Laying off the schoolwork (I’ll get back to it tomorrow)

The semester’s winding down, I’ve decided to take only one unit in Summer Session, and I’ve been re-learning knitting and crochet over the past two days. I mean, it’s been two days with minimal studying.

I think I’m ready to get back to my Zen & Art project, although I haven’t been in the mood to read. What I may take away from this project, though, may be the idea of making art for the process, instead of focusing on achieving a planned finished product.

That is, I’d be focusing on the method and whether I enjoy the method (and the quality of the method), not necessarily the goal. By that, I mean instead of striving for perfection as regards an ideal finished product, just let the process be what it is and enjoy it. (Kind of like focusing on the process of exercising, as versus just trying to get through it so I look better…when the first method is more effective at helping my posture and appearance.)

I never did take a picture of my workspace (a.k.a. the “craft table”), but I need to clean it up, anyway…I have little drawers which are full of creative tools. Maybe I should photograph it after I fix it up.

It’s taken me a bit of time to realize this, but I believe I am still in a learning/sampling mode where it comes to my own art. By that, I mean that I’m still searching for a favorite medium, which affects me in that I don’t want to invest too heavily in one art form just to find out I don’t like it.

I’m hoping Watercolor isn’t going to be this way, but to be real about it, I got into watercolor because I like playing in colors (and I just like the way watercolor disperses and floods the paper and is easily mixed and diluted), not so much because I want to paint things that already exist.

The issue I’m having is that I’ve established an identity as a creator, but have gotten so detached from my own core identity, that I’ve had to reclaim it in order to empower a creator identity. It’s easy to slide under the radar as “normal,” but I think in any artistic endeavor, you’ve really got to be willing to put yourself out there if you want to be honest in your work. Without honesty (however that can be expressed), it’s extremely difficult to say anything…that I would want to say, I guess.

Maybe art hasn’t always been about self-expression, but for me it is; and this is why I’ve chosen not to get a job in Commercial Art. This is also why I’m getting the Library degree, so that I won’t have to make things I don’t agree with and don’t actually support (or which contribute to harming people), in order to stay alive.

What I can say is that it’s hard to say something authentic when you’re afraid to say something authentic. The issue is that when you have to create or you don’t feel whole, that then gives you a choice between being a messenger of whatever good you serve, and/or using your talent to route money to a business or political cause. I would rather be the messenger of the Divine than replace that message with something that is designed to make someone else rich and powerful.

There are a lot of artists who work spirituality into their art, including one of my past Art teachers (whom I remembered while incidentally watching a show on Mediumship, last night). Today I saw a minor exhibit at a quilting shop (who knew quilting shops existed???) and it was really inspiring, especially with the Artist’s Statement which related material about visions, spiritual connections of the artist’s work, and being spoken to by the materials. This person was heavily into quilting, so much so that her work was art, more than practical (and was priced as Art).

And I’ve realized that different methods and strengths (and loves/passions) are needed for different art forms. For example, knitting and crochet are very tactile and involve a lot of repetition and high attention. Painting deals more with intellectual problems of composition and subject matter than I am altogether comfortable with…although I’m a color nut and so I am attracted to the colors just because they’re intermixable colors… Quilting seems different from both, but I haven’t gotten deeply enough into it to be able to tell you what it teaches me.

To bring in another contrast, I can mention relief printing, which deals a lot with drawing and carving, and the fact that hand-pulled prints are all unique even though they are taken from the same block. I started to do this, and even got the knives and blocks and stuff for it, quite a while ago. I just haven’t been back to it, and I don’t know why.

What I do know is that if I continue dealing with fabric and fiber, I will be able to block-print onto fabric. But that’s in the distant future, right now.

Because it’s almost Summer, I’ve been expending more on creative materials. I can see the chance to use them, on the horizon (this is as versus spending very little, except on necessities and books, during the semester). I think I may be celebrating in anticipation, though, instead of waiting until Finals are over and then planning to celebrate.

Lest I forget, the creative materials I’ve bought over the past few weeks include materials for quilting, watercolors, and needlework (this is a misleading term; I mean crochet and knitting, though I have still wanted to get back to embroidery as well. Then there’s also garment construction [sewing]).

The big common thread that all three of these have is color and color play, something that got me into beadwork as a youth, as well. Today I went to a yarn store which I didn’t even know was there (my folks found it for me) and bought actual nice yarn. Like wool yarn that isn’t scratchy.

It helps that I have some experience in this already and knew I was looking for DK (Double Knitting), Worsted weight, or Bulky yarn, and something which would hold good stitch definition (i.e. which would show the stitches) and not untwist as I worked it (this has been an issue with some 2-ply Fingering weight yarn…which I now know is irritating for me).

