Last week I spent an inordinate amount of time creating and art-making. I was able to photograph the process as the artwork progressed but I did not reflect on or talk about the process as it was happening. You observed the photos last post. Today is time for reflection!
When I’m making art, it is a very nonverbal process, which is why I knew it would be difficult to reflect on my choices or ideas last week. If you have read Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards she offers some brief insight into how our brains work as well as how to train them to observe the world accurately (if you wish to draw from observation). When I start really involving myself in a work I lose sense of time and place. I sometimes have trouble moving into a verbal space when I’m spoken to in the middle of working. It’s been ages since I have given myself interrupted time to work like that. And boy did it feel good!
As an art teacher, I always try to work around my students as they are always interested in what kind of art I make and my thought process. I have a really hard time making substantial works in front of them. Why? I have no concentration on my work. And I shouldn’t, I need to be able to jump in and help them with their projects as they need me, and they need to feel comfortable coming up to me and asking for advice and feedback. What I do sometimes is plan an entire work before I bring it to work and then develop the piece while I am at school. At this point it is only about execution, which helps my limited focus on my own art.
For the work I developed last weekend, there was a lot of planning involved. And it all didn’t happen in the order you think. I actually was developing some ideas prior to hearing about the competition, which guided my thoughts into something more coherent when I discovered the opportunity. For weeks I have been thinking about Islamic geometric design. It surrounds me in this city of sand. I even bought several books via Amazon of designs to help me understand the use of shape and space. I have also been taking photographs of this city since I moved here nearly 5 years ago. So there were many steps that led to this opportunity gelling into a final work.
Then, last minute, I heard about this competition sponsored by NBD and Tashkeel. It was in celebration of UAE National Day, the United Arab Emirates’ Independence day, which is 40 years this December 1st. The work theme was UAE Pride. While I was grading some papers it hit me, use my photographs and interest in geometric design to create a piece reflecting on my experience of the UAE. I came home and started measuring that very night. Two nights after work were filled with drawing out and measuring shapes, printing photographs, and planning layout. Weekend came and I was ready to fill in the work.
I began laying out the forms that would drive the artwork, also trying to mask the other unfinished painting I was covering! Once the general shapes of the geometric design were filled it I drew out the larger, main image of a series of dhows along Deira Creek with UAE flags waving proudly in the air. Once that was complete I painted it. As that was drying I began cutting out all of my photographs using a stencil I created, which was one of the geometric shapes of the artwork. They were then arranged with tape on the canvas surface like puzzle pieces, arranging each image to hopefully lead to the next and help the eye travel through the work. I then glued each one on and began final painting touch-ups of the dhows.
I then drove out to ACE Hardware and bought some acrylic polymer spray in the hopes it would create a thick, glossy coat over the whole work. Yes it has a varnish sheen now, but there is no thick coat as I hoped! With time limited I photographed the artwork (before I varnished it, as the sheen can affect color and lighting) and emailed the images off. The first round of judging was Tuesday Nov 22nd and the next is Thursday Nov 24th. (Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers!) The grand prize is 20,000 AED and a full one-year membership to Tashkeel, a very reputable gallery in Dubai. Regardless, the opportunity got me really working again in that focused way and it felt wonderful. And my consistent brainstorming and art-making before the opportunity made room for me to have an idea and jump in and commit to a competition last minute. Even if I don’t place, it was worth the whole experience. Now it’s time for me to finish the drawings I want to enter in another due at the end of the month! Time management, here I come.
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Do you work and plan similarly? Have you found your constant process of working and brainstorming has opened doors at the right place and at the right time?