Thursday, February 25, 2010

BJP ~ Polar Ways to Approach Our Creative Process

Two bloggers have started me thinking about polarities in the way we approach working on our BJP pages.

Sharkeysday posted here about re-starting her February BJP page and about wanting to make her doll's chest less prominent.

And Kali posted a comment on my blog about my February BJP page, giving some suggestions for how it could be improved and a list of artists renowned for their word/image art. One of her comments was that the heart seems crowded, overwhelmed and pushed down by the words, like the whole piece needs to be tipped upward, counterclockwise. (These are my words, my interpretation of Kali's suggestion.)

Well, I got to thinking about it. I can see her point... viewing it as a piece of art. Yes, she's right about that.

collage bead embroidery by Robin Atkins
Yet, from the point of view of telling a story, my story, about these words... about my mom and me, it's right on the money the way it is. With Mom so near the end of her life, I feel like I'm slipping off the page. I feel like the words which belong to our 67-year relationship are surrounding me, close to the surface, especially the word cry. I feel the need to experience these Mom-words as much as I can right now, because the opportunity to do so is changing.

To my eyes, the piece better tells my truth (the way it is now) than it would if it complied better with the precepts of good art. That got me thinking about two polarities for our BJP pages... On one hand, we have making art and doing it right. At the other end of the scale, we have just doing it, letting it be what it is.

Making Art < - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - > Just Do It
Do It Right < - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - > Let it Be.

Where are you on this scale right now? Where do you want to be???

Personally, I want to lean as far as possible toward the letting go side, because that is where I believe I will find who I really am as a person and as an artist; that is where I'll discover my own unique way to tell a story. After thinking about this, my new way to approach those times when I don't like my work will be to ask, "What does this tell me about myself, my feelings... what is the story here, what truth is showing up in my work?"

It doesn't mean I won't check into all of the artists suggested by Kali, filling my subconscious with inspirations from the way they tell their stories. Nor does it mean I'll ignore principles of art. It's just that I won't force the principles in any way. They will be just one component of my subconscious process. I hope!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cry ~ Feb Bead Journal Project ~ Finished!

detail, bead embroidery collage, bead journal project for February, by Robin Atkins
I look at magazines like the Feb. issue of Cloth Paper Scissors and think "I'll never be able to do collage well, especially collage with words." Then I have to remind myself about "baby steps" and about how learning takes time and practice.

OK. That's the program for this year's BJP... one piece at a time... just do it... see how it grows (or doesn't)! My piece for February is finished and at least I like it better than the one for January. Here's how it looks (click picture to see detail).

bead embroidery collage, bead journal project for February, by Robin Atkins
Originally, when I spontaneously chose six words for the month, I didn't have any sense that they were related. The word I circled as the most compelling at that moment was cry. Immediately I wanted to change my mind, to circle play or any of the other words. Three weeks later, with my piece complete, I'm so glad I stuck with my original choice because, little by little, I realized that all six of my words are about my Mom and our relationship.

bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, heart
I wrote about my tear in the center of the beaded heart holding a picture of Mom and about my love surrounding her in my previous post here. Now, looking at the completed piece, so many associations and memories of Mom (some recent, some in the distant past of childhood) are unfolding... triggered by all six of the words!

When I view it, not as attempted collage, not as art, but as a story about my Mom and me, it's a delight and a treasure! Maybe that's a lesson for us with our art... to view (and to value) it from the standpoint of what it tells us. Just a thought...

The technical and design issue for me about collage with paper, cloth and beads is how to make all the elements interconnected and whole. To make the words for this piece, I created them in Photoshop and then printed them on fabric (poplin) with my inkjet printer. The heart is beaded on felt. The background is drawing paper painted with acrylic paints.

When I first laid out the three elements, the paper and heart looked OK together, but the words looked dull and unrelated. What could I do to make them come forward a little, but not so much as to overpower the heart? The answer came in steps and with trial and error...

