In less than nine weeks, I'll be delivering my work to the tiny gallery in Guerneville for my first art show. My work will grace the walls there, along with work by my friend and fellow artist, Gayle Cooper.
While the week of spring break didn't yield a lot of physical work, a lot of emotional work was done relating to this project. After a few discussions with different creatives, I realized I wasn't showing up in the work at all.
I mean, sure, the colors were the colors I normally painted with - shocking pinks, inky blacks and horizontal bands of colors stood in for the lines I usually draw - but anybody could have painted those. Where was I in this story I was trying to tell about the landscape of my former drinking days? Where was the underbelly? Where was the emotion? Why was everything so smooth and cohesive? Was I painting the present day? or the past? What was going on underneath? Where was the nitty gritty? Where is the chaos and unmanageability? Where is the blur and the buzz I used to feel when I was drinking and numbing out to my life, my marriage, my family and motherhood? The layers needed to tell more of the story. I needed to keep working and building them up.
Last Sunday, I forced myself into the garage (the makeshift studio space I created to paint while i was home) and turned on a podcast and just mixed paint and rhythmically applied it onto the canvases and then scraped it back, revealing a little of what was underneath. I did this over and over again. It was so soothing. I finally found a groove and became at peace with the work. I didn't need to stay stuck in the past in order to tell it. I needed to progress, move on.
Art critiques were happening for my classmates on when I returned to the studio earlier this week. I decided to sit in on the critiques and I'm so glad I did. Hearing about other people's processes is really my most favorite thing. I love hearing about the tools people used to get certain effects, as well as the story behind the painting.
Narrative is really important to me as a painter, especially because I write so much and this is the first step in processing my feelings about what I'm going to make. Being allowed to witness another person's work and the reason behind why they made the work is like hitting a proverbial jackpot. So much gold and goodness wrapped up in their shares. I heard a lot of what I needed to hear and absorbed the comments and suggestions like they were meant for me.
When the critiques were done, I quickly went to my canvases and started drawing freehand, with a calligraphy pen, circular forms with india and acrylic inks. They were misshapen, wonky and absolutely what was asking to be inserted into the work. I wanted to add more of what I like to draw into the paintings and have them represent how I felt when I was still drinking and how i feel a lot of the time now in sobriety - imperfect, displaced, funky and unique.
I also added tick marks across one of the horizontal bands of color and it ended up giving it so much more texture and depth. These tiny little marks were what I used to draw in my notebook and how I used to calm down in early sobriety. I would carry around my black moleskine and make marks when I was uncomfortable or felt out of place. It helped me stay in my seat when I first started attending AA meetings. These marks also symbolize the counting of sober days once i quit drinking, almost like counting time for a prisoner locked up in jail. Although my jail cell was only in my mind, in early sobriety it was a cacophony of noise and negative self-talk going on in there. Drawing saved me.
There is still much work to be done, but I feel like something shifted this week. The darkness has left me and I'm ready to start painting again without self-doubt creeping in too much. I'm thinking a lot about memory and rewriting history; reconciling the old me with the new me; and remembering those who loved me until I could love myself and become whole again - not unlike the full, misshapen circles appearing on the canvas.
While the Valley Ford paintings aren't done yet, they're getting there. I do feel ready to explore the Bodega Bay landscapes over the next week. I'll prime a few canvases and see what happens next.
On Friday, I spent an hour working with artist and creator of the Get Gallery Ready workshop, Kaylan Buteyn, on my artist statement. What a talent this woman is! She's helping me break down, edit and rewrite the shitty first draft of my artist statement. She's a whiz at editing and helping to make it more succinct. Editors are my new favorite people and have an incredible skill set. Makes me wish I had a personal editor for everything I write.
After hearing about our community college art scholarship deadline from my professor, I decided to go home and fill out the application, pull together a small portfolio, write a statement of intent for my schooling, as well as my "career goals" and submit it to the college art department for consideration. I literally did this hours before the official deadline. I'm most interested in the sketchbook scholarship and dropped off a year's worth of daily gratitude lists for 2017. It felt like I left a little bit of my heart on the table and I guess I did. Those journals contain a year's worth of lists cataloging my days, my successes, my struggles, my growth and my grief.
I signed in my work at 1:11 p.m.
I was given booth 22 to display my work.
Kacy is watching over me. I can feel it.