Charmaine Boggs is an artist and arts educator living near Dayton, Ohio. This is her third installment in a 4-part series as one of Artist Strong’s Artists in Residence. You can follow her artistic adventures, and occasional side trips, on Instagram @cboggsart

It’s now Week 3 of my time here with Artist Strong…that time when things get messy before they get sorted out. In my first post, I spoke about sharing the “messy middle”, that part of a creative journey when nothing seems to be working out as planned. Welcome to my messy middle!

Since I started planning this project over six months ago, I was pretty certain that by now I’d have at least one completely finished collage to share with you. I should have known better! Right now, I have a few partially finished backgrounds and a head full of incomplete ideas!

Sorting through over one hundred old photos, many without identifying information on the back, is only one small part of the project. Since I want to use them for cyanotype prints, the photos need to work within the limits of that process. Or at least the limits of my present level of skill with the cyanotype process!

And of course, I don’t want to just slap some photos on a background and call it a day. There are stories to be told though a combination of cyanotype photos, illustrations, and text. All of this takes planning. So I spent the better part of this week in planning mode.

I remembered that I had a lovely handmade journal that I bought several years ago at an art show. You know, one of those journals that we want to “save for something special.” Time to bring this one out of hiding because this project is that “something special.”

Instead of making full size negatives and prints that may or may not look the way I hoped they would, I’ve decided to make small versions of the photographs I might like to use. Sort of like the thumbnail sketches before starting on a larger drawing, painting, or sculpture. I’m organizing them in the journal, leaving room on each page for notes to go along with the photos…ideas for quotes, illustrations, and decorative elements that could be a part of that person’s story.

As I have been putting these pages together, I’m finding connections that I hope will bring this project to life as art, something more than a family photo album. My paternal grandfather, like so many of his generation, came to the United States as a young immigrant from Poland and later became a citizen. There are the strong women and the bonds that link these women, mothers and daughters, grandmothers and great- grandmothers, female aunts and cousins.

There is also fashion, especially wedding fashion through the years! And a few as yet unidentified aunts, like Anna and Viola, who look like “girls who wanna have fun”…at least for awhile. In her wedding photo, Aunt Anna looks a bit more serious!

Bringing it all together are three words that are forever linked to my father and his values: faith, family, friends. I’ve used them in classroom projects when I was teaching, have them displayed in my home, and spoke them at my father’s funeral. I’m sure these words will find their way into my art.

Maybe by next week, I’ll actually have that one completed piece ready to share…and if not, at least a little bit of progress toward the end of the “messy middle.” See you next week!

Every month, 1-3 artists show up in our Artist Strong community to share their artistic process, journey, explorations with us over the course of a month.

The goal is to normalize the MANY, VARIED experiences of being an artist.

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