Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mysteries at the Forest Edge

 "Trees & Mystery"

Sketchbook study 

I knew that something a little different was stirring in the imaginal cauldron,  
so no matter how successful working on the large scale watercolors was, it 
wasn't satisfying to me. The need for a new format, a different approach
and images with a different story to tell was too powerful to ignore. But this 
also meant a frustrating, searching, not fun moment when everything came 
into question. Am I really any GOOD at this, I asked? Can I infuse my work with 
new ideas, but maintain my authenticity? What next? The only way through this 
is to keep working, exploring, making horrible work, or at least, work that doesn't 
feel right. To everyone else, the work looks absolutely fine, good, like I know
what I'm doing, but I KNOW. Its more like a recycling of ideas than a process 
that will keep me endlessly engaged, excited, inspired.

crop of above study

The key to breaking through to something new is discipline. I remember a professor 
of mine in graduate school saying that the percentage of art majors who continue 
making art long after graduating is very low. Engaging in the creative process can be incredibly rich and endlessly challenging. With no teachers around but the work itself, artists must create their own parameters and take risks in order to grow. 


 above and below - small studies


It seems as though my soul demands deeper and deeper excavation in search 
of meaningful stories to tell, and of late, the stories needed a deeper sense of
mystery and drama. I kept showing up the studio, making work that I found only 
partly satisfying until one day, there was a confluence of ideas and materials 
and a new series of work came into being. 

I began with a series of small studies in my sketchbook, combining some ideas 
I had worked with in some older ink drawings combining more dramatic bleeding,
atmospheric washes, and a long thin horizontal format. 


At the end of the day, I had a few larger watercolors that I feel are getting to 
something I need to say right now. Especially the top image on this post. 
Tomorrow - and all week as its Spring Break - I will be continuing with this work 
to see where it takes me. The most important thing is that I feel newly engaged. 


 "Forest Edge, 2", V Claff 2013

 "Forest Edge", Vclaff 2013

The pin board was filling up with large-scale watercolors, but, alas, they will come
down tomorrow to hang the new work. 


Out and about, there is still a boatload of snow, we have been getting regular
small storms, but there is also a warming trend and the frozen world is beginning 
to flow. 


Some days the world looks much like my winter branch drawings. 





Lucky mornings bring my owl neighbor to her 
perch where we meet eye to eye. 




 I continue to find the camera a very useful tool to 
see my subject with new eyes. 


... and the editing tool helps me to play with new ideas 
in the format of the new paintings. 






Pasha loves days when we head to the studio, he leads the
way with enthusiasm, stepping precisely in his earlier footprints. 




71 comments:

Kimberly Wachtel said...

I'm so loving your new work! So fresh and still so you. The images are so deep, dark and mysterious. Last week when driving down the hill to the Creamery I kept seeing the sky as your watercolors. It was cool...I felt like I was driving into your paintings. Pasha paw tracks are sweet here. Take care! xo

the wild magnolia said...

unbelievably fabulous post. interesting, compelling to return for the solving of the mystery. your bold watercolor washes created life in the forest, more is there than currently meets the eye.

Pasha has a secure personality. he is somebody.

great photos!

thank you for sharing. ((hugs and sweet words to Pasha))

Hindustanka said...

Valerianna, I likes those sketches a lot.. they feel real and almost alive. You've done a very nice shading of light.
I've been a fan of Pasha always! Its too cute how he walks on the snow..
Have a wonderful creative week ahead!
Anna

susan christensen said...

V - your new discoveries are obviously full of fresh new enthusiasm. thank you for sharing your recent challenges, which closely mirror my own experiences of late. discipline, indeed, is the way through - the work alone will take one to the next destination. greetings to that lovely Pasha boy. xxoo, sus

Lynn said...

Gorgeous post, Valerianna!
Your new work is stunning. It's wonderful how you've described the creative process. So true! There is so much time and energy spent working and experimenting and trying things out while remaining true to our own inner artistic voice. When things start to come together, it's the most exhilarating feeling.

Love the owl and the pussycat photos, too.

Gwen Buchanan said...

Loving seeing the evolution of your work. Process is the best part and most exciting. Beautiful. happy days.

Starr White said...

LOVE this post, Valerianna. I feel that I am on the same kind of journey. Searching for something, but don't know exactly what. I will recognize it when it shows up. These paintings are fantastic. And, I can't help but notice that they seem to reflect your feelings about your art at the moment. When I look at them, I feel as if I'm waiting for something to emerge out of the forest - waiting for the mists to clear and reveal what is waiting within. Just wonderful!!!!

Starr White said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Annie said...

Hello, I am new here, I have seen you around the blogs, but finally took the time to visit. I love these paintings. I can relate so much to this post. I have been working towards a new body of work for over a year, and I have finally found my way. It feels so exciting. Happy painting.

Julie Whitmore Pottery said...

What a magnificent place you live, your owl friend is a beauty. Your new work is so compelling, mysterious.
I would love to walk in those woods
xx
julie

Kathleen said...

