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Thoughtful work?

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Catharine Newell
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Thoughtful work?

Postby Catharine Newell » Sun Sep 28, 2003 11:24 am

North Lands Glass (Scotland) was an amazing experience in so many ways... but I think the most important point of conversation in Kirstie Rae and David Nash's courses (and the conference, as well) was "Why are you doing the work that you do? What is your thought process behind your work? IS there thought behind it? Have you researched your premise? What is it that you're saying, are you saying it clearly, and why are you saying it at all?"

Interesting questions... includes the "technique is cheap" discussion we almost had in the Silly Ethics thread.

Hoping to get a discussion going:

I'm a voyeur at heart and am very interested in our (quite/most? often misguided) perceptions of others which are, of course, based upon our personal life experiences. This is where my work starts, why I choose the subjects I do... As far as technique goes, I feel that anyone could do the work I do - I'm not conducting rocket science in my studio. Where I hope I'm making a distinctive difference is in how I'm doing my work, the sensitivity and thought involved in the process - not the process itself. In fact, this relaxed approach to process (not sloppy, just relaxed) allows me to continually experiment - even when I'm preparing for the 20th (my new record) firing of a panel this morning.

Anyone else? I would love to hear your musings on this subject...

Catharine

Brock
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Postby Brock » Sun Sep 28, 2003 11:36 am

I work non-figuratively. I've painted a little but the bulk of my work is patterns and adornment. This is mainly because I don't have the drawing/painting skills that you have Catharine. I'm drawn to painting (groan) but it's an incredibly painful process for me, and the majority of my attempts never come to fruition. Right now, I have in my studio a Paradise painted panel of dead spawning salmon from a photo I took. The panel has been fired several times, and to finish it would require several more. It's been stalled for 2 years, simply because I can imagine it better than I can paint it. I don't know where I was going with this, but for the last few years I have been telling our students, every time you take a technical/process course, take a drawing/painting course. It's great advice, and I should follow it. Brock
My memory is so good, I can't remember the last time I forgot something . . .

rosanna gusler
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Postby rosanna gusler » Sun Sep 28, 2003 12:07 pm

i think you are right on brock. that means i owe myself several painting drawing design classes. time to pay up. rosanna

Catharine Newell
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Postby Catharine Newell » Sun Sep 28, 2003 12:08 pm

Brock wrote:I work non-figuratively. I've painted a little but the bulk of my work is patterns and adornment. This is mainly because I don't have the drawing/painting skills that you have Catharine. I'm drawn to painting (groan) but it's an incredibly painful process for me, and the majority of my attempts never come to fruition. Right now, I have in my studio a Paradise painted panel of dead spawning salmon from a photo I took. The panel has been fired several times, and to finish it would require several more. It's been stalled for 2 years, simply because I can imagine it better than I can paint it. I don't know where I was going with this, but for the last few years I have been telling our students, every time you take a technical/process course, take a drawing/painting course. It's great advice, and I should follow it. Brock


Then, I guess my question to you, Brock, is why you choose the patterns and adornment that you do? What would happen to your dead salmon panel if you completely shifted gears and integrated your current design approach? Sounds to me as though you weren't fully connected to this panel, anyway....

Catharine

Paul Tarlow
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Postby Paul Tarlow » Sun Sep 28, 2003 12:14 pm

>> I feel that anyone could do the work I do

I believe you generously overestimate the skills of "anyone" :)

For me, the best work evokes emotion. Sometimes the emotion is crisp, sometimes it is ambiguous. Ambiguous doesn't equate to weak.

My favorite art (and I include poetry in particular here) is ambiguous. No neat explanation. No clever dissection of symbols, etc. This is the type of art to which I can continually return, year after year, always harvesting some new crop of wonder, fear, joy, intrigue.

I believe art can (and often should) be created by the same ambiguous psyche. The color goes there because if feels right. The imagery is what it is because it evokes. It isn't math. You can't reduce it, deconstruct it or reverse-engineer it in some universally understandable way.