Yarn weights in the U.S. have specific names; from largest to smallest, they go something like this (I’m not totally sure this is accurate, by the way, but to give you an idea):

  1. Extra Bulky
  2. Bulky
  3. Worsted
  4. DK (Double Knitting)
  5. Sock
  6. Fingering
  7. Laceweight
  8. Cobweb

Basically, I had too much lightweight yarn (Numbers 5-7) and barely anything with any give to it which was midweight or heavyweight (numbers 2-4). This matters because heavier yarns work up into fabric, much faster. It’s also easier to learn on heavier yarn. I think some of the first good yarn I ever bought was this light laceweight stuff, and I didn’t realize that lacework was:

  1. best suited to experienced knitters/crocheters/tatters (it’s not that easy), and
  2. took forever, because you’re generally using a tiny hook or tiny needles, and that vastly magnifies production time (unless you’re doing a lot of openwork; that is, making something with a lot of relatively large holes in it).

Given that, I’m not entirely sure why the laceweight stuff is always in the front of the local yarn stores…

I also didn’t know to use bamboo needles (not steel or aluminum, which are both too slick), as a beginner; or not to use acrylic yarn to learn on (acrylic has absolutely no give to it, so when knitting, it can be difficult or impossible to force a needle into a loop that’s too small. It’s also a very poor insulator).

Anyhow, I got on here tonight with the idea of sharing the swatches I’ve been making, but I’m not sure I am all that capable of keeping my mind clear enough to photograph, edit, and then post the images. But I have three swatches I made today, and more than three which I made yesterday (I’m just not overjoyed with some of the ones beyond the three I mention).

I also now have a sizeable stash of decent (a.k.a. nice, a.k.a. pleasure to work with) yarn. If I wind a few hanks into balls, I can free up a lot more space in the yarn box, too.

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Buying, Writing, Doing: The Triad of my Present Dilemma

It’s become increasingly apparent to me that it is much easier to purchase art supplies than it is to apply them in creative ways.  It doesn’t seem that this in any way should really be a problem for me:  I did work my way through an AA program in Art (I couldn’t justify it the first time around with my BA, nor at the Master’s level…at least, currently), so I know that there is some part of me that is creative.  I also know that I’m skilled, though as I said before, when I don’t exercise those skills, they’re hidden within me.

Unless I practice, my skill and creativity won’t have the chance to show themselves, or to develop beyond the point they are at, now.  Maybe the problem I’m facing (starting out with incipient projects) is the one faced by writers of all types (which I’m well familiar with, as my BA actually was in Creative Writing):  fear of the blank page.  Or white paper.  Basically, it’s the same thing.

What I can latch onto right now are the exercises which build increasing familiarity with my media. Right now, I am very, very drawn to water-based media (inks, acrylic inks, acrylic paints, watercolors, water-based block printing).  I have a feeling that this is majorly because I don’t like to deal with toxins when they’re unnecessary, and cleaning out watercolor brushes isn’t a big deal to me, at present.

Ah — and, I used to work more in dry media (pencils, pens, colored pencils, most apparently) — until I got tired of the tiny point of contact with the paper (give me brushes) and the graininess of most of my attempts.  (Keep in mind here that my Prismacolors were purchased well before the year 2000, so I don’t have the advantage of the smoother laydown of the new formulations, in that brand.)  In contrast, inks and paints are much more…captivating for me:  they lay down solid, (usually) unbroken, and (usually) more vivid color.

Color is something that I at one time began to organically grow into (toward the end of my stay in Community College) — and then I restarted the Library & Information Science program.  At that point, my energy focused on the goal of gaining an MLIS in order to be able to be a Librarian, so that I could have a steady income stream, hopefully benefits (though I have heard that these are increasingly being cut in Librarianship proper) and work within one of my areas of interest, while also performing a social good.  In my spare time, and with the spare resources I would gain from being an Information professional (or so I’ve heard), I have planned to work on my Art, thus bolstering my psychological resilience.

Right now…it’s hard for me to formulate or say what my point is, within LIS.  It’s where I am now, and it’s what I know, but that doesn’t really count for much of anything when I realize that I’m already at the top of my pay scale and will have to change positions soon if I want to become more efficient at earning money.

What I want to be doing right now, is helping to construct Web pages.  It’s fairly evident, even just through my experience with this blog and my drive to personalize and edit its structure.  It fits in with my other two degrees in the aspect of being production-based, but not entirely so much in the fact that it’s technical.  I presently do not have the ability to customize pages and sites.  If I keep on in the LIS program, I may eventually gain the skills, however:  and a new perspective on the experience of designing for someone else.

