Sherwood's response to my last post," I think that body of work has already begun, Margaret -- with this post itself! " was very perceptive. I've already begun to tease out how my interest in trees will evolve form my current work for Reading a Garden. When I start a new focus I have several things I consistently do to immerse myself in the exploration at hand. Some of these processes happen concurrently. How I work is definitely influenced by my past years as a teacher who believed strongly in the development of background knowledge to improve understanding. I know some of you will think this is all very obsessive, but it works well for me.
First, I brainstorm a huge bank of words connected to the topic. I never sensor any word that comes to mind. If it is remotely connected to the topic it goes on the list. Leaving my responses wide open encourages depth and breadth in my thinking. I continue to add to my brainstormed list for many weeks/months as I explore other areas related to the topic.
When I move into the second stage of preparation - wide reading on the topic- I can procrastinate forever. I never feel my understanding is deep enough. Right now I'm looking at the symbolism of trees/forests in art, history and literature. This is usually the stage where I convince myself I need to buy new reference material to expand my understanding. My self control over buying new books is improving. I now try the local library, second handbook stores, friends' collections and on-line used book stores. Every now and then I have a good reference before I start. We'll see how long I stay in this learning stage.
For anyone who has read my blog from the beginning, you know I use my photographs as a way to broaden my understanding of a topic I am interested in. Right now I'm culling all my photographs that reference trees in any way. Once these are placed together, I begin the process of sorting and resorting all the while keeping notes in my Trees journal. This is one of my favourite ways to find my way in my work. I don't know about you but I take photos intuitively. If it speaks to me I never question why. I just shoot and wait for it to become important. The sorting and resorting helps me see the themes I am interested in. I also follow several photography blogs. Looking at other artists' photographs provides me with fresh ideas. I look for ones I am attracted to and then record why. This is not about technique or composition, It's about what content draws me and why.
Concurrently, I begin to look at how other painters, sculptors, instillation artists have explored this topic in their work. I don't do this to copy other artists' work, rather I want to get a sense of where what I am interested in fits with what is being created by contemporary artists.
My focus on trees has really begun in my Reading a Garden series but I expect it to expand beyond this series. I've already created several works that I will re-post here. Several others are in various states of completion. I guess I've already begun to say quite a bit about the trees I came across during my two week stay on the Demesne.
Screen(2009) 24 x 10 in. mixed media on board
Entangled (2009) 24 x 10 in. mixed media on board
I began and ended with a photo of trees from Birr Castle Demense . What do they tell you?