You can, though, spend an wonderful eternity trying.

- Paul

Catharine Newell
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Re: Thoughtful work?

Postby Catharine Newell » Sun Sep 28, 2003 12:20 pm

[quote="Catharine Newell"]North Lands Glass (Scotland) was an amazing experience in so many ways... but I think the most important point of conversation in Kirstie Rae and David Nash's courses (and the conference, as well) was "Why are you doing the work that you do? What is your thought process behind your work? IS there thought behind it? Have you researched your premise? What is it that you're saying, are you saying it clearly, and why are you saying it at all?"

Interesting questions... includes the "technique is cheap" discussion we almost had in the Silly Ethics thread.





This is the crux of my question and what I would love to have responses to...

Catharine

Catharine Newell
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Postby Catharine Newell » Sun Sep 28, 2003 12:29 pm

Paul Tarlow wrote:>> My favorite art (and I include poetry in particular here) is ambiguous. No neat explanation. No clever dissection of symbols, etc. This is the type of art to which I can continually return, year after year, always harvesting some new crop of wonder, fear, joy, intrigue.

I believe art can (and often should) be created by the same ambiguous psyche. The color goes there because if feels right. The imagery is what it is because it evokes. It isn't math. You can't reduce it, deconstruct it or reverse-engineer it in some universally understandable way.

You can, though, spend an wonderful eternity trying.

- Paul





I personally love ambiguity in work. It leaves room for interpretation and the freedom of personal attachment.

Catharine

Ann Demko
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Postby Ann Demko » Sun Sep 28, 2003 1:12 pm

I create strictly from an emotional level. I constuct from shapes ranging from well defined, angled borders to free form. It all boils down to what takes my breath away. I tend to me monochromatic in life but have forced myself to venture into color with glass. (forced is probably too strong) I love a reaction to my pieces. I strive for joy and harmony and hope I am able to evoke these feelings in others. I want people to see the beauty the glass holds within. Expose them to forms of glass they have never seen. I am relatively new to warm glass and am exploring different areas as time and money allows. Hopefully I will become a master of my media and be able to use all aspects of the media to express my inner emotions. I know this is a simplistic, base motivator for art, but it's me. Ann

Bob
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Postby Bob » Sun Sep 28, 2003 1:21 pm

Interesting questions you pose Catharine. I have wrestled with this personally... albeit in the squallor of my basement studio and not in the rolling highlands of Scotland.

On the question of "have you researched your premise?" . I have always thought that an artist should be able to discuss and "justify" their work. When asked what their work is "about" the answer should not be "It's about $800". They should be able to discuss their motivation intelligently. For me ... my work is "about" texture. Working with powder has allowed me to explore textures on the surface of, and within glass. I am a geologist (by day) and have studied and worked at it for almost 35 years. Gads I'm getting old. One of the aspects of geology that I have always loved is the search for the understanding of the formation and evolution of rocks. This search has always focussed on understanding and interpretting textures. We always work towards a story of how things evolved. When I started working with textures in glass I felt very "comfortable" with it. They told me stories... OK I am pretty isolated in the dead of winter in my studio... OK I'm not really certain if they talked to me. But I truly identified with and had a very personal connection to the work. As the work evolved I realized that textures were everywhere and I started noticing textures on all different scales. I sometimes feel like the little kid in "The Sixth Sense" who says despondantly "I see dead bodies"... with me it is "I see textures".

On the point of "technique is cheap".... This has been a personal concern for me. The textures I have developed using powder are just a "technique". Initially the "technique is cheap" argument really concerned me and I continued to experiment to find ways to use powder more as paints. Over time the techniques have changed from just doing a set pattern of steps to blending powders, layering them on at different times in the process, using tools to shape wafers and design components. I can now control and anticipate the final outcome. I guess my point here is that if a person is worried about their work being mainly an expression of technique then try pushing it further. Try expanding the application through experimentation.

