Saturday, May 5, 2007

Road Maps

I'm a book collector. I still have books from graduate school that I never read, never will read, but can't bring myself to get rid of. I can't pass a bookstore without buying at least one magazine, but more usually several magazines and a couple of books. Every one of those purchases is justified, however, in the name of "inspiration."

Years ago, a friend gave me and my Darling Partner (DP; the somewhat-equivalent of the DH for you straight girls) a book of photos on Cowgirls. I love the book and revisit it every few months. After I started creating stained glass, though, I saw the photos in a new way. I started to look at the lines, the colors, the light in each photograph; then the backgrounds, the dominant elements, the movement or stillness captured in each shot. And I started to think about how I might translate and capture images like these in glass. I think that was the first time I thought deeply about inspiration, about what inspires us and how, and I began to look more closely at what I was drawn to--images, colors, composition, line, materials.

Back to the book store, and now I went crazy. Suddenly I was spending hours pouring over photography magazines, craft magazines, art magazines, books on polymer clay, wood, glass, and nature, art calendars, art books, and anything else with a picture in it. I bought a sketchbook and began drawing; I kept it hidden so that no one would see my ridiculous efforts, too undisciplined to even be called drawings.

I took a trip to Seattle for a workshop with a glass artist I deeply admire, and, standing in a little grocery store on Whidbey Island, I spied a quilting magazine. I was drawn to the colors, patterns, and textures of the quilts, so I bought it. For "inspiration," of course. I took dozens of pictures on Whidbey Island, sketched trees and the view of the Sound, and flipped through the quilting magazine. I understand why this beautiful part of our country has such a high ratio of artists; there is something spiritual in the area that calls to the soul.

The workshop was as valuable for the instructor's stories about his own inspirational sources as for the techniques that I learned. I was anxious to get home and turn up the volume on my own artistic voice. Rather than pushing me to find that voice and speak it through glass, though, these inspirational forces seemed to be pulling me in a different direction. I felt I needed more spontaneity and less thought, along with immediate gratification, which is almost impossible to achieve with fused glass. I started sketching more, then dragging out the craft and art supplies I had been accumulating for years: watercolors, acrylics, stamps, colored pencils, fibers, glue, scissors, and pens.

I began an art journal and worked in it every day. It was just for me I reminded myself--no one would see unless I wanted them to, I would never have to worry about whether it would sell, and there were no rules.

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