Monday, March 26, 2018

On the Wall: Self-Expression and Play and Vulnerability

Although I've not been so inclined to put words together here recently, I've been immensely gratified to your response when I do -- as for last Monday's post on finding a cup of tea in a Portland hotel.

Part of the reason I've been less inclined to write blog posts, I think, is that I'm already at the keyboard enough for my long-form project (a creative non-fiction piece, a memoir of sorts). Increasingly, I'm wanting to take other writing away from the laptop; I'm enjoying writing by hand, with my fountain pen, in my various journals, sometimes sketching an illustration.

The exploration or play or dabbling in the field of visual arts -- through watercolour or sketching or photography or -- as here -- through collage -- is so far outside what I have considered my wheelhouse of competencies as to raise vulnerabilities. But somehow I keep being drawn to expressing something about myself through these visual media. Showing, perhaps, without the burden of telling? Or without the ability yet? Perhaps I don't know yet, what I want to tell, but hope to see it myself through process or product of playing with images? Or maybe I just want to play. . .

The collage above, for example, was such a new process for me, arriving in response to that photo I showed you several weeks ago of a wall in Tivoli and the little sketch/abstract I'd made in homage to it. I had an idea at the time that I wasn't done with interpreting that photo, but I wasn't thinking I'd turn to scissors and glue.

They snuck up on me, though. I found myself cutting "bricks" out of corrugated cardboard, then looking for paper in brick-like colours. I'd saved some of the very attractive cards that UBC's Museum of Anthropology sends its members to advise of upcoming exhibitions, and the card announcing a showing of First Nations textiles from this area struck me as particularly relevant. Gorgeous woven patterns made of textiles of this place, dyed with indigenous materials -- the exhibition was titled The Fabric of Our Land, and I couldn't help but think of those bricks in that wall, the fibres in those weavings, as being connected in the way they came from their respective land and the way they were made by hand. Then the connection through language, that  here in this land, we're using a word --"Fabric" -- that developed in that land. The colonial connections. The walls that protect but separate, the blankets that shelter and honour.

All of that, and I just kept snipping and gluing and humming and thinking and writing. My fountain-pen ink smudged, can you see? Sadly, it's not waterproof, but I think I like its vulnerability, which might express mine. And its emphasis on process. Because that was so much fun for me, so completely engaging and surprisingly energizing. The two or three hours I spent putting that collage together simply flowed.

Don't think I'm deluded that I've created a beautiful piece of art. I do think that if I pulled that page away from the coils of the sketchbook, I could probably frame it in a shadow-box sort of frame such that it would look "interesting." I won't be doing that. We have enough hanging on the walls here already, and I know exactly how amateur my collage is. My Mean Inner Critic is alive and well and loud and quite discerning.

But nonetheless, I'm very pleased with my little collage, and I'm curious to see where my scissors and glue and paints and pens pull me next. Because I don't think I'm done, yet, with that wall in Italy and its connection to my life back here.


Then last week in Portland, I found this glorious yellow wall (you can see more photos of it on Instagram.

And on Saturday, I took a day-long WaterColour workshop on "Demystifying Colour" and chatted a bit with the teacher about ways I might interpret/abstract this wall. Plus I've signed up for another watercolour class, one morning a week for six weeks, where I hope to learn a few more skills, have fun playing, and perhaps even meet a new friend or two.

Meanwhile, I hope that you, my blog friends, might enjoy my occasional forays into a field of play. Some of you might even plug in your electric kettles to make a cup of tea when reading; some of you don't own an electric kettle; at least one of you hadn't even known of electric kettles until last week's conversation here. All of you are ever so welcome, and I thank you for your presence and await your comments. Happy Monday! What might you be playing at this week? (And if you have no time for play, I hope you'll forgive my prattling about this privileged play I'm indulging in -- retirement is good!)




29 comments:

  1. I'm so glad to hear you are enrolled in that watercolour class! You'll learn so much and such fun to make an expedition to VanDusen every week!

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    1. I miss your classes very much, but I think the ones at VanDusen will be good for me. . . ;-)

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  2. Water colour classes are on my 'to do' list but I haven’t got there yet. Hopefully soon. Meanwhile I read your posts on experimenting with interest. Photography has always been my main artistic area but I can see the possibility of collage within photography and possibly a little water colour too. Maybe it’s time I had a go. Good luck with the classes. B x

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    1. Oh, I think that collage with photography and water colour has infinite possibilities, and you've obviously got a good eye and many transferable skills from your needlework.

