4 Pieces in a week (or How My Working Process Works Me)
It’s been months since I’ve finished any new work. Facts like this hang over my head like that little cartoon cloud we all love to hate. Mine sits like a fog, right at temple level, and water trickles down my face. Safe to say it annoys the hell out of me until I do something about it.
I’m not a diligent or a disciplined artist. Chuck Close says “I don’t work with inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs. I just get to work.” While I respect and envy his thinking, I have not fully embodied that attitude just yet.
The work ebbs and flows with a few things.
The first – the search for new content to finish the work. I’m deep into the hunt for plant specimens and frankly its a cousin to hell. Having birds available in one location, ready to shoot on a set date as specified and agreed upon made my life easy and convenient. Plants do none of this. I have to search for them, find them when they’re in their prime and gather the images I need. Working in the middle of the country on a series of work generated on the Louisiana and New England coast means plants are non-native and thus difficult to find or substitute. I am finding luck with a few knowledgeable botanists who have helped but I know I have an uphill battle as I search out the last 40 or so tree/shrub/grasses I need to finish the series.
Next is just the creative process. I love reading about artists who creative processes that are akin to frolicing through meadows. My process is a metaphorical storm. It broods, backtracks, and builds with an inconsistency that is comparable to Colorado summer storms. Sometimes they come barreling through and leave a path of destruction and other times they simply fizzle.
Last week, I sat down to work on two specific prints. I was under the impression I had most of what I needed to complete the work and thus it was time to get my hands dirty and crank out the many hours of photoshop necessary to piece the work together (note – print production time ranges from 5-30 hours to finish a piece).
During my attempt to work through the other two pieces, this
piece came together. Rought-legged Hawk
Of course, the storm that I thought was going to work through me took a rather unnatural course and did what it wanted. The pieces I dug into were not ones that could be completed nor did they feel right. I can’t describe it more than working on something that feels upside down and backwards. It’s there, ITS FINE to anyone not entrenched in the work, but to me it could not be finished. Not today at least.
To avoid pulling teeth and hating the piece, I left them to ferment in future creative attempts. They’ll be housed, kept dry and safe until their time comes. I’ll think of those pieces and they will be the catalyst for the next ebb as well as the next flow.
So what happens instead? A different process. One that’s more organic. A digging through the image archives I continually build upon. Plants, trees, landscapes, whatever I have on file that lines up with works I have stored in my head that needs to be finished. This time, I landed on a beautiful branch I had documented and from there I shook out one of the birds from my Seedskadee trip.
And from there, I found myself in my Seedskadee archive. If you don’t recognize the name, Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge is located in southwestern Wyoming. This refuge stretches for 26,000 acres and includes 36 miles of the Green River. It is prime breeding real estate for a variety of birds including Sandhill Cranes and swans.
I shot a variety of landscape photos with the hope of incorporating them into prints. I had landed on what I thought would work, but of course it didn’t make the cut but I found myself so nearly finished with the Prairie Falcon print that I had to find a solution. Thankfully I had another landscape that worked better and I can say this print is nearly perfect to me.
Prairie Falcon and Northern Bobwhite
So what next? I kept scrolling through and finding myself looking back on the print called Green Tailed Towhee.
I’ve had a love hate relationship with this piece since the first time I completed it.
And when I say the first time I’ve completed it I really mean it was time to go back and rehash this piece and get it to a point where I would be proud of it. And that’s exactly what I did. The new piece features (plant) a specimen that looked much healthier than the Rabbit bush I was originally using.
New Final Piece – Green Tailed Towhee
The last piece was just a flash of pieces that felt cohesive and beautiful. It features a species not documented by Audubon which gives me (the rare but loved) carte blanche for a piece. I don’t get the opportunity often but when I do it’s liberating. These pieces don’t flow any easier than the original pieces. If anything is there more difficult as I have to emulate Audubon Artwork to ensure cohesiveness in the series. And that task is a bit daunting to say the least.
Swainson’s Thrush on Holly