The Past in Your Closet

On this Saturday, I’m de-stashing. The Craft Retreat, a local craft supply store, at 59th Ave. and Greenway in Glendale, AZ, is renting tables to customers. Some people are selling items they made in classes they took at the store, others are selling what they make in their studio. I’m de-stashing. Rubber stamps, packs of ephemera, fabric pieces, paints, containers, canvas–tools of art I no longer do.

Gene Simmons, then and now.

While pulling boxes out of the closet, I came across the very first loose-leaf are journal pages I did, about six or seven years ago. A shiver of horror ran down my spine when I looked at them–miles from what I consider acceptable today. But I didn’t throw them out. We grow slowly, and sometimes we don’t see how much we’ve grown, how far we’ve come. Instead of horror, I treated myself to some delight.

Design, construction, materials have all improved. At the time, if I liked a technique, it went into the piece I was working on, whether it was sensible or not. I no longer do that.

The words were still appropriate and fresh. That may be because I’ve been a writer for a long time, and the growth in the collage side is more apparent.

It’s easy to criticize yourself when you look at art you made years ago. But there’s a lot to be learned by looking at an older piece and seeing what you’ve changed. Why did you make the changes?

What was the result?
Why did you choose to do some of the older techniques?
Did they work, or were they a fad?
Does some of the work still please you?
What technique or concept pleases you still?
Is the thing that pleases you now shaped differently, or would you do the same again?
What color did you use most often? Do you still like or use the color?

The answer to all those questions create a pattern of growth in your art that you can see and measure. While you might cringe, it’s also good to know that you have grown over time. Producing the same art year after year without any change means you are stuck.

“I’m not stuck, it’s my groove,” one of my coaching clients used to say to me.

If you are sticking with the same colors and patterns, it’s not a groove, it’s a rut. Look at some of your older work and see what it has to say to you. I was surprised, a nice lesson on change while de-stashing.

Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach who will be selling tools and ephemera this weekend.

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10 responses to “The Past in Your Closet

  1. I known about the rut cause I got rooted out of mine the last time I got business cards made. I had my old red on cream background theme I have used for years. Decided to save money and go with a new way of printing. Surprise, surprise (Gomer Pyle) they were in one print format and the printer used another. My new theme is turquoise font on a black field. Everyone loves my great new design (accident).

  2. I´ve lived through that process with my scrapbooking. I can recognize my “phases” as in everything-needs-to-have-fibers or eyeletting a mat to an inch of it´s life, from flowery pastels to vibrant geometric shapes. :D From the hundreds of pages I´ve finished, some I like, some I don´t and there are only about a dozen I´d really re-do now.
    About the journaling, it´s still too early to say.

  3. Ya know, I’ve always suspected that guy in the Kiss makeup wasn’t Gene Simmons, at least not all the time. Simmons is a business guy, not so much a musician (ok granted, Kiss…) :-)

  4. I love old artwork and try not to feel shame over earlier more primitive stuff I’ve made. I’ve heard that artists should include all kinds of artwork in their portfolios (not just the “best stuff”) because you want to be able to prove the growing process.
    I think it also shows a kind of confidence to be able to share something that’s less than wonderful. There was a time I couldn’t do that. Now I don’t really care so much. I’ve made all kinds of crap, and hopefully will make all kinds of crap in the future. If people think they’re going to make great things without first making some horrific disasters, then they’re in for a painful journey.
    Great article Quinn! PS – I love Gene both ways…

    • You’ve hit on a really important idea–that we need to make horrific disasters to know how to move ahead. Or, as one person wrote me, “think how much worse it would be to see your stuff from the past and realize it’s so much better than what you are doing now.” Barbara Haggerty and you should meet, you’d love each other.

  5. “we grow slowly”- words of wisdom that I think we all need to hear on a more regular basis!

    As always- thanks for being human and allowing us to know who you truly are.

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