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Friday, May 05, 2006

Feature artist of the day:

Kathleen Kemly is a very talented illustrator in our critique group (and a *very* lovely and interesting person as well). She has been experimenting with using new mediums and using mediums in a different way, along with somewhat different subject matter. This recent painting is called "Jo's Reverie".


It's been so interesting, that as a group, we all started out very 'children's book' oriented (we did all meet through SCBWI), and most of us worked in watercolor. Through the years a number of us have branched out into different genres, mediums and approaches - from oils, pastels, sculpture, digital work or painting on silk, and from designing catalogs to painting botanicals, still lifes, portraits, undersea scenes, or figures from Celtic mythology...

An interesting point was raised in our meeting last night regarding focus. Our members are all female, and most of us have very BROAD interests and approaches to art. We enjoy so many things that it is difficult to pin ourselves down to really focus on one area or approach to art or illustration. It seems possible, as a general rule, that maybe men don't have this problem in quite the same way? (This is a big generalization, I know - but mostly applicable I think). Most of the male artists I know can really focus - almost with tunnel-vision intensity - and get really proficient and consistent with their work. Maybe it has nothing to do with gender - but it seems to follow that pattern in my limited experience...

Maybe it's more of a personal flaw, but I seem to get bored if I stay with one thing or approach for too long. I'll paint compulsively for awhile, and then I'll get the hankering to teach. Then I'll want to play with something more three-dimensional (be it fairy wings or jewelry or gardening). Then sketching and academic studies appeal. Then I'll want to collage or make books... I've tried to curtail myself over the years and just refuse to attempt yet another craft or medium - else I'd be spread so thinly that I'd never spend enough time to produce anything really finished. Yet, I love it all. A curse in having too many interests, perhaps? The generalization is that I have a compulsive need to *create* - just in varied ways...

Does anyone else have this problem, and if so, what have you done?

4 comments:

andrea said...

Oh yes! It's the female ability to multi-task wreaking havoc with our production consistency! You are right on when you say that men rarely have this problem. There is a blogging guy (BAM) who paints cartoon cats consistently in the same style and medium and never seems to stop! How does he do it I wonder?

I noticed that a fellow painter in my area has a different approach to art -- more collaborative, more community-based, less sales oriented than me -- and realised that she has a more 'female approach' to the art biz than me. I know galleries whose stable is 80% male, while people who 'make art' are two to one female. That might say more about the way women approach art than it does about any underlying sexist agendas.

Whoa -- I feel tempted to post about this...

PG said...

Yes. I used to have this 'problem', and had to be ruthless - instead of trying to dabble in all the lovely things I wanted to do, to the neglect of my illustration, I put all my other arty-crafty interests to bed for a few years - because I decided that I wanted to be the very best artist I possibly could, and I couldn't do that unless I knuckled down and kept at it - with no pretty distractions. I'm glad I did. Now I've been 'clean' for a few years and I find I can do other interesting things without it interfering with the illustration side. It was just a matter of deciding what was most important to me.

lorna said...

I know exactly what you are talking about! But I've come to realise that it isn't a bad thing. No-one wants to be one-dimensional. Society likes to pigeon hole us like that, to know what it's getting, but in actual fact we are far more interesting and diverse. We have our entire lives to be creative so variety is sure to spice it up and keep us going.

I say that passion is the soul behind every piece of work and experimentation keeps us moving forward and developing. Not a bad thing at all.

Jo Gershman said...

I think the answer is to discover your synthesis of artistic goal and openess to exploration, without being TOO distracted by the many, many tempting paths along the way.

Occasionally, an artist discovers a new medium that really redefines them and moves them onward--two people in our group, Kathleen being one, have done this. She started with watercolor only two(maybe less?) years ago and it has actually changed her style--we all sit in awe of what she has taught herself and her dedicated perseverance in a new medium, in order to follow her artistic goals. This has happened to two people in a group of eight, both with astounding results.

Every few years, I find the need to haul myself up ruthlessly, because I find that I spread too thin in too many directions. I have to decide what is really the most important thing to work on and let go of areas I might love, but that are not taking me in the direction that I feel I need to go. For example, I usually bang my head against the wall of children's trade book illustration for a few years and then I just have to step away. Two summers ago I agonized about two diffeent types of paintings, not sure which body of work to develop for a possible show and publishing. I ended up making the right choice, but it took a long time to work on the new pieces and I had to choose one direction, hoping that (as Tara told me) what made me feel best was the right choice. It's not always easy to recognize when I am at the point where this is necessary, and sometimes the choice can be really painful, but I think it is necessary if there is an overarching goal you are aiming towards.

On the other hand, how sad it would be to never be distracted by creative impulses, to not have a file of things, mentally or on paper, of all those projects we would like to pursue given the time and the money. Some people are confined to their goal by the need to make money, to make a name for themselves, etc. But hopefully even the narrower focus includes the desire to grow and nurture your creative abilities. Either way, it's hard work, isn't it?!!