Sunday, January 31, 2010

Today's Art Insight

I was looking for other blogs by feltmakers today. I happily found several of them, many are artists whose work I am familiar with and admire. I am a member of Pat Sparks Feltmakers list, and through reading the posts on the list I feel that I 'know' many of these people and their work. Some of these artists are also members of the Northeast Feltmakers Guild, or people that I have met at various fiber events.
Today I realized something about my art when looking at the work of other artists such as Velta's blog . I love Velta's felt. Her felt, and the photography are very dynamic and exude a sensuality.  The combinations of textures are bold and the main focus of her work. It is so alive and very different from mine.
This made me think about what would be the reaction from those I hold dear if I was able to create work like her's.  I think I would get looks that said "That's weird". In fact when I had her web page open my Dad asked "what on earth is that?" about one of her pieces. Now to me this says nothing about Velta's work and everything about my conservative family upbringing. No wonder my work is so conventional.
I know this aesthetic is also a reflection of being brought up in a small New England town. Most of my family makes very safe choices when dressing, decorating, or creating art. For example, I showed my sister this gorgeous piece that my friend Joei gave me in a trade. (I love it!)
My sister liked it, but said she would have liked it better with out the bright warm pink color. But THAT color is what makes the piece sing. Many in my family tend to be TOO matchy-matchy, even my twenty-something daughter often shows a conservative tendency, so this tendency is not age related. I often have to remind myself to add an accent color just to keep things from being too boring, even though I have studied this art stuff!
What is really interesting to me is that this does not seem to have been influenced by the artwork that I saw being done by my mother and older sister Francis. Fran painted mostly abstracts and her quilts usually have meanings and symbols beyond the obvious lovely colors and patterns.
My mother took art courses through the mail when she was in her forties. Looking at her work on these assignments recently I was struck by the way that while technically better the images lacked the life and quirkiness that her personal art had to it. Her drawings were very stylized and often included word play. Unfortunately, I always had a sense that she was unhappy with her work because it didn't look realistic. Here are examples of the art she did that was truly hers.


When I was young one of my favorite paintings was "Christina's World" by Andrew Wyeth. Not because of the feelings it evoked but because it looked "so real." My idea of a good picture was one which looked the most like the object being depicted. I grew up with many of my great aunt's paintings on the walls and always thought that she was not a very good painter since there was no definition to her work. I was familiar with the work of the impressionists but when it came to 'amateur' art I thought the lack of realism just showed lack of skill. I have a very different appreciation of her paintings now. This has become one of my favorites.

It is only recently that I have started to look at art in a more enlightened way. I think much of this is thanks to my work as a dictionary illustrator. I had to try to draw things as exactly as possible. It was an exciting challenge at first, but then it became boring because there was not much of ME in the drawings. They were nice but not truly art. The funny thing is that once I proved to myself that I could draw things in such a way that some people thought that they were photographs, I started thinking of myself as a REAL artist.
I finally fully understand what I had been told about the artist's mark and the value that it adds to a piece. The glob of paint, the brush stroke, all the things that show that the work was created by an individual give a piece of art a kind of soul. It is through these marks that the artist gives the work a voice. I had always tried to smooth over these marks, to remove all evidence that this work was created by an imperfect human being. I had tried to take out the ME. Now, as I get older I am seeing the good of showing the imperfections.  I am beginning to embrace my individuality.


  1. Thank you for including me in such a thoughtful and thought provoking post. Diane, you frequently are able to put things in words that I think about but rarely say.

  2. Diane,
    Wonderful post. I spent many years thinking I could not be an artist because I was striving for hyper-realism. I have no clue why! Thanks for the food for thought today...I'm going to read it again. Your mom's drawings are such a treasure.

  3. Thank you Joei and Andrea. Mom's drawings ARE a treasure, esp. those done before poor health stole her ability to physically execute what she had envisioned. I wonder about the rabbit with the gun though...maybe he is guarding the rodent chain gang?