Wednesday, March 13, 2013

In the service of Justice (Part One)

As an artist I'm pretty sure that we all have those times where everything is just going along swimmingly. You feel good. Secure in your ability and talent. Sometimes in fact things can go so well (or so I hear) that a general euphoria takes over and the art almost feels like it's creating itself. Then...well, then there are the pieces that are a genuine struggle. From beginning to end: a battle. A battle you are losing. The kind of struggle that makes you question why you ever considered yourself an artist in the first place. The piece that makes you start looking in the want ads for alternative employment.

Justice...I started it over a year over, and it started out rather well. I love making backgrounds, they almost always feel easy for me, a great way to start the flow going...and as far as backgrounds go, I was pretty content with how things were going. I typically find myself bouncing back and forth a lot when I'm working on a new piece...back and forth between working with intention and creating intuitively. Particularly when I'm working on a tarot card, or another themed piece of art when I feel resolute about the symbols or objects that must be included to tell the story. It's exactly that - the "I must use this..." that will ultimately cause me the most trouble. I know this. I know this intuitively, I know this from experience, and I am with my list of "musts". It's a long list of musts for Justice. 

As I progress to the next couple of layers, things start to look crummy, but that's ok. I know all about the crummy phase....every single piece has will pass, or so I tell myself. Several layers later...crummy has evolved alright...evolved to #$@% piece of #$$%@. Not good. Danger mode. Time to stop. If I keep going at this point, I really will trash the piece, taking it to that place of no return. So I stop. I stop for nine months. I do many other pieces, ones that I like. Unfinished Justice still hangs on a wall in my studio, taunting me every time I walk by....time to tackle her again I tell myself. 

I consider what I've done so far and try to figure out, what (if anything) is working...and what isn't...I need more paint, don't I?....more layers? No improvement. More collage. Still no....and frustration is rapidly replacing good judgment but I continue determined to make this work. I try some wings (heaven help me)...what was I thinking? a halo....good grief! I dig deep, spend hours looking for and finding 18 perfect quotes about truth and... and 18 quotes about justice, carefully I tear each one out...I collage them into the my mind, this will be cool, this will become an aura of truth and justice and wisdom. It's horrible....right about this time is where I am pretty damn sure I am no longer an artist.

You're going to laugh when you hear what I did know what I did? I did a tarot reading for myself..first card that I turn over...wanna guess? Justice. No Joke. I mean really....I don't bother with the rest of the reading. I go back into the studio with my head on straight at last, amused that the "fates" have a sense of humour. 

I collect my thoughts, and remember the two mantras that keep me company in the studio:

1) Everything that I have done to this point still informs the piece, whether I end up covering it up or not....that truth and justice halo is going to get buried, but it's still there....and that is a good thing.

2) Nothing is sacred. I must be willing to abandon anything and everything on the panel. If I'm too attached to one thing, one idea, one area this piece will never turn the corner.

I start at the beginning again, the background needs to be reclaimed...while I'm working on this, my husband is in New Orleans, and I remember the beautiful wall at the Napolean House. Layers of peeling paint, old wallpapers and patina. I want my own version of that...the background is transformed, textured, collaged, painted, and scraped and little by little it's feeling better....and little by little I am feeling better too.

Wanna see what this:

By the end of the journey, I have created my favourite piece - EVER. My faith in myself, and in my artistic process is renewed. Equilibrium restored, and Justice is indeed done. 


  1. WOW!!! I am speechless. This is beyond amazing. What a super talent you have. Gail in Oklahoma

  2. I love your work, love you shared your "changes", and I love your words! Justice is a very special piece! Looking forward to your workshop in June!!!! Lynn Ovenden

  3. What a journey, this taught me that I have given up too early on too many things. In fact I have a little matchbook shrine sitting on top of my computer hutch, that I 'started' in one of Michael's ArtFest Classes that I have never felt satisfied with. I need to go back and work on it until the 'real' shrine emerges.

  4. Thank you for kind words, much appreciated! Liz, I still have several pieces of art in various stages of completion waiting for battle so to speak....but I know I will get back to them eventually :) I am so very happy to hear that you are going back to tackle your shrine and I'd love to see a picture when you are all done! xo

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  6. Thanks so much for sharing this! Good to know it happens to artists at every level! It really did turn out to be breathtaking.

  7. Thanks. Ultimately I would be pleased to be able to do what you are unsatisfied with but you got to a very special place with this one. Great job.

  8. Happy to see your process, even though it was a long and arduous "evolution."

  9. She is absolutely extraordinary. Thank you for showing your process. Your art is incredible. There is just nothing like it around. Rather deep, mysterious, a bit dark, yet those colors are nothing but. A complex impression on the viewer, who loves and is disquieted at the same time.
    I admire you so.
    I'm coming to Phoenix, and take a class with you as well. Masks? No kidding. I'm in! :-))

  10. Wow! Thank you for sharing this. I love seeing your process, painful as it was for you. It's such a good reminder to keep on going, and to revisit those old disasters that are lying around. See you in Petaluma!

  11. Thanks so much for sharing this. I've just been through a similar thing and found myself in the middle of a deep depression. I did an even more drastic thing and went back to the very foundations of the work - stripping it to the base layer and below to start again. I wish I'd read this a few days earlier. Great to know that others go through this... But equally great to see how you walk yourself through the process and keep going.
    I'm taking an online class with Lisa Cyr (which is how I got here through your husbands blog) and I'm definitely going to share this amazing work - both visual and verbal) with the others.
    Great job. Thank you one thousand times.

    1. ...and thank you Philip. It took me a while to come back around to this piece, because just like you my temptation was to tear back down to the bare bones - so I completely understand how you felt! Thank you for your comment and stopping by the blog :)

  12. That is pretty,damn cool. I was familiar with Michael DeMeng's work, and yours is waaaay cool, too.

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