Thursday, August 1, 2019

Overgrown

©Robin Edmundson, 'Overgrown Barn - July', watercolor, 8 x 10 inches.  Framed to 11 x 14 inches.  $280.
July is when everything out here is in danger of getting overgrown by the oat grass, the virginia creeper, the fox tail, the nutgrass, the poison ivy, the walnut saplings that the squirrels planted last year, the ironweed, the johnson grass, the ragweed, the goldenrod, the wild grape vines, the blackberries - so many blackberries... 

In short, there is an abundance of growth and with that comes the very real danger of a structures being entirely overwhelmed.  They can be pulled down by the weight of the vines, or pulled apart by things growing through the cracks in the walls, or knocked right over by trees growing next to the foundation. 

I do this to myself.  All. The. Time.  Country life is a metaphor for the rest of my life.

I love an abundance of information.  I love learning new things, reading new books, mulling over new ideas, trying new strategies.   I want all of the information - right now.   I want all of the options - right now.   I want to save all of the ideas - right now. 

Pretty soon, my head is bursting with options; I worry that I won't pick the 'right one', I feel anxious that I'm 'behind' in what I'm studying, frustrated that I don't understand it all, irritated with the number of notebooks full of Very Important Notes and piles of books that I've saved from studying all the things and afraid to get rid of them because what if that's the notebook with The Answer that I've been looking for.

So much abundance and so much overwhelm. 

I need some mental mowing.  Weed eating.   Pruning.  Maybe a judiciously wielded chain saw.  Something to keep balance between the growth and the structure [me].

Quite honestly, I have no idea - at all - how to do that.  It's one of those boundary things I'm not so good at. 

I'll be thinking about it for the next while to see if I can come up with a strategy to encourage abundance while limiting overwhelm.   Maybe that will help me restore some Fun to my life.







Friday, July 26, 2019

The Duality of Light and Dark

©Robin Edmundson, 'Purple Barn, Twilight', watercolor, 10 x 14 inches.  Framed to 16 x 20 inches.  $375


I'm playing with light.   Actually, that's not true.   I'm playing with dark - because it's in how we apply the darks that the lights really show up.   It's a duality.

Duality shows up frequently in my life.  Powerful opposite forces.  It's easy to feel like one of those forces needs to be shut down or tamed, and to be honest, I have spent a lot of years trying to obliterate one or another of them, believing that its presence meant that there was something wrong with me and that if I could change it, I'd be better. 

It took a long time to realize that the trick is not in the changing, but the arranging. 

Embrace the light and the dark and you can communicate powerful things.  Arrange things right and all of the sudden beautiful images appear. 



Tuesday, July 23, 2019

A Record of the Artist Playing

©Robin Edmundson, 'Echinacea Bouquet #4', watercolor, 14 x 10 inches.
Framed to 20 x 16 inches.  $375


"An artist is trying to puzzle something out - to solve a complex problem of perception. A piece of art is the record of the artist playing."  

Jordan Peterson, podcast


Eric texted me that quote the other day as I was on my 4th version of this composition.  I love that quote because it describes my relationship with my artwork exactly.  

I wrestle a lot with my work - working out color, playing with light, coming up with a strategy for composition.  I experiment with this and that.  The relationships between color, light, line, shape and mood are complicated and a small adjustment here or there can have a large effect on the final piece.  I ruin one and then start again. Try something new.  Or not - and realize after the third version with the same yuck results just exactly where I should try something new and break out of a pattern that just isn't working.   

Yes.  Sometimes it takes me more than three versions to get that through my head.

The middle stages are the worst.   I've ruined a lot of paintings and then, with some, felt the urge to keep going through the miserable middle until I realized that it wasn't really ruined - it just hadn't been quite finished.   There's an art to recognizing when something needs more work and when something needs to be let go of.  I'm still figuring that out.  

As an artist, I play with many solutions to the problem of communicating a scene in a way that you can decipher the message I'm sending.   I perceive something in the three dimensional world and then encode it into a two dimensional space in a way that allows you to look at it and decode it to understand what I'm seeing and saying.  

It sounds crazy, right?   Artists often walk the line between brilliance and insanity.  In the meantime, an artist plays and each piece of art is a record of that play.




Friday, July 19, 2019

White Hot July Sky

©Robin Edmundson, 'July Sky', watercolor, 18 x 24 inches.  Framed to 24 x 30 inches.  $750.

It's July. 

It's hot.

Searingly hot. 

The hay is cut and the fields quickly dry out to a dusty gold.  The days are hazy and lazy.  It never really cools off at night and the mornings are heavy and damp.  It's like the air itself is sweating. 

