Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Things Evolve

"Trees", watercolor, VClaff, 2012

I remember listening to an interview on public radio many moons ago wherein a 
writer was speaking about his process. I don't remember who he was. I have
thought about his words many times and wish I could hear the interview again. 
When asked about his daily routine, the writer said that he started his day with a 
cup of coffee and the newspaper. He would begin to think about getting to his 
writing desk, but instead would have another cup of coffee, and find something 
to do that would buy him more time. Eventually he would eat breakfast and then 
find something else that might prolong the journey to the desk. He admitted that 
getting to writing was a daily practice of slowly moving closer to it in a round about 
way. It sounded to me like a predator slowly circling his kill, waiting for the 
exact moment to strike. Eventually he got to his desk and began writing. When 
asked about the practice of writing, he said that writing is something that it easy 
for everyone, except if one is a writer, then it is extremely difficult. 

"Gray Mountain", watercolor, VClaff 2010

Last week I had the week off from teaching, and had the gift of many days in the 
studio. The words of the writer were with me as I circled around the studio the first 
morning, considering one possibility or another, before landing on a course of action 
for BEGINNING. Though I had been painting here and there over the last few weeks, 
this was the moment of deepening the exploration and inquiry, not just getting back 
to putting brush to paper. 


I opened a very old sketchbook that was only partially filled, tore out the old 
drawings, and began with spirals. It was a bit like journaling as I found myself 
scribbling words beside the spirals, a good way to begin. I liked that occasionally 
the spiral bled through to the next page. The words near the spiral below are:

Just to be clear, I don't know where I'm going. 

Eventually, after many pages of these, I pulled out my new stock of watercolor 
paper, ripped the sizes I wanted, taped them to boards, and began to paint landscapes. 
It was the moment to strike. After the first day, the bit about writing being hard 
for the writer was definitely where I was at - substitute painting being hard for the 
painter. I spent that evening worrying that my work had become too conventional, 
that my obsession with trees and mists and distant ridges was repetitive and that 
during that whole day I had produced nothing of value. 


Luckily, I've been at this long enough to know that I needed to get to the studio the 
following day and continue. After untaping the paintings from the day before, I 
began to see that possibly a few were OK. I continued for the remainder of the
week, and found myself in a blissful flow of work. Not that self-doubt is gone, no, 
it keeps me digging deeper into the possibilities of the materials and the image and 
taking risks to find something surprising. More than anything, I need to engage 
deeply in my process, with enough time and space that the rest of the world melts
away. In those moments my imagination takes me high into the hills with views across 
vast spaces to the mountains beyond. There is absolutely nothing I can do about 
my obsession with this. One can really only make one's own work, otherwise, its 
just pretending. 

"Ridges & Mists", watercolor, VClaff 2012

The paintings in this post were made last week. The top two 
are small, about 7x5 inches, the rest are larger, roughly 12 x 10 inches or so. 
Seeing them here, I think the color is somewhat off. I need to re-shoot them, 
but you get an idea. 

"Ridges & Mists", watercolor, VClaff 2012

"Distant Hills", watercolor, VClaff 2010


"Winter Hills & Sky", watercolor, VClaff, 2012

The new studio is simply a joy to work in. Beautiful light, warm, open space, I love it.
Even Pasha has found his place here. I leave you with images from the studio and 
from walks with Pasha this week and last. Things truly evolve, and it feels good to  
be having an intimate dialogue with my work again. Thoughtful listening and strings
of questions lead to new understanding  - and then there is dreaming... 














67 comments:

  1. It seems we are facing similar struggles with our work. But then, something happens like the spiral that bled onto the other page (I love that!) and it ignites the creative fire. Your new work is simply gorgeous! You're exactly where you need to be. It's so good to be able to trust the process.

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    1. Hi Ramona - seems lately my creative fire is burning hot, but I don't always have the TIME I need to indulge it. I was so very grateful for last week.

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  2. Thoughtful musings, wonderfully evocative watercolours and photos full of beautifully, natural elements......

    It's been a pleasure to visit and wander through the woods with you and Pasha.......

    Claire :}

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  3. Exquisite paintings,,, you say repeating - I say you love! :)

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    1. Is that a bit like - you say tomaahhhto, I say tomayto? ( Couldn't resist)... thanks for the enthusiasm!

