the wall i had to knock out
Once I got going on my Golliwog project, I worked like I was on fire. I made most of my progress in one day - resolved the background and assembled the diorama. Then a small standstill. Yesterday I thought I was just about finished - just needed to paint the outside. But Dave had told me over the weekend that there was something about it that just didn't sit right with him. So last night we sat down and discussed what it was. He was getting hung up on the unfinished look of the interior - the inside wooden slats. I told him that's what I liked best - that my point was for them to look unfinished. But there was something in what he was saying. It was the lower portion - it just wasn't right. Then I realized what it was - I needed to "knock out a wall". And so here I am in the studio, tearing out a section of the assemblage and considering the finish. Below is a gallery of my progress. I should have the project wrapped up within the next day or so and will post pics of the finished piece.
As I mentioned in yesterday's blog, I've started a new piece about racism and slavery which was originally inspired by an image of a Golliwog. I'd never heard of a Golliwog before and decided if I was going to incorporate that imagery into my work I better do a bit of research on this character. I found a newspaper article from the Daily Mail dated 5 Feb 2009 (link provided below) which offers a brief overview on how the Golliwog was born and how the image, or rather use, of the character evolved over time. To quickly summarize, the Golliwog, whose name was a complete invention, began as a hero in children's literature in the late 1800s.
Because the character was never trademarked, it was fair game and author Enid Blyton used Golliwog in her books, portraying him as something of a villian. By the 1960s the character had become associated with racism.
If you'd like to read more about the history of the Golliwog, here are a few links to follow:
How the Golliwog Went From Innocent Children's Hero to Symbol of Bitter Controversy
Golliwog according to Wikipedia
Noddy Returns Without the Golliwogs
**On a side note, while I was tootling around on the internet doing my research I discovered, to my astonishment and dismay, that the band Creedance Clearwater Revival started out as - you guess it - The Golliwogs.
sketch for a project exploring the theme of slavery
It's been a very emotive week - moments of doubt about my work have been followed (thankfully!) by bursts of inspiration. There have been tears. And there have been sighs. But there have been wonderfully light moments, too. Those lighter moments wouldn't be possible if it weren't for the friends and family who offer their continued support and encouragement.
During this difficult time, I had a couple of flashes for ideas. I don't know how else to describe them than as a flash, so hopefully I've not confused you too much. They're almost like snapshots that click at a superfast rate and have something of a dreamlike quality to them. I usually have these flashes while I'm out walking the dog, and that's exactly where these took place.
As a collage artist, I am always scanning the ground for interesting items which have been discarded or had the misfortune of being carried away from their owner by a massive gust of wind. Essentially, it's trash. I like trash. People so often throw away the most amazing things! Before moving to England I got rid of my trash collection, apart from a few bits and bobs. It was a heart-crushing moment for me. But now that I'm kinda-sorta settled, I have resumed my trash collecting in Britain (the thought has just occurred to me that, as such, I'll probably be forced to refer to the practice as rubbish collection). During one of my searches, I came across a real find: old Golliwog coupons! Don't feel bad if you don't know what a Golliwog is, I didn't either. I still don't know the full story on how they came to be, but for the sake of simplicity suffice it to say that they are to Britain what Sambo are to America. (I should probably have written that last sentence in the past tense, as they're both terms not acceptable today, and rightly so.)
Now, please don't get me wrong when I refer to these coupons as a real find - I'm absolutely not an advocate for racisim in any form and do not support what they stand for. However, they do hold a place in history and I am happy they've landed in my possession, because I can now use them to create a piece of art that explores the deplorable act of slavery and racism.
And that, my friends, was what what of my "flashes" was all about. Creating a new piece of work that incorporates the Golliwog and makes a statement against slavery. I realize this is fairly bold coming from the likes of me. But I think it's fair (if not our obligation) to explore this very unfortunate chapter of history because, like it or not, the effects are still evident and are all around us all of the time. Slavery still exists, just in a different form to the one I'll be exploring. And we all know racisim exists. I alone can't stomp it out, but I can at least share my voice. So the thumbnail above is the quick idea I scribbled in my sketchbook. Today I spent a few hours cutting wood, finding appropriate collage imagery and brainstorming how exactly I'm going to create a Joseph Cornell-like diorama. I'll be sure to keep you updated!
For the last several months I've been working toward making a career out of my art (out of my creativity, really), which I find to be an exciting venture - and absolutely terrifying. For a long time I was struggling with finding my "voice." I was caught in this horrible trap of feeling I had to justify my work and found myself spinning my wheels creating things that were soul-less, unresolved, and lacking in artistic merit or integrity. Once I identified this, I was able to make a shift; I realised that it's OK for me to work in my studio on my own and to work intuitively. And if I had to find words to explain it, I could do that after the fact; because when you're working intuitively it doesn't mean the work itself is done without thought or purpose, but rather it is created on a more subconcious level, based on information stored in your brain from some earlier time. It's OK to reflect on your creation after it's been created and work your way back to its source. And maybe for me that's how I have to do it. When I was a kid I used to love doing maze puzzles but could never solve them by entering from the outer circle to the inner sanctum. I had to start from the inside and work my way out. I think it might be how I'm wired.
