Progress on this Within project has been a series of bursts of energy followed by quiet flameouts.  I feel like I’ve been trying to ascend into this exploration with a succession of hand-powered pounds of a fireplace bellow, trying to generate a force of air that will propel me somewhere.

Fireplace Bellow

Instead, I’m finding it’s fine to be grounded, and to move haltingly or carefully as needed. I’m certain I’ve felt compelled to do more, more quickly, because of the sense of needing to make up for lost time. As an emerging artist, With an emerging career, At this point, I’m fully aware of the disadvantages I have (if they can be called that) when matched up against artists who are younger or fresh out of MFA programs, or who are networked-into/geographically-located-in major art cities, and who are less encumbered by life responsibilities. Still, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I was heartened to read this recently in Mira Schor’s introduction to her A Decade of Negative Thinking: Essays on Art, Politics, and Daily Life:

I hope that the time I have taken to play out the meanings of some of the sentences and images that inspired my writing can generate for my readers a different view of the art industry’s critical mechanisms, offer less conforming interpretations of some contemporary art, and suggest other possibilities and sources for making art. I am particularly interested in the artists who form part of the MFA generation… There are times that I have wished that I could declare a moratorium… on spending six years in art school and on cradle-robbing by dealers and collectors. Young artists should have breathing space to grow up, test their desire to make art, and figure out what subjects they really want to explore, instead of just ordering from column A or column B of the menu of recipe art. I’ve wished I could give my students and myself the gift of time, time to work or not work in the studio, and more importantly, to forget about ART; time to just take a walk, not to go somewhere but to experience the city or land in which one lives.

So while I’m pro artists-who-have-things-figured-out-sooner and pro artists-who-get-things-going-sooner, there is a place for taking one’s time. Except when you are that person, and you’re tired of all the time you already took (as nice as it was), and you’re in a hurry to get somewhere (even if you don’t know where it is) just as much as you like where you’re at. And what if other people get there first? And there is no room left by the time you get there? What if? Well, it turns out I can’t live thinking like that.

detail of 1st encaustic painting; text reads "WHAT IS"

So, I move forward doing what I’ve gotta do. During the month of March, I have responsibilities that trump art making. I don’t even know if there will be any art thinking or art talking. For my own peace of mind, though, let me note recent progress on my Within series.

untitled painting study for Within series

“Within” series progress notes Feb 18-Feb 28:

1. I had planned on using built up layers of acrylic for the series. I completed several painting studies using acrylic mediums, mostly using matte ones (one study is pictured above) that played with light and depth. But I was uncomfortable with the plasticity of the material. I wanted the naturalness of oil but the quickness of acrylic. And then I discovered…

2. I took a class to learn encaustic painting. Fell in love. So, I decided. This series will be painted in encaustics.

3. I purchased/acquired/scrounged supplies and set up my studio with an electric pancake griddle, extra muffin tins, beeswax/resin medium & paint sticks from Evans Encaustics, hake brushes, a blow torch, plywood pieces and one cradled panel. (I also brought in a fire extinguisher & burn cream, there are large windows, and I have a ventilating fan that I didn’t know was there.) I’m ready to go.

4. Yeah, I had progress, but this feels like it’s taking forever. It’s making me a little crazy. And now I need to take about a month off since I will have little bandwidth to invest in my artwork for the month of March (aforementioned life responsibilities.)

5. I may or may not begin a new series in March that I will call Whatever. With it, I will give myself permission to make Whatever I want without having to think or feel about it. As if I needed permission. Like, Whatever. I just want to be able to go in & out of the studio as I please and fiddle around. I want art to be an escape. Art can be whatever I want, and I can use it for whatever purposes I want, either High or Low.  I can avoid it if I want or chase it down if I want. Sometimes I feel like art is using me to say something. Maybe I just want to use it instead, or maybe I just want to co-exist with it. Whatever! I think it will last my whole life.

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