Guest Post: Jenny Doh on Making Art
October 19, 2015
Hi there. I'm Jenny. Julie invited me to do a guest post on her blog so here I am! So for this post, I thought it would be great for us to have a heart-to-heart talk about Jesus and politics. Doesn't that sound super fun?
Just kidding. We won't be talking about any of that. :)
So for the last several years, among other things, I've been painting. The first year, it felt like I was slowly coming out of this shell as a baby painter, all wet with the birth placenta all over me, not knowing how to walk, talk, and survive. But I made it through that first year, learned many things, and moved onto the years after that. And here I still am ... painting almost every day, or doing other things that support my painting endeavors ... like sketching, sewing, reading, listening, observing, and really living a life where I allow everything I see and do to inform and influence what and how I paint.
I paint at home and at my art studio, which is officially called Studio Crescendoh, where I also teach painting and where Julie teaches as a visiting instructor every January. One of the most memorable things that Julie said during one of her art journaling classes is: "If you don't like wrinkles on your page, then do something about it!"
In the painting world, I feel the same way. If you don't like what's on your canvas, do something about it. Of course how one artist goes about doing something about it is different from what another artist would do ... which is the challenge and endless wonder of painting (and art-making). There is value I feel in studying methods and styles so that when I am alone with my canvas, I have a toolbox overflowing with ideas as I make my choices in how to maneuver my canvas to its next stage.
Regarding all of this, I want to address two specific things. First is the concept of being brave in art. The second is the matter of how to utilize things I learn from other artists in a respectful way ... respectful to the teacher and respectful to myself.
Not easy topics to discuss but WAY easier than the topics of Jesus and politics, right?
BRAVERY IN ART
I heard a podcast episode where they interviewed a woman who actually has missing in her brain, the part that causes her to feel fear. So whether a bear is walking toward her or a person points a gun at her she does not feel fear. Neither the bear nor the gun triggers things like rapid heartbeats, or screams or cries or the impulse to run. She just continues to do her thing with little regard to the gun or bear. Isn't that interesting?
I think that bravery or cowardice are things that we turn to when we feel fear. In terms of painting, if I am afraid that I will ruin my painting, I may get frozen and not be able to do anything more onto my canvas. That would be the cowardly response. The brave response may be to fight that fear and splatter on some paint even though I am terrified of ruining the canvas. I've had many situations where I've responded to the presence of fear in both ways ... either by doing nothing or forcing myself to do anything.
But as I find myself painting now in my 5th year, I find that fear is not as frequently present during the process. And when that happens, I don't need to be brave. I don't need to be cowardly. I am simply free. And free is where I do my best work. Without inhibitions and without any feeling of needing to censor any part of my experession. So when someone says "You are brave" in terms of my paintings, I usually say "No, actually, I am free."
When I take an art class from an artist or I study and observe art in a museum, I feel that I am inheriting that artist's point of view and methods. I feel that if I find myself mimicking an artist's style to really understand it, it's good form for me to acknowledge who I am mimicking. I think the phase of mimicking needs to eventually become one where I integrate the style/method into myself ... like adding that new artist's "ingredient" into my own art soup stock and have it meld into my stock to flavor it so that when another person tastes my stock, they can notice the flavor profiles of all who I put into my stock but that the overall profile is one that is uniquely me.
I've seen artists who stay in mimicking mode and it's apparent that there is no melding of flavor profiles going on ... simply a plopping down of the new ingredient into a soup bowl and claiming that as being their art. When I see this happen, it hurts my heart. It hurts because it's so disrespectful to the teacher who has worked so hard to develop her point of view that is now being slapped down into a different bowl without reference to the source, and also because the person who is doing this is making it that much harder for her true art and true flavor profile from ever being authentically developed.
Thanks for letting me share some of my thoughts with you here, on Julie's blog. As you continue on your journey as an artist, I hope that you find freedom as you create, and that the things you learn from awesome teachers like Julie become ingredients you first mimic and then earnestly integrate into your unique pot of art soup.
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