You are better off starting imperfectly than being paralyzed by the delusion of perfection.
Ryan Holiday, author
September 22, 2022
Green Cottage Studios is starting the autumn season, however imperfectly. I am sort of wandering into the season and feeling a bit unmoored. But that’s okay. I know at some point the wind will rise, my sails will fill again and I will be headed in a direction. The right direction, you ask? Time will tell.
In the spirit of making connections/reconnections, I decided to participate in Lambertville’s Second Saturdays by having Open Studio during two of their Second Saturdays – October 8th and December 10th and will have my doors open from 5 to 8 PM. Twenty-two businesses are participating in four Second Saturdays planned, so stop buy then visit the other stores, galleries and restaurants in town!
I will be displaying new work from this summer and snacks and conversation will be available! 278 N. Union St., Lambertville, NJ – Suite 108 in Canal Studios!
In November, Green Cottage Studios will be on-site at HomeFront’s Holiday Market, 1880 Princeton Pike, Lawrenceville, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 11-13. Stop buy for cool art, handmade gifts and more!
During this time of “social distancing” many have experienced starting in March 2020 (necessary due to Covid-19 virus), I have been thinking a great deal about social connection. We missed our friends, coworkers, neighbors and extended families, while we tried to avoid a virus spread through the air by a person’s speech, sneeze or cough. People, in essence, became dangerous to our health, and sometimes our very survival. And now more than two years later, everyone is racing back to “normal life.” I have been thinking about social connections even more.
I find it interesting that as an artist, alone in my studio, in a building with few other people (who I don’t know beyond a passing ‘hello’) – I have become focused on social connection. Maybe I need to be alone with my thoughts to realize that I am not my own best “company.” I am often in a focused state on work and not “missing” people per se, but other times, I guess I romanticize the workplace as this place of camaraderie and energy. (In truth, most workplaces I have been are loaded with stress and anxiety…but that is a story for another day.) There also multitudes of social connections in life outside paid work, too.
What drives social connection? Humans, after all, are social primates. We thrive in interaction in small and large groups — chatting, engaging, working together, even fighting. Yet, in the 2020s, we are more technologically advanced – so advanced we cannot be in the physical presence of any other humans and get all our needs met. Or so we think! The need for social connection remains a vital part of our physical and mental health and we do crave it when it is lacking or when reduced.
Humans created the digital social networks (you know the addictive apps and platforms) to connect us. In Facebook’s words, it aims to “bring the world closer together.” But we fail to really connect – we hid behind screens – so we can spin doctor our lives, apply filters to our photos and behave in generally nasty ways to strangers. What’s missing? Sure, we all kept “in touch” via Zoom. But what I missed most was “IRL” or “In Real Life” situations. Authentic in-person laughter with friends, smiles from strangers, and eye contact…those sorts of things that feed the soul and produce good, grounded energy. I could go on a rant about digital social networks, but I think we all know the deal on that aspect of life these days.
Today, thinking about the fall, and going forward in this almost “post-pandemic” world, I am continuing to seek out social connections, but in a more focused, authentic way. For me at least, I get more energy from a one-on-one conversation than a big party, or I would rather be at an art gathering of people more aligned on issues of equality and justice, than a large gathering of people I do not know. I am increasingly mindful of what social event brings me energy and what is draining, what invite I should accept or event I should attend and how I am going to feel before, during and after.
Can art drive social connection? Artists are often alone in the creation process, but then there is the putting one’s art out into the world…whether online on a website, or in an e-commerce shop or in an in-person art show or gallery. That experience is where one gets feedback, comments, sometimes affirmation. Art is at its essence is about communicating something through creation – the feelings of the visual artist are imbued in the brush strokes, roll of the brayer, or pressure of the pen. Human touch and the feelings of the artist are part of the process of creation, and the public viewing is part of the reception of the communication. It’s a social phenomenon.
So, in both examples – real-life interaction and my artwork, I intend to keep being mindful about human beings and our social connections as well as staying in touch with my needs and my feelings.
What’s happening here at Green Cottage Studios this summer? Great question, I would love to tell you. (HT to Elyse Meyers , who makes funny videos)
I am experimenting! Trying different mediums, substrates and going where the creative flow takes me.
