Thursday, May 28, 2009

On Finding a Body of Work

Phases (work in progress)

Phases (work in progress)

Acrylic on canvas ©2009 Caroline Roberts

"For many artists, the act of creating a work of art is analogous to following a train of thought, developing and reworking ideas that may or may not come together to form a successful piece."
Daniel Grant in How to Grow as an Artist

Rightly or wrongly, it has bothered me for a long time that I have no consistent style of work. Some might say that that is a good thing, that one should never get in a rut. However, I feel that I need to settle into a coherent body of work. It does not have to be for ever but I need to find and focus on my 'question'. I feel that it will give me an overarching goal or structure to my day-to-day work.

At our final Abstract Essentials class we discussed this need to settle on one vein of work at a time. We each had several paintings up and Arielle told us to "pick a card" from our selection that we would carry further after class. When it was my turn in the critique I had two paintings up, in very different styles, and I commented that my mind was yelling "Just pick a card already!" but that I couldn't choose: these paintings represent two different sides of me, ordered and flat vs. organic and layered.

To my immense surprise Arielle said I could have both cards - but no more than two. By working in two directions there was a possibility that one day something would click and a whole new series of work would emerge from the combination. They would meld somehow into a third, better thing. Doors flung wide open in my mind - no more struggling to decide, no more feeling that the hard-edges are not enough.

'Not enough' for what? I keep thinking that it is too easy for me, as if easy were bad. I'm falling into the 'work on your weaknesses' falsehood again. Where did I get that mindset?

Hard-edged abstraction looks simple but it is deceptive - these paintings take hours and hours to complete. The colors have to be just right in relation to each other; the curved edges are painted by hand; transferring those geometric shapes onto the canvas and taping edges takes a day. Simple is hard, but also meditative to work on.

Branches (work in progress)

Branches (work in progress)

40"x30" Acrylic on canvas, ©2009 Caroline Roberts

I am also drawn to trees: their mythology, their role in the ecosystem, their varied and beautiful shapes and colors. I like to abstract them to attempt to pull all these sides together, but I am still figuring out my own way to do that.

Working on my artist statement using Alyson Stanfield's ebook is clarifying the ideas and themes in my newly accepted bodies of work. It is making me look deeply at my work and unearth new or forgotten ideas. I'm really excited to get working on my two 'cards' now with a fresh sense of purpose.

How about you? Do you feel you have an overarching narrative or theme to your work?

1 comment:

  1. i can identify with much of what you say. i have several "bodies" of work, and right now I don't know which one I should push the envelope with. I do know, once I wrote a universal artist statement, my mark making had more meaning. And then when I did a statement for each body of work in addition to that, it helped tremendously. I like what you say about the trees - I've been doing planets and have been researching a more organic approach, and I looked at abstract trees too. what you said about the trees was helpful