Sunday, May 30, 2010

Art School Drop Out


I cant even tell you how happy this painting makes me.  I havnt done a large size canvas painting in years.  Seriously, YEARS!  this was my medium - paint on large canvas.  I loved it, it fulfilled me to create such large pieces of art - all messy and chaotic up close, lovely and full of stories from afar.  But you see, I did those kinds of paintings when I was in art school. before husband, before baby, before grad school, before, before, before...   i believed in myself as a painter back then.  i believed in the possibilities of me - me as an artist, as an innovator, as a generator of unique and creative ideas to be transformed into paint, that people would just have to own and put in their private spaces, that would turn into a revolution of thought and...(just kidding, but i did really have a lot of art-esteem and wanted very much to be a selling artist).  Then I ran out of money and quit art school.  I took a "real" job in a healthcare clinic doing secretarial work, then met my husband to be, fell in love, and we moved to a new city to finish our academic degrees so we could get better paying jobs and buy a house.   I got pulled into an adult world of jobs, bills, mortgage, academic research, and then MARRIAGE.  I got into graduate school for mental health and marriage and family counseling and then had a baby and before I knew it, it had been 7 years since I had painted a thing and I felt like I had lost myself along the way.  There is a lot more to this journey that I am skipping, but it leads me to this painting and how nervous  i was looking at the blank 3'X4' palette and at the same time feeling so excited and terrified to start.  You see that moment before you start the painting that you havnt made yet can be anything.  It could be your greatest work to date or it could just remind you that you quit art school 7 years ago and need to stop pretending that you are an artist.  I was mostly worried about discovering the latter as I hovered over the stretcher working up the courage to start and find out what it would become.  I needed some inspiration to get started and so perused some of my favorite art blogs in search of a good idea to strike me.  I stumbled upon this done by Alisa Burke and I just had to create my own style and version of this idea.  It brought back memories of art school, after we would finish a piece and need to reuse the stretcher for our next assignment we would often remove the painted canvas and make bracelets, chain garlands, patches and other random things out of the painting (only the really bad ones we hated), but to create something beautiful and then tear it into pieces and use as individual artworks seemed intriguing.  You would never know what you were going to end up with until the very end when you tore it apart.  There was very little control over the end pieces and this felt perfect for where I was at in that moment.  And so I began, without reservation or stomach butterflies, I just began to paint.  I started with a layer of colors and then added a vintage fabric pattern on top with gel medium to create wrinkles and texture.  Then I grabbed my linoleum cut bird prints and started applying them to the surface in a random pattern.  It was so much fun and so free.  I didnt really have to worry about form and space in the large scale because it was going to be torn up in the end and so I could just have fun and fill spaces as I felt like it.  I added print stamps of musical notes and hearts. I put top hats on some of the birds and dangled stars above their heads and out of their beaks.  I painted little flowers and grew wave patterns around them.  Then I looked at it for awhile and it needed something more, more color, more chaos.  I grabbed my water soluble oil pastels and a big ole brush and started bringing the entire thing to life.  I LOVE what these little crayons can do when mixed with water and gesso.  Then I grabbed my chinese brush and india ink and started adding positive affirmations that I needed to hear, all starting with the words "Today I will..". Taking one more look at it and I could see that it was almost done.  Just one more thing.  I added blobs of speedball printing ink randomly around the birds then laying the canvas flat on the floor, I sprayed water over each blob until it was ready to run.  Then with no idea of what it would look like or do to overall piece, I turned upright and let it all run down and then dry.  AMAZINGNESS!
It made me clap and jump with glee.  I was exactly what I wanted to create, something beautiful, chaotic, and telling a story, my story.  After a day of two loving it and letting it just be, I surrendered it to its fate and tore it into squares in the 3 sizes of the Art Journals I make and sell.  Then more gel medium to mount them on the recycled cardboard covers, and I couldnt have been more excited about the result.  I have a little less doubt in myself now.  I am learning that I need to keep taking these risks to rediscover myself as an artist.  The next week I did another large painting and tore it into journal covers.  This time houses with windows full of secrets and windows into peoples souls.  You can see it here.  And keep an eye out on my etsy site for the Flock of Birds Journals (the ones that came from this first painting.  Thanks for believing in me!


  1. Harmony, it's simply beautiful. The colors, the textures, the subject, and most importantly because you finally did it!

    I went back to school and was told by my very educated uncle to major in English because there "are always English jobs available, not art jobs." I quit in the middle of grad school after I changed my major to history, thinking it was the subject. As I was commuting one day it dawned on me that it wasn't the subjects I was studying, it was the art I wasn't making. So I turned around and never went back!

    I found you thru Kelly Rae's class and identified with your story. And I love your art!!

    peace, love & heART,

  2. harmony-

    i loved getting your comment on my blog today! i went to school in gaineville and i have a 16 month old so it seems we have a bit in common:) i checked out your etsy shop too and i think your style is super cute--i love birdies!
    -holly christine

  3. I looooove this painting!!!! You are very talented, and you should never doubt yourself. Have you thought about hosting your own workshop/class one day? Your writing is beautiful and insightful, and you have some amazing processes you use in your art. If so, sign me up!!!! P.s. I found you through Flying Lessons ... thanks, Kelly Rae!



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