As I promised in yesterday's post, here is the first abstract painting I ever made. I used the "test card" method, modeled after all the interesting test cards one sees near all the colored markers, pastels, and colored pencil displays in all the bookstores and art supply stores on the planet. At least I hope they all have test cards. When I go to the art store, even if I am not buying colored pencils, I have to test them anyway. Just to touch and play with color. And to add to the art piece being created by so many strangers. Because it's fun. A day without color is dull indeed.
My version of the test card method is to hang a clean sheet of vinyl on my painting wall, near whatever other paintings I am working on. As I finish using a tool - brush, palette knife, fork, old credit card, finger - I swipe what paint remains on it onto my test vinyl. No over thinking here! Also, no judgment, please. (This is me talking to myself.) (Sometimes I even listen.)
That's how I began to have permission to paint abstract paintings. I had to fool myself, kind of trick myself into doing so. They weren't "serious" enough, much too frivolous indeed. I had so much negativity toward being able to do this, meanwhile I'd go look at other's abstract expressionist works and be filled with emotion, filled with awe, and with an unnamed longing that even as I write this I feel deep in my chest.
I had to deprogram art school right out of me. If I hadn't gone to art school, I might not have been able to begin my work so early. As much as I loved art school, it is after all the place where I got the weirdest haircuts of my life! - I also had to learn for myself that I am already unique, and can paint pretty much whatever I want. I had to learn about my own spirit. Other people's ideas and information do not work for me. I can't count the number of times I heard someone, a teacher or artist say: "you can't be an abstract artist until you learn and master being a realist." I always rejected this. I do not want to be a realist. I know I have done that, in other lifetimes. And this knowing spirit is what has helped me find the nerve to create and continue to create.
Years ago, I had a friendly relationship with a successful and well known Chicago gallery owner. I made fun vinyl objects she bought frequently for her gallery. She also represented more "serious" artists, and when I began to work in my now trademark technique, I summoned up the nerve to show her my fledgling pieces. Which was either a very big mistake on my part or brilliant. I'm leaning toward brilliant, because what happened in our meeting helped me on my path toward what I did next. Anyway, she hated my work. She didn't have a bored attitude, it was all out hate. At the time I couldn't see this was also a success, and that she was actually doing me a favor. She did tell me, "I wouldn't touch these with a ten foot pole." Yikes! I was pretty destroyed for a while.
But here's the thing. I never stopped making them! And I continued, making over 800 paintings since, selling most of them. I am still overcoming my own insecurities about my work, and what I have learned is to have more neutrality with it, not to mother it. That was a big thing to learn, that I am not my work. I am, and my work is, and there will be lots more of it. But only if I don't cling to it and have to protect it from the big bad world.
"Abstract For Noel" 2004 29"x26" acrylic on vinyl in reverse; Artist's private collection