Finding inspo from Dar James’ Creative Summer Camp (HT to artist Dar James), I have tried to push further into new areas.
One area of experimentation is watercolor. Watercolor paints, either in a tube or little cakes in a pan, are mixed with water and the resulting painting on paper is translucent and “watery.”
It’s a medium which I had not really used since long ago in art classes. I recall that I always found it difficult to work with and a bit fussy. As a lover of layered colors — one over the other, sometimes transparent or sometimes opaque — acrylics have been my mainstay.
However, I got out some old watercolors, bought some new ones (two types) and dove in. Experimented!! The issue that watercolors remain “reactive” meaning that once dry, if one adds more paint or water, the paint is activated again, resulting in bleeding and mixing. This can be good if you intend that and can control your result, it can be bad if you end up with a hot mess.
One cool thing that I tried just this summer is seal the first layer of watercolor, either with spray sealer or with some gloss medium (clear sealer that is spread on) and let it dry, one can paint with watercolor again. Watercolor on its own has a matte finish, once sealed you can create any finish you like. In the gallery below, the squares of watercolor paper with the botantical images, are ones that were sealed. I also started layering with acrylic paints, metallic paints, Posca pens and small amounts of collage. These started to be really fun. I may find a way to frame them up.
Papers – There are a variety of watercolor papers, different weights and different finishes made by multiple companies. Here’s a blog post if you want to dive into the differences. I did several experiments and I believe I like the smooth finish of the hot pressed type.
Another experiment of the summer is gouache! Gouache a method of painting using opaque pigments ground in water and thickened with a gluelike substance. It produces a matte finish. I had a set of acryl gouache and a different set in the pans. I have started working with those and really like the intensity of the colors and the matte finish. Again, it is water soluble after it dries, so I will have to work with that.
Online Shop is Open
Another update of the summer is my Ecommerce shop. I created it through Square.
As the 100 Day project comes to a close, I wanted to reflect upon what I learned from the process.
Keep it Doable – Everyone’s interest, energy and time varies, so it helps to keep your project aligned with where you are. I kept my works small – 4 in. by 4 in. – and it didn’t seem like an onerous task to make one each day. Your project has to be something you enjoy doing, otherwise it will languish, for sure.
Discipline – A daily art practice takes dedication and discipline. But it really is not like hurdling a huge boulder, more like lifting a small rock each day. Mindfulness was helpful – I had to order substrates ahead of time so I would have enough. Planning – Sometimes to have a daily artwork for a day I was busy or had a family commitment, I had to work ahead. Sometimes I’d do two or three panels ahead. Or other times, it was good to spend time thinking of what to do next in your series.
Random Words – My plan for this year was to randomly select a word or phrase each day and use that word as the theme for the daily artwork. This worked out mostly, but sometimes I wanted to create without the theme in my head, or I just couldn’t come up with something for a particular word…. So I did add a few words to my list. And sometimes I created a work first and found words that matched it later. No worries because I made up the rules! I guess what I learned was the restrictions of rules can sometimes be helpful, sometimes not. But it’s fun to break rules!
Creativity – Like a muscle, creativity gets better when it’s worked. I found some days when the small works were a wonderful starting point for other projects. Some days I created a larger work from the smaller one, other days I felt “warmed up” by the process of creating the small work and ready to work on something completely different.
Stuck – To get over a stuck feeling, I’d just start somewhere. Somewhere small. Maybe apply gesso to raw wood panels, paint the side of panels (mostly black), or just do something that gets the paint out, a brush in my hands. Once the small steps were begun, I could take bigger ones. (And sometimes I’d go for coffee or tea, or take a walk!)
Small & Big – There is value in small. Accomplishing a small piece felt good! And I can use a small format to create whole little worlds or just emphasize one hue. And the small images or techniques sometimes found their way into my larger works.
Lots to ponder and think about this project. Thanks to all who followed and liked or commented along the way!
Check out all the works and the accompanying text on my IG profile – cmillerartist
How do you do something for 100 Days? One Day at a Time!!!