Quite a while back I worked through Julia Cameron's great "The Artist's Way", in which she recommends a weekly "Artist Date" to get out of yourself and see/experience something different. I did these faithfully for a while, then unfaithfully, then stopped entirely. It's hard to take that kind of time, I find. Even just a few hours a week, saying "I am not going to work, I'm going to go refill my creative side" is tough.
But I took the week after Christmas off, figuring I was just feeling lackluster about everything because I was tired, and when I started writing again this week I am less tired but no less lackluster. And I don't like it. So I thought perhaps it was time to try the Artist Date again.
And, as it turns out, it was!
I went this afternoon to a gallery not too far from me. It was small, just one large room, but I stayed for about 90 minutes and feel all clean and refreshed.
The first half was all very modern art, interesting and unusual sketches like this one called "Study for Cathedral" by Sorel Etrog. But what caught my attention was the imperfections. I'm not sure this'll show up (all pictures come from my iPhone) but between the two halves of the cathedral there's a pencil line. There are others around the piece too. Part of me says "sloppy" and "slapdash", but I also hear "authentic" when I look at the work. Nothing's perfect, and yet these pieces are still worthy of being in a gallery. Perhaps aiming for perfection makes something NOT actually art?
I tend to be one of those uncultured types who can't get her head around really modern paintings like this one by Jack Bush called "Paris #5". The first picture is the whole thing and the second is a closeup, in which you can see that the painted segments overlap and bleed into each other. There are random brush strokes, areas that are devoid of color, and even a few brush bristles embedded in the paint. Looks like the kind of job I did when I painted the laundry room. And I don't see anything remotely reminiscent of Paris. (I guess the middle red part could be the Arc de Triomphe, but that's a stretch. :)
My immediate instinct was to pass on by rolling my mental eyes, but I decided to stick with it, figuring there had to be something to it. I don't actually know how long I stayed looking at it, or how many times I went back, because it started to take hold of me. I couldn't figure out which color went on first, and I began wondering whether there was significance in the overlapping edges and where they did not overlap. I must admit it's still not the kind of painting I'd put on my wall, but I think there's more going on here than I first thought and I'm still puzzling over it.
The other half of the exhibition was called "Dusk to Dawn" and was about various kinds of light in art. I fell immediately in love with an A.J. Casson painting called "Sunlit Isle". Isn't it gorgeous?
It lost some of its resonance in the photo, but I think you still get the feeling of stillness and the way that one area glows with sunlight. I could NOT leave this painting alone. I kept coming back, and even sat in front of it for a while. I feel like I want to go over to that other island and then look back at where I was and say, "Ah, I got here," but I also feel like once I got there I would be sad because the view wouldn't be as nice as the view I have now. I think it was being torn between those two feelings that kept me engrossed in the painting.
Will anything I saw today translate directly into a book? Quite likely not, although I can imagine there being a sun-dappled island as an excursion stop on my new book set on a cruise ship. But 'translating directly into a book' wasn't the point of the trip. I wanted to look at things differently, to get out of my house and my routine and almost step sideways out of time. And I did that in spades. Even if I'm still not sure what to make of "Paris #5".
I intend to do an Artist Date nearly every week (would love to do it weekly and I will aim for that but I'm not making myself a promise I may not keep) and I will report on them here for my own use as a scrapbook and maybe for yours too. I think we all have an artist inside - does yours want to go on a date? :)
Edited to add: When I tagged this post with "Artist's Way", I then looked at the last one I tagged thusly. 2008. Hmm. It's been a lot longer than I thought! (And I still use those tea towels and change them daily. :)