As artists we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find our ‘style’. That elusive signature look and feel that we believe makes us unique. I’ve often found this a stifling task...like a fence being put around my creativity. An invisible wall keeping the fun and spontaneity in check. I’m not sure where this mental chastisement comes from; that anything ‘off-brand’ is not a representation of the artist I believe I am. I don’t remember ever being told to seek out a single look, or only pursue one focal point. Yet, somewhere while fluttering around in artistic circles, reading art books, sitting in art classes, or perusing art magazines and articles, there is most definitely a push to ‘do one thing well, and find your unique niche...then stay there’.
I am not young. I’ve lived with myself long enough to know what I like and what I don’t like, and why I enjoy being creative. It’s the constant exploration and experimentation that brings excitement, discovery, and the unexpected. I try things. All the things. There is no medium excluded from my repertoire. I’m game for anything; and what I’ve found is that once you can step outside the boundaries of a single discipline, then a whole new world opens up. A world of beautiful ‘what if’s’.
For example, I spent 10 years deep in the cracks of the fiber art world. I have my own flock of rare breed sheep. Over the years I have sheared them, scoured wool, carded it, dyed it, spun it into yarn, knitted it. Bought a loom and wove it. I created art yarns with every type of fiber imaginable, milkweed baste fibers, paper, cotton, silks...an endless variety. As a result, my studio is packed with stacks and stacks of materials meant for fiber artworks.
Then I started down the path of encaustic. Wax was new. Wax was fun. Wax didn’t behave the way other paints or mediums behave. And after working through the basics I started (as I always do) to wonder ‘what if’. And so it began. I started integrating my fiber tools into my encaustic pieces. And then grabbed things from my paper making supplies. Then hit the jackpot with my glass and lamp working materials. Particularly the different mica powders.
I recently watched a Master Class by Neil Gaimen on writing. In it he mentions the ‘writers compost heap’. An analogy that everything in life is potentially a story, so you need to grab everything you know, all of your experiences, all of your ideas and put them over in your ‘compost heap’ to let them cure turn into something useful, then you can go retrieve them and use them for your stories. This analogy is perfect for art as well, yet in a much more tangible material way. Your studio needs to collect things...lots and lots and lots of things. It needs to be a storeroom of ideas and experiments. The ingredients for creativity. You can not be spontaneous if you have a fantastic idea, but then need to sideline it because you have to go searching for the materials. Every room in my home is an exercise in minimalism (I hate dusting), but in contrast, my studio looks like I have a hoarding issue. I do..when it comes to art materials. All the bits and bobs and scraps and (dare I say) trash from the other parts of my life make their way into my studio. Because I just never know when I might need those weird rubber rings that came in that plumbing repair it, or that extra bit of aquarium gravel, or the cotton batting that came around as packing material in a box...all of it, every bit, gets considered and if there is even a small glimmer of potential then it goes up to my studio to be placed in the ‘compost heap’ that are my supplies waiting for the day when inspiration and experimentation hit.