So I found my way out of one trap only to find myself entangled in another: searching for success and ways to make money at my creativity. It's a dangerous combination, I think. I was talking to my friend the other day and she asked me how the "business" was going. I told her it's not. That some days I just feel like throwing in the towel. She asked why. I said I just feel like I'm floundering. I'm spending my time making things and and more things and I take photos and put it out there and still, get nothing. A few random sales, but not much. I had some brochure printed of my more "crafty" products and posted them through doors. Handed them out to people. It drove people to my website, but didn't drive them to buy. People have commented that they like this or that and are interested in this or that, but there's something that's blocking them from making a purchase. That tells me it's because my work is lacking something. Because I know loads of people out there who are selling their creativity and they're doing really well. I can't help but feel that my product is somehow lacking. I don't know what it is: craftsmanship? Originality? Quirkiness?
My friend listened to me patiently and then said this: "you listen to me. You are not going to give up. You've only been at this for a few months; some people spend years trying to make a business work. I think you're still finding your voice. I think you've still got work to do. Are you journaling? Are you sketching ideas? I think you're so caught up in making money that you're somehow preventing yourself from reaching your potential. You need to put that aside. Because you're not an artist to make money. You're an artist because you were born with the need to create. So that's what you do. If you make work that is true to who you are, people will recognize that. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but they will see it."
And you know, I think she's right. No, I know she's right. I have been caught up in the end goal, which is affecting my creative output. I put so much pressure on myself that I end up floundering, unable to make decisions. I feel like a fish out of water - so desperate for air and all I can do is flop all around. I'm a fish, flopping around in my studio getting covered in sawdust and dog hair, drying up and becoming immobilized. I don't want to be that fish anymore. I want to be productive. I want to be creative. I want to get my MOJO BACK!
So I've decided two things: I'm going to give myself up to creative impulsion and I'm going to get out into the art scene. It's time to let go of the wall and skate right out into the middle of the floor!
my beloved shell
I started last night. I have this shell that I found at one of the beaches in the Northwest - possibly Crosby beach? Anyway, it's a very special shell, always tugging at my mind begging me not to forget about it.
my sketch of the beloved shell
Last night, as I was about to clock out of the studio for the day, I opened up my sketchbook and started drawing it, studying its intriguing barnacle-like formations. I found it tough going, because I haven't properly worked in my sketchbook in ages. But it felt really good to put those marks down. I felt like Howard Roark from The Fountainhead, drawing with command, using thick, dark lines. And you know what? I felt like it opened something up inside of me. Maybe only just a crack, but that's where it all begins. With one step and a break in the surface.
Readers and regular visitors to my site are probably familiar with my vintage-style wall hangings, which are individually hand-made using a transfer technique that I recently developed (example to your left). So far I've restricted my use of this technique to the War Girls series, while I gathered feedback which has been really positive.
Then I got to thinking: why not use this same technique to transform photographs into nostalic prints? I don't know about you, but I love old photographs - faded and a bit worse for wear. There's something sentimental and romantic about it. But I guess nostalgia is like that.
For the last few days, I've been playing around with this idea in my studio. I've looked through some photographs (wedding photos are perfect!) to find somet that I thought would make for a successful transition from digital to tangible form. I uploaded the photos into Photoshop, altered them by making them a bit faded and yellowed (I'm thinking about early colour photographs from my childhood that had an overly yellow hue to them - you know the ones), and worked my magic. And voila! Nostalgic prints. I like them, but what about you? I'm curious what you think. If you've got a second or two, would you mind giving me your feedback? Merci!
The last gift I made for Christmas was a hat/snood/fingerless mitten set for my sister-in-law. I found this wonderful chunky yarn, which I thought would work really well. Then I started to crochet with it...and my goodness - what bliss! It was like crocheting a cloud. Actually, it was nothing like crocheting a cloud, which would be very slippery and impossible business indeed. It was more like crocheting a huge ball of cotton that you imagine fat, fluffy clouds to be like when you're a kid. Anyway, it was great. And I'm really happy with the outcome. So for today's viewing pleasure, I give to you the chunky hat/snood/mitten combo (as modeled by yours truly and my lovely friend, Annie - who is a much better model than I).
Erin Singleton is an artist currently living in the bucolic seaside town of Marblehead, Mass. She loves to explore her creativity in her studio and in the kitchen. She also loves to read, watch movies, spend time with friends and enjoy the great outdoors with her husband, Dave, and their daughter, Maisie.
Blogs I'm Reading
Through the Distances
Following the Silver Thread
Bronte Weather Project