Practice makes imperfect, part two

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 first Beardsley I traced
the first Beardsley I traced

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.

The occupation

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
42,280 hours

NOT working on my art (much).

The resolution

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!

The return

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.

6 thoughts on “Practice makes imperfect, part two

  1. very nice mom….the cool thing is you did all that art on your own. i had YOU to guide me through my discovery of art. buying me all those coloring books and letting blume and i use your good prismacolor coloring pencils.

    i got to watch you create and paint and then go to work in graphics. would i have persued art if my mom was not an artist herself? i wonder…

  2. I love that you wrote about this, it’s a fasinating insight into a world I love but cannot participate in. I grinned when I read about your love for Dali – most of my teenage years had Dali prints blu-tacked to my walls, (the Metamorphosis of Narcissus was one of my favourites) I loved both the aesthetic qualities but also the symbolism and I think he did a lot to kindle my interest in Psychology as a result.

    I adore art nouveau too, but don’t know any of the names or techniques or anything like that. Just a simple “Oooh, I love the way that looks!” whenever I see it. I don’t have the vocabulary for these things that you do.

    But what really made me excited about reading this, and it’s ‘prologue’ is that it suddenly gave me insights into why I love your art, why it speaks to me. I wish I had the language to explain it, but in its absence, I am left with the only thing I can say: thank you.

  3. Hi, Diana,
    This was a wonderful read. Creativity is a process… sometimes one that we may not understand at the time. It’s not something that can be taught. Curiosity, maybe, but creativity, no way.


  4. @ earthdogoz You were a born artist! It wouldn’t have mattered that I was an artist, unless it gave you permission that some people don’t get…

  5. @Emma Is that the one where the naked man comes out of the egg? LOL
    Very cool. Yes, I had Dali on my walls even into my twenties. Just pictures cut from magazines and taped to the wall.

    My art vocabulary is shaky at best these days. I did some research before I posted to freshen my memory for terms. 😉

    @skyewriter thank you! It was fun looking at how my interests developed and how they came full circle. (I am back to gluing things on paper again.)

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