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  3. For the last couple of years my play has been pottery classes - I haven’t the time or the money at the moment, but I’m itching to get back there and throw some clay around. My pots are lumpy and inelegant but there is something so wonderful about making them ... I seem to recall we both read the Elizabeth GIlbert book on creativity a while back and were both underwhelmed - I reread it the other day and got much more out of it. I suspect I was in a more ambitious mind frame the first time I read it.

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    1. One of my daughters is taking a pottery class right now and loving it -- she invited me to take it with her, but I didn't feel ready to take on another activity. Interesting what you say about the Gilbert book -- you might be right, and it probably didn't help that I had it out from the library at a time too busy for sitting with it. I'll have a peek in again, thanks.

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  4. As I continue retirement paper work (harder than getting hired in the first place!) I wonder if I will tend toward the visual. Words have always been my forte, and I do have a writing project in the works that will require a good deal of research and work. It would be fun to have something like yours.

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    1. I so disliked all that kind of paperwork, and the decision-making involved. I think there's something very freeing in the visual for those of us whose strength has seemed to be verbal. The expectations are more relaxed, for one thing, but I think there's something else going on that eventually, inevitably, gets transferred back into the writing. Different neural pathways? I don't know, but it's good for me at the moment.. .and might be for you as well...

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  5. Dear Mater, I was looking at the picture of the collage prior to reading your post and was quite taken by the arrangements of the cutouts and the interspersing of the earth tone colors. The old Tivoli wall in Italy and its similarity to the Indigenous art in your corner of the world makes me think deeply about your words "Travel to bring us home". No truer words than what's on your collage. That wall in Portland is beautiful, seeing it thru the lens of your camera. When the Great Spirit in the Sky, Mother Nature or whichever Gods handed out artistic talents, the Artistic bucket was empty when it was my turn. So it's an exciting feeling for me when I think I get a drift of what the artist or a piece of art is trying to convey (or maybe I'm just fooling myself). Funny thing is my mother and most of my siblings are artistic and creative. A brother who is a very good painter once told me I was adopted. LOL. Well, now I'm rambling on...I better saying thank your for sharing your creative talents and writings. I enjoy your words very much! BTW you never know what will make a long time lurker comes out of hiding and leave a comment. Your "Tea" post from Portland did it for me. I love a good cup of tea. :)
    ~AM

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    1. Mater, I want to come clean after whining about not having any artistic talents. In high school art classes, I found that I was good in woodblocking. My art teacher asked me to submit one of my woodblock prints as an elective for the School Certificate. I scored a 93 not perfect but pretty good. The School C is the equivalent of the ACT or SAT here in America. After reading Ali's comment, it hits home. Although I take an artistic liberty with home and garden, I should take a woodblock class again. See if I can go through an entire course without cutting one of my hands with a chisel or a knife. :) Sorry for hijacking your comment section. Promise not to ever do it again!

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    2. oh lordy, i thought it was a mug of tea i was drinking but apparently not or so it seems from my comments above. mater, will you please delete my silly comments. they are factual but not applicable to your post. too bad i can't blame a full moon. thank you and kind regards.

      ~am

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    3. am: if you would truly like to delete what you've written, ask me again, and I'll do that for you. But let me tell you that I was so pleased to read both comments when I first saw them, and my first instinct was to applaud and to assure you there was no need to apologize for any "hijacking." The kind of realization you come to here, about the way you learned to see your own creativity and artistic abilities -- despite obviously having them in spades as manifest by your woodblock prints -- echoes my own five-decades-long labelling of myself as "not artistic." I hope that you continue to join in the conversations here now that our virtual cup of tea together has got you chatting. . . (and please know that I often freeze up the same way after seeing my words go out in a post, and I wonder what I was thinking to publish them -- it's vulnerable-making. Also, I will repeat that if you truly want your words deleted, I can do that, but I hope you'll let them stay)

