When I post about my own work, I often include the before sketch and after vector image. It’s a glimpse into my process. I don’t write much about how I get from A to B. It’s not magic. Or maybe it is. It involves a lot of thinking and that’s not particularly interesting. I do like discovering how other artists do what they do. My biggest question is how alike are we all? Imagination and creativity aside, do we share common roadblocks and pathways?
I’ve asked my sister, Karen Newhouse of Capallglas Studio, to share about her artistic process. Her art stems from her travels as well as her vast and articulate knowlege of Celtic traditions. Her techniques vary: drawing, painting, printmaking and she’s been known to embellish animal skulls.
Karen talks about Artist’s Freeze when she describes her process: too many ideas and unfinished pieces and not enough focus. Sound familiar? Below, she shares a solution that keeps her motivated as well as a sampling of images and words that provide inspiration for her work. For more indepth discussion about her art, you can find Karen at http://www.CapallGlas.com.
My survival technique.
I am an artist. I can’t help that. It is what I automatically tell people when they ask what I do. I’ve done a lot of things over the years that might be considered paths to a career, but the art is the thing.
I’ve worked with so many different techniques over the years, trying to create my art, and I’ve enjoyed so many different ways of expression, that I no longer suffer from artist’s block, but I do suffer from artist’s freeze.
So many ideas sheet down like a heavy, spring rain, and I can’t decide what to do. I always have four or five unfinished pieces around, and dozens of new ideas. I freeze up. I just can’t focus.
So, in 2009, I started my Projects. At first it was from January through June, July through December. But mid-winter and mid-summer were such static times to start new things, that I switched to May through October, November through April.
Projects are six-month themes. Within the theme, I explore both old and new techniques. My first theme for the Angelus Project was the illustration of my own poetry in paintings. I painted in my familiar watercolors and stretched to less familiar egg tempera and even less known acrylic. Project Derrybawn was a pursuit of black and white graphic designs for use in digital prints and t-shirts. Project Chroma was more abstract, learning about collage. I am finishing up Project Crossways. All the pieces contain an image of a Celtic Cross. I have been working on sizes from small ATC sized landscapes to 18×24 panels of intricate and entwined knotwork.
In May, 2013, I begin a new Project. I have, over the years, been asked by numerous people to illustrate some Irish or Celtic poetry. So I am starting with one of the poems of Amergin.
The poem comes from an ancient, mythological cycle depicting the invasion of Ireland by the Sons of Mil, the Milesians. They battled the even more mythic Tuatha de Danann for control of the island.
Amergin, one of the Sons of Mil, is considered the first Bard of Ireland. His brothers, by prearranged agreement, retreated to the sea, beyond the ninth wave, and returned to the beach to engage the De Danann kings. A magical storm was brought to bear upon the brothers and their fleet, but Amergin invoked the land itself to come to their aid, helping them defeat the magical De Danann. Thus the poem is known as the Invocation of Amergin.
It is a beautiful description of the natural and manmade magic of the island, written in a cunning, circular fashion in which the last word of each line is the first word of the next. It doesn’t always translate well, but I’m exploring the original language as well as various translations. Here is a sample from the first few lines:
I invoke the land of Ireland,
Coursed is the wild sea
Wild the echoing mountains
Echoing the generous woods
Generous in showers of rain and waterfalls,
Showers in lakes and vast pools
Pools, the hosts of well-springs
So, you get the idea. I hope to use my collection of sketches and photographs from travels in Ireland to find places and inspiration for the descriptive terms used. “Wild the echoing mountains” brings to my mind the belling stags in