Hi, I've been quietly lurking around the edges of your blog for awhile, but these new paintings are so beautiful I had to write and say so. Your words about "showing up" and doing the work are resonated powerfully. Good timing for me. Thanks for the inspiration.

saskia said...

I popped in this morning before I went to work and felt so uplifted by this post; I didn't have time to make a proper comment so back I came for more, and it's even better the second time.
Valerianna, your paintings are EXACTLY like it is here when the trees stand naked against the grey skies full of snow or so moist you can almost touch the air and you feel as though you're walking in a world cut off from the 'outside'
I love walking with T. on days or evenings like that, the calm and stillness of it all, you've really captured that. I also love the stretched nature of the format. And Yes to discipline, there's no way around that!

Sharmon Davidson said...

You've done a wonderful job of describing the process of working your way into a new series (which is almost as difficult as actually doing it). As one who has tried and failed, I know it's also quite challenging to capture the look of the trees in the mist, which you have done beautifully! I can't wait to see more!

Trish said...

I love, love, love these paintings Valerianna. They are deep and searching, dark and beautiful. Love your owl friend.
Much love to you.

Caterina Giglio said...

somedays, i feel like just showing up in the studio is an act of art... so good that you worked thru it and now feel a renewed sense of engagement, i can relate to that... where it is all taking me, i truly don't know... x

Windsongs and Wordhoards said...

Valerianna I love this new work SO much! Its evocative and steeped with atmosphere, ebb and flow of elements seen and unseen... both earthly and unearthly...
It is fascinating to see the creative process the work moves through and all its evolutions, and I enjoy the way you describe the process too.
Beautiful, beautiful work that really moves me :)

Michael said...

These look dark and wonderful. I love the lighted fog look. It's very dark and spooky. I hope you find new inspiration and vigor your art.

india flint said...

beautiful. all of it. and Pasha is gorgeous.

loving those small watercolour slices and imagining an exquisite exhibition composed of one long and almost continuous horizon line of closely pinned fragments...

Valerianna said...

I have that experience sometimes, Kim... feeling like I'm driving around in one of my paintings!! An art dealer I used to work with used to tell me she saw a "Valerie Sky" now and again, I always loved that!

Valerianna said...

Thanks! So, did you solve the mystery?

And.. yes... Pasha DOES surely have a secure personality, I love how you said that!

Valerianna said...

Hi Anna - I think Pasha is getting quite tired of the snow! Glad you find the paintings alive, that's great!

Valerianna said...

Hi Susan - Oh, the ups and downs of artmaking!!

Pasha says hi back, and meow to WW.

Valerianna said...

Thanks, Lynn - I still figuring out this work... a long way to go, but I like where its going :)

Valerianna said...

So true, Gwen!

Valerianna said...

Hi Starr - so true that my art reflects the moment for me!

Valerianna said...

Hi Annie - glad you visited, and found some resonance here. And oh how satisfying - and much a relief - it is when we find something new and follow it.

Valerianna said...

Hi Julie - Isn't she a beautiful bird? I love that I will hear her in the spring and summer with her mate, and then sometimes even when she's raising her owlets. I'm finding the new work satisfying still after a day in the studio, and definitely continuing the mystery!

Valerianna said...

Hi Kathleen, oh, so YOU"RE the shadow lurking behind those trees! ( just kidding) but glad you stopped by and glad to hear from you. Yes... showing up, THE most important thing!

Valerianna said...

What a great thing that I managed to capture something in your landscape. I LOVE that! And glad you came twice for a visit. Thanks for the wonderful feedback :)

Valerianna said...

Hi Sharmon - its hit or miss, depending on the day, the moment, the painting - getting those trees in the mist to work! Glad you like them, I'm excited about today's work, too. Honing and getting somewhere.

Valerianna said...

Hi Trish - thanks!! Deep and searching, yes, good description.

Valerianna said...

Hi Cat- and that is the mystery of it - both in our lives and work... where ARE we going?

Valerianna said...

Hi Carrie - wow, such enthusiasm. These paintings do seem to be a hit!! The ones from today have a bit more of that earthly and unearthly... I think you'll like them. Its wonderful that I somehow my work can move you.

Valerianna said...

Thank you, Michael.

Valerianna said...

Hi India, I've actually been thinking the same thing... wondering how long a piece of paper I can work on successfully with these, and then string them together. Glad you agree!!

and Pasha seems tired of the cold and snow, but still a trooper!

Christine Linton said...

You talk about making work that is horrible or doesn't look right, before breaking through. I loved this idea that I read in a Susan Howatch novel - that when a sculptor has to remodel all the clay, all of the mistakes that were made before are incorporated into the new piece, and without them you would not have been able to break through.

Austin Hackney said...

Valerianna,

Wonderfully insightful and wise and a precise insight into the creative process.

It is so true that creativity is a physical, active doing thing which , like the musculature of the body, gains strength and definition by being used and, by discipline, pushed beyond the comfortable.

The results here, are already clear to see.

As a ritualist you will most likely be familiar with the importance of 'earthing' the energies aroused in work - otherwise they simply dissipate. In the same way, the idea/feeling/inspiration must go to/through the body to become a painting, a sculpture, a story, a dance, or it is lost. Creativity only comes, doesn't it, when the connection is made, strengthened and maintained?

