Is The Journey Really Better?

Journey book closed

Is the journey really better? About fifteen years ago when I had just finished graduate school I made this artist book about just that question. I was examining all the advice so freely given when seeking to find your own voice as an artist. And all the while we are making work about the things we care about, the things we want others to care about if only for a little while. Sometimes we just want the prize at the end of the journey. There are so many forks in the road, so many wrong decisions, so much work that piles up to eventually be tossed out.

Journey book title page

Journey book robert henri

Journey book jim bennett

Here is the title page followed by several pages of advice about the journey as an artist. Some of the best from Robert Henri and others like an old friend who sent one of his poems to me about the journey ..”Searching is the stuff of my existence. Finding has the aura of finality.”

The pages turn through such thoughts as these of others and my own. Partial glimpses of the artwork I was doing at the time also pass by, visible from both sides and forever with a view to the “prize” at the end of the book.

Journey book searching grasping hand

Journey book ending





It is hard to shut my mind off and hard to stop my hands from following through. I am an artist.

Ten years ago I found this passage by Julie Ewington in a book on Australian artist, Fiona Hall. It seemed relevant then and it was good to find it again just the other day in my sketchbook of 2005.

“The artists life is often solitary. She dreams, she plans, she reads. She works laboriously, listens to the voice of her desires, follows wild hunches. She seeks arcane knowledge and cultivates her skills. She passes long days and weeks in the solitude of her studio, working constantly. She listens to the radio, watches TV, scans the daily temptations of junk mail. She lives in short, in the same cluttered, perturbing mundane world that is familiar to us all.”

Did she think of the prize at the end of all that work? Was the prize what drove her work? I don’t think so. We are artists who transform ideas and passions into a visual form. It is the doing that matters. It is the questioning of whether we have found the best way to say what we need to say….or should we start again? It is the caring more about the idea than what its finish will bring.

This week I found the most amazing book on the work of Aldwyth. Her book and retrospective of her work is titled, work v./work n. She is an artist who, “explores the literary and associational possibilities of found objects,” according to Mark Sloan, curator and writer. Once I picked the book up, I knew I had to have it. The cover image, the amazing body of work that flowed under my thumb at first glance. And the best part, when I bring it home and sit down to read every word and savor every image, I see that she is in her seventies….late seventies by now. An inspiration, an artist still making choices and occasional wrong turns, still working.

As Aldwyth says, “Work is what all art has in common.”

I need to get back to work myself now that the students are gone and the studio is back to where it should be.

In Search of Lost Time Clock Parts

I have started taking the clock pieces apart and looking at how they will assemble again in new configurations for the series “In Search of Lost Time.” I don’t want to lose any more time than I have to….I am older.

The Studio

student studio
This is my studio this week. It is filled with the materials and work of two private students who have come bringing everything they can that relates to their aspirations for the week. I do maintain one small area for myself to work on the clock parts for “In Search of Lost Time” but find myself more and more involved in what they are doing. Their ideas are big and the hours are long for all of us. We are learning so much from one another.

And as if we did not have enough to work with, two of us are taking off today on a hunt for more parts, more tools, more things that just might be what we need. One is left in the studio by herself to work at her own pace to complete large canvas panels with recessed sections and carefully placed imagery and text that supports her concept.

Next week when they are both gone the studio will return to its open spaces for me to spread out and try my hand at what I am learning from them this week.  Or I will immerse myself even further in my own work and see if I can come close to the accomplishments made by others in my space.

Putting Things in Order

Studio corner detail

I have cleaned the studio in preparation of private students arriving next week. And there is so much more room in there now. When working in mixed media things get a bit layered over each other on tables, benches, counters.  Almost any available space becomes a cluttered collection of mixed parts and missing tools. Everything is now in its place and I can see it all. But I found when it was finished that I kept going back to the details of the places things were placed. They were interesting to photograph. Each was like an illustration in some sort of story….small narratives on the walls and in corners. Here are some more

Small textile pieces piled together.
Small textile pieces piled together.
On the end of a shelf.
On the end of a shelf.



"In Search of Lost Time"  The next series waiting to be completed with all its parts gathered together.
“In Search of Lost Time”
The next series waiting to be completed with all its parts gathered together.
Every sketchbook and artist book  done in and about Australia, all lined up
Every sketchbook and artist book done in and about Australia, all lined up

These images are of things that seem to want more attention. I know I need to get back to the time pieces, but what do those small vignettes that are happening on the shelves expect me to do? And the long line of Australia? I think they are there to remind me I am going back and not to forget the recording of memories that will join them later on that shelf.

For some reason I am intrigued by the top introductory image. It is the corner of a four foot square canvas with graphite and large stitching that goes through the cloth and becomes part of the image that also exposes an under painting that came before and now is framed with willow tied in place to frame the “history” on the canvas. The braid of raffia hangs there like it was also painted and reminds me of my basketry beginnings. I think this image means something but I am not sure what. Something.


New Beginnings

returning moon

I think I used this image before but not sure exactly when. My website has been down for the past month and some of my blogs were misplaced. It has been a busy month, cleaning the studio, finishing up some work, preparing for another workshop, jurying an exhibition, organizing what needs to come next. It simply continues. The days go by, then the weeks and months with new moons flow one into the other and I assess how the time was spent.

I used to wonder if I was doing enough and if I was doing it right. How silly that was, especially when a friend and I asked those questions on an online ouija board. It seemed to take forever to spell out the word, “maybe”. How nuts was that! But I persisted with the question and continued to only ask women artist who were older than myself if they ever wondered about doing enough and doing it right. I stopped asking the questions when a printmaker who I admired told me without a second thought that it didn’t really matter. And she was right. It doesn’t. So I stopped thinking about it until just now. Now I am simply too busy with the doing and don’t really worry about whether it is right or enough.