In the end what really matters is the emotion that is expressed in your work. I would rather be able to express emotion with my work than technique. To paraphrase an expression from the oil exploration business.... "I'd rather be lucky than smart". Catharine, you might not be doing rocket science... but your work oozes emotion.


Cheers,

Bob

paulajane

Postby paulajane » Sun Sep 28, 2003 1:28 pm

It is interesting to me that this question has arisen. I used to write for some computer graphic websites and we discussed this topic a few times. In my experience there are different types of "artists". I put the term in quotations because I probably define the word artists differently than some people. As an aside, my definition of artist involves a person who is internally emotionally driven to work. When they are not working, they have a feel of being lost. Anyway, there are people out there who are excellent technicians, be it in the field of photography or even drawing, but they do not work emotionally. I have found that usually the sale of the work of these people is their goal. My husband and I who work together in glass work more emotionally. I am miserable and miserable to live with if I am in a dry period. My husband and I have written about the culture of the Indians originally of the S.E. (he is part Cherokee) and have accumulated many books showing early artifacts. We have internalized some of these and find we bring them into our work. We plan to do more of this in the future because it says something to us.

I think for warm glass to keep evolving it has to carry an artist's meaning within a piece. This is not always easy in a piece of jewelry, but I feel it can be done if the seed is within the artists themselves.

Paula

Barbara Muth
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Re: Thoughtful work?

Postby Barbara Muth » Sun Sep 28, 2003 1:37 pm

Catharine Newell wrote:"Why are you doing the work that you do? What is your thought process behind your work? IS there thought behind it? Have you researched your premise? What is it that you're saying, are you saying it clearly, and why are you saying it at all?"



Yeay!

These are the kinds of questions I have been wanting to talk through with others, in large part because I am still trying to articulate my vision. while working with glass I discovered that I have a huge fascination with texture, probably because I spent so many years as a nearsighted kid without glasses who couldn't see the forest or the trees, just the curls in the lichen she was holding to her nose. I want to pull the viewer in, to challenge the notion that what we see on the surface is what it is.

At the same time I am working on trying to incorporate some of the work I did in figure drawing when I lived in New York into the work, communicating through the intersection of textures and figures the importance of looking beyond the surface. And now that I pulled all of those drawings out, I want to start figure drawing again.

I have been haunted with a question I recently heard in a lecture. "Why glass? Could I communicate this message better in another medium, do I have to use glass for my message?"

Having not asked myself this question before starting down this path (investing in equipment and supplies) I am loath to approach it now. But I have to work on answering that question...

Barbara
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Don Burt
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Postby Don Burt » Sun Sep 28, 2003 1:42 pm

I like complicated artwork with an agenda, a narrative, themes and motifs and symbolism and tricks and puns and ambiguity. I like it just as much as the next guy. But I dislike the notion that there's something lesser about work that doesn't have all that, and something lesser about a craftsperson who can't articulate a grave, important artistic statement.
Many of 'you gallery exhibitors' and all 'us aspiring gallery exhibitors' are tempted to add narrative content when there's nothing needed to say. It demeans craft.

Good technique is enough. It may not be enough for New Glass Review. It may not be enough for an art editor to find something to write about, but its still good enough. An art editor has to reveal to his readership a 'school' or a 'new trend': particularly one which the editor has discovered himself. A museum director wants to utilize her training. She wants to exhibit 'important' work, and do so in a means that shows a synchronous development of style, or better yet, a parallel development of a style with an outside influence. Collectors buy what the art editors and museum directors tell them to. Artists know whats going on and try to comply with the demand. It leads to artificial content and insincere art.

I appreciate the charge to consider 'what it is I'm saying, am I saying it clearly (I forget the rest of the Scot's charge)' . I think its worth consideration. But I don't think I need to publish it.

'Technique is cheap' is true. With all the advancement in tools, and science and the availability of knowledge, good technique is no longer as valuable as it used to be. But I still appreciate it and strive for it. Cheaper still than technique is 'content' added by those who are too concerned by 'What it is I'm saying, and am I saying it clearly'.

