Next year will be year #11 of teaching for me. I've only recently been able to start making artwork for myself that isn't something created under the umbrella of academia, as part of a PD workshop, or as a sample for an upcoming class project. If you're an art teacher, you probably know what I'm talking about. The first few years as a new teacher were especially difficult for me to produce work during the school year. I had been at NYU for their MA in Studio Art program for the first 3 summers of teaching, and all my art-making experiences were really confined to those summers. The work I made, honestly, wasn't anything that I was proud of. The work I made was vastly different each summer. I felt like I was trying to take in all this new art philosophy and turn it into something. Critiques often left me confused and like I was still trying to make art to please someone else. I didn't find a particular method or voice that really spoke to me.
It wasn't until a few years later, when I pulled out an old artwork from my MA thesis show and began to draw over it, that I found the beginning to a new process that excited me. As artists and educators, we have to work with what we have sometimes. I had no money for art materials. I was lost in terms of making something out of one material. That just didn't feel right. I had no interest in working realistically or super representationally. I just wanted to get my hands dirty and transform something that already existed into something new. So I started drawing over old artworks. I started covering up things, scratching at them, peeling away layers, making marks. I'd leave it alone for a while, forget about it, come back to it days, weeks or months later and add something else to it. I started to get comfortable with not having something finished in front of me for quite some time. This way of working meant I could be creative in the confines of my small apartment kitchen/studio. It meant things I wrote down, calendars I used throughout the year, tickets to concerts and the dirt on my shoes could become a medium for me. It meant whatever art supplies I still had laying around from college studio days could be transformed into something new. Instead of using a traditional "palette", I used paper. My palettes and scrap papers where I would dry off a brush, or wipe away something would be come the foundations for new works.
I can't describe it, but it's like working on a puzzle. I feel excited again to play with shapes and colors and textures; where should they all go? Where will they end up? I like hiding and revealing things. I like the pictures that come into my head when I'm working. Landscapes and people flow in and out of my head. I picture ancient humans doing this exact thing, where they feel the urge to document their place and time. I think about how our universe exists while other universes are existing simultaneously. Everything is an exploration. I start thinking about texture and the surface of my paper, how I can make it not feel like paper anymore. I like to think these artworks are little things that I will be leaving behind one day for someone else to find.
These works I have taped up on my wall are a constant work in progress. I visit them. I talk to them. I look for connections to current events and how I feel about the things going on in the world. I pour my heart into them in little bursts. I walk away. I leave them alone. I let them become something.
That is my process so far. I encourage my fellow art teacher friends to not give up on finding your process. It's important to make something that's your own, not for work or for a course you're taking. Scale it down. Find a spot somewhere to keep a sketchbook page open, or keep something small with you. Try something digital ( I did that too for a while when I really didn't have a lot of space/time/money). Try some photography. Whatever it is, let that little creative voice speak to you, and promise to act on it sometime soon! Don't worry about what it's gonna look like, or if someone will buy it.
Lastly, I decided that once a month, I'm going to start looking for some kind of art show or juried show to enter work into. It's been a pretty long time since I've shown work. I'd like to start again and start a new CV. So this month I entered work into the LIC open call. I'll let you know if any of my pieces get chosen. It's exciting and scary to put yourself out there again, but I just want to have fun and share my work with more people, and I hope you'll be inspired to do so too!