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  4. Beautiful work, Valerianna. I have been circling for a while, unable to settle on anything, doing bits and pieces but nothing fulfilling. I am adrift too, as my studio has stopped being a refuge, and become a place that is too full of stuff (the results of clearing out the 'junk' room so littlest can have a room of her own), and I scuttle up there to retrieve a pen or paper or brushes, then scuttle down again and 'camp' on the dining table to work. Except it just ISN'T working. I need that space back, in more that in just a physical sense of a dedicated place to work.

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    1. This sounds very challenging, Christina! I hope you can find your dedicated studio space again- are there plans for that for you?

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  5. 'One can really only make one's own work, otherwise, its just pretending'.
    YES! I know that feeling of circling prior to finding the day's groove, and of questioning the value of what I have done at the end of the day, followed by the dancing around the room elation that flows from loving one's own work. Such beautiful images, V - thank you! -sus

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    1. Its all just a part of the process, but not easy....

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  6. Good for you for not just circling, but for following through... your paintings are so evocative. I am still circling and not getting anywhere at the moment. I loved how the images of your studio and outside go from snow to first green....

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    1. Its been soooo crazily warm here. Last year at this time we had about 3 feet of snow! Green and mud now - LOTS of mud...

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  7. Watching the process of a painterly mind is such an interesting journey. Thank you for sharing your thought processes with us. The studio looks like it is finding it's personality now and you and Pasha look far more at home. A really lovely post.

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  8. V. ~ I find your paintings deeply evocative, rich with mystery, yet still very much steeped in a sense of *place* (if that makes sense) and all of those places are beautiful. Love the photos as well ~ shape and texture and the delightful play of Spring light. Also glad to see Pasha has found his comfort zones in the new studio :~)

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    1. One day in the studio I was beginning to wish that Pasha would STAY OUT, cause he continually showed up at the door and peered in wanting to come in. Then didn't settle quickly. He was in and out all day... yikes, I thought, what HAVE I encouraged!!

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    2. I wonder if there's something about the change of seasons (even though it's more subtle this year) ~ Jules has been a bit restless as well. HMMMmmmm...

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  9. Sighhhhhhh ..... a feel good, inspiring post for me. Thinking of the artist/writer as "a predator slowly circling his kill". I am circling but it's taking weeks :-) It's time to pounce! Your work is like a meditation.... very calming. I always enjoy your dialogue and am pleased to see Pasha has settled in. Thank you for a beautiful post, Valerianna.

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    1. Hi Robyn, I do think things just take their time.. especially if we are juggling so much in life as we are now. I remember my days in graduate school with such fondness! My only job other than daily self and home-care and paying a few bills was to make art.. how delicious! I still can't make a full living from my art, that takes a lot of effort. Oh well, I do have moments of bliss like last week!

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  10. Yes! I love the image of the artist/writer circling and then going in for the "kill". The circling time is important - and finding the balance between letting things evolve before one hits the paper/canvas/clay and letting them evolve by interacting with our medium. I'm feeling more and more with the coming of Spring, the urge to do more artistic pouncing - I tend to get rather sluggish in the Winter, but maybe that's just been a prolonged circling phase. There was that wonderful "moveable feast" a few months back about the fallow periods every artist goes through - this is another beautiful metaphor to go with that.

    It also puts me in mind of Terri Windling's Nabokov quote on her blog yesterday:

    "Our imagination flies;
    we are its shadow
    on the earth."

    Your new paintings are hauntingly gorgeous.

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    1. Hi Lynn - Oh yes, that quote... will read that to my students. They are starting a project on "the shadow". I loved that moveable feast, we need another one!

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  11. VA- the world needs the obsession of the artists - it is what makes these artistic fragments special adding that little bit of perfect beauty that others of us cannot achieve. I beat metal and would never be able to create the delicate and subtle mists and sciences you do - be very boring if we all beat metal. Thank you fir circling but then accepting that one of your great gifts is to offer these delicate fragments. B

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    1. Thanks Barry - I love the idea that my paintings are "Delicate Fragments". Wow, I might need to steal that as a title for a show, what do you think? (I;d credit you somehow, also... but I DO think I like that! In graduate school I had a show called "Subtle Bodies"... a distant cousin to delicate fragments.

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  12. It is the same for potters too. Creating is more than just "going to work"

    Beautiful paintings.

    Good to see Pasha settled. Your new space is now Cat Approved!

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    1. I think it is true for anyone engaged in artistic inquiry, definitely more that just going to work.

      Yes, cat-stamp of approval. Possibly the catnip given to him when he came in helped!