I have a feeling, though, that this will put me about even with the youth coming out of high school in this era — technically speaking.  Technology flows on, and keeping current with it is one of the things to which I’ve resigned myself.  Design, however, is a specialty, and requires skills and knowledge that not everyone has.  And, as has become increasingly apparent, it’s not about me or my expression (as versus Art, which seems to require drilling deeply into myself to draw out something that only I can do).

Right now I’m in a class on User Experience, which is an aspect of Design — and it’s very apparent that Design encompasses much more than the utilization of art skills.  Designing is not the same thing as producing Art, unless the person you’re designing for is you.

And writing for yourself is not the same thing as writing for someone else.

I think that if I did not have the fear of repercussions for expressing anything unique, I would have an easier time with both Art and Writing.  But I’m old enough to know that expression begets consequences.  Whether those are good or bad consequences is unknown and ultimately subjective; whether praise or hatred will prevail is yet to be seen.

This could be the reason why I have seen so many take a brash stance against this psychic wall…because if you don’t stand strongly, the force of that wall could crush your light down into a black hole.

Of course, it helps to have solid grounding and conviction in something reasonable, first.

M has expressed frustration that I have been acquiring supplies — particularly for painting — and have not progressed beyond, “little squares.”  (I’m not sure she understands how difficult the medium of watercolor is, however…)

My little squares, though they could be made in a more aesthetically pleasing manner, are doing something for me:  they’re familiarizing me with the medium.  I don’t feel comfortable jumping from having done nearly nothing into a place where I have no ground to stand on and don’t know how to kick or stroke.

Doing that, and working out my familiarization in a way in which I am likely to destroy my first five paintings (if not more), would be…almost traumatic, for me.  So I’m working on little squares.  Little squares, I can handle; and although the progression there is incremental, and likely to hit a roadblock when I try actually using the colors in application, at least it is something, and I’m learning from it.  Without something, I’m paralyzed because I’m being expected to perform as an intermediate or advanced student without having taken beginner classes.

Maybe M can move forward like that; but I’ve noticed that, in her own design work, she doesn’t think ahead.  She plunges forward and then hits a roadblock and doesn’t know where to go from there.  In contrast, I think things out much further, but then am criticized for my tentativeness and my expensive preparations and my lack of starting.

And actually, now that I’m looking at my notes, I can also see a pattern here:  and not just in the delicateness of my process and my work.

I probably write about art so much because it’s easier for me to write about art than it is for me to get up the courage to actually do it.  I’ve been writing nearly constantly, for all of my life.  Writing is familiar to me, and it’s easier for me to do this than it is for me to sit down with a paintbrush, no matter the chances of coming out with something beautiful as an end product (though maybe I will try and keep that in mind as a goal.  I have a chance of making something beautiful if I risk failure.  If I do not, I have no chance of doing the same).

Writing about work, though, is not at all equivalent to actually doing it.

I’ve got to make a number of lifestyle changes relatively soon.  Many of these — most, actually — are related to my mental and physical health.  I need to floss regularly.  I need to brush my teeth and wash my face well in advance of bedtime.  I need to avoid late nights (sugar cravings come on after 11 PM).  I need to drink more water and avoid excess sugar.  I need to shower more often, and to exercise (and stretch) more often and more regularly; and if I can, I ought to try to meditate regularly (doing all of this may allow me to reduce my medications…and drop down a few sizes).

Along with this — I wonder if it would be too much of a strain for me to try and wake up with the Sun, so I have all the hours of the day to do my work and my art, as versus doing art in the afternoon and taking photos in the late afternoon or evening (when it’s dark).  Or, less optimally, doing art at nighttime with less-than-natural light.

It’s something to think about.  Maybe tonight I can try going to bed early, instead of trying to wring all the good I can get out of the day, and see if I am able and willing to get up at, say, 7 AM tomorrow (as I tried to do, today).  And maybe if I have the art play as a lure to get me out of bed…I’ll actually do it.

Intimacy with the reader; fear of judgment

It’s midafternoon, and I’m trying not to go back to sleep.  I have plenty of work to do, and plenty of time to do it within.  However…that’s not what I want to talk about, at the moment.  Yesterday, I remembered why it was that I had stopped writing (fiction).

I’m not sure if I will or can actually get around to admitting that reason in the course of this post, but it essentially had to do with the fact that my writing style starts off being intimate and nuanced, and only gets closer from there.  It also had to do with the fact that I was dealing with a lot of things regarding sexuality and gender identity and expression, as a youth.  I am not certain I had the experience to fully express this, then; and even if I did, this is difficult territory to navigate even for someone who isn’t a minority.

The major issue, for me, with being a writer or artist is that to be a writer or artist, one essentially has to express oneself.  If one is afraid of being judged for one’s expression (or worse, for the elements of oneself which give rise to that expression), it’s going to be difficult to do anything touching on these hidden elements in either of these fields.

