Art & Halloween: Pumpkins & Parades

Halloween is not a holiday I care to celebrate. It’s dark. It’s gory. It’s based on rituals and beliefs that certainly aren’t mine. However, I couldn’t help but take notice of these fun Halloween-related and art-related posts in recent days. Not dark. Not gory. Just more great ways to get creative!

Masterpiece costume parade – Wow, oh wow! This video blew my mind the first time I saw it. There’s something very surreal about seeing something that’s generally still and flat become a moving, part-of-your-own-world form. How fun would it have been to develop and don these costumes?!?

Mandala pumpkins – Watch out craft stores, when fake pumpkins go on clearance this week, I’m making a run on them! I haven’t drawn mandalas, but thanks to the influence of artist Lisa Congdon and the inspiration of Marshallese weaving, I’ve tried my hand at similar designs. Now to apply that practice to a 3D object, such as a pumpkin!

Toilet paper pumpkins – I remember my mom making something similar with her homemakers group some years ago: pumpkins made out of toilet paper rolls. I thought it was super silly at the time… now I want in! Next step? To collect some funky fabrics, as well as some sticks from my yard (and to watch for some super sales on the ol’ two-ply!).

Gratitude pumpkins – There are the big pumpkins we choose to carve, then there are the ones that are just cute or cool also taking up festive residence on our front porch. This year, rather than watching them rot with the rest, I’m going to start a new tradition: making gratitude pumpkins for the much more important holiday of Thanksgiving. I have the perfect little white one on which to jot down the people and things and experiences for which we are grateful. Maybe I’ll even use some unique hand lettering on it to help exercise my art muscle!

 

Process in Progress

In one of my more recent blog posts “Art vs. Crafts,” I mentioned how the process, not the result, is the priority in making art. I have to say that the process has indeed become a great joy for me, even an obsession (as evidenced in burning two meals in exchange for the artistic process over the past week). Though I remain a rookie at all this, this is how the process seems to work for me personally, for now anyway:

Background

The beginning: The background using tiny pieces of yarn

Begin with recklessness – I started with those yarn scraps. I took to them with my scissors, cutting each piece into thumbnail lengths. I slathered my canvas with glue and waited to see what would happen. Beginning with experimentation versus an extensive plan of action set the stage for further inspiration and freedom in the steps to come.

Study and ponder – For a day or more, I didn’t change what I’d already done or add anything more to the piece. Instead, I just hovered over it, thinking about what it reminded me of and considering what it could represent.

Embrace the revelation – I saw hints of a landscape and could have proceeded just with that observation, but as soon as the scene seemed to pulse with one of my favorite Bible passages (Psalm 104), I was ready and super excited to dig into my work again. I knew I had discovered the piece’s deeper purpose, and there was no turning back from embracing and following the theme.

Go with your first instinct – For some unknown reason, I was certain the next layer should involve ripped up grocery bags with text. But my piece got way too busy in following this first instinct and I was never satisfied with the effects of my handwriting. What I learned? It’s okay to start over again to introduce new or different materials. It’s not time lost—it’s process gained. For me, it revealed how I often default to words when it comes to artistic expression. It revealed how I could play with some new tools and techniques beyond my usual words.

Process in progress

Evidence of the process in progress

Return to recklessness and studying and pondering – I raided my daughter’s toy basket for the pebbles and glass stones she uses to play kitchen (don’t worry, after I was done, she still has plenty). I twirled and twisted and shredded my remaining yarn scraps into shapes and curly-cues. With these additional materials in hand, I’d lay out a picture, then wipe it clean, then adjust my approach and create again. I reinvented my portrait of Psalm 104 several times until the Spirit seemed to say, “Stop, that’s it!” What a thrill!

Bring what you learned into the next project – My first inclination was to evaluate the end result. Is this really any good? What will other people think? It’s difficult yet necessary to turn off the insidious critic of self. I learned a lot in the process despite the end result… and there’s no better way to apply those lessons than to start another project! More on that later!

p.s. Okay, okay, sure, I’ll let you see “Psalm 104” eventually. After it dries and I test out some framing, I promise to take courage and to show my work.

 

 

Art vs. Crafts

IMG_0712

The raw materials for my next piece of art

So here goes…

As part of my day job as a writer, I blogged yesterday on behalf of a client about the importance of art in child development—how the process of making art helps build kids’ skills in several critical areas of learning. The post also compares “art” to “crafts,” the former being more about self-expression and the creative process, the latter focusing on achieving a specific final product. Read post>>

A few years ago, I attended one of those paint nights. You know the kind: an instructor walks you step by step through the process of painting a pre-determined picture—everyone knows what the final result will be, and everyone leaves with virtually the same piece of “art” with minimal variation. Sure, I felt a certain sense of pride for accomplishing the assignment and taking home something that resembled coneflowers against a sky of gradient hue. But it certainly doesn’t bear any kind of self-expression. It’s a sorry imitation of someone else’s creative effort. And, come to think of it, it clearly demonstrates the difference between making crafts and creating art.

So I’m going to reinvent the blasted thing and somehow make it my own. For the past several weeks, I’ve been collecting scraps of yarn from a massive scarf project (I’m still debating if that project is a craft or art in progress) and I’m aching to experiment with them a bit. My plan? To construct a similar picture on top of the existing one using yarn fibers, watered-down glue and who knows what else—to transform it into a legitimate piece of art.

I’m eager to start the process…