Thursday, May 31

A follow-up to the previous post, in which I apologized for being a crafter, not an artist:

To practice any art no matter how well or badly is a way to make your soul grow.
So do it.
Kurt Vonnegut

Tuesday, May 29

Do I still hate butterflies?

Moths scare me the way spiders scare some folks. Butterflies creep me out. Why, lately, have I been making things with butterflies on them?

Note the highly specific word, "things." Crafts.  I've been making crafts.  For most of my life I haven't done crafts, and I definitely haven't done art. I sing, I write, I take pictures. I haven't done art or craft, and for years have been such a dedicated reader that I never had time to craft. (You can't craft and read at the same time.) I confess I've been scornful of many craft projects made from ugly materials with ugly results. But I now must admit to crafting. It's a step up from scrapbooking (which I also do) on the coolness scale, but many steps down from art.

But get this! The last time I shopped for supplies I went to the art store instead of the craft store, because  I didn't like the brand of gel medium I had. I have new vocabulary words like "gel medium" and I can even tell the difference between one brand and another. Makes me feel pretty cocky and arty.

I've been making a pair of collages for my sister's birthday. I used to make a lot of collages just to play with images that spoke to me. Then I got hooked on the more artistic aspects of collage.  Using paint and ink as well as illustrations and pictures. Making texture. Techniques to make complex, layered backgrounds. The thing is, I love doing it. It absolutely sings to me.

There is nothing like creating, even at my lowly level. Making craft, making art, keeps my mind focused in a creative way. It keeps me from obsessive worry, too. When I go for a walk, I think about whether the collage is done or if it needs one more butterfly. A laughable -- well, but I'm not calling it a worry, am I? It is so much better than worrying about money. I do enough of that.

Somewhere along the line, meaning got sidelined in trying to work with form, composition, and balance. I certainly never meant for that to happen. It was just more than I could manage. Hence the butterflies. They have a compact form that can be placed in the foreground for focus or in the background for balance. They are a godsend to someone like me who is trying to make something worth looking at, but is not able to make good representational art. You can find pictures of them and cut them out and put them on the collage.

Butterflies are beautiful and colorful and a potent symbol of change. They're also a cliche, and most important, they are not my personal symbol of change. The civil defense drill is my symbol of change. It goes off every month, evoking a moment of reflection on where I am in my life and what has changed, or not changed, since last time I heard it. If I were to collage it would I put two speaker horns on top of a large pole? The ultimate obscure reference.

It gives me a new respect for people who transcend cliche in art, at whatever level, and make meaning.