This is partially why I’ve been trying to be as intimate as I have, in my writings here.  (Practice.)  It’s probably also a large reason why I’ve been drawn to doing work in which the reasoning behind my drive to create is less evident (jewelry, ceramics, abstracted visual art).

In essence, I write more skillfully than I speak (or as someone told me recently, “or so I think”), and in absence of very many close friends or lovers, my need for intimacy becomes expressed through writing.  Because the medications I’m taking for my (abstractly related) condition have basically taken away my libido…on one hand, it becomes easier to express myself, because I can avoid the point of overt sexuality.  On the other hand, it means that my need for psychological/intellectual/emotional intimacy becomes visible and primary, as my need for physical expression of that intimacy becomes less important.

Or, perhaps I should say; not less important, but inherently flawed.  I don’t have the body I would wish for in these circumstances, and being in sexual situations where I’m being interpreted as someone I’m not (“woman,” “lesbian”), pretty much destroys my desire to engage.

Of course, though…to have a “correct” or “corrected” body would require surgery and lifelong dependence on outside medication, which is not something I desire (especially as — with my genetics — it would likely eventually kill me, in one way or another).  The happy medium (a muscular, capable, fast, lithe, flexible, trim body) is something I do feel like going back to, but again; becoming visible as a gender minority…is kind of a scary option.  Maybe it wouldn’t be so scary if it were visible that I could easily defend myself, though.  😉

Which then brings up the question of martial arts — again — though I have (or had; I’m not sure about myself at 162 lbs.) a body type which is not well-known for brute strength, but rather for speed and agility.  At my most capable, I’m better at dodging and running from and evading trouble, than directly engaging it.  In a force-against-force battle, I’m likely to lose, meaning a hard (as versus soft) martial art like karate is not optimal.  (Hard martial arts focus on force-against-force; soft martial arts depend more on manipulation of center of gravity, evasion, pins, and joint locks/breaks.)

An empty-handed gymnastic martial art requiring lots of speed and flexibility, like tae kwon do, is possible; but the sparring (i.e. the fun part) is likely to be something that will exacerbate my illness via repeated mild head trauma.  (I did tae kwon do for a little bit in undergrad; it was fun, but the stretching was scary [like when you hear your lower back snapping in two to three places at once].)  There is also the question of how your joints age when you’ve done tae kwon do for years…

Then there are jujitsu and aikijutsu…neither of which I’ve tried, as they’re fairly violent; but aikijutsu would be the logical transition for me (I trained in an ultra-nonviolent form of aikido for years as a teen, and eventually got tired of the “nonviolence” portion of it, along with the cultishness; but I outgrew what got me into the class in the first place).

And as I’ve heard, 120-135 lbs. is optimal weight for my body type — or at least so, for my height.

Hmm.  Brings in the idea of running track, during the Summer…I do need to be devoting more time to upkeep of my body (sometimes I forget I have it).

Before I forget it, naginata practice was just brought up to me, again, which would be great for balance and upper-body strength.  The main drawback is that a staff is needed for practice (and there is the question of how naginata-jutsu or -do will transfer to empty-handed combat); then again, I get to play with a staff!  All right!  *busts out a window*

(The difference between -jutsu and -do are basically that -do arts, like aikido, are more philosophical and focus on a way of life; while -jutsu, like aikijutsu, are more practically-oriented and focus on self-defense.)

Anyway…there is also the fact that my body as it is, is not “wrong.”  Other peoples’ interpretations of who I must be because of what my body looks like, is what is actually “wrong;” I shouldn’t have to punish my body just because people in general, “don’t get it” (to put it kindly; when you want to hurt a person because they don’t, “get it,” and continue not to, “get it…” well, my solution has been to break up with them.  I’ve never tried to “fix it,” other than with close family).

Then again, I haven’t had many intimate relationships, and pretty much none of them were relationships in which I had a strong attraction to the other person.  Though in two out of the three which were not familial, at least I can say I was “seen.”

In any case…I was meaning to write about…giving up on art and writing forms right when I start to be able to express myself.  Could be why I was thinking on getting back into Ceramics; and why I’ve been through so many art forms, in the first place.  Perhaps, instead of going after a new(ish) art, I should try to develop more in one of the many in which I’m already accomplished?  Even though that’s scary.  I know when I was younger, I would draw conclusions about authors and what I saw to be their twisted minds, from what they had written; no one told me that this would be extremely destructive if (when) it was turned upon myself…

I think I’m awake enough, now.  I’m just looking at my bookshelf and trying to figure out where I can put the books I’ve just gotten and the books I will have to acquire…I’ll have to move, give away, or sell a number of them…