Friday, January 1, 2010

Birth of a series

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

Hidden(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?


Poetic Artist said...

Wonderful post..We all have our way of getting to same place..Thank you for sharing yours.

Leslie Avon Miller said...

You understand your process Margaret, and it works well for you. Enjoy your trees and and wishing you a Fresh New Year.

Four Seasons in a Life said...

Dear Margaret,

Trees have had a connection with me since my early teens. Not so much because there is a connection with art as raising them from seeds our just twigs I stuck into the ground when I did not know any better.

I also like photographing them, tuning the images into duo-tones.

As you undertake your journey, I shall be following you along.

Warmest regards

Kathy said...

Your thoughtful and thorough process is reflected in your work! Love the paintings! And, I also like the photo of the willow tree :)

Blue Sky Dreaming said...

Your process works for you and it shows! Happy New Year!
Nice to see a willow in open ground...I live in a small space so it is a refreshing sight.

rivergardenstudio said...

ahhhh... trees. I love reading about your journey here, and how your teaching and learning go hand in hand. I find the roots especially beautiful. Happy new year to you, roxanne

Shayla said...

You have many great tools in your process. It reminds me of Twyla Tharpe's "The Creative Habit" put into action. As for the tree at the bottom, it speaks to me of Alice in Wonderland, fantasy type trees because of the way it's been trimmed. It looks like a tree umbrella. In one word: fun.

Sherwood Harrington said...

Another very thoughtful and instructive post, Margaret. And that's a lovely image of one of Birr's weeping beeches at the top!

While you're in the research phase (and are still thinking about the Demesne), I have something you might want to take a look at. There was a little red book in the Bothy that you may have seen, "The Red Tree Trail," in which Lord Rosse takes the reader on a verbal tour of 50 of his favourite trees on the grounds -- but it has no illustrations. From time to time while we were there, I took pictures of each of them (usually three pictures of each: one from a distance and then closeups of bark and leaves.)

You can see the collection by clicking here.

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.