There are dry patches during which I can sense that my art is changing in terms of subject, media, or style. I could still be making pictorial fabric collage quilts like I did when I started years ago. I loved making those and felt extremely satisfied with the results. It felt right to keep going with the medium. I could still be making giant paper collages on canvas like I did in the early 90's. Loved them too. I could be doing tight counted stitch work like I've come back to time and time again (therapeutic, perhaps?) But it never feels 100% right to move in a backwards direction with hopes of finding artistic satisfaction.
This is one of those fallow periods. I look at the past year and see it as a series of dabbles into new and renewed processes (English Paper Piecing, weaving, bead making, collage, fabric printing, etc.) rather than creating large "successes." That is hard to take in some ways as I have always valued productivity as an important part of the art journey. Certainly there are health issues that have impacted my ability to devote the time I'd like to my artwork, but that is not all that is going on, here.
As part of the current Embroidery course I am taking through the School of Stitched Textiles, I have been presented with an idea that I just haven't been able to make work. I have tried multiple subject matters only to find that the initial enthusiasm was a mirage. I am feeling pulled to do machine embroidery drawings - something I have yet to really focus on -- but keep procrastinating. I take little baby steps, then run screaming in the other direction looking for laundry to do, or maybe a dishwasher to empty. I have seen others do such lovely machine embroidered work, I am both intimidated and put off from the experience. It is logical, but irrational. I do not want my pieces to look like things I've seen, I need to find my way of using the process so I feel like it is mine, and this course will help with that. So why is it so hard to jump in and do the work?
Plain and simple, fear. Fear that the work will be ugly, not match my expectations, not "say"what I want it to say. Fear that it is so different from things I've done before that I "lose" artistic continuity. Fear that I won't enjoy the process or results. That it will feel like "work" rather than the magically escapist journey that art has been for me in my life. I have to remember that it is just fear, and no matter what medium I try, the art will be mine, and to move forward in baby steps, a little every day if needed until the creative rocket launches and I just can't put the work down or walk away from it. It is bound to happen.
For me the answer in times of artistic transition has been to be gentle, and lower my expectations, but make sure I continue to "show up" and do the work, even if it is less than I theoretically agree with. One night a week and time on weekends, for now, are devoted to this new direction, more if it takes off. At least one other block of time is devoted to what I call "R&D" -- more playing and dabbling without the expectation of Art. This has taken the form over the past week of playing with vector drawing with hopes of exploring digitally cut collages using a Cricut machine. I am fascinated at the intersection of technology and fiber processes, as one is slow and methodical, the other is fast and provides immediate gratification. What an odd couple. I think this is the path I've been on for a while -- dabbling with digital embroidery, now digital cutting, as well as digital fabric printing and using the materials in more laborious, meditative processes.
The fun part of being an artist is getting seemingly lost in the nooks and crannies of the journey...not knowing exactly which way to create, not seeing through the fog that is created by having so many potential directions. I know that I am very, very fortunate to be where I am, and have to keep the faith that through time, baby steps and effort, I will be able to look back and see that I ended up in the right (and only) place I could. Cheers.