Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Lesson re-learned

I have written about this before. The Lesson of getting my brain out of my own way. See here for reference. I will probably write about it again because it is just darn hard. The idea of letting go and allowing the art to be what it wants to be. And not beating myself up so much when my art goes in a direction other than what I originally intended. Oy vay, it can be hard, can't it?

I signed up for a swap, yeah, I know, what the heck was I thinking, but it was a group of really cool women, some whom I knew and others who I wanted to know. I was flattered to be asked so, even though I have like a zillion things on my plate, I said yes. I mean we're all busy, right? They are busy too and they are doing it. Plus it's only 13 months.  Ha, ha, ha.....right.....
The projects are masks and last week was the week to mail our first project. Naturally I had waited until the last possible moment to work on mine.

I had encaustics on the brain, partly because I am taking Judy Wise's class and partly cause I just love the wax. So I got this brilliant idea to paint my mask with encaustic pigment. I've never done a 3 dimensional piece, but lack of knowledge (or experience) typically never stops me. This can be a good trait or an incredibly stupid one depending on your vantage point.

In retrospect, I don't think my encaustic skills were ready for a 3D experience. I have this tendency to over-fuse, which means I allow the wax to get really liquid-like. Imagine how that might work with the curves on this face and you will immediately see where I went wrong. Wax sliding off the cheeks. The forehead, the chin. Over. And over. And over. Because I am nothing if not persistent. I used wasted so much wax. I worked on and off for a couple days. Being stubborn and trying to paint the mask of my dreams. I would get within spitting distance and then manage to mess it up, ugh.

The mailing date came and went. I persisted with more layers of wax. I carved, used oil sticks, painted, tried all the tricks I knew. But remained incredibly frustrated and uptight with my work.  Angry even, I will just admit it since I am trying to be honest here.
Finally I gave it up and stopped. Period. Put her under my table.

Grabbed another substrate and decided to collage. I pawed through my box and found some really cool hand painted tissue paper. I loved the way the paper had turned out and had been saving it for some unknown project. I tore smallish pieces and started gluing it to my mask. I added some tar around the edges. Painted the lips, added a little eyebrow texture with Wood Icing. Put it up on the wall and pronounced it done. It was that easy. 
Perhaps not genius, but I liked it.
Looking back at the encaustic mask(which is still under my table), I don't hate it as much as I did last week. What a compliment, huh? And I do want to try again because I still love the concept.

My question for you is why oh why are we so hard on ourselves? Artists seem to be their own worst critics. I frequently point this out to my students and urge them to be gentle with themselves. A lesson I definitely need to take to heart, huh?


  1. MB.. we are hard ("haad" in Boston accent)on ourselves. I'm beating myself up for not getting in my studio.. almost a month now (largely due to my day job and college searches on the weekends).. but c'mon. I guess I'm not balancing my life very well right now. However.. I am loving that mask of yours. I only see a fantastic piece by MBShaw. We are our own worst critics, right.. don't they say that.. who's "they" anyway? They think they know everything.

  2. Laura Reed7:46 PM

    Just picked up the current issue of Somerset Studio and enjoyed the feature article about you and your art. Ann Baldwin is a favorite of mine. I am a collage artist, too. AND originally from STL, I also did the Burroughs Unique Boutique, though that was in my other life.

    Just wanted to tell you I love your work. Keep doing what you do. And sharing...
    Laura Reed

  3. Ahhh Mary Beth...so hear you on how hard and critical we are of ourselves and our artwork. I think what you are "missing" on the was mask is the "depth" of "texture" that you get with collage. I know when I go back to painting/sketching after collaging...it's one extra step that I have to do to get the depth in the piece...the stuff that pulls you into it and makes you want to touch it. Without the depth and texture the piece tends to look "flat". Perhaps if you add some seed beeds and sequins or make some marks with the wax with a paint pusher or other tools it might help. Just a thought...and hope this helps. Fondly, Roberta
    ps...I'm going through the same thing right now with 6 pieces leftover from Jesse Reno's classes that I took at Art n'Soul...gotta figure out how to get the texture/depth into my flat paintings?

  4. because when it comes to what we love and what we are passionate about and being involved with a cool group of women, saying no is like sticking a toothpick in our eye.....that's why :)

    i just said yes today to something i'm passionate about and now am thinking WTF did i do.....oh well.....in the end we make it work :)

  5. :)) i overfuse - to say the least - also.

    you could call it simply 'liquifying and smearing' if you want.

    i love that you try new things.

    i just like that.



  6. For me fusing is like picking at a sunburn....once I get started it is nearly impossible to stop......I'm an addict.

    Ok, I'll admit that my best work happens when I get out of my own way. And that isn't easy but oh my the results are something to strive for, to be patient with myself and wait for.... eventually the frustration will yield and therein lies the gold. I have touched the gold, just call me Indiana Jones.

  7. Wow, thanks you guys. So gratifying to know that I am not the only one. And thanks for the sweet words on my mask, Judy. Laura!!! Can't believe you have done Unique Boutique, I used to do that show too :)

  8. I know!! It is so hard to get out of the way!! I am always tripping over myself as well!! Sigh!
    And worse yet...I sometimes let others stop me in my tracks. I need to stay in the flow and go with it!
    Live and learn??? Maybe!!

  9. We are absolutely our own worst critics. I think, that because we are artists, when we produce something we feel like it has to be perfect (yeah, that is an ├╝ber hard one to let go of, hence my little hand scribbled "Don't make it Precious" note taped to my mirror at Squam) before we can show it to anybody lest they think we are not talented or something silly like that.

    I have seen time and time again artist friends who take forever (if ever) to get their websites up or their business cards printed because, again, they feel because they are artists, that it has to be perfect before it is presented.

    I mean, we are artists after all ~ whatever creative thing we put out to the universe has to be perfect, non? Lest we be judged more harshly than we judge ourselves. Right, like that's going to happen, LOL

  10. I thought the first one looked great, but then you had to mess with it more I gather! my father always said "dont gild the lily!" in this case he might be right! but then , I dont know what you saw in your mind! keep on -you're doin good!

  11. Lyle, the first masks remains 'as is'. It bugged me because I can see the over-fused parts on the cheek. Plus the encaustic parts were so opaque which really goes against my grain, lol. Geez. Seriously, it was a good learning experience though.

  12. Anonymous3:37 PM

    Nothing ventured...nothing gain...

    I don't know how many "try-outs" of mine have ended up in the trash...but I've learn so much each time...I will continue to be fearless...or so I tell myself....


If you are entering a GIVEAWAY, please add your email address in the event I need to contact you.

To avoid SPAM, please write it like this:
stencilgirlproducts (at) gmail (dot com)