In our humidity, the clouds are varied and interesting - mackerel scales and mare's tails are indicative of quickly changing weather.  As things heat up even further during the days, we often get pop-up thunderstorms, dumping even more humidity into the air. 

It's too hot for the birds to fly and they stay inside the cooler edges of the woods.   Dragonflies and darning needles large and small flit around the trees instead.  At twilight the fireflies start their light show. 

And over and under and around it all is the gentle accompanying swoozh swoozh swoozh of the cicadas.


Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Florals

© Robin Edmundson, 'Black-eyed Susans', watercolor, 14 x 10 inches.
Framed to 22 x 18 inches.  $375

A while back I did a painting of a large floral bouquet in teals and pinks.  I hadn't set out to do a floral.  I thought I sucked at florals.  In fact, I knew I sucked at florals. 

I couldn't do florals.   I paint barns.  I don't paint flowers.

And yet there I was painting a floral - a really big one at that.  And you know what?  People love that painting.

It's hanging at my current show in Marshall, Illinois and it's one of the first pieces that people walk over to see and comment on.

So. 

Clearly I can do florals.  But I still feel like I can't do florals.   So I tried another floral.  That's it up there.

It actually looks like flowers.  And I actually feel pretty pleased looking at it.  So I'm taking this as a sign that I need to practice more florals.  Figure some things out.  Let myself play with colors and shapes and refine what I already know about composition and shadows.  [And flowers, because I'm an avid gardener and actually know quite a lot about flowers]

These paintings force me to relax.  To do things slowly.  Very very slowly.   To stop and step back and consider.  To take 3 or 4 days to work through a dozen layers, adding a bit at a time.  To take my time.  To trust my eye. 

That feels really good. 





Friday, June 28, 2019

Gaslight Art Colony Show - Marshall, Illinois



I've got a show hanging at the Gaslight Art Colony in Marshall, Illinois from now until Saturday, July 13.   It's a big one - forty pieces.    The space is beautiful and the people there are amazing.   I had a wonderful time at the opening reception getting to know the local artists.

If you get a chance to go, here are the details:

Robin Edmundson: Rurification

Gaslight Art Colony

516 Archer Ave, Marshall, IL 62441

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Creative Wounds

Creativity is a dynamic thing.   It ebbs and flows.

When you're in flow, it's awesome.  You're creating great stuff  - or learning great stuff and you don't care that the finished product is less than stellar.

A creative ebb is not so awesome.  Staring at the blank paper, brush in hand, wondering if every successful thing I've done before was a fluke is not my idea of a good time.

I was talking to an artist friend recently about what causes creative block and we ended up talking about the notion of 'creative wounds'.

Since then I've been thinking about the things that have caused creative wounds for me.   Wounds serious enough that I just don't want to try any more.

The most serious wounds for me come when I come face to face with my mindset problems.  And they almost always center around Expectations. 

  • Others' expectations that my work should be better.  More original.  Less colorful.  More urban.  Less rural.  More sky.  Less sky.  More floral.  Less like me.  More like something else. 
  • Others' expectations that they are the gatekeepers of beauty and they have the right to judge my creative output. 
  • My expectations that my work should be better.  That it should be easier.   That I should be able to do things faster.  That I should have better composition, or color harmonies, or subject matter, or something.  That I should get into more juried shows and that if I don't, it means I'm a bad artist.  That someone else gets to decide what 'good' is and if I can just figure that out and spend 24/7 practicing, then finally I'll be 'Good'.  
  • My expectation that all efforts that aren't great [frameable/sellable] are a waste:  of effort, of time, of materials.  And that all waste is evidence of a deep character flaw.
  • My expectation that my worth is completely and totally tied to the worth of my final product - and that is determined not by me, but by Others.
Geeze.  It hurts just thinking about it. 

The only way to get over these types of wounds is with a lot of care.  Creative Therapy, if you will. And that's going to be 90% deciding how to think about things differently and 10% practice reminding myself to think about things differently.  These are my current mindset shifts:
  • My opinion of my work [and my life] is more important than anyone else's. [I'm going on a juried show hiatus for a while.  I'm generally just fine when I get rejection letters, but this summer I want a break from that.]
  • All great artists do the equivalent of piano scales for.ev.er. before they get great and those resources are not wasted, but merely stepping stones to a more satisfying-to-me place. 
  • My worth is completely independent of my creative output.   A stack of 'bad' paintings is evidence of practice, nothing more, nothing less. 
  • Learning and experimenting can be fun.   Actually fun.   I'm good at learning, not so good at fun, so I have given myself the task of learning how to have fun.  [Which makes me laugh, so I think I'm on the right track.]  I think that will involve a lot of paper and paint and exploration and experimentation and stacks of things that will never see a frame.  
And I'm Ok with all that.   I can feel my Creative Wounds beginning to heal already.  
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