#28. Post-show challenges (or, getting back in the saddle)

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“New Territory” 53×65″. mixed media on Fabriano paper. ©2014 Karen Rand Anderson

There’s a huge sense of relief after delivering a body of work to a gallery, and leaving it there with the gallery director… the next time you see the work, those paintings (or whatever it is) that you’ve pretty much lived with every day for months— are all installed in a stunning space, beautifully lit, waiting to be seen and experienced by others. [I’m truly fortunate to have my work currently showing at The Alexey von Schlippe Gallery of Art, at the University of Connecticut. The Gallery is dedicated to the memory of the late Alexey von Schlippe (1915-1988), an innovative and accomplished painter, born in Russia, and former Professor of Art at the University of Connecticut at Avery Point.] 

When people begin showing up for the opening, with wine in hand, saying complimentary things, congratulating you, it’s a grand feeling, for a couple of hours.

It is wonderful, if stressful, to spend months getting ready for a show, have it be installed, and then have a big opening. You see old friends, talk about your work, get congratulated. And then…. it’s over.

There is a post-opening grayness that settles in a day or two later. Getting back into the studio and trying to pick up where you left off just doesn’t happen, at least for me. That said—I’m immensely grateful and happy to have my recent work hanging in a beautiful gallery for six weeks, and it is a great feeling. (Of course, it would be icing on the cake to have the work sell.) But—getting back into the saddle is a challenge. Time to make new art. In order to make it happen….(it’s inevitable….) it’s the perfect time to… clean up the studio. ’Nuff said.

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#21.Clean sweep: reblogged from Danny Gregory

Oh boy!!!!! A terrific post about “cleaning up the studio” and the rest of life from the amazing and remarkable DANNY GREGORY. Some deeply inspirational ideas and hot tips on everything from old art supplies to outdated software and stagnant work habits.

A little Madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King

~Emily Dickinson

Danny Gregory

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Because it’s finally March and spring is allegedly on the horizon, I decided to clean up my studio. I swept the floor, wiped down all the tables, emptied the trash cans and water buckets, and vacuumed the chartreuse carpet the dogs nap and chew dried bulls’ pizzles on.

Then I decided to go deeper. Remembering the old carpenter’s homily, “Look after your tools and they’ll look after you,” I pulled all of my art supplies out of their drawers, boxes and Ziplocs and gave them a proper going over. I scrutinized each tube of watercolor and acrylic to make sure the lids were firmly screwed on, rolled them up from the bottom, and separated the ones that seemed too hopelessly hard and dry. I filled all the pans on my watercolor boxes with fresh paint and left them to solidify. I examined every brush and gave them a wash and…

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# 9. New territory

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Territory: Terrain. Ground. Land. Place… Striking out into new territory implies leaving the old one. Exciting, intimidating, courageous. Over the past six months I’ve made a conscious shift from the sculptural mixed-media work and text-informed drawing I had been doing for some years to landscape painting. In my distant past I painted (didn’t we all?) — everything from figure + still life to landscape. Later on, around 2006-7, I was exploring the idea of landscape through abstraction and energetic expression– not painting places, but playing with shape, color, line, etc. and turning it into landscape. Now I’m re-exploring landscape informed by intuitive mark-making, layering of color, gestural brushwork, and spontaneity, and referencing place. It’s a revival of my love of nature, beauty, land, vista. And a departure, a welcome one, from the emotionally-driven, personal narrative work of my (fairly recent) past, which focused on relationship, using metaphor and/or symbolism, specific imagery, objects and text. Which is not to say that at some point I won’t go back (or forward, as the case may be) to doing sculptural work again. I love the hands-on manipulation of 3-D stuff, especially burning paper and sewing it with bronze wire  as well as playing with all sorts of materials for collage and assemblage. (Bring on the glue!)

Landscape, to me, is more than painting pretty pictures. It speaks of place, wayfinding, “carving a path”… In the words of author Dominique Browning:  (“Slow Love Life”)– “We don’t find paths, do we? We carve them, into what seem like impenetrable terrains, never certain where exactly we are going even when we are certain we are fooling ourselves.” At this point,  I’m not certain of where I’m going, or whether or not I’m fooling myself. But I’m in the studio, being brave, consistently challenging myself even as I ask “why does the world need another landscape painting?”

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Although, I can answer that too: it’s about the energy of the work, the intention, the quality of place, mark-making, and letting go of the desire to shock, stand out, or say something “profound.” It is, for me now, the experience of creating the painted surface, infused with passion and beauty. The word “biophelia” comes to mind : “an innate love for the natural world, supposed to be felt universally by humankind” (Also: Bjork’s  project .)

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So– I’m striking out, one stroke at a time: curious about where the path is leading, where I’ll be going this year to find even newer territory, and leaving you with a question: Are you making radical shifts this year, in your life/work/medium/concept? Is your territory new or comfortably old? I welcome your comments– after all, the real reason I’m striking out here is to expand my tribe, my vision, and my work, and hopefully yours as well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Barrington Summer House”  30×30″.  mixed media on canvas © 2014 Karen Rand Anderson

#4. Cleaning it up

Every so often, we need to clean it up, the mess. Maybe your studio is your kitchen table, your basement or garage, a corner of the living room, a loft, or a space in an old mill—it’s wherever you make your art. My studio has been all of these places, and I am one of those notoriously right-brained artists, whose work is, for the most part, all over the map (more about that later) and also all over the floor, walls, and every available horizontal surface. I revel in my creative process, which includes but is not limited to drawing, painting, gluing, wiring, tearing, twisting, building, sawing, sketching, stitching, hammering, and writing. Until suddenly—there comes a point where things are getting lost in the creative mess. Like tools and materials, self-confidence, motivation and vision. Focus, intention and drive. 

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This is, I kid you not, my studio in process of being cleaned up and reorganized a few weeks ago. 

As artists, we (some of us) love our messes, but when they get out of hand,  well, one has to clean them up in order to move forward. Move things around, rearrange, pitch, let go. Put the old work away to make room for the new. It’s a challenge, at least for me—letting go of old work, past mistakes, and people who are no longer part of the picture. But when the cleaning up thing takes place, it’s amazing what happens…  new ideas, new people, new work all begin to show up.   

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Embarrassing…!! But that’s why I’m here, doing this– putting myself into a new and courageous place. (Just getting into the studio is pretty damn courageous, especially when it looked like this. )

Is your studio practice fueled by headlong creative onslaught, or focused and preconceived concepts? Are you organized and methodical in your art approach, or energetic and spontaneous? (I guess it’s fairly obvious which one I am.)

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Truth be told, I would love to have little elves come in once a week and tidy things up in my studio. But then, they probably wouldn’t know where to begin, and I probably wouldn’t be able to work in such an organized space. (Hmm. Food for thought.)

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My faithful studio assistant, Theo.