Doubts and Frustration
After developing the overlapped organza sample and painting it (see previous post) I really began to question my ability to ‘do‘ mixed media. I think I have a ‘mixed media’ approach to my work as a whole or a collection. I am comfortable switching materials and techniques from one sample to the next but I still struggle to combine materials within a single piece of work. I still prefer each sample to comprise of a single material or technique. Is this Mixed Media? -I guess it very much depends on your personal definition and what the term means to you.
Rightly or wrongly, I associate Mixed Media with found objects, with compilations of different textures and with pieces heavily embellished with the remains of other materials. In my mind Mixed Media work should be much more complex than what I produce. I feel like my work is falling short of the requirements, that it just isn’t enough.
Interestingly, having been attracted to the quote by Denyse Schmidt in the foreword of Heather Jones book:
“I know how deceptively difficult it is to produce work that is restrained. When I began making quilts, the medium had an ingrained habit of ‘more is more’. It can be easy to impress with virtuoso sewing skills, use of abundant and vibrant colour and complicated visual tricks. Plenty of prints and patchwork can distract our attention, but it is much more skilful -and brave- to find the purest expression of form, to let the poetry of composition and colour have its say, not to overcomplicate or muddle the message with needless flourishes.”
I was further encouraged by the recent discussion on Textileatist.org by Joe Pitcher about his mum, Textile Artist, Sue Stone. The article, entitled: Are you a textile technique addict?. In it, he discusses the ease with which we can become ‘overwhelmed’ by the endless possibilities on offer to us and the need for limitations. This is something I have experienced throughout my OCA study, I’m sure many other students have too:
“Perhaps you can relate? Maybe you have a hundred ideas buzzing around your head but lack focus. You try to bring those ideas to life using every technique in the book. After all, there are hundreds of possible pathways as a textile artist; the options can be overwhelming and it can be confusing knowing what to focus on.” ¹
This seems to be somewhat universal in the world of the amateur textile artist, when I last looked 172 people had saved the article and 74 felt moved enough to comment.
In many ways the OCA has given me an opportunity to try a great many techniques and materials I could never have justified had I been working on my own. (I have a habit of buying books and art resources, justifying their cost with the reward of degree status at the end) Don’t get me wrong, I’m so happy to have had this ‘permission’ to expand my repertoire but lately have felt quite frustrated. Reading this article helped me identify part of the cause of this dissatisfaction. Pitcher goes on to say:
“Time to stop ‘dabbling’ and go deep:
Perhaps the way to truly find your voice, build a sophisticated visual vocabulary and develop true versatility as an artist is to focus on a handful of techniques and push their boundaries through constant experimentation.” ²
I think this is the point I have reached. I feel I have already gained so much from the constant cycle of experimentation that now I want to consolidate. I have a much better idea of who I am and what I want to create. I want to stop diversifying and ‘go deep’.
Yet I am conflicted, I also recognise how much my studies (and the associated sampling) are helping my work and how much I am likely to grow through the continuation of the course. Perhaps what I’m feeling is Frustration?
To return to the point of Mixed Media (sorry I seemed to lose the thread there but in my head it is all related!) I am finding it difficult. I love the work I am producing, I am happy with it’s simplicity but I am full of doubt that the individual samples are experimental enough. For some reason, because of the title ‘Mixed Media’ I feel like I need to make them more complicated. Why do I associate this phrase with complexity? Can Mixed Media be simple?
I decided I had to try and translate the minimal aesthetic of the organza sample and paintings into something I could classify as ‘Mixed Media’
I like the combination of sponge and sheer organza. This sample displays more character than the original because of the inclusion of a surprising texture beneath. The stripes of organza play with a previous theme of concealment and revelation whilst also forming a linear pattern.
Having done some direct observational drawings of the sample, I began thinking about using Mixed Media to record the samples. Perhaps this would be a way forward?
I started looking again at Sonia Delaunay’s paintings, particularly her later work, in which I can see and feel her ‘presence’ more clearly. (more of this here) I returned to the very flat painting I made:
and reinterpreted it as a Mixed Media collage/painting, which I used as the cover for my Joining sketchbook:
Being very mindful of what I reflected on in this post, I combined gouache, tissue paper and wax crayon. I think this new interpretation is more successful that the original because it contains much more character. It is more textural and although the photograph doesn’t really show it, it almost glows with the intensity of the colours.
¹ JONES H, Quilt Local. Finding Inspiration in the Everyday. (2015) STEWART TABORI & CHANG
² ³ PITCHER J, http://www.textileartist.org/textile-technique-addict/