“Psalm 104” (Mixed Media)

“Psalm 104” (Mixed Media)“Psalm 104”
Barbara Farland
Mixed Media, 2018

From Psalm 104:1-5, 10-13:

Praise the Lord, my soul.

Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty.

The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.

He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.He makes winds his messengers; flames of fire his servants.

He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.

He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains.
They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst.

The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches.

He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.

 

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.

 

 

An Artist’s Bookshelf – February 2018

IMG_0729Procrastination… The struggle is real.

My kind of procrastination is often disguised as “research” or “inspiration”—after all, “Learner” is my number one strength according to StrengthsFinder 2.0. Despite my ill motives, the practice of reading does bear its fruit. As a result, I’m exposed to some great books and many thought-provoking ideas and philosophies as I slide other endeavors to the backburner. Here’s what I’m reading right now:

Letters to a Young Artist: Building a Life in Art by Julia Cameron
Yep, this is the same person who wrote the bestselling The Artist’s Way, which also makes its home on my bookshelves. In Letters, Cameron responds to a fictitious but relatable young artist “full of turbulent self-doubt”—relatable in the sense of apprehension, but rather annoying when it comes to the extent of his/her resistance to Cameron’s insight and advice (remember, the mentee is fictitious, so who should I really blame for this flaw in character?). I’m “young” in the sense of this new adventure as an artist, so I’m digging the read.

Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers by Leonard Koren
Photographer friend Tami Sojka recommended this book to me, and I finished it this morning. In less than 100 pages, Koren tries to put words and pictures to “the quintessential Japanese aesthetic.” He describes wabi-sabi as “a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete… modest and humble… unconventional.” Such a definition of art, then, gives a rookie like me some hope.

This insight in particular continues to play in the corners of my consciousness: “While the universe destructs it also constructs. New things emerge out of nothingness. But we can’t really determine by cursory observation whether something is in the evolving or devolving mode. If we didn’t know differently we might mistake the newborn baby boy—small, wrinkled, bent, a little grotesque looking—for the very old man on the brink of death… In metaphysical terms, wabi-sabi suggests that the universe is in constant motion toward or away from potential.”

A Glorious Freedom: Older Women Leading Extraordinary Lives by Lisa Congdon
I discovered Lisa Congdon a couple years ago through an online art class she teaches through CreativeBug. Talk about someone who embraces the beauty of imperfection—she really encourages me in my attempts at art by speaking this truth over and over again. When it comes to her work, I so admire her playful use of pattern and color, as well as her whimsical approach to everyday objects.

Her signature style graces the pages of A Glorious Freedom, a biographical delight about women who found or are finding new identity or purpose as “late bloomers.” I feel a certain kinship with these women as I discover the glorious freedom that comes with age and some long overdue self-acceptance and celebration.

If you feel so inclined, I’d love to receive your recommendations of authors and books who have made a difference in your creative life. Please share in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!

 

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…

Show Your Work

ShowYourWork

Kleon’s book Show Your Work! inspired me to get back on the blogging bandwagon.

Five years and three months. Exactly 1,918 days. That’s the amount of life I’ve lived since my last blog post.

I’ve hardly been sitting on my hands. During that time, my husband and I took a 6,000-mile journey across the Pacific to adopt our daughter, now 4-1/2 years old. I watched my father die and our family come together through grief. I overcame two serious illnesses and put to rest some lifelong hang-ups and hurts. No, I wasn’t sitting on my hands, but they certainly were busy taking care of other matters.

One could also say that I officially reached “middle age” during that time span. Yes, there are moments when I associate “crisis” with this particular season of life. Just ask my back and my knees and my memory, wherever it may be. But, most recently, there’s a theme that seems to be overwhelming the supposedly typical sense of dread or doom or approaching death at this age. I call it my “mid-life climax.”

It’s hard to explain, but there’s something in my soul that is cracking open—in a good way—exposing and craving color and texture. Though I’ve been identified as a writer for more than two decades, it seems an expansion is underway. It’s on my bucket list, and perhaps because of recent revelations, it’s also part of my creative fiber. I am determined to claim my next title: artist.

Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon inspired my returning to the blog world to share my learnings and accomplishments on this journey. The author is rather convincing about the benefits it will offer to both my work and my readers. On top of that, I’ve come across numerous resources prodding me to persevere despite my own insecurities and others’ mockery. My favorite piece of encouragement so far comes from Brennan Manning’s The Furious Longing of God: “The danger of elegant accomplishment besets every artist. What to do? All I have learned through trial and error is to stay alert and aware, especially of God smiling at our silliness.”

My interpretation of this insight? I might as well embrace this silly quest. If God thinks even the efforts of Michelangelo and DaVinci were laughable—Matisse and Picasso, for sure—why not join the fun?

So here goes…