There's one artist in particular who really pisses me off. The artists work is crammed with pithy content, but you know the artist's heart is in technique and simple love of beauty.

Better stop here. Fun thread...thanks

Amy Schleif-Mohr
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Postby Amy Schleif-Mohr » Sun Sep 28, 2003 1:44 pm

I agree profoundly with Bob about technique, as my work started much the same way. It is my job to make the work more than technique and figure out why it is important to the message I am trying to convey that the work has to be the way it is.

My message on the other hand has had an incredible amount of thought put into it. It's my language and it is based on a set of "symbols" that range from obvious to very subtle. I personally have always been drawn to work that has many layers and a combination of obvious and subtlety. This, for me, started back when I was painting and trying to find my "voice". In addition I feel that, since I do abstract work, that my research comes predominately from my personal experiences. Yes, I usually have an over all message that I am trying to communicate, but there are also underlying messages in a piece that allows for interpretation that will certainly mean something different to each person that views and studies the work. Ahhh, and of course there are some messages that are not supposed to be understood.

These are great questions Catherine, ones that need to be asked constantly so that we as artists push ourselves to grow.

Amy

Amy on Salt Spring
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Postby Amy on Salt Spring » Sun Sep 28, 2003 2:18 pm

"Why are you doing the work that you do?" "What is your thought process behind your work "

When I started I was doing mainly decorative work and my process was almost completely toward the aesthetic which I found extremely unsatisfying. Now for me there is more emotion than thought in my work--or I should say the emotion comes first and then a lot of thought about how best to express it. I have a hard time talking about my work because it makes me feel self conscious (I know I have to get over that which is why I'm making myself write this, of course I keep deleting things...), but there is a story behind each piece. If I am going through some strong emotion or dealing with an issue it will probably show up in one of my pieces. Does that mean my work is self therapy?! If so, and I think it is, I hope that is considered a valid approach. Once I have the basic idea of the piece then thought takes over and I begin working toward expressing the idea/feeling with some objectivity since I think working completely from emotion does not make for a good final result, its a balance between the two. I guess objectivity is where technique comes in.

"What is it that you're saying, are you saying it clearly, and why are you saying it at all"

I feel that I am saying what I want to say clearly for me, but I know that in the end the viewer of the work will have their own interpretation of it which is the amazing thing about art. I don't want to be super representational in my work. I like the idea of evoking a response, not necessarily one that has anything to do with why I made the piece, not spelling out exactly what the viewer should think about it.

Tony Smith
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Postby Tony Smith » Sun Sep 28, 2003 3:10 pm

Some of my pieces are about texture, both visual and tactile http://www.amsmith.com/wgwglass2003/img_1739.jpg . While others are strictly visual http://www.amsmith.com/wgwglass2003/img_1746.jpg . But I have a hard time "justifying" my work as though I needed a reason to create it. While I can add a little paragraph to my latest "Scorpius" piece http://www.amsmith.com/wgwglass2003/img_1752.jpg decribing what it represents, my emotional connection is to the techniques used in creating it. If I need to have a connection beyond that, I'm not sure that I qualify for whatever club Kirstie Rae and David Nash are in.

Tony
The tightrope between being strange and being creative is too narrow to walk without occasionally landing on both sides..." Scott Berkun

Amy Schleif-Mohr
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Postby Amy Schleif-Mohr » Sun Sep 28, 2003 3:13 pm

"What is it that you're saying, are you saying it clearly, and why are you saying it at all"

The idea of message can be explored as part of the icongraphy of a piece. I personally think that this is the best way for me to communicte with others. I find it very difficult to talk/write about the message of my work because I lack the vocabulary to effectivly talk/wirte about it. The piece is my voice. And I have total control over how clearly I speak.

Just some more thoughts.

Amy

Catharine Newell
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Postby Catharine Newell » Sun Sep 28, 2003 3:20 pm

Ahhh... lunchtime. These responses are fascinating! I love these questions and the value behind considering answers to them.

