Posted on September 09 2019
It was a weird summer. I didn’t plan for it to be weird. On the contrary, my agenda was filled with handwritten notes on all the artwork and goals I hoped to accomplish throughout these sunny months. Unfortunately, none of that happened because at the beginning of the warmest time of the year, I had a critique.
One of my favorite artists whose work I had been following for years posted that she was looking for other artists to mentor. “What an incredible opportunity!” I thought. Reaching out over email, we planned a time to facetime and talk about my art. Although a little nervous, I was excited when the day came. She started off with mostly positive insights about my work, but then about halfway through, she dropped this bomb on me. She said my work was lifeless…sterile…and inert. And that the papercutting felt gimmicky.
Over the course of my schooling, I underwent hundreds of critiques. I thought of myself as thick-skinned. Yet this critique completely unraveled me. Maybe I was just out of practice, but I gave her words permission to dive deep into my creative spirit and make a home there. I had ideas on how to remedy her criticisms, but I began a lot of new pieces without the confidence to finish them. Feeling confused and muddled, I couldn’t find a clear direction to pursue, and my preexisting insecurities loomed over every idea and concept I attempted.
Just as this creative depression started to seep into other areas of my life, I started to receive some insights. During the conversation with the artist, I learned a lot about what motivated and inspired her art. Yet, the artist didn’t take much time to learn about what drives me and why I make the art I do. Unlike this artist, I find truth in exactness and order, which is one reason I’m drawn to precision and pattern in my art. Exactitude doesn’t sound like the most passionate of words, but for me that’s exactly what it depicts—passion. It takes a deep level of dedication and love to create something as precise as repeating patterns. When I look at art and architecture that utilizes pattern, I think of all the hands that must have gone numb creating those lines and shapes over and over again. It’s not a kind of passion that uses color or bold marks to make a statement. It’s subtle, but I still feel the intensity that comes from that level of craftsmanship. I’m not there with my art yet, but there’s a reason I constantly push myself in that direction.
When I think of my upbringing, this love for order makes sense. I was raised in a religious, structured, but peaceful home. I grew up with religious rituals full of rich meaning but that were also unchanging and identical every time. As I began my own family, I continued to crave order even amidst the chaos of parenting young children. It is where I find peace. In the art world, I often feel pressured to be a spontaneous, bold, chaotic, and even dark person. But I’m not. And despite the creative community’s insistence to the contrary, I don’t feel restricted or inhibited by it. I feel very much myself, and my art feels like me too. I think this artist who critiqued me secretly believed we should all be fascinated and motivated by what drives her both creatively and personally, but then we’d all be making the same kind of art. And how boring is that?
All of these insights were good for me, but what really took me out of my creative funk was a new art idea. I was sitting at my kitchen counter, watching my children play, when suddenly I saw an artwork clearly in my mind. Usually when I get an idea, I get the sense of the composition but none of the details. This art idea was different. It came to me in complete clarity, details attached. I raced to my sketchbook and jotted down a quick drawing.
Even though this new idea was in line with what I was creating before my critique, I felt more excited than I had in months. I ditched all of the exercises and experiments meant to make my art more dynamic and immediately started figuring out how to bring this new concept to life.
A new fire was lit under me coupled with a more profound understanding of why I create the art I do. It’s unfortunate it took my whole summer to get to this point, but I’m just glad I’m here. Stay tuned to see this idea and many more unfold over the next few months. I can’t wait to continue to share my journey with you!
While I was in my creative funk, I experimented with a few sketches, some of which actually turned out quite nice. I took some of my earlier photographs and drew patterns onto them. I was trying to figure out whether my art felt more alive with handrawn pattern versus handcut pattern. Even though I’m not pursuing this direction (for now), I still want these experiments to go to a new home. I’ve listed them on my online shop for $20-$50. If you’re interested in one, this is a chance to get one of my artworks for super cheap!