Sunday, February 22, 2009

Completely self-indulgent ramble on how I got started in art

I intended this post to tell you all about how I met Nick Bantock (my personal artistic hero - nay, deity, though he would no doubt be very amused to be deified) but I decided that first I'd have a self-indulgent ramble about me and art and how I wound up with the most absorbing and second-most expensive hobby (after horses but really, who has time or money for that in middle age with a full time job) of my life. If you're reading this, you're probably a like minded sort of person...and I love hearing how people found their art niche, or if they haven't trying to talk them into mine, so here goes. Sort of setting the stage as it were...

I'm a kid - I draw everything, all the time. I love drawing and coloring. Whether drawn well or poorly I don't know, but my cousin (a real professional artist) encourages me with very fancy Caran D'Ache art supplies, my grandmother's next door neighbor gives me her set of antique Reeves watercolors that she took with her to Egypt in the 1920's....I draw horses in the margins of my textbooks.

I get to junior high - I am convinced I'll be either an artist, and archaeologist, or a flight attendant when I grow up. (Stewardesses were much more glam back in the 1960's and 70's when I was young). I take art class. I am completely shattered as I don't really draw apples and their shading very well. The art teacher pays no attention to me whatsoever. I give up.

I take a crafts class in college - yes, as a liberal arts major I really did take Basketweaving. I loved it. I learned how to carve stamps from linoleum and make monoprints, but somehow didn't really pick things back up. Do suspect that there may be a bigger world than fine arts.

1991 - start to hear about a literary phenomenon. See a cool book at a little independent bookstore in town (no longer around, sigh) and lo and behold - it's this phenomenon book. Griffin and Sabine - it's an artful correspondence between two people separated by space, and depending on your theory (it's rather a mysterious story) time. Or maybe they aren't really two people at all (Sabine may just live in Griffin's mind) but they have an enigmatic correspondence in postcards and letters. Their story unfolds via one of the most intriguing ways - opening their letters (incredibly artful and highly illustrated) and reading their mail. It's like spying on someone else's life, and trying to decipher their art along the way. It's just surreal and mysterious and romantic and it totally captured my imagination. It was like the view from the inside of my head had been mapped out, not the one that was there formerly, but the one that wanted to be and the one that felt completely right.

Skip forward through the 1990's and I would occasionally see books and cards and random things whose artwork and sensibilities just drew me in and fired my imagination. Merchant of Marvels, and Paris Out of Hand, and random stuff that just appeared in offbeat gift shops and would call out to me (it called "buy!" incase you're wondering). I didn't know why I liked this strange and exotic look with a dash of humor - sort of a combo of Monty Python cartoons and sensibility, 17th century woodcuts, North African dancers, and the curtains of Marie Antoinette's salon in a kaleidoscopic haze of color. I just knew it when I saw it and wanted more.

Forward again to Spring 2003 - I see Legacy magazine at my local Borders and am intrigued. I saw all these amazing art projects that seemed somehow do-able, had no idea how to do them though. I am fascinated, and at this point....I still had money ;-)

Summer 2005 - after a few forays into jewelry making, the purchase of an occasional rubber stamp at Joann's (no real idea what to do with it though) I happen upon an entire rubber stamp show - I go thinking I'll spend an hour or so. Two hundred dollars and the rest of the day later - I'm hooked. And Nick Bantock appears in my world again (bet you wondered when I was getting back to him) - as one of the many tools in his art arsenal is - yep, mundane rubber stamps. (Sadly, Limited Edition Rubber Stamps who sold his personal line of stamps is no longer in business) Not cutesy bears that say "I heart you beary much" and remind you of the sappy stuff people wrote in your high school yearbook "2 sweet 2 B 4 gotten" etc. No, there were art stamps out there - Stamp Camp, and Lost Coast and Stampers Anonymous and well, a lot of other cool and surreal stuff that would probably scare your grandma. Not mine, she was rather progressive, but somebody's grandma.

I was off and reading every book and magazine I could get my hands on on this wonderful world of mixed media art - with its rabbit holes of all sorts of stuff to do - paper and paint, assemblage, rusty metal, fairy dolls, postage stamps on top of old photos of silly Victorians in paper hats, polymer clay and those stamps - well, it's all a bit endless and if you want to see more - try Somerset Studio magazine...expensive, but worth it.

And I kept buying art technique books, and going to classes and educating myself - and learning to solder, and carve, and emboss, and paint, and journal - and well, as you read in my last post, I'm getting some art published in the aforementioned magazine. Forty years, and I'm finally feeling like an artist. And all because I found out there was a wide world of art out there that didn't rely on being able to draw a good apple. And if I hadn't seen that book, all those years back, by Nick Bantock, then I wonder if I would have discovered this world at all.

So, what's your story? Who is your inspiration? and incase you're wondering - did you ever get to meet yours? Well, that's a story for next week (yes, I know I told you that last August, but didn't somehow get to writing it. Sometimes it takes a while...)Wishing you artful dreams...

1 comment:

Christy said...

I love this tale of how you found art, or is it that art found you, several times? ;) My tale would be totally boring, empty nest, what do I do now? Who am I, no idea, found Layers Upon Layers website one day and an altered book artist was born. Thanks for sharing your fun story and for commenting on my art piece on my blog!