Daily Archives: June 12, 2014

Timeout for Art: Contemplation

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I haven’t spent much time in the studio this last week.

Gardening and lawn work have left me wanting nothing more than a hot soak in the evenings. Afterward, clean pajamas and a good book sound more inviting than paint-spattered sweats, brushes and polymers.

I also spent a little time helping my friend Sue get her gallery ready to open. It’s a huge undertaking, turning rustic cabins that have sat idle all winter into rooms to showcase jewelry, pottery, art, craft and the dearest selection of cards, clothes and handbags. Sue has been at it for a couple weeks now: clearing away dust and cobwebs, setting up displays, hanging and re-hanging so that each piece shows to its best advantage, considering light and shadow, and what paintings will compliment three-dimensional work…it’s exhausting just to think of it.

I gave her a couple hours of my time yesterday, between a cleaning job and a township meeting.

Not enough to make a big difference, but all I had to offer.

It’s both exhilarating and intimidating, seeing new work from other artists.

The color! The light! The brushstrokes!

Time to step back, then, and let it all sink in. Let all the lovely images whirl around until – rather than feeling I have to shrink away or (worse) try to emulate them – I am transformed by them. Like fairy dust, some things will stay with me, others will float away. Maybe the influence won’t be noticeable at all in my work. Perhaps it will change the way I approach a subject, or the colors that I choose, or the all-over feeling of a piece. Maybe it will just lighten my heart a little.

We don’t live in a vacuum. When we fall in love with things that we see, it’s impossible not to be changed. People more knowledgeable than I have contemplated and puzzled over – and still failed to come to any solid conclusions about – originality and influence in art.

I used to give an assignment to freshman art students: choose a piece of art by one artist, and render it in the style of another. It forced a close examination of styles. It also helped to discern boundaries, to think about plagiarism and copying and derivative work.

Myself, I like to take time for contemplation.