So I have a confession of sorts. I've recently come to the slow realization that despite having almost two years to recover and working very diligently on my artwork, I still have a very difficult time visualizing what it is I am wanting to make.
What do I mean by that? Well, if you asked me to close my eyes and picture a chair, I could do that pretty easily. If you ask me to make you a picture featuring a chair I literally draw a blank. Nothing. Now, resist temptation to chime in with "me too! I never know what to draw or where to start!" That's not really what I'm talking about... I have this hard to describe loss of not really being able to do what I once was very good at which is this sequence of "here is the request" then "explosion of images in my head" then "rework images in my head" then do a sketch. Now it's more like "here is the request" then... crickets.
So, why I am sharing this? Honestly, the idea of this is super interesting to me - how and why do I make art then? How long did I go on making things not realizing that the ability to visualize never really returned?
Truth be had, I really avoided "making art" as much as possible. Or I stuck to tried and true things like representational paintings. I got super good at carving patterns on linoleum because I couldn't decide on anything to depict. So I'd carve lines. Or circles. The blocks started piling up.
It wasn't until I tried to make something specific that I completely stalled out. Since I had imposed a deadline for myself to abide by, I had to figure out how to make something from nothing. I learned a few things about making flights of fancy materialize along the way. .
Words help There is something about how my brain is re-wired that words still play a very, very strong role in how things do or do not get done. It was over coffee with a friend talking about my side project where it really started to dawn on me that talking ideas = half formed visuals in my head. Writing half formed visuals down and then pinning them to a style, time period or medium = slightly more formed ideas. Repeat until the artwork emerges.
Words somehow resemble having a tiny flashlight in the woods at night. They illuminate the steps ahead but I cannot see the destination (or the wolves lurking in the inky darkness)
This is not all bad. Since I've realized this deficit still very much exists for me (and might be part of my new normal) I have noticed that my artwork is more considered. Gone are the days of dashing off spur of the moment paintings. This has been replaced with informally collaborating through offhand conversations. Talking out an idea seems to lead to imagery. Slowing down like this allows me to really consider things like composition, colour choices, subject, style - the list goes on and on. Just because something used to be easy, doesn't mean that it was better.
Anyways, all this to say that since that discovery, I've been tinkering with all sorts of ideas and making new things. Plus, I've learned that if the visualization isn't happening I have to keep busy anyways. Sometimes it is prep work, sometimes it is digging out an old half finished project, sometimes it is just reading or drawing (which still remains a spontaneous arena for me). Productive procrastination is a thing for me these days.
I've also learned that having deadlines really help (real or imagined) - I'm quite excited that a lot of the letterpress notebooks and postcards that I've sprinkled throughout my post are destined for a Pop-Up Market at Bluerock Gallery on November 30th! Since I was bringing my little press with me, I wanted to have a lot of freshly printed items that showcased letterpress and linocut!