The Retro-Blog: Looking back at the development of a successful creative project in 2006 and the lessons learned along the way.

09/02/06 to 16/02/06

Tree on wood & plaster 1Immediately before producing the first in the series of tree collages, there is really no indication of what is about to happen and yet suddenly something does. It is tempting to think that the collage comes out of nowhere but instead it is the result of the mysterious creative magic that happens when I am able to get out of my own way:

I experiment with different ideas, I paint trees on plaster, I cut up printed photos into triptychs,

I got out all my tree prints and spread them out on the floor and had a good muse. then I trimmed the small ones and stuck them in my sketchbook and gave each one a name, some of them two. Then I tried a ‘‘ concept’ charcoal exploring my response to the trees and very quickly I began to feel that I didn’t want a plain white background so I looked in a magazine and found an off-white texture and stuck that in my sketchbook and inked some branches in over that…

and again,

I prepared one sheet in my sketchbook with plaster and three little wooden panels with a different texture on each one. I thought I would try some tree shapes over the textures…

and later,

…worked on part of a tree painted on one of the little wooden pieces I plastered the other day…rubbed some chalk into the background…the plaster is very forgiving because I can scrape away the paint if I don’t like it or score right into it to create textures…

I look back at my journals to find out how I lost my way with my work earlier in the year,

What I don’t understand is why I lost the plot on this line of work last year? I know I felt very strongly bound to this idea of somehow working with textures/layers/plaster/emerging images…and I was trying to put this into action on a particular piece and it all got very complicated and I gave up…and also my sketchbook work at the time was taking me more and more towards the abstract and I think I was quite confused at what I should be concentrating on – the two sides of me fighting for dominance again!…Then, I tried to make the leap from sketchbook to board, from small to large, from pastel to paint and I got myself in a right old panic!…I blamed the process for my dissatisfaction with the result…Somehow I lost touch with my inner direction or perhaps allowed my inner censor to criticize and demean that direction…

I lost all my sense of fun and experiment – and, oddly, the desire to work in my sketchbook which had been such a source of joy to me up until then…I seemed to go off on a different tangent with a lot of bold colour and line but lost any sense of subtlety…a fear of facing my inner self? Paint? Depth? ‘Self-intimacy’ as Julia Cameron calls it…in some sense I U-turned on myself, U-turned on my work…and though I carried on working I had lost the feeling of deep connectedness…

Swimmer…Not to say that I didn’t learn anything in that period…I think the freedom with the charcoal is something I gained…a loosening up that I never really had before…a lightness of touch…as for the colours…maybe one day I’ll know how to manipulate them so they become a little less dominant and a bit more integrated into the composition…Balance and integration is what I need.

I interpret my dreams,

Last night I dreamt about my trees. All I can remember is that there were lots of them on a hillside and I take that to mean that it is a fertile idea.

and again,

I dreamt of cherry blossom which I hope means I am going blossom – but hopefully mine won’t be so short-lived as the real-life variety!

and ALL OF THIS IS THE WORK! And gradually, it begins to bear fruits of understanding:

I am beginning to understand more deeply my relationship with my work and how I’ve tried to make it like other people’s; how I’ve baulked when I’ve felt myself exposing myself too much; how I’ve U-turned but apparently carried on working when in fact all I have been doing is going through the motions at a superficial level; and through all of this I have begun to work again in a quiet, experimental and almost cautious kind of way but determined to keep with the process, to let the work itself speak in its own voice, not to criticize or censor or be too impatient for results and I do feel a sense of homecoming within myself and a belief that I am, after all, equal to the task and even stronger a sense than I’ve had before of how to go about it, all the time mindful not to fall in the trap of thinking that ‘this’ is ‘it’ but rather ‘here I am, on the way to wherever I’m going…’ The fact that I am using a subject that – literally – has its roots in my home town helps in the feeling of homecoming and that I am at long last facing up to who I am and where I’ve come from and the terrain I’ve crossed to get here.

Tree PatternEqually interesting is what I DO NOT DO in this period: Namely, I do not concentrate exclusively on the tree project and I do not only work on collages: I draw and paint, collage and journal, work on design and content for a website, play with photos in a photo-editing program on the computer, exercise regularly, plant seeds and dig vegetable beds, paint doors and flower pots, bake bread and make love and talk to my friends on the phone. I do not become a hermit that locks herself into the studio for days on end but I do begin to accept that my real voice must out and I must let it. And, in some strange way, THIS TOO IS THE WORK. And in doing it, I free up the communication pathway with my subconscious and I allow the collage to be born…

…and so in a weird circling motion, I have come back to where I was but with a different theme…I haven’t a clue where I am going but it feels much better not to have an idea of a ‘painting’ in my head that I’ve somehow got to ‘reproduce’ but rather let the process gradually guide me…This time round, I am going baby baby steps – no giant leaps…I think its finally going to be ok! I’ve accepted that the process is more gradual than I thought and that I have to be very patient with myself…and forgiving….


  1. Camille said

    Cherry! I love your first tree and the abstract both very much! Please let us know when you post more of your creations here! Don’t hide on us CCS friends!!! Your art play is interesting and exquisite! Love Dabs/camille

  2. Camille said

    I just marked your picassa site as a favorite…When I remember, I will stop by…I will be back to look at some more soon! Looks like there’s a lot more going on in your creative life than I have been unaware of! Woe is me for that!
    Sincerely, Camille

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