There are times when the artist that you are and the artist that you want to be cannot be reconciled. This is a fight between desire and reality. You fight and fight to be a certain type of artist, but nothing works- it doesn't fit. You want to make bigger work, smaller work, more colorful work, less colorful work, paintings, sculpture, prints, or just installation. Conceptual work, or formal work. You think, "I'll just do this type of art, or use this type of approach, and the world will get me." So, there you are, trying and trying and trying, getting nowhere. No one is responding- not even you.
With Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours of genius-hood getting farther and farther away, you consider giving up.
The question you are really trying to answer is who YOU are as an artist. Not your famous professor, best friend from art school, or that guy who randomly picked up a paintbrush one day and now sells paintings for $20,000 a pop. Not the girlfriend who paints in her spare time while her baby sleeps, or the friends whose art involves tagging the neighborhood.
No, the question is: who are YOU as an artist?
Not who do you WANT to be— but who are you right now as an artist? In this space, this place, with this work? And can you value yourself and what you do? Can you grant it legitimacy? Can you be enough?
Jessica Torrant is a colorist: her medium may be paint, but her language is color. She embodies that famous quote by Paul Klee:
“Color possesses me. I don't have to pursue it. It will possess me always, I know it. That is the meaning of this happy hour: Color and I are one. I am a painter.”
Oh, and she is the closest thing I have to an artist soul sister, both of us collectively birthed by Joan Mitchell, Arshile Gorky, Willem DeKooning, and Helen Frankenthaler. (Among others, of course.)
In her own words, Jessica says, "I look at making art as therapy— and what's the point of therapy if you aren't honest? I think beauty in art is honesty in art, with at least a sprinkling of hope. Even if that hope is, 'I'm still here, even through all of this ugliness, and I'm not going anywhere even if I'm completely broken.' "
Her intricate color harmonies and layers of interacting organic form create an emotional complexity in each work. These are the kinds of works you have to sit with. And that color... yum.
Jessica lives in rural Northern Connecticut with her husband. She studied at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where her mutual obsession with abstraction began. Her work is collected worldwide, and she exhibits throughout the US and London. To experience more of Jessica's beautiful work, check out her Etsy shop and her website.
I will not weigh in on gun control, or the need for better screening and treatment for mental illness. I will not tell you to "hug your kids a little tighter" (even if you do) or to write your congressman. Urgings are not my intention. I may or may not agree with any of them, but right now, that is not at all what I want to say. I want to tell you this:
I created this piece, Harbinger, in Spring 2010. At the time I was living in Mountain View, CA, trying to figure out my next move in life. Stuck in a depression so profound, so deep, it seemed there was no end to it, I ventured out of my gray, Silicon Valley apartment onto the streets along office parks and strip malls. I was never more surprised than to find magnolias, in bloom, pink and full, in front of a cold, glass building.
The magnolia flower is known as the harbinger of Spring. Spring is the metaphor of new life, growth, possibility. In other words, out of the gray, cold winter of our lives and this world, find hope anywhere you can– so that darkness and coldness and brutality does not engulf you.
I have followed Skyler McGee’s work since she was a student of mine at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Since then, her work has evolved into careful, poetic considerations of nature, space, and color.
Inspired by the natural world, Skyler works in fresh, delicate layers. She plays with combinations of materials– hard and soft, light and heavy, from oil paint to printmaking to watercolor. She emphasizes the artist’s hand or presence- nothing feels machine-made, but rather as if it was somehow uncovered in a forgotten studio from long ago, or excavated from an anthropological dig. She works carefully, slowly, her color sense reflecting the natural elements that inspire her work.
Currently living in Dallas, Texas, with her husband and two little girls, Skyler’s work reflects her daily life as well, as she balances her life as an artist, mom and wife. You can see more of her work at charcoalandsaffron.wordpress.com.
"Creative artists ... are mankind's wakeners to recollection: summoners of our outward mind to conscious contact with ourselves, not as participants in this or that morsel of history, but as spirit, in the consciousness of being. Their task, therefore, is to communicate directly from one inward world to another, in such a way that an actual shock of experience will have been rendered: not a mere statement for the information or persuasion of a brain, but an effective communication across the void of space and time from one center of consciousness to another."
Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God, Volume IV: Creative Mythology
What is art if not to awaken us? To make things seen that we do not see, to bring light onto subjects we would pass by. Art says, "Look. Hear. Feel. Experience." – and then some.
Art creates a place where we are present.
So much of art work is about layering. It is so easy to over-layer, to build a surface up too much to the point that it ceases to breathe. But in nature, layering happens effortlessly, and the effect is often one of ease and strength. The lesson: don't overwork it. Let it grow how it wants to be.
(photos by Julia Rymer Brucker)
A few months ago, I came up with a motto, of sorts:
Live with beauty.
It came out of an obsession I have with art, color, light, nature, and looking at beautiful things, people, and places. I ache for beauty, I want it to infuse my life, and yet it does not. I have a rather suburban life, and finding moments of beauty sometimes takes a bit of effort. This is one of the main reasons I continue to make art, despite the struggles of life as an artist: it feeds me, and this impulse for beauty, or at least channels the energy into the material world and out of my head.
This blog will feature my artwork, along with those of others, as well as images, writings and more that explore this idea of beauty. So welcome to my journey, my new endeavor, to live with beauty in art and life.