this past year has been a good time to redefine what i mean by art. my first and best statement on that is that art is the FLOW.
when artists make art, there is this flow that happens, a timeless spaceless kind of place where you go inside your head while your body is making art. it’s as if you were dreaming and the fairies were making the shoes for you. but this is not a feeling confined to artists. it’s the same feeling you’d feel during meditation, or hauling water and chopping wood, or being deeply engaged in whatever activity captures all your attention.
and if you define the flow as what accompanies making art, then you’re making art whenever you’re in the flow.
this is reflected in the title of my blog – making art with fabric. it was what i was into at the time i started the blog, and i reckoned that canvas is fabric, and paper is fabric, and okay maybe wax on board was stretching it, but after awhile my blog came to refer to making art with whatever i had to hand (like metal washers on fiberglass), and the ‘fabric’ part became metaphorical. art is what you create. the practice of art is being in the flow.
my last residency was in september of 2010, when i was in kerry by myself for three weeks. i got loads done, and proceeded, for several months afterwards, with projects i developed there. then came nanowrimo in november, which i do every year, putting all else aside to write 50K words in a month. and then i got commissioned to do a passel of public art projects. and then i had to help jim do a bunch of prints for dragoncon. and then he had a studio visit scheduled, and i spent a month and a half organizing all his art and the attic (which i’d been meaning to do for years, but it’s such a job…)
and then it was nanowrimo again, and i finished my novel in half the month, and started working on this great new idea with the other half of the month. and that was in november, and it’s february now, and i’m three months into a really ambitious project that i feel compelled to do, even tho i’m not sure where it will lead – which is how you have to approach making fine art, when you have no conception of the future life of anything you create, and you ignore the little voice that tells you to get a real job, because you simply have to create this thing.
the project i’m giving my energy to is really complex, and encompasses everything from the meaning of consciousness to the process of developing a videogame, and i’m under a great deal of internal pressure to work on it because the world is already changing and i don’t want to lag behind the moment i can sense. like the wave that, if you want to catch it, has a precise moment when you have to launch yourself in front of it, and i’ve sensed that moment and am swimming madly to get to the sweet spot so i can travel that wave all the way into shore.
jim has gotten involved in this project. we decided at some point that illustrations would be a really great help. there are just some things you can’t get across in prose, like how to fly the way you do in dreams. and jim is really good at drawing things straight out of his head, where i can only do that in prose and am totally hopeless when it comes to making a painting without visual references. we collaborate really well together, and are both looking forward to working on it.
jim’s impulse toward sequential art started in high school, when he and his best friend drew comic books. then he went to art school and had a whole career doing fine art painting and etching, but there was always a story in his paintings. usually a dark story. and now he’s had the idea to turn his hand back to his first discipline, and illustrate whole swaths of the story as a graphic novel.
this will take some time. i’m only in the outline stages, and tho i think i know which sections we will be developing as sequential art, i don’t know exactly what will happen in those sections. but there will come a time, months down the road, when we will be able to turn our attention to illustration. and i’ll chronicle it here.
why a residency? we have a fully operational art studio, with a wing for me and a wing for jim. and the rooms in the living space are frequently pressed into service as working space. the whole house is actually an art museum and studio, disguised as a plain old house full of old farts. the trouble with this is that we want to have an uninterrupted time when we can both concentrate on all the details it’s going to take to make a graphic novel (me as writer, colorist and letterer, and jim as artist). that means no dog walks, no phone calls, no movies, no family issues. that means arranging things so that we can go away somewhere and get the job done.
so we have decided on a six-week residency in a tiny little hamlet on the coast of ireland, and are in the application process now. in eight or ten or fourteen months we should be far enough along in the project that it’ll be time to concentrate on the art, and of course it takes about a year to plan for a residency, anyway.
why ireland? because i love the place. because the landscape and even the air is magic. because it’s like an addiction that i cherish and feed at every opportunity. because when jim came to collect me after my last residency, and saw the skellig rocks, and saw the gap of dunloe, and saw the clouds following along the road from cork to dublin, he was instantly hooked, and when he came back to his studio he did an entire series of irish landscapes with dragons in them, which we took to dragoncon.
we may be going with a fixed project in mind – which is always a mistake when you go on residency – but we have a plan. the residency itself has a plan for what you’re going to do when you’re there. usually i go on residency and open myself entirely to whatever comes up – in kerry, it was sheep’s wool and seaweed and autumn flowers, the waves and the water and the clouds. altho jim’s planned supplies will be paper and various drawing implements, i’ll be bringing all my pigments, a pound of beeswax, and a big mass of luan panels to do encaustic paintings. that way, when the plan of the residency asserts itself, we’ll be ready with whatever materials we need to answer the call.
if you’d like to read about my previous experience with art residencies, please see this post.