I've always considered current work to be simply a precursor to future work. Upon finishing a piece, it's easy for me to detach, cast a critical eye, and move onto the next with the intent to make serious improvement. So, it's always important to figure out why I'm doing what I'm doing...

A gallery director once asked me why most of my figures were men. It never even occurred to me that they were. Something else to examine, and I think the next work was richer for it. Simple questions.

Interesting stuff.

Catharine

Tony Smith
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Postby Tony Smith » Sun Sep 28, 2003 3:22 pm

Amy Schleif-Mohr wrote:"What is it that you're saying, are you saying it clearly, and why are you saying it at all"

The idea of message can be explored as part of the icongraphy of a piece. I personally think that this is the best way for me to communicte with others. I find it very difficult to talk/write about the message of my work because I lack the vocabulary to effectivly talk/wirte about it. The piece is my voice. And I have total control over how clearly I speak.

Just some more thoughts.

Amy

Well said!!!!! =D> =D>
=D> =D> =D> =D> =D>
The tightrope between being strange and being creative is too narrow to walk without occasionally landing on both sides..." Scott Berkun

Arlene from Poway
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I'm not sure...

Postby Arlene from Poway » Sun Sep 28, 2003 4:10 pm

I keep reading, I think this has to do with individual vision of ones work. There are times when others see things in my pieces that I don't see. I do mostly " personal adornment and some picture frames" I have had folks say how come no one else does this? I ask "what" ? Each person/artist has a style or a different heart involved in their art. My question is , " Are we crafters, are we artists , are we just creatives with a different vision? "
I don't know how to answer these questions. I don't know for sure where my "vision" comes from? I was diagnosed as bi-polar once. But no longer, is creativity a brain defect? My work depends on my mood , am I tired, hungry, horny? How about it?

Arlene/glassgirl

the confused fuser

K Okahashi
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Postby K Okahashi » Sun Sep 28, 2003 4:12 pm

"Why are you doing the work that you do?" "What is your thought process behind your work "

My first real dive into artistic ventures started with music and teaching myself to play guitar (what seems like eons ago). Music is about discipline- whether one learns from a teacher or not. It's practicing scales and songs over and over to get it "just right." I used to play my guitar several hours a day and wrote songs-- at that time it was my way of meditating.

Over the course of my life, I have gravitated toward glass. The colors drew me in and helped me to re-create some of the colors back home in Hawaii. Glass was the medium thatI felt challenged both my intellect and creativity. I didn't have the emotional reaction with painting, clay, textiles or other medium as I did with glass.

At first I was just fascinated by the ability to manipulate the glass- producing some extremely simple combinations that to me are still just beautiful. (I still create some of these items as they are top sellers and stuff folks are still drawn to). As I continued on my journey with glass, I really felt it was like a form of meditation-especially working on commission pieces where I mostly had full reign to push and really learn technical knowledge. To explore areas that are new to me.

Every time I have taken a class, I come home and play with the techniques. While I may not necessarily incorporate that technique into my current offerings, I add that technique as another tool for my toolbox that I use when creating things for commission clients. And sometimes, it's mastering the very "simple techniques" alone that can set my work apart.

As to the thought process itself- sometimes it's those pesky muses who light a fire and I just have to try something out. Sometimes, it's dictated by my client's vision of what they want. I like to think of the thought process in terms of the design process- inspriration from muses, colors, or just my current state of mind.

Ok, I hope I'm not too windy here...great question and something that I will hope to come back to further along the journey too.

There is a buddhist analogy I heard a long time ago:

Think of perspective as folks climbing up a hill. Some have made it to the peak and can see things from the experiences of their journey, others are coming up the mountain looking in different directions and still others are in the valley looking at the mountain. Everyone's perspective is absolutely true and correct for them. Everyone has reactions sometimes the same and sometimes different to what they see. That's why I think I resonate with glass- it's the vastness of the mountain and the journey.

Have a great day!
keiko


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