Thursday, April 3, 2014

Taking a Second Look at Art You Don't Like

A while back, I did this collage.

It was made as part of a class I was running, using one of the exercises in my book, The Creative Conversation: ArtMaking as Playful Prayer.

The Artful Explorations in that book are all about exploring - not necessarily making an amazing product.  In fact, this exercise is called the "What's Next? Art Jar" and it's all about working within constraints and ultimately, LETTING GO OF THE OUTCOME. 

I had fun doing the exercise.  I  finished the collage, and felt, well, complete. 

And I didn't particularly like the result.

This happens.  And it's ok.  To paraphrase drawing instructor Phil Sylvester, "Everyone's got a lot of bad drawings stuck in their arms.  You've got to make a lot of bad drawings to get to the good ones." 

Fortunately, I wasn't attached to whether the piece was any good or not: I had a good time, learned some interesting things with negative space, and that was enough for me.

But there's always the question:  what do you do with something you're not crazy about it when you're done?  Poets and musicians might keep a line or a phrase from an unsuccessful piece, use it, turn it into something else. 

Even a piece we're not happy with will have interesting moments - bits that shine when you put them in a different context.  To help me find those moment in my own artwork, I use a piece of cardboard with a rectangular shape cut out of the middle.  Like a camera, the cardboard helps me to "frame" a small piece of the total picture, and notice it as its own composition.

I have one the size of an artist's trading card (what better way to use those pieces than to find the good "moments" and share them?) and another that's a small square.

Then, I use the cardboard frame(s) to mark the selected areas with a pencil . . . .

And I cut out the pieces I want to keep!

It's fun to play with the pieces, rearranging them, considering them alone and together.  It gets the creative juices flowing!  I'm really enjoying how these three pieces fit together!

 So, do you have any pieces of art that could use a fresh look?


Anonymous said...

"Everyone's got some bad drawings in their arms..." Love it!

I certainly have written pieces that don't work as a whole but from which a single line or fragment stands out. As with your cutouts, I often take those out, and take them with me. Sometimes I can build them into something new but more often not--because they persist as fragments of their original home and always feel a bit orphaned and forced in a new work. I can like them just as fragments; they are a promise of the better work I still have in me.

Bridget B. said...

Alice, I love the idea that those fragments are "a promise of the better work I still have in me." That's something wonderful to hold onto!!