Thanks again for a super post. Loved it.

Barry said...

VA - brilliant work - you have captured the forest mystery in both the water colours and your photos. B

steven said...

valerianna i really like the feeling of these paintings - the muted hardness of the tree trunks pushing through the softness of the air is something i try to share through a camera when the opportunity arises. but there's something more real to me in your work . . . . steven

Valerianna said...

Absolutely, Christine, I so need to make all the "mistakes" in order to know how far I can go and still get I want in watercolor. I need to learn the boundaries of the medium and then pull back and take it JUST to that edge.

Valerianna said...

Austin... hadn't thought to put it in those terms - the "earthing" of the energy through the painting and body... yes... so true. And the maintaining of the connection, in a way is what I call the stirring the imaginal cauldron. In a way keeping practiced, exploring and expanding, but most importantly, being there so the muse can show up.

Valerianna said...

Thanks, Barry. The forest of mysteries... which then got me thinking about the extraordinary place you live, and how my other work, though inspired by the ridges and mountain veiws here, attempts to capture that mystery.

Valerianna said...

Hi Steven - I think painting sometimes does a better job than photography... not just because I'm a painter, but because of the fluidity... sort of like the drawings of Giacometti being more "alive" than a snapshot of a face there is motion there.

Velma Bolyard said...

yay for new studio work and blocks of time and pushing through to new work is grand. i agree about the horizontality..... somehow i see that pasha always poking his nose into the landscape!

Tammie Lee said...

It is wonderful to see your paintings, each one. they are full of feeling.... somehow they match my feelings today.

how wonderful that you have an owl and a pussycat ;-)

lovely break to you~

ELFI said...

magnifique sensibilité...!

Valerianna said...

Ha... Well, Pasha DOES love being outside. I'll keep a lookout and see if I see him appearing in my washes!

Valerianna said...

Hi Tammie - yes, an owl and a pussycat, and come spring, a bear or two, too!

Valerianna said...

Mreci!

I'm quite in love with your work, a beautiful, beautiful use of materials!! And one of my favorite subjects, too :)

ramona said...

Your new work is sooo beautiful Valerianna!!

You are in a good place right now.

Red Maple Tree said...

Wow! What a post! You took some wonderful pictures. All the pictures are looking so mysteries. Thank you for sharing nice post.

Valerianna said...

Thanks Ramona, except that I don't feel so well today :(

Valerianna said...

Thanks, Red Maple Tree....

Sophie Munns said...

Two delicious posts to soak up tonight... been to long away!
So much to see here Valerianna .... its really late and I should be sleeping but I am captivated.
must return when I can say more...
x

Willow said...

This was a very engaging post for me, much though it was inspiring. I understood what you were saying and it registered deeply with what I have been feeling lately. I will be meditating with this more today. The post thought content, the photography, the owl and Pasha, all somehow today I find very inspiring! Thank you.

The Cranky Crone, she lives alone! said...

Beautiful atmospheric work, sends messages to my mind.

Sandra Dunn said...

i love this post! your growing collection on the wall and glimpse into your journal,,, and pasha recycling the snowy tracks! ha!

for me there is a fine balance of authenticity/staying true to what i enjoy/do best and also coming out of my comfort zone. i tend to work in small format so larger imagery is a challenge for me. in the end, what's important is the journey, discovery, play, perseverance - ohhhh, yes/yes it's balance.

V- your paintings are gorgeous!

grace Forrest~Maestas said...

i am so trying to comment here...this is time
four.
maybe????

Valerianna said...

Hi Sophie - well, I hope you've gotten to bed earlier since you posted this! Thanks for stopping by.

Valerianna said...

HI Willow - glad my thoughts inspired you!

Valerianna said...

I'm curious now, what those messages might be!

Valerianna said...

Thank you, Sandra!

Valerianna said...

Sorry for the frustration, Grace... but, here you are, hope you'll come back and say what you REALLY wanted to say!!

Mo Crow said...

you have such a beautiful sense of the shimmering of the veils V!

dori said...

Such beautiful mystical watercolors of the forest only can be made by someone, who really lives in and together with the forest.

Valerianna said...

Thanks, Mo!

Valerianna said...

Thank you, Dori - I'm glad that the paintings convey my deep respect for this place!

deemallon said...

Oops, I don't know what I just did!

rich post - both the images of your work (I LOVE these trees) and the photos of your woods and your commentary about how to come out the other side of personal dissatisfaction with your work... I agree that discipline can be a way through - AND I think play can be (though one might need discipline to allow onself to play!)

ArtPropelled said...

Looking at your new forest series I feel what it's like to live in a forest. I know your forest! Reading the next post I feel a shift in your search ...... as though the mist is lifting. I really LOVE what you are doing.

Valerianna said...

Yes, discipline AND play... I think I'm playing WITHIN the process... that is allowing me to find my way. I don't know what you just did, either, but everything seems to be OK :)

Valerianna said...

Oh, that's just great, Robyn... I love that you feel you know the forest by the paintings... really GREAT!