Pandemonium, Part 1

Usually my mind is filled with endless creative thoughts and new ideas for projects that unexpectedly pop into my mind at random moments – while out for a walk, sitting in traffic, sometimes in the middle of the night. Other times there’s some sort of sensory que that makes the light bulb go off in my head, like passing something that catches my eye or even listening to music. As a creative, I’ve tried to tune into this when it happens because it usually leads to something great.

Before I continue further with this post, I want to say that this post is different from what I generally share with all of you. I’ve learned over the years that sharing and exposing my vulnerabilities produces some of the most beautiful experiences in life that have shaped and transformed me in profound ways. For years I often kept my feelings, thoughts and ideas to myself for whatever strange reasons. I’ve found that when I allow myself to speak how I truly feel and release things to the universe, I quickly discover that I’m not alone on this journey – that there are others who have either gone through these same emotions or are currently experiencing this.

Sometimes even the most creative people fall into a ‘creative funk’ – similar to writer’s block I suppose you could say, but with the added problem of having a lack of motivation. After the craziness of the Holidays, I was focused on getting ready for teaching classes at AFCI and all of my attention and focus was pretty much centered around that. I have to admit, it was a strange trip for me this year to the annual show because this was the first year that I can remember that I actually spent time walking the show floor and experience the excitement that accompanies the releases of new products and seeing friends. After a blur of teaching classes for two solid days, I found myself on the show floor and for the first time in almost 20 years of being in the craft industry and feeling completely out of place and almost as if I didn’t belong.

This feeling of being a stranger in a familiar land has been building for awhile, and I couldn’t put my finger on it until I was at the show. Although I did make some new connections and saw a few brilliant new products at the show, I began to question if this journey I’d begun a couple of years ago of being a full time instructor and artist was worth all the sacrifices that I’d made. I’d bought into the entire notion that many of us fall into, working (sometimes tirelessly) for companies or brands with this false hope that it would lead to something greater, maybe even our own product line only to realize that our talent, drive and great ideas were either ‘lifted’ by someone else who took credit for our work, or the sad realization that our working relationships are often times a one way street. I’m often reminded at home that at the end of the day, my creativity needs to be justifiably compensated for because I have bills to pay as well LOL

Instead of leaving the show energized and ready to get into my studio, I sat on my flight home seriously questioning my continued role in the craft industry, teaching, and to some extent if I should just give up all of my hard work to return to a ‘normal’ day job… After the hustle and bustle of prepping and teaching at AFCI, I sat in my studio with absolutely no motivation to create, which is something that has never happened to me before. Over the last couple of years, I have found myself moving more and more away from ‘crafting’ and more into the realm of ‘art’ where I could express and create what I wanted to make and on my own schedule. Over the next couple of weeks, I began to realize that THIS was the root of my funk!

Since going out on my own, I was so focused on continually making samples for manufacturers/design teams or making samples for classes and workshops that I’d forgotten to create what I wanted to make. My creativity had been (for a lack of a better term) stifled by others dictating what, and to some degree, when I should be creating. I had fallen into this path of developing classes and workshops to fit a particular audience, or being told that I could only use certain supplies on projects, or spending endless amounts of energy developing projects for a theme that I honestly many times had no particular interest in because they were neither in my working style or genre that expresses my inner artist voice fully. It was at this moment that I realized that what had slowly happened over the course of many months was that my artist voice and creative flame had slowly become extinguished.

For a few years now, I have had this ‘concept’ in my head of incorporating songs and their lyrics into mixed media works of art, and have slowly worked through my head a few song selections and objects that I’d incorporate into the work. Some of you may remember the project that I created last fall REBEL is My Song that was inspired by the song Rebel (Madonna). To be honest, this was not my first intention/idea for creating this project. Instead I had this grand scheme in my mind of creating a completely different, much larger, and more experimental piece of artwork that was going to be based on the song Pandemonium (Pet Shop Boys). I remember pulling out the letters to spell the work “Pandemonium” to start working on the project, but then began to realize that because of time and other constraints that I would not be able to create what I had originally intended to.

I’m not sure why I have this love affair with the word Pandemonium – maybe it’s because I live my life this way in some regards, or perhaps it’s my ‘battle cry’ that goes back to my rebellious younger years of disregard to authority and doing what I want, on my terms. There’s a sense of liberation in creating a little chaos in your life, and I definitely felt as if I needed a little shaking up of things to get my creativity back! When creating my Believe project at last year’s end as my mantra for 2018, I had actually contemplated for a few days as to using Pandemonium instead LOL

Fast forward to my art funk last week, and while sitting at my studio table waiting for the inspiration to start I found my Pandemonium letters and decided that it was now or never to start my first experimentation into working on what I hope becomes a series of mixed media works. Sure, there’s a few other deadlines that I really should’ve been working on, but when there’s no longer any interest in creating something for someone else I knew that I would only be producing a half ass piece of work which is completely not my style.

I pulled out one of my larger 16 x 20 inch canvases, heavy white gesso, and began down the road of experimentation… Besides using the letters to spell out the title of this piece and knowing that I wanted to incorporate the lyrics into the background, I had no real roadmap of where I wanted this project to go besides the color palette. It has been years since I’ve sat down at my studio and allowed myself to create with no restrictions, to experiment and play for creating a truly organic piece of artwork. I wanted to return to my college days of creating with freedom, to allow mistakes to happen, to let the artwork speak and let it determine how things would evolve.

After a couple of layers of gesso, I began experimenting and building texture with a few different mediums. Unlike when I’m working on most of my projects, there was no intention of creating the ‘perfect’ texture to highlight a specific product. Instead I focused on developing new techniques for myself, seeing what new possibilities I could create. I used this same process for adding layers of color, using different washes and mixing of colors to slowly develop on the canvas like when slow cooking pasta sauce.

Although I love building encaustic into my work, I didn’t want to bother with melting the wax and honestly wanted to try a different technique instead. Over my background I laid a printed piece of tissue and decoupaged this onto the background. Once this had set, I laid a stencil on top and applied a thick coat of matte 3D gel over the background and then allowed it to dry over night which revealed a great alternative to the encaustic process with rich texture! As heart breaking as it was, I ended up covering most of the previous layer’s color with another layer of texture – but randomly allowed some of the background to show through.

I used this same basic technique for adding the lyrics to Pandemonium through the harlequin print stencil. Once the 3D matte gel had set over the text, I continued developing the color and texture of the piece as a whole while beginning to add some of the found objects to the piece that would be used as backgrounds from some of the other pieces that I’d slowly started to gather for assembling the piece. At any point of this process I could have stopped working and been completely content with the project, but I wanted to continue down this path of experimentation and in some regards self discovery and see what the end results of my labor would be.

Here is the inspiration for the color palette I’m using for this piece. This is actually the gas cap from an old yard blower from the 1970’s that was left by the previous owners when we bought our house a few years ago. Being the mixed media artist that I am, I dismantled some cool hardware off of the blower before discarding it knowing that someday I could use the pieces for something. I’ve always been attracted to this blue/teal/green/brown color palette for some reason. In fact, the small studio room I had at our old house was painted in these colors.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed following along the beginning of this creative journey with me – and I apologize for the length of this post. I know that these days everyone is so used to soundbites and quick reading, but I wanted to share with all of you that ALL artists struggle from time to time and hopefully provide some inspiration to you when you hit that creative wall and what is helping me through it.

Continue reading about the evolution of Pandemonium in Part 2