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  13. Oh, that morning routine is too familiar! The other day I was listening to a radio show based on the autobiography of Kathleen Scott (widow of the more famous Captain Scott). It mentioned that when she was studying art in Paris she would wake up every morning at 6am, run to catch a steam boat, go for swim in the Seine, even if there was ice at the edges, then run to catch the boat again, and then over to her studio to start work by eight. I am full of admiration for that sort of morning.
    Anyway, it looks like you've been tremendously productive, and the photos of your walk are gorgeous too. Congratulations!

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    1. I've always wondered at the dedication of folks like Kathleen Scott, I'm more of a flow-wer ( when I wrote it the other way, well, I realized I'm definitely NOT a flower...) So, flow-wer and sometimes can get swept away by the tide. I DO get work done, but what if I was up at 5am and in the studio by 8am?

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  14. thank you so much for sharing those words by the author - you knew they would ring true... and they do... i feel a bit better about how i begin my day... i don't know why i fight this pattern, why i worry i am lazy... i guess i am measuring against those who head to work at 8 or 9...
    and your concerns about your love of spirals and landscapes feels familiar as well... why is it that the things we feel deeply about and love so much we worry about continuing our work on? you gave me courage to keep following something i feel that way about too... i think that being part of a new and fast society can create doubt for those who prefer to immerse, feel and study...
    your work is just beautiful... i am always in awe of the landscapes you create -

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    1. HI Maire - I do think that exploring someting in depth, down to its bones is really useful, and NOT shying away when it still has potency. I'm serious about dreaming, it really IS important for artists to engage in a different way with the sensual world... not at all a 9-5 kind of persuit!

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  15. Valerianna, I relate to every word you have written and the process involved in creating... so true.. I believe it spreads over all creative activities... it takes time to focus in and form ideas..
    Your photos are gorgeous and your Paintings are Beautiful.. I love aerial perspective, mist and mystery, where there is imagination left to the viewer to put some of his own words into.

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    1. I do aim to find that balance of mist and mystery - sometimes there's just TOO much detail and I don;'t like it, better when mystery takes over, I can still like those.

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  16. Something so peaceful and enchanting about the setting the work, Pasha that a slow process is the appropriate path for such work. It's meant to bring calm to the soul so it doesn't need to be rushed. A prayer is repeated many times and it varies by our intonations, breath and reflections so each image is also altered. The oak leaf is a jewel.

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    1. I do find myself slowing considerably when making this work. and I NEED to slow in order to make it... I become extremely mindful - strange pairing of words, but that's how it feels. Intensely present might be another.

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  17. Mists and spirals...perfect companions....takes me back to the time of King Arthur. I'm sure I must have lived then.
    Love the photos that follow too...especially the back legs of Pasha the cat!

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    1. I love those furry hind legs, he has simply gorgeous deep brown hind legs....his "bloomers" as they're called in long-haired cat lingo. Isn't that funny, bloomers? Did you know that?

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  18. nature's:
    designs
    shapes
    light
    lace
    circles
    shadows
    life and fading
    your lovely art
    a wonderful post
    ~

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    1. Lovely reflection, Tammy. And now that I have said, "reflection" I think of all your images of water and refelctions and stones underneath.

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  19. such beautiful work Valerianna & lovely to see the first paintings evolve from your new studio space...
    and re the circling, that's how I start each day here at 2am with two cups of coffee sipped gradually whilst catching up in cyberspace with my favourite artists from all around the world (you are one of them) then get down to the drawing board by around 3:33am, each drawing gets released with the dark Moon & the next one started the following day on the New Moon.... I go out and garden at about 9am for 4-5 hours to pay the rent and keep food on the table... the weekends allow for more studio time but also for seeing friends & art exhbitions. I need to draw for 4-5 hours a days so I can get this next series finished before the Old Man Crow turns 70 there is a finite amount of hours left to get all the dreams made in this lifetime!
    BTW my friends who have cut the ties with their day jobs to work full time as artists don't get that many more hours happening per day for their artwork as they need to write proposals for future shows, the blurbs for the next ones, take photogtraphs of the work in hand, buy materials & find time to get inspired as well!

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  20. Oh my... that IS a very early start. I'm not sure I would be much use at all in the studio at 2am!! Are you sure you're name shouldn't be Mo owl?

    I'm glad to be included in the list of your international favorite international... what an honor! I need to hear that today, a bit of a challenging one for some reason! (the day, that is)

    And, yes, I know about giving up the day job... and applications, show proposals and all that. Not doing a whole lot of that right now myself because I just have too much to juggle living how and where I do. I consider myself very lucky, actually, as I am only at school two days a week. Though the other days are filled with juggling the house chores, school prep, making art (on a good day I get to the studio).

