Friday, July 31, 2015

Freeing the Caged Bird

Earlier this month I wrote about my portfolio purge. That has been a good and welcome change for me and begun the process of freeing my mind for new work. The purge started as a result of reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.
The theory behind the book is not so much about what you discard but about what you keep. I hang on to the things that "spark joy". The portfolio purge led to a studio purge and the household purge is still going on!!! The unexpected result of reading through the book was deeply personal. As the studio purge took place, I got rid of all notes and even workshop handouts that were no longer useful. Some of them had been sitting in untouched binders for over 10 years. They represented where I had been in the past and not where I wanted to go. The experience of being in the workshop is what I want to remember. Countless pages into the recycle bin. I can hear the collective gasp all the way here in Canada!! As they hit the recycle bin, my mind started clearing. I felt a freedom that I had not experienced since before I entered the calligraphic world. My only art background is my floral training. When you train as a florist, you learn how to allow each flower to express its own beauty...and show its own face. No flower should be overshadowed by another.
That philosophy was not true in the calligraphic world I experienced. Some teachers believed that their style and influence should dominate over another. I didn't realize what an effect this had on me until very recently. As a teacher in the calligraphic world, I work hard to make sure that I never pass on this sentiment. My motto is that each student is the king or queen of their own studio and when they leave my workshop, they should be free to find their own expression with their own unique style. As I continue to purge my studio, home and life of the things I no longer need, the caged bird inside is finding freedom. I fully expect that my artwork will change. I am so excited about this. This beautiful necklace was given to me by my dear friend Barbara Calzolari.
She could have no idea the significance of such a gift at this time in my life. I wear it daily as I find new paths that spark joy and let new ideas take hold in my mind. My studio is starting to feel quite different when I sit down to work. Let's see what happens next. I expect the Victorian Muse to continue to make her appearance but lets see what else she can do.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Portfolio Purge

When I teach classes I carry a large leather binder full of my work to show my students.
Over the years, the leather has become warn and marked. But leather, no matter how old it gets seems to take on more character and warmth. The pages inside held a different view for me. I went through each page and carefully took out each page of artwork. Some of the pieces had broken free of their photo corners and needed to be put back into their places. Other pieces seemed to no longer have their place. As I flipped through the pages, I realized that there were certain pieces that were no longer a reflection of what I want to convey as an artist.My Spencerian of 2010 is very different than what it is today. Early pieces were my bird flourishes, done to imitate the work of the " Golden Age Penmen". I no longer pay homage to the past in quite the same way. I take their love of flourishing and try to bring my own style to it now.
It was an emotional cleaning up of the portfolio as well a physical clean up. I have a stack now of about 30 pieces that have been taken out of that portfolio. Each piece taught me lessons, each piece was part of my journey as an artist and every paper served its proper purpose. It was a blessing to go through that portfolio and remove pieces. Now I am left with a smaller portfolio but it is filled with originals that truly reflect where I am with my work. In the past, I have always filed a few representative pieces in a special folder that I keep to show my progress. My pen journey started in 2003 and the years of progress are fun to see in chronogical order. A few of these pieces may find their place in that file while the rest are recycled. I think they have served their purpose well and have taught me every lesson that they could possibly teach. As I closed the sorted out portfolio, I had a sense of freedom and optimism. Lots of room in their to create new work! Lots of room to see what changes I can bring to my work and welcome the next stage of seeing my work evolve. It was a good process for me to go through. The Enchanted Letter Portfolio is next on my list. While each Enchanted Letter in their represents my year long journey with my dear friend Dana Cochran so I will not remove and discard those images. But I will be creating a Book II of that alphabet which better reflects my understanding of drawn letterforms, gilding and miniature painting techniques.
So excited for the future and my next steps. It is always hard to let go of the past. But it is necessary to take the next steps as an artist. This was a healthy step for me.