The Laws of Nature

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Your Home Turf

The third principle of Ian Roberts' sixteen involves Your Home Turf. This is about mining content and visual resources from where you, the artist, feel at home. Here, home means those people, places, things, and memories that resonate with you, that evoke a special feeling in you; your personal connections. Over the years, I've repeatedly heard this advice given to artists in all disciplines: write what you know, paint what you know, express what you know in music, dance, film. I've always thought it sage advice because the only way I can feel passion when I paint is through a heartfelt connection with the subject. And, I suppose this principle really is the key to authenticity.

You might well ask how anyone could possibly feel at home with broken eggshells. How can anyone be passionate about that? I'll divert a little from Roberts' book to explain: When I first formulated the idea of using eggshells as a basis for my work, I was looking for a bridge between objective and non-objective art. That is, the eggs are recognizable as eggs, but they also allow me to impose on them abstract color and value designs. There was rational thought behind this. However, I also needed an emotional connection, and it took only seconds to find one. Without going into any detail, I saw my "self" in the assemblages of these cracked eggs. These paintings are psychological portraits of the remade Kathy: the resulting assemblage of cracks and fragments of a fractured psyche that has endured difficult and sometimes traumatic events. Once the psyche, like an eggshell, is altered by external or internal forces, it cannot be restored to its former pristine shape. But, the resulting fragments, the new self, is an entire entity that I feel at home in. It is complete and the luminosity that I impart to the assemblage in these paintings is the spark that gives it life.

Back to Roberts' book: He states, your home turf is your state of mind. It may not be a place. I totally agree, and think of many failed attempts at paintings that just didn't work - mostly because I wasn't feeling the connection. We've all "been there." One of my biggest criticisms of some of my peers who are painting workshop instructors is that they teach through imitation. That is, they ask the students to paint like them, and often the same subjects. Of course, the students struggle to obey but the work fails! The students have no personal connection to whatever inspired the instructor, so how could imitation help them to produce inspired work? I cannot teach that way and never will.

Roberts ends this chapter with comments about making your studio your home turf as well. Again, I totally agree. When I walk into my messy, chaotic studio I feel immense satisfaction and l-o-v-e! Considering that I'm a total "neatnik" this may seem strange. But, the connection I feel to the place where I create art goes straight to my core. It's where I belong. I was worried about this connection when I constructed another studio this year at my home in Maine. Would I feel the same connection? Would my work suffer? I'm certain you're way ahead of me on this one ... I felt the same connection and my work became stronger because, as Roberts points out, your home turf is your state of mind. I carry it with me.

I really liked this chapter :-) Your thoughts??


Carolyn Abrams said...

I love this point! and Thank you for sharing your story. Art helps to create happy endings too.

M said...

I agree with Roberts on this point. Your home turf is definitely in your mind. Thanks for sharing the background behind your eggshell paintings.

Mark Sheeky said...

"write what you know, paint what you know, express what you know in music, dance, film..."

I don't think it's possible TO write/paint/sing what you don't know! Even if an artist was asked to paint an unusual subject, unusual for them, they would make it all about them and express their ideas and feelings.

-Don said...

Great post, Kathy, I finally agree with something Roberts has written. Or, maybe I just got up on the right side of the bed...

I remember relating to your eggshell series immediately upon seeing them on ArtScuttleButt. I loved the rich colors and lighting which brought them to life. I related to the fragility of the subject matter being made into wonderfully complex compositions. As I've gotten to know you I realize that these works have given me a peek into your "home".

My favorite place in the world right now is my studio, which is basically our family room spilling over into our kitchen. It is the center of activity though out the day as my family comes and goes, but it is also my sanctuary, my study, my library, and most of all my place to create. You'd think with all the familial activity which flows through there would be too many distractions. But, I love including my family in everything I do and cannot shut myself off from them. This is my home turf and I LOVE it.

I have masks all over the walls of my home. They are a subject matter I can relate to. Their empty eyes staring out from all corners of the house draw me in to create for them and me a story of their existence. I wish I had some great existential reason for using them as subject matter, but in all honesty, I just paint them because I love them. I use strong, vibrant color because I love it. My compositions are what reflect the people, places, things and memories that resonate with me. So, I'd say I'm living the "home turf" dream here. Can it get any more authentic than this?


Unknown said...

Hi Caroline - I can see where this particular post would resonate with you. Creating art is your home in many ways and, like home, it is a solace. It's wonderful watching you create :)

Hi Margaret - You're welcome! And, thanks for commenting.

Hi Mark - good point. Sadly, I've seen people attempt to paint what they don't know in painting workshops where they're forced to use the same style and subject matter as the instructor. It never works.

Hi Don - I was smiling as I read your wonderful response. I can imagine you surrounded by all your paintings in the hub of your house with your family all around. What a marvelous mental image! Although many of us might need psychotherapy to figure out why we paint what we paint in the manner in which we paint it, it's not worth the trouble. Sometimes it's best not to know :)

hw (hallie) farber said...

I think we're all slightly cracked but you found a great way to claim it. Wonderful.

I was surprised that you feel at home in a messy and chaotic workplace--perhaps the only part of your life that's not neat and orderly?

My favorite spot in the world is my workshop; unfortunately, it's not the only chaotic place; in my case everything matches my state of mind (not a good thing).

Unknown said...

Hi Hallie- it's not that I enjoy the mess, I just have too much stuff, too many projects, and too little space (at least, in my NY studio). My studio in Maine is enormous, so it's neat. I have a station for painting in oils, one for watercolors, one for matting and framing, one for paperwork, and one for storing paintings. Today, I had to find space for working on an acrylic piece and I ended up cramming myself into a little corner. Oh, dear!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kathy, I'm enjoying the conversation. And, I enjoyed reading about your eggs.

I have found it easy to draw and paint multiples of the same subject when I have found a bit of me; they're somewhat autobiographical.

I am delighted to read what you have to say about workshops. I have a very difficult time painting someone else's design. I usually end up doing my own design and had wondered if there was something I was missing....thanks!

Anonymous said...
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Unknown said...

Peggy- I've really enjoyed following the evolution of your designs and the obvious personal connection you have to them. That's what being "authentic" is all about!!

Pam - Thanks so much! Home IS where the heart is :-)