July 5, 2015

On Creative Practice, and a New Project

Week 1 Panel
I am interested in how creativity works. I am especially fascinated by creative practice, both my own and that of other artists, and have written and given lectures on the subject. For many artists, the state of being “in the flow” alternates with creative slumps and blocks. I find that these highs and lows can be better managed with a sustained creative routine.

That routine varies greatly, of course, in accordance with individual proclivities. For myself, part of my routine since 2012 has been taking daily photos, using either a macro or a fisheye lens on my iPhone, and posting them to social media. It gave focus to my day, helped train my eye, and gave me a glimpse into corners of the natural world I might otherwise miss. The habit has been exciting and fulfilling, and helped inform my primary artistic practice of textile based art. I’ve also enjoyed and greatly appreciated the many lovely and enthusiastic responses I’ve received when I posted photos.

It was all great, until all of a sudden it wasn’t. I had been struggling a bit in the spring to find subjects that engaged me, and one day I realized that it had turned from a delight into a chore. So I stopped. I put the project on hiatus and just stopped.  If I had been struggling with my primary work in fiber I would have powered through it, but this is an adjunct practice, meant to be fun. While I may still take and post the occasional nature picture, the daily part will remain on hiatus until/if I feel like reviving it. I suspect it may have served its purpose, and it is time to move on.

Which raises the question of what moving on looks like.  I feel like to some extent the photos were a dead end. I’m not a professional photographer, even thought I play one on TV. I’m going to move my repetitive creative practice into my true area of expertise, working with fiber.

After a lot of thought and false starts, I’ve devised a project involving the Susquehanna River, a never ending source of inspiration for me.  My plan is to get out and observe the river somewhere on its course on a weekly basis for the next year, and then make a small fiber piece in response to what I’ve just seen.  Further details and parameters will be worked out as I go along, as part of the appeal is that the project be open-ended and exploratory.  I’m calling it “52 Ways to Look at the River”.

Today I cut 52 pieces of rayon/wool felt into 6” x 12” blanks, and will be using them as the foundation for each weekly piece.  I anticipate it will be primarily needlefelting work but I’m not locked into that. The idea is that each piece will be the fiber equivalent of a quick sketch, and in the end the sum will be greater than the parts. 

Above is my first panel, and below is the picture I took of the river, in Columbia, PA, under the Veterans Memorial Bridge.  There’s been a lot of rain lately, and the river is very high and muddy.
Week 1 Image I’ll be posting the weekly pieces to my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/suerenostudio
My Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/suereno
My Tumblr: http://suerenostudio.tumblr.com
Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/people/suereno/
and Instagram: sue_reno_studio

So pick a platform and join me as I work my way through some imagery!

As always, thanks for reading and commenting.


Pat's Place said...

Good for you! Letting go of a discipline that worked, but has ended its usefulness is hard as well as a relief. Especially with all the approval we gave you as your audience and viewers.

I love your new creative discipline and look forward to watching your artistry evolve!

Anonymous said...

This honest and important post could not have come to my attention at a better time. Thank you for being as generous as you are talented.

Allison Aller said...

Great challenge, Sue, one that is so deeply meaningful to you. I will love following along.

Vivien Zepf said...

Very good idea, Sue! A weekly project that inspires and drives you. Can't wait to see what you create!

Anni Matsick said...

Smart to know when it's time to change your path and freshen your observations. I'll be watching.

Martha Hall said...

I've been pondering an idea for a weekly art exercise/project. Time to start doing it, I guess!

KAM said...

I delight in the sharing of process that you continue to do on your blog, in SAQA posts and at conferences and articles in journals and magazines. Your clear description of the way that the photo practice changed from one of pleasure and personal expansion as an artist to something that had "weight" to pull you away from a positive artistic journey was truly beneficial for me. How often a "practice" takes over and becomes a personality that removes my artist from her explorations and growth as a creative, expressive self. Identifying these moves from a place of expression as a creative worker and growth as an artist is key to truly embracing and expanding ones art.
Thank you for these words...thank you for sharing your plans for personal growth in the next year, and always thank you for sharing your process as you are ever growing and pushing boundaries as a textile artist.

Sharon Benton said...

Thanks for posting this, Sue. I find it very inspirational. I have not created new fiber art is a few years, although I think of it quite often. I am going in the opposite direction of you...I have decided that photography is where I want to put my energy now and have started studying and practicing in earnest. I have a good eye, but I've been lazy with my technical skills. Last year, I put my camera on manual and made myself use only the manual settings. It's improved my photography a lot. Next, I start getting serious about light (natural and studio). It's pretty cool what you can achieve when you decided to commit.

I look forward to your new series!

Sue Reno said...

Pat, that's it exactly. Dropping the discipline was harder than I would have expected, but it was also a great relief, and now I'm filled with energy to go forward!

Sue Reno said...

So glad it spoke to you at a good time, Paula, and I really look forward to seeing whatever it is you will be tackling next!

Sue Reno said...

Thank you Allie, as always, for your support and encouragement!

Sue Reno said...

Thanks Vivien, I'm curious as to how it will all turn out as well!

Sue Reno said...

Martha, it seems like you've had a lot of change in your life in the past year, and that can lead to a change of perspective. Looking forward to seeing what you commit to!

Sue Reno said...

Anni, your work is always so fresh and accessible--you make it look easy. Thanks for your support!

Sue Reno said...

Wow, Kristin, as always, you are so insightful and so kind. In reality I don't have a lot of choice; I think I was born with a certain combination of drive and integrity that always compels me. I am glad that sharing my journey is helpful!

Sue Reno said...

That's so interesting, Sharon. I do feel like I reached a point where in order to take the photography further and keep it interesting, I would have to invest more in learning more of the technical side of it, and that just feels like a distraction at this point in time. The fiber work is really calling out to me....I can absolutely see the progression in your images over the past year of so, and the work that you are producing is wonderful.