MY STUDIO PRACTICE – INSIGHTS & CONFUSIONS OF A WORKING ARTIST
This blog focuses on my studio practice. How I go about my art, what I use and the challenges I encounter. My initial aim is that it offers some insight into the life of a practicing artist and some useful tips for other creatives. In hindsight I think it may help me more that others. The self reflection about what you do can uncover some sloppy habits and manic moments. Maybe it’s my self therapy? As an artist we spend a lot of time in our heads. This blog will expose my thoughts, focus points and revelations. I can’t guarantee it will all be pretty or insightful, but I’m inviting you to join the ride anyway … strap yourself in for a seat on THE GINGERNUT EXPRESS!
Taking my art and Fragmatism® to New York with the ArtSHINE Licensing team was an exciting an informative venture. SURTEX® is the global B2B marketplace for sourcing original art and design. It’s where artists, art agents, licensing agencies and licensors connect with manufacturers, retailers and licensees to create the next best-selling products in every category imaginable. Artwork can be licensed on any number of products including home décor, furnishings, apparel, automotive accessories, beauty, bed and bath, fabric prints, floor coverings, juvenile, giftware and novelties, stationery, tabletop and wall treatments.
The show was held at the impressive Jacob K Javits Convention Centre in New York. It was timely that the National Stationery Show and the ICFF – High End Luxury Furniture Fair was on alongside Surtex. This gave me great scope to understand how the upcoming trends evolve. These styling trends were reinforced by some fabulous talks held throughout the show by some of the best experts in Surface Design.
It was a privilege to be among so many designers and creatives. I met many fabulous artists and professionals that were generous with their time and knowledge. Their input will help me be a more informed artist. I did get a few hits with my work too… watch this space for further developments.
Look out too for my Trend Spotting Report giving you the latest in colours, textures and influencers direct from the Surtex. It will be available from my website soon.
The Masters as my mentors … what Grant Wood taught me…
Grant Wood (1891 – 1942) was an American painter best known for his paintings depicting the rural American Midwest. You may not be familiar with his name but you definitely know his iconic artwork ‘American Gothic’. This is America’s ‘Mona Lisa’ and just like her, this image has been used on everything from tee shirts to adverts. The recent Grant Wood show at the Whitney Gallery in New York explained much more about the artist himself. It explained much about this thoughtful and sensitive artist. The tragedy of life cut short, an innovator who died too early, on the day before his fifty-first birthday from pancreatic cancer.
Use the resources available to you.
The figures you see in Grant Wood’s iconic painting are of his sister, Nan and the local dentist. The house is notable for its lone “gothic” window, a typical feature of the then-popular Carpenter Gothic style of architecture used in local homes, in which gothic elements are used in otherwise simple, modern wood structures.
Viewers will make their own interpretations.
Wood identified the pair as father and daughter, though the work was initially assumed to be a portrait of a husband and wife. “I simply invented some ‘American Gothic’ people to stand in front of a house of this type,” Wood later explained. From the painting’s debut onward, its meaning has been the subject of endless speculation. What has remained central is its seeming embodiment of something stereotypically American.
Be accessible. Take the commission and learn from it.
Wood exercised his creativity across a number of platforms including murals, decorative arts, furniture design and book illustration. He was criticised for not being a serious artist because of this. He didn’t believe that art should be for the select few, he commented that…
…‘if it wasn’t accessible, then it was lost.’
It appears that he wanted a creative life. Doing commissions, painting boys milking cows and farm sheds may not have been his favourite thing but it gave him the finances to keep his creative life happening.
Good work is always emotive.
Wood used his mother as the model for this portrait, highlighting what he called the “bleak, far-away, timeless” quality in her eyes that suggested to him the “severe but generous vision of the Midwest pioneer.” Taking his cue from the practice in Northern Renaissance art of depicting portrait subjects against a landscape background with symbolic objects, Wood presented this half-length figure holding a sansevieria plant, known for its ability to survive under the most inhospitable growing conditions, in front of a backdrop of rolling Iowa hills.
Make the most of the time you have. Be true to your vision.
By 1935, Grant Wood began to streamline his landscape style, replacing the ornamental frills and mannerisms of his earlier work with broad, reductive shapes. He retained this stylistic simplification as he shifted to more patriotic subject matter in response to his worry that America had lost its will to defend itself as the war continued. He turned his attention to depicting what he called the “simple, everyday things that make life significant to the average person” in order to awaken the country to what it stood to lose. He used distorted perspective and cinematic light to create these surreal scenes.
Why is he still relevant?
While his work poses images of a ‘Truman Show’ sensibility, perhaps it has taken us time to understand the maturity of his intentions. In retrospect much his work now shows signs of a deeper undercurrent. That not all is what it seems on the surface. Images of distilled emotions sit in the disquiet of a quant American life. Wood experienced the challenge of suppressed emotions as a closet homosexual. This underlying sadness, of towing the line, of hiding the truths, is present throughout his work. In our current political climate I can’t help thinking that these homely images have almost been turned into a reminder that what we show to the world is often very different to what we really feel. Wood’s images show that our memories are always a distortion of the truth, and that our need to surround ourselves with positive and friendly images is a blanket for safety in a world that doesn’t feel so safe anymore.
My inhouse art critic, Sketch >••< has been under house arrest lately so his commentary is a silent one this month. A bandaged foot after a bad fall (yes, I know, real cats are meant to land on their feet), means he was confined to the indoors. He had to resort to chatting with the other super heroes in the house and catching up on his art history knowledge. All that while doing a great job of keeping storage box lids on!
To those lovely folks who have heard me bang on about some of these topics before I send my apologies. It is sure to happen again as I bang on a lot.
The Gingernut Express is a monthly blog, written and produced by Visual Artist and Arts Educator, Kristine Ballard on www.kristineballard.com
© Kristine Ballard 2018