Saturday, March 13, 2010

Unbinding the sketchbook, stirring the imaginal cauldron and creaking sounds in the near dawn....

- iced mountain laurel-

- line doodles in the imaginal soup pot -

A wet, rainy day here at RavenWood. The hemlock branches are dipped low with the weight of rain and a light coating of ice. Snow still hugs the house in mountainous heaps where it fell off the metal roof in thundering avalanches that caused both me and Pasha cat to jump out of sleep at night. One early morning, after a week of constant snow storms and over two feet of snow, I awoke to an unfamiliar sound overhead. Above my bed, in the near dawn, a creaking, cracking sound brought me out of dreaming to listen. Pasha heard it too, and put on his ready to run look. I surmised that it was the rooftop snowdrift, heavy from overnight drizzle, ready to slide. In an instant the moaning creak intensified and, with a swoosh, the avalanche began sending sheets of snow off the roof and Pasha to his downstairs hiding place, rugs askew in his wake. Out the far window, I looked through a waterfall-like cascade of tumbling white. I pulled my blanket around me and tucked back in for another hour of winter dreaming, grateful for the cozy comfort of wood stoves and flannel sheets.

Yesterday I started working with a new art student. I shared with her my concept of stirring the cauldron... the imagination cauldron to be specific. I remember a teacher of mine used to always say - when in doubt, draw. Stirring the imagination cauldron is just that. Though it doesn't necessarily mean that drawing is always the medium. I recommend having a practice, much like mediation, that is specifically for generating ideas. Sketchbooks are a good thing, but for me, the next step in getting out of the sketchbook to make a LOT of small images in whatever medium calls to me. Push the medium, play with the boundaries of what is possible with each. Its a kind of wax on wax off process.... a reference to the "Kirate Kid" movie where the master has the student do a lot of what seems like random exercises but are, in the end, crucial steps for the student to embody the movements and KNOW them intuitively. My students get a lot of "wax on wax off" kind of exercises with a lot of pleas from me to "trust me!". Do ten small paintings exploring an image and medium, do twenty small images on a bunch of surfaces you've never worked on before, do thirty images with a bunch of different mediums. I have found that some of what I learn about a medium may not come into my work for years after the experiments, but, consistently they do seem to find their way in. It works for imagery as well.

Right now I am doing a bunch of small drawings with metallic gel pens on black paper. Its completely removed from the work I am doing in the studio, but is satisfying and a direct, unfiltered source to the well of imagination within me. It allows me to play with generating a lot of ideas - in this case geometric pattern- without needing to commit to it. So, yes, its a process much like a sketchbook, but unbound. That's it for me.... the unbound nature of this means that not only am I allowing a free-flow of imagery, but also of materials. I am not "bound" to the paper in the sketchbook, but can choose, paper, wood, cardboard, fabric, whatever I want as my surface and anything as a medium, and in any scale. Will these patterns come into my paintings or become a series of drawings? I don't know, but I am putting them in the cauldron with the rest of the imaginal soup. They may settle to the bottom only to be stirred up in many years to come, or they might bubble up and demand attention right away. I keep stirring and adding a few new ideas to the pot until something bubbles over and becomes an ingredient in my visual stews....

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