With Louise Bourgeois as a starting point, I am trying to find out more about her fabric figures and how to make one myself out of old baby grows. I started to look at how parts of the body can be broken up to make a pattern. After a visit to the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood I have been searching for doll patterns to see how others had solved this problem. I have used wire (galvanised and silver plaited) to make small figures and want to see how various materials lend themselves to exploring ideas in relation to pregnancy, birthing and motherhood. My dad kindly invested in a large amount of clay and built a clay bed to try out casting figures in plaster. I have great plans for creating an interesting maybe life size sculpture – but that’s probably just too ambitious. Especially since I can’t even do a few drawings in a sketchbook and would rather sit here writing about it than get on and do it.
The process I fall back on which was established during the last couple of projects I did at college is; taking lots of photos, drawing from photos to work out composition and then painting from the photo usually on A1 size grey card. Painting gives way to charcoal and chalk as I try to find the line, and pick out the important shapes. S’not bad. S’all right.
I really struggled to plan and manage the final major project for my Art Foundation due to having a baby. I was probably being overly ambitious even thinking I could do both at the same time. Lack of time, energy and focus were a major factor and ‘planning’ when you don’t know what’s happening from one moment to the next isn’t really practical. Even down to squeezing paint out of a tube. Acrylic paint dries quickly. I got through a lot of it and not because I was painting! I worked out how to use every moment on offer to do or think about something useful. That in itself was pretty excruciating. I am instinctively someone who will put off starting most things forever if I can – which of course is seldom possible.
I had to question my motivation. I had been searching for something more than to fulfill the course criteria; for a direction and a focus that would take me beyond the course into the future as a new mum with artistic aspirations. While deadlines were helpful, in some ways they interrupted and confused my development. I struggled with my own process and purpose. Generating ideas wasn’t a problem. However, settling on one and following it through was not at all easy. The challenges I faced making any decisions on direction are reflected in my journal. My lack of development shows.
Feedback from my mum and dad has been similar – interesting for me given that they separated many years ago and are not in contact with each other. They both went to art school and my dad is a painter. As well as being supportive and encouraging they are also the most honest and critical (!) about my work. They both independently challenged me to develop my technique in drawing and painting and not to rely on quick wins or clever gizmos to get me through. My strength lies in drawing and sculpture. My painting technique and understanding of paint and colour etc. is limited and yet this is what I tried to grapple with.
In retrospect to go for painting (not my strong point) and to work on portraits (which I have never done before) seems a bit crazy. I could have given myself an easier time and stuck to my own brief and worked on a sculpture. The portraits taught me a great deal but the result does not reflect the dynamism of my ideas and some of the other work I have done. It’s a shame. My last minute departure into abstract painting in the last week before the deadline was an attempt to give myself some space to express, to play and to be free. I had a good time doing it – but the tutors’ faces when I turned up with that monster and set it up against the wall! Baby under one arm, canvas under the other. My little world almost imploded.
I have generated enough ideas and dabbled with enough technique to keep me going for some time. The artists I looked at were an inspiration and gave me the confidence to make my pregnancy and the birth the subject of my work. This also meant putting aside a whole load of my own negativity about women artists and women’s art and wanting to distance myself from this.
The ongoing challenge remains; how am I going to keep going with this painting and drawing with a small baby on the go the whole time. I got a good sized table set up in the window. Paints all lined up in a nice wooden box I rescued from the street. Sketchbooks and reference piled up neatly. Deep breath, turn over a page and make a mark.
Earlier this year I finished a two year part time Art Foundation. I submitted a sketchbook, reflections diary and several nearly finished paintings. It was all OK- but not great and I got a pass. The thing is, I had a baby (first time) in March and it was a real challenge to adapt to all that goes with becoming a mum and to somehow retain enough energy and focus to see the final major project of my Art Foundation through. There is a lot to say about this but there is something specific to start with. Both at the time and on reflection – I felt very sure that having this major project to finish in such a short space of time as well as having a new baby kept me sane. It suited my temperament and ensured that I had neither the time nor the spare energy to become preoccupied with worrying thoughts in relation to my new daughter. I took becoming a new mum in my stride (in many ways!) and adapted quickly to whatever came my way as well as keeping my focus on the art and motivation high enough to use all spare minutes to draw and paint.