First I stitched beads around the borders of each word. That helped a little, but not enough. I needed some way to enhance the edges of the words, bring the color and texture of them more in line with the little edge of felt showing around the beading on the heart. I tried crocheting a scalloped edge with a single strand of embroidery floss. Yuk! I tried drawing around the edges with marking pen. Yuk! Finally I got the idea of couching a six-strand length of embroidery floss around the edge. That worked pretty well... the color was right and it gave a slightly uneven texture, similar to the felt. Here's a picture of the three steps... 1- plain, 2- with beads and 3- with a couched edge.

embellished words and border treatments
I'm looking forward to March and already curious about what six words will pop into my mind on March 1st! It's a fantastic pleasure to look at all the juicy, creative, fun, stimulating pieces being done by this year's BJP participants. OMG!!! We are soooooooooooooo way cool!

Thanks to everyone who commented on my previous post about Mom and me and crying... I really appreciate your kindness and encouragement!

Technical information:
  • Black background paper - 8.5 x 11 inches
  • Painted background paper - 7 x 7 inches
  • Beading - completed on red wool felt, then stitched to background paper
  • Words - created in Photoshop, printed on fabric, glued to paper with bookbinder's glue

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Beaded Valentine!

It's still Valentine's Day where I live, so happy day of love to everybody!

bead enbroidery, heart, by Robin Atkins
This is part of my February Bead Journal Project... the easy part! It only took me about two and a half days to bead this heart. It's about 3.5 inches wide. Now I have to work with the words, paper and the heart to make a collage...

My BJP plan for this year is to do collage and to include six words (all verbs), compiled on the first day of the month, on each piece. I don't ponder these words at all... simply list the first six that pop into my mind. Then I circle the most compelling word, which must be visually shown in my piece.

I posted my February words here... The circled word was cry. Immediately I wanted to erase the circle, even the word, and circle one of the others. Although I feel resistance to working with cry, I know in my heart it is all about Mom.

Fern, Robin's Mom
Here she is. She was 93 on Jan. 11! I took this and the picture below in November while visiting her for a week. (I live in Washington state; she's in Minnesota.) In December, her health took a turn for the worse and she was put under Hospice care by her Dr. I went again, staying for another week. This time she was very weak, sometimes unable to feed herself or sit up. Often she seemed very confused. Yet we did have several beautiful moments together when she was quite lucid.

Ferne, Robin's Mom
Mom and I are a lot alike physically and in personality. I'm her eldest child of five. Although we had our differences when I was in my late teens, at all other times we've been great friends, close emotionally, respectful, loving and supportive of each other. I understand that nobody lives forever. I know that her quality of life is poor, even on her "good days." I have a sense that she won't live much longer... and inside I am crying.

One of my tears, in the center of this beaded heart, holds a picture of Mom. She is surrounded here and in real life by my love for her.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Six Words for February ~ BJP

cry, word or bead journal project, created in photoshop by Robin Atkins
touch, word or bead journal project, created in photoshop by Robin Atkins
give, word or bead journal project, created in photoshop by Robin Atkins
play, word or bead journal project, created in photoshop by Robin Atkins
love, word or bead journal project, created in photoshop by Robin Atkins
affirm, word or bead journal project, created in photoshop by Robin Atkins
As you may have seen on my previous post, day 1 of each month, I grab paper/pen and write the first six words (action verbs) that pop into my head. Then I circle the one that seems the most compelling. These words will appear on my monthly Bead Journal Project piece, somehow worked into a collage of beads, fibers and papers...

My six words for February (above) sat fallow, until I read Elizabeth's post about her blank canvas problems with her January BJP. Once again, let's hear it for BJP bloggers!!! Her wonderful post turned me around and made me excited to play with my words! (Thank you, Elizabeth!)

So yesterday, when finally there was a block of free hours, I painted and played with my words in Photoshop, the results of which you see above. Then I printed them on fabric (smaller than what you see here on your monitor). I can't wait to get out my painted papers and beads later today. Where will this month's journey lead? Who knows?

One thing I will say, cry was the word I circled. Right now I don't want to deal with crying at all, so it may be a hidden element in my page... We'll see...