When I sat down to write this post, I wrote this one instead.
I wanted to talk about how I came upon my current style, but I guess I needed the preface. You may read part one before or after part two, or not at all, I suppose. But you’ll be missing all the fun. Here’s a glimpse…
The learning curve
I learned to draw as a child by tracing faces in magazines and art in encyclopedias and comic books. Somewhere in adolescence my interest in art leaned more towards Aubrey Beardsley than Bob Montana. In high school I was entranced by psychedelic posters and album covers based wildly on art nouveau but my heart belonged to Dali. Dali had a way of taking photorealism on a bad acid trip. I longed for such complete control over the brush, the paint, that it obeyed my every command. Every surface “licked” to perfection. I was hooked on the obtainment of mastery.
I had no style of my own at that time, merely copying Dali’s drawered women and disfigured horses, and mimicking hippie typestyles of the day. Having no interest in Dali’s symbolism, I drooled over his technique. I found Beardsley around the same time and copied his most famous drawings, worshipping the art nouveau Whiplash (undulating curves and rhythmic lines).
I developed a left-leaning, non-conformist bent around this time and decided that art should be everywhere, for everyone, and that galleries and museums would disappear now that the 60s had everyone macrame-ing, candlewicking, and wood-carving, and Arts and Crafts had been returned to their rightful throne.
Little did I know that the style I came to worship in the end – art nouveau – would lead me to spend the better part of my career seeking mastery of technique instead of artisanry.
The Arts and Crafts movement was artisan-oriented, a rejection of the machine-made, a celebration of natural elements. It’s spirit returned in the 60s and 70s. I did my part by sewing long paisley dresses with tiny bells that jingled when you walk and was hand-beading fringed leather jackets and vests in a little shop in 1969 when Led Zeppelin rocked my world with Stairway to Heaven.
In contrast, art nouveau was pure design, and although it also purported to make art part of everyday life for the masses, it relied on machined surfaces and man-made materials to supply it’s perfection. I later took to the french curve and Rapidograph to supply the tension only a perfectly inked line could supply, on Mylar of course.
By the late 70s, I had returned to college for the commercial arts, mechanical and architectural drawing, airbrush, layout and design, and photography. I was doing free-lance signage and logo designs. In short order I had gone from handcrafting personal items out of hemp to technical inking on polyester film.
I bounced back and forth between these two influences for years. During my first stint in college, “stylized” was a fearsome accusation. “Decoration” was for building cornices, and best left to the distant past. But I was determined to continue decorating my canvases in a highly stylized manner throughout my fine art training, frustrating everyone in my path. At the same time, I learned to paint hard-edged acrylic canvases so “licked” you saw no evidence of brushwork. Elaborately curled lines covered my canvases forming a model’s hair, a panther’s whiskers, and a fabric’s design.
Ahhhhh, the occupation! Never had I considered why or what I was going to do with a degree in art. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to spend the next 23 years in commercial art. But I did. I surely did. As near as I can figure it, that’s…
5,285 days, or
NOT working on my art (much).
I retired. I quit. I was brain-dead. The battery died. I tried recharging my craft at home. I should be able to relight the fire, right? Wrong. I found out I hated the computer, loathed large-format printer calibrations, and I detested software!
It took a long time to give up. All that training. All that experience. All that technique!
When I started beading, it was by accident. And a wonderful thing happened. I rediscovered FLOW. I let the artist’s hand – my hand – show in the work. Imperfection. Wonderful imperfection, evidence of life. My life. My art. My self. My mother would have wanted it that way.