    Oh and yes, so many dreams to accomplish in one lifetime!!
    Thanks again for the compliment, somedays I really need that!

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  21. hmmmmm it's so very cool and intoxicating to follow the journey of you towards the centre of your work . . . . seeing it as a place to strike and for me valerianna . . when i'm moving towards the rightness of that space i feel this need to leave little loving hand passes, eye glances, caresses of the brushes, touch the paper, you know . . . let the space narrow into the very precise path through the brush . . . and how we get there isn;t ahywhere near as amazing as that we get there at all!!! steven

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  22. How gorgeous and ethereal are your views...within and without there is the beauty of the 'scape pared down to what has meaning...
    I recall that same interview and appreciate the gentle reminder that we all must find our own way or it is indeed just pretend.

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    1. Do you remember whom it was with? I keep wanting to read his book, I think it was something about living simply....?

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  23. Beautiful watercolors and photos. Your words remind me of a book I read at the beginning of winter - 'The War of Art' by Steven Pressfield.
    Have a great weekend,
    ~ Zuzu

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  24. I'm so glad that you are ~ having an intimate dialogue with your work again ~ and that we get to see your wonderful new creations....those 'Delicate Fragments', as Barry so perfectly named them.

    Here's to dreaming, and circling ~

    a
    n
    d

    please tell King Pasha how much I admire his bloomers :~)

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    1. Helen - I DID tell king Pasha that you admire his bloomers.. I love them, too, and feel I must start taking pics of all his admirable bodily features, cause they are just too cute!

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  25. I can relate to your post and to the writer in question. I find it so much easier to have a commission and a deadline, restrictions can sometimes be made into inspirations by narrowing down the focus. When you work alone in your studio with total freedom it is quite a different story.

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    1. Seems my trouble of late is having far too many other things to work on other than painting. Once I get over the initial hump, I want to spend all my time in the studio... For the first time in a long time, I feel happy NOT to have a deadline or a show coming up - gives me the freedom to explore NEW territory and not have to bring even the tiniest bit of my art dealer into the studio with me. That gives me the freedom I crave right now!

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  26. How well I know this process of slowly moving closer, maybe this is a spiralling movement necessary to evoke the energy of creation :D

    About your obsession with stone-spirals and misty tree-hills-landscapes, I want to tell you what I see in this post : they are the same : the spirals show the landscapes seen from above or from below (root vision), the landscapes show the spirals seen from the side. I hope you understand :-)

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    1. I see it. I like seeing through your eyes.

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  27. I find myself just wanting to come visit you lovely bloggers from the north ... to see for myself the woods where you live... to see on the map and make it come alive from these pages!
    I find myself being pulled across the ocean Valeriannna!

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  28. I see Pasha is very happy with the studio Valeriana!

    You raise an interesting concept here of the writer who buys time before taking to his desk - "like a predator slowly circling his kill, waiting for the exact moment to strike".

    Wonderful watercolours and forest images as ever. What a gorgeous muse is Pasha.

    Jeanne
    x

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    1. The gorgeous muse is happy today. He sends you greetings of spring!

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  29. Great post, Lovely blog! I'm a new follower!
    Best,
    Anne ♥♥

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  30. your watercolor is like photograph, beautiful.

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    1. Strange that I have come from abstraction only to find my work becoming more like a photograph....

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  31. Love your watercolors. Wonderful. As always. Thanks for sharing. /Lisbeth

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    1. Hi Lisbeth, thanks. Look forward to carving out studio time the end of the week... time flies.

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  32. Your paintings are absolutely gorgeous. So evocative and moody. And you had such a productive week and such insight into your process! Congrats! Then, to top it all off you give us these wonderful photos of the underlying structure of things, all fibrous and strong, so different from the paintings, but obviously connected in a deep way. Thank you!

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    1. I love both - the misty atmosphere of the views here and then the small and delicate structures of things. They are both passions, though they might seem unrelated visually, microcosm/macrocosms... Good thing I had a productive artmaking week back then, cause I've been in web site and other work land since... I look forward to making art again!

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  33. the paintings are just FINE. JUST SO SO FINE.
    and to fall into them is the right movement and you
    surrendered.

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    1. Surrender is a good word for how I feel in relation to misty landscapes... surrendered to that obsession!

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I love reading your comments and sometimes I'm good at responding right away, sometimes not! Glad you had a wander here, I hope you found the mossy path soft on your feet and heard the call of the Raven.