Have you ever noticed how when you’re traveling, time seems to move differently? The days go by both faster and slower, and once home, it can feel as though you never left. Yet simultaneously seem like you were gone for months?
That’s where I am right now. My trip to France seems like a dream, while also remains deeply embedded in my mind. It’s both real and unreal. The piece I created while at the artist’s residency, a physical reminder of my time there.
La Bete turned vertically!
Isn’t it interesting how a piece can change, often quite radically by turning it. This was done by pure accident because I needed to clear the desk it had been resting on horizontally and the only way to prop it up was to turn it vertically. I didn’t think much of it, but then my husband called to me and said, “Look!”
We both decided that we liked it better this way, so this is how it will now be! A little like time, everything shifts when you change things up and view from a different perspective.
And in the middle of teaching a workshop this week, but thought I’d grab these few free minutes that I have to write a post. First off, if you haven’t seen my other videos and posts about my artist’s residency, it was AMAZING! Truly beyond anything I had imagined. Being immersed in art, living with a group of artists for two weeks was just incredible. I had no distractions other than self imposed deadlines, and the occasional load of laundry, but otherwise I was free to explore, create, learn and be inspired by everything and everyone around me. It was magical. And added plus, in a group of 16 artists, there wasn’t a single prima donna! Not a one. Everyone was beyond lovely.
I’ve been home now for just over a week and already it’s all beginning to fade into the background. In many ways it feels as though I was just there, as in yesterday, and in other ways it feels as though it was all a dream and never happened at all or if it did, it was years ago. Time is strange like that. Still I have both Paris and Orquevaux on my weather app, so everyday I look to see what the weather is like over there. It’s a tenuous thread that still attaches me to that magical place and time. One of these days I’ll remove them both, but for now, it’s a bit like listening to an old phone message from my mother. I know she’s gone, but I can’t bare to delete it.
The piece I created while at the residency is pinned precariously to a large foam board and propped up on a desk until I can put together a more permanent solution for it. I started referring to it as The Beast until someone suggested I use the french word for beast, which is La Bête, and they’re right it does sound better, a bit less jarring, a little softer. Still, there’s something about the forcefulness of “The Beast” that I rather like, so I alternate between the two depending on my mood. My friends in Paris suggested I call it Genesis, particularly since I’m doing a series. I’ve bookmarked that idea for now.
Once this workshop that I’m teaching is over, I’ll get back to it, but for now, it waits for me patiently.
While at the artist’s residency I interviewed a few of the other artists and then ran out of time and so was only able to interview six of them. If you’d like to see what some of the other artists were doing while at the residency, you can watch those interviews on my youtube channel. They are all under the Interviews! playlist.
I also had time to create a number of videos on the process or more accurately my process. Here are a couple of those videos:
It’s hard to believe that this artist’s residency is coming to a close. I have just four more days here before returning to Paris. So I thought I’d do a pictorial recap of my time here so far. It’s been beyond anything I could have imagined or hoped for. Just amazing.
Gare de l’est
On the train heading toward Orquevaux!
My Studio! I can’t believe it!!
Some of the art work in the Chateau left by other artists in residence
And so it begins… getting the work up on the wall.
but now I have all of this space… I can go much bigger!
The view from my studio
Taking a morning walk with fellow artist in residence, Kevin Ford
Throwing some paint around
Working and adding
Playing with shapes, getting in the blues…
Lichen always inspires
Taking a walk to clear my head and get some perspective on the challenges I’m seeing in the piece now that I’ve doubled its size.
The sheer beauty and magnitude of this place…
The boat house
The blue alien is now an ever present “issue” that I work hard to resolve…
Deciding that I have to stitch stuff down anyway…
Boldly stitching the blue insect/alien even though I have misgivings… maybe it’ll look better once it’s stitched down.
Nope it doesn’t. Annotating the work, before adding more blue, because if the blue bits are the problem, let’s throw more on there and see what happens.
The blue rabbit hole continues. I’m so deep in it I can’t see my way out.
Still I can appreciate the fabulous art all around me that covers the walls of this amazing place.
Raclette night and the fabulous Beulah van Rensburg: artistic director
The. blue continues to prove problematic.
But I’m determined…
and when all else fails, start another piece…
Fellow artists put on a puppet show for all of us, to great hilarity and fun!
and then I return to my studio to finish my little study inspired by the lichen I’ve seen on my many walks.
And on it goes… the creative process continues.
The big take away from all of this is that the process of creating is often bumpy, but if you don’t give into despair and just meet it head on matter-of-factly, the process is actually very instructive and can be wonderfully fun. It so mirrors life. Some of the things I tell myself: Don’t take it personally. You got this. It’s a momentary hiccup, what can you learn? This feels uncomfortable, but it’s okay. I’ve been here before and gotten through, I’ll get through this too. Breathe. Be patient and honor the process.
The ups and downs, the unexpected road blocks, the work arounds, it’s all there, just as in life, but making the decision to find the joy, to be present, even when I’d rather not be, that’s the trick. Right now I still haven’t resolved some of the issues I have with this piece, but I know I’ll get there eventually. It’s all part of creating and creating is always wonderful! Hard, but wonderful!
I cannot begin to describe how incredibly grateful and fortunate I am to be able to do this 2-week residency in this Chateau in Orquevaux. It is beyond anything I could have imagined. I have a studio, a real studio where I can splash paint around and create pieces that are much, much bigger than anything I could have dared imagine back in my workspace in New York City. It is like being in a dream. Seriously. And here’s the thing, I’m practically in tears because I’m just overwhelmed at how lucky I am to be able to do this, to have this opportunity, to have this kind of space, to be able to create without distractions, to be able to make a mess… it really is a dream come true.
My studio for the next 2 weeks.
This is the piece I brought with me and have begun working on…
Yesterday I released a new Youtube Video with the same title.
Go check it out!
There are a few other key factors to interpretive hand stitching, improvisational hand stitching, expressionist hand stitching or whatever else you might want to call it. I think all of these are good descriptors of my process when taking a piece of linen and starting to stitch on it.
The first few stitches
However at a certain point, composition plays a key role in how the piece evolves. It’s not enough to just stitch and hope for the best. Without a good composition it can look like a bunch of disparate parts, each might be lovely taken on their own, but they aren’t necessarily interacting well with one another.
More stitching added…
Another common issue is that one part can take over, drowning out everything else; this brings its own set of challenges. Or perhaps the whole thing is stagnant. There’s not a great deal of movement, so it’s important to know when these things are happening and why. Without knowing why, it is nearly impossible to remedy.
Once the large X was removed the two half moons in the upper right and again in the lower left began to dominate
The trick then is to resolve the “divas” and figure out how to turn the volume down or remove them. In this case, I had to remove it. Between the shape and color it was too much. Except that when it was removed, I was faced with a new challenge.
Piece without the darker shapes
So that’s where I am right now. I’m sitting with the challenge of having removed three domineering shapes. Taken on their own, they were fine, but when seen as a whole they were dominating. Except now the piece isn’t grounded. It’s lost some of its vigor. Partly that’s due to the removal of the color, which lended a great deal to the overall piece. So now I have to figure out how to pull it together, give it some excitement. And this is how it goes. There’s a kind of ebb and flow that inevitably happens when working on a piece like this. Take away some aspect and suddenly there’s a new set of challenges.
The key is to not give in to discouragement. To keep going no matter what. To keep trying new things. Thinking out of the box, pushing the boundaries of what I know how to do, trying something I’ve not tried before, test out other colors or reintroduce a color I’ve removed and see how that shifts the conversation.
This is the process that is interpretive hand stitching. Where one idea leads to another and another and another and on it goes.