Art retreats can be intimidating. Not just all the art instructors, ideas, books, and people. It’s the material. I don’t browse in Michael’s, I shop for specific things online, so there is much I don’t know about. And every bit of it is here. . .mica sheets, postcards, and flakes. Microscope slides for soldering into pendants; scraps of silk, threads, and fibers of miraculous origin, packed into color-coordinated envelopes. Metal embossing plates, rubber stamps that aren’t rubber anymore, they are plastic and stick onto acrylic blocks.
There are colored inks, stamp pads that do everything except print themselves (that’s next year) and pieces of paper printed, embossed, and covered in particles to look like glass, river stones (and rivers), drifting snow and hundreds of other things. Die-cutting and binding machines in pastels for fun studio use; machines that make stickers or add glue to one or both sides of anything.
Many of the classes require using these objects. It makes me feel old and out of date. I use colored pencils, paper, India inks and other things that have been around for years. I’m not against progress, I have a Mac and blog, for heaven’s sake. But what I noticed was that a lot of classes were about assembling more than creating.
And I was intimidated. Not owning these tools makes me feel behind the times, not up to date as an artist. It took a whole day for me to have the “Aha!” about this. It’s great for people to assemble things that make them happy. I’m sure when the first dress patterns came out, someone grumped about “shortcuts.” I’m not against assembly, or pre-cuts or pre-colored. I think they save time and are great to make people feel creative.
I just don’t want to use them myself. I’m more of a wabi-sabi artist. A minimalist. The simple tools of art–pencils, ink, paint, glue create enough variety for me to create. In fact, I like limiting what I can use, it forces me to think of the technique, the connections between materials and the result, and the pathway to get there.
Neither one is more valid than the other. I just choose the way that works best for me. It’s not about purchasing the best equipment, it’s about using what you have to create art. And now I’m ready to go back to class.
–Quinn McDonald is an artist who is at an art retreat learning more about herself than about the latest machines. See her work at QuinnCreative.com Images: color wheel, Xaraxone.com; Water landscape, using only inks and colored pencil, Murray Chowlowsky, pencil2pen.com
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