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    4. Mater, my feelings and the words expressed regarding your post is still true today as they were yesterday. Being mortified was what I felt, after re-reading those unnecessary bits inserted about myself in the comments. A faux pas I aimed not to repeat. So please will you let my comments stand, for what I wrote about your art and writing genuinely came from the heart. Thank you for your gentle reply to what you've rightly intuited as a lack of self confidence. Writing and expressing myself well in English is tantamount to carrying around that proverbial sign "kick me".
      The internet at its best is a beautiful place to learn and fill up on others sharing and generosity, at its worst is the least likely place to show any vulnerability. Sometimes to feel the pulse of life and be alive, we put on that second layer of skin, with hopes it covers most of the warts and imperfections take a deep breath and dive into the deep. Those moments are always refreshing and unforgettable. Thank you Mater for the strong, smart and wise woman that you are. And the same regards to all your readers in this blog. Sincerely.
      ~AM

      PS: will you kindly deleted the duplicate reply at the very bottom after Dottoressa's comment. Again oh lordy...:) thank you.

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    5. I'm so pleased you decided to let your comment stay here -- it's an important and courageous demonstration of letting go of those vulnerabilities that can hold us back from new experiences. I think you'll find this is mostly a safe space for sharing. (and the duplicate comment has been deleted below ;-)

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  6. I love collages, and anything done with mixed media. I admire so much your moving in different creative directions, Frances. I remember encouraging students to play with "found poetry" and making my own definition for that term, involving pulling everything and anything together to make meaning. Funny, I've always been much more creative in asking students to push boundaries than in pushing my own. Even though I think I'm sneaking up on being ready to push some of mine. Maybe. Perhaps. :)

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    1. Isn't that so true?! We can think of the creative approaches for our students to take, but it's tougher to let ourselves just play, go random, make mistakes. Carry on with that sneaking up -- go on, you'll have fun! No perhaps about it! ;-)

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  7. What you are getting out of art, I got out of photography and collages etc. when my blog focused on style. I think playing with the purely visual is a really wonderful complement to the wordage we're involved in.

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    1. I see that! It's true, although I never did the Style photography nor the flat-lay or Polyvore-type collages you did. But from the moment I started blogging, I've loved putting together words and pictures. Something about blogging itself has slowly brought me to this appreciation of the visual. . . interesting....

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  8. When you lived in your island home, your creativity was visible in the garden. Even picking up random pieces of driftwood and placing them is creative. I believe each of us has to be able to create in some way. It is encoded in our DNA. I love watching new resident of our island discover their latent artistic ability....and being totally surprised that they can do this or that. It allowing ourselves to play and getting out of our heads.
    Or something like that.....
    Ali

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    1. Ali, this is a really interesting insight, and it really resonates. It's very true that my island home allowed me to express creativity without being particularly conscious I was doing that. So now to continue finding ways to let me city home do that in a different way....

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  9. Some disjointed responses: I am really enjoying seeing 'le regard' that you bring to the world.
    Do you think you are more playful in your creativity now that you have grandchildren? I don't mean childish, but giving yourself permission not to be constrained by learned structures such as the written word. 'Ludique' is the French word that springs to mind.
    Showing rather than telling is the attraction for me of blogging over Instagram at the moment.

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    1. Good question.
      I think I may always have been playful enough, but never had confidence that I had the skills. And I was fortunate enough to take a class (given by a close friend) that showed me I could acquire enough skill to get started and enjoy the process.
      Do you mean that showing rather than telling is why you prefer Instagram over blogging? If so, I'm very close to agreeing, except that just when I think I'd rather just do IG, I find I want more words. In the end, I still really love the words. . . ;-) (ludique/ludic being a good example. . .

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    2. Those who have never heard of electric kettles...! Reminds me of my immigration to Canada 47 years ago. mater, I admired your collage, then read the post. Please tell your Mean Inner Critic to take a long hike. I wonder if a man would describe his work as "my little collage" and "privileged play". IME they are far less likely to do so.

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    3. Thank you, K -- I will channel you next time I'm hearing my MIC. I probably need to take some responsibility, and step up my feminist language, get rid of those adjectives. . .

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  10. Lovely and interesting!
    I think that there is more joy and love in the journey( and not necessary the destination):playing,learning,seeking,exploring inspiration and creativity....
    Linda's question is a good one indeed -I agree with her (although in my case it was the child :-))
    Dottoressa
    Dottoressa

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    1. Yes, we are better off, I think, if we can enjoy the journey as much as the destination . . .

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  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  12. Yes, of course I meant preferring Instagram to blogging. Breakfast-time blog commenting doesn't always mean the ageing brain is wakened up!

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we?

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