This Is New…

“Data Given” Collage, 16″x 20″
“Senses Even” Collage, 16″x 20″

Several years ago, along with my friend Lisa, I started posting weekly under the title, “Timeout for Art.” It was planned as a way to share our works-in-progress, and as a means of bringing art – a big part of both of our lives – into the conversation. It was a good idea. That fact alone was not enough, however, to overcome a lifetime of bad habits, procrastination and neglect on my part.

Though I always enjoyed seeing what Lisa and others were up to, I struggled with the commitment. “Timeout for Art” was one more writing obligation. “Even less time,” I told myself, “to actually make art.” Sometimes, I posted my own not-so-current works, and the work of other artists. Often I simply skipped that post entirely, settling for all of the accompanying guilt and self-recrimination. Finally, I dropped even the pretense of keeping up with our arrangement.

Aware of all of these tendencies in myself, I’ve been hesitant to try this again. I am always optimistic, though, about my ability for self-improvement. With many galleries unable to open this year, this might be a reasonable way to show my work. It is a place to talk about my processes, struggles, and inspiration. As an artist who lives on a remote island, and lives a solitary life, it’s a means of reaching out. Maybe the time is right.

My thought is to devote one day a week to art. For me, it will be an exercise in discipline. I hope it will be interesting for readers, as well. Today, though I’d intended to have several images of finished works to display, I’ve run into a few snags. Let me tell you about that.

Several collages (eighteen, in fact!) that I’ve spent the last several weeks on have turned out to be failures. Oh, they have their good points. The colors are lovely; the compositions are solid. I enjoyed working with different dimensions (long, skinny rectangles) than usual. I loved the fact that I was using up materials on hand rather than purchasing new.

In the end, though, the failures outweighed all of the good things. The papers I’d used as the surface rippled and buckled. I tried every trick I know (and I know a lot of them!) to get them to smooth out, all to no avail. The matte varnish that I employed to unify the surface sheen turned out to have a serious shine – closer to high gloss – that only served to magnify other flaws in the surface.

I had ordered custom-cut mats for this series, along with backing boards and cellophane sleeves. With rising disappointment, I went through the images one by one. Was I being too critical? Might the flaws disappear when they were mounted for display? I picked out the best, only seven passed muster, and fitted them in mats. Nope, that wasn’t better. I couldn’t convince myself. Sometimes, the best thing to do is just move on.

the Best of the Failures

What I can sometimes do is use portions of unsuccessful works in new collages. That is not going to work in this case; I’m afraid the uneven, too shiny surface would only get in the way of future success. What I will do is start another series in the same size, so that I can use the same display materials. I’ll choose a sturdier surface, based on my experience. I’ve already ordered a product to replace that shiny varnish. And I’ll count what I’ve learned as the best thing I’ll gain from that whole fiasco!

A Mound of Rejects

About cindyricksgers

I am an artist. I live on an island in northern Lake Michigan, USA. I have two grown daughters, four strong, smart and handsome grandsons and one beautiful, intelligent and charming granddaughter. I live with two spoiled dogs. I love walking in the woods around my home, reading, writing and playing in my studio.

7 responses »

  1. Wow–what I admire the most about this is the number of times you’ve labeled your collages failures (18) but still kept on going with it. Now THAT is commitment. Now that is stick-to-it-ness. Even though there are so many areas in our life where we can’t honor our commitments (because other things come up) I wonder if there are just as many areas where we’re committed. Once a friend noted that I never stuck to anything. I was so insulted. tee hee. But later looked at it and discovered there were major areas where I was totally dedicated. Like my marriage (42 years this year). Working at the school (almost 30 years). Working at the township (32 years). But other projects and commitments come and go. So there is a very committed and long-term side to me, and one that is willing to flow in a different direction like a stream. Thanks for this place to ponder! (And I am glad you are showing your art, for however long or short you do.)

    • Kathy, I have felt bad for years about my inability to stick to anything. This, though I worked as a waitress for more than 25 years, and have been working at the hardware for more than 17, have been an artist for all of my adult life….and on and on. I would look instead at the things started and set aside, the failed businesses, or the fact that even my art wants to go in at least twelve different directions. When I was in Hawaii, I started a new book: Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher. I have read others of hers – the first, I think, was WishCraft – but none struck a chord the way this one did. She hypothesizes that people like us are cut from different cloth, that we can’t settle for only one direction, and that, for us, it would be excruciating to try. I set it aside to read other things, but it’s next on my list to pick up again. I highly recommend it!

      • What a great realization for you to have! I looked at a sample of Refuse to Choose and it sounds like you totally. (I remember this about you from reading your posts for a long time.) I have another good friend who is exactly that. Some of the characteristics describe me, but not all of them. It seems if we can just accept ourselves exactly as we are–and not label ourselves as failures because we don’t look like the norm–life would be easier. Happy Sunday, my friend!

  2. How nice to see your comment here, Tammy! I have missed you, and your good writing. Did you change the title of your blog, or move it, or something else that I can’t think of, without my knowing it? Because it no longer shows up in my reader. Yes, I have been busy. With studio, home, yard and garden, plus all the things I wished I had more time for when work took a big chunk of my day, my days are so full, I don’t know when I ever had time for work! Thank you for reading, and for your comments!

  3. Here’s the question I ask: what are your goals regarding your art? I’ve never seen any samples/examples on your blog that aren’t worthy of attention. What do you expect to gain with your efforts? Personal satisfaction? Monetary gain? Recognition? A soothing way to pass some time?

    I ask these questions because I’m not an artist. I’m interested to know where you’re coming from, and to what you are reaching for.

    Plus, that first photo depicted my home state of MN. Did the star represent Beaver Island? Whether or not you intended that, that’s what I saw. Your art touches many in many different ways. What are YOU after?

    • Oh, Sara, these are questions that – at this age and this stage of my life – are harder to answer than they were forty-five years ago. when I started pursuing an art career. I first imagined becoming a high school art teacher; Art departments in high schools were closing down at the stage in my education when I would have had to make that decision. I opted instead to go for the M.F.A., which would qualify me to teach at university level. By the time, 18 months later, I got that degree, that job market had also changed.

      In the early years after I graduated, when I sent out dozens of resumes every year, I accumulated a large stack of rejection letters, and a couple job offers. In hindsight, I should have probably found any way possible to take one of those jobs (they they would have involved moving across country for a job that was only guaranteed for a one year sabbatical replacement, having a second job to supplement my income, getting a more reliable car, etc., etc.), for the experience may have led to a better position. At the time, it seemed impossible.

      Instead, I concentrated my efforts, in the hours available to me around the jobs that supported me, on making and promoting my work. Over the years, I’ve had a half-dozen galleries carrying my work, am in the permanent collections of several public and private entities, and have been honored to have a one-woman show. I sell some work every year, though it varies wildly from one year to the next, and has never been enough to support me. I have also taught special programs in our school, and taught classes to adults and children in the community.

      At this stage in my life, my idea of “success” is much smaller than it was at the beginning of this journey. I am resigned to the fact that I will never be big in the New York art scene, and I will never get rich – or even support myself – with my art. Still, I have goals. There are new techniques I want to learn and new ideas I want to explore. There are a couple galleries that I’d like to show in, and a few competitions I’d like to enter.

      The bottom line, though, is this: I make art. That’s just who I am. I am fortunate to get good feedback, and to make a few sales, but I don’t think that’s what drives me. Art-making is such a basic part of me, I can’t imagine not doing it.

      I love your interpretation of that first piece, though it wasn’t my intent. Thanks for your interest, Sara. I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you with this very long answer!

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