haven’t heard a word you said?  Heavenly Father experiences that all the time!  An important part of prayer is listening.
Jesus taught us how to pray.  He said we should start by addressing Heavenly Father.  Then we should take a moment to thank Him for all the good things we have.  After that, we should explain to Him the things we need and why we need them.  
He also taught that, if we close our prayer in His name, He will plead our cause with Heavenly Father and whatever we ask in His name, that is right for us, we will receive.  
So life is different from making prints.  Things won’t always go the way we want them to pan out, but in retrospect we’ll recognise the hand of God, putting us where we need to be when we need to be there.  Last week an older gentleman with dementia went for a walk.  He walked for 10 hours and police and many of his friends were out looking for him.  As they prayed to know where to look, many testified that they got no direction but felt a calm peace.  The reason became clear when a family, who were simply on a day out, felt prompted to change their plans and get lunch in a different place.  On their way home later, they found the missing wanderer 10 miles or more from his home, on the other side of Bury St Edmunds.  Heavenly Father knew where he was and whom He could take there to find him.  He knows where we are, too, physically and metaphorically, and He knows how to help us.  All that is needed is that we ask and are willing to be helped.
 

Ponderings on understanding art

A friend told me the other day she had looked at the image of my print from all directions but couldn’t understand it.  It made me think.

First of all, do I understand it?

Sometimes the art I make is so intuitive, especially when I’m printmaking, that I may not be really clear why I like it or even what it’s about!
All I do know is, where it began. So, first of all, here’s the print again. All things counter -matted

 

And here’s where it began.

sketchbook page
The tulip was drawn twice on the left, at different angles and then the main lines picked out and refined.

Basically, it’s a stylised tulip flower with splayed leaves, simplified for the purpose of printing with stencils. My original plan was a composite print made up of quadrants and I made a couple of those, but when you’ve used a stencil on top of wet ink, it picks up the ink on its reverse.  It is just too tempting to use that by printing the piece on another, or even the same sheet of paper, with the inky side down. This reverses its position and starts a whole new creative process!  Before this stem was yellow, (see below), it was used as a stencil to block out purple.  Printed in reverse in became a purple stem.  Instead of printing it on a clean sheet, I printed it over a print that hadn’t worked very well and, with the addition of some other inky stencils, some using drier ink or less pressure, the image began to take shape. I liked the balance of colour and shape, so it was a ‘keeper’.  Obviously someone else liked it, too!

 

dav
one quadrant of the composite print showing the stem part.

So, knowing where it came from might help, but it could be that knowing too much can spoil it since it might not say ‘tulip’ or ‘spring flowers’ to you!

Appreciating art, whether it is abstract or not, has to do with feeling as much as seeing.  I asked my neighbours what prompted them to buy works of art and the universal response was, ‘because I like it!’

 

One of my neighbours described for me a painting she had bought many years ago, ‘because she liked it’. Words such as ‘it reminded me’, ‘it looked like…’, ‘the colours were nice’, didn’t really describe the image.  They were her feelings about it, the memories or associations it evoked.  You see, liking a piece of art really has little to do with what it depicts.

I have a shelf full of ‘art books’, literally hundreds of reproductions of famous art-works. My journey into art began with books borrowed from the library.  Reading the background helped me see that there was more to abstract art than meets the eye.  Yes, that is what I meant to say!

At college, I was introduced to the work of Abstract Expressionist artists such as Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Cy Twombly and Willem de Kooning in reproduction.  We looked at images of their work and learned a bit about the purposes and origins of the movement.  Rothko I could live with and liked some of his colour combos, colour being ‘my thing’. The others I wasn’t so sure about and Pollock I wrote off altogether. Years later, I went to  the Abstract Expressionist exhibition at the Royal Academy.  I walked into the rotunda and was stunned.  It was wall-to-wall, floor to ceiling (because that’s how big they are) Rothko’s. I stood in awe, dazed by the intensity of colour but also the intensity of feeling.  It was as though the paint came off the canvas and enveloped me. I didn’t want to leave.  But there were other things to see.  Wending my way round the exhibition, I found the de Koonings underwhelming compared to their reproductions I had seen.  Then I came to a wall of Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings.  I was going to walk quickly past, giving them a cursory glance.  After all, these weren’t real art were they? But I kept getting drawn to one here, another there.  There was more depth in them than I expected. They are quite measured in the application of those seemingly random drops.  They seemed to be saying something.  I still wouldn’t necessarily want to live with one, but now it is because of the disturbing feelings they provoke rather than because I don’t like them or understand them.  Rothko and Pollock were both influenced by Scientology which suggests that everything is spiritual and so, like Wassily Kandinsky they were concerned with the spiritual in art. The image was nothing if it did not embody and invoke feeling.

This is true of all forms of artistic expression.  I remember being overwhelmed when I first saw one of Monet’s ‘Waterlilies’ in the flesh. I realised that he wasn’t just depicting flowers in his garden.  He was trying to convey to us how they made him feel.  Music, too, has the power to transcend the notes on the page.  A youthful member of our congregation brought tears as she played her cello for us in Church on Sunday.  I felt the Spirit because she did, too, and so had the composer.  Art is a powerful thing.  That is why it has been used, or misused, as propaganda throughout the last century and before.

So I think I have two messages here.  One is obviously, don’t write off an unfamiliar form of art without letting it ‘speak’ to you in person.  The other is, don’t write off your own artistic endeavours, be they drawing or playing the piano, because they are not perfect reproductions of your subject or score. The more important question is, ‘Do they say something about you? Do they share the way you feel about the thing you are depicting or performing?’  Doesn’t look like a dog?  Don’t worry. Sometimes even a dog doesn’t look like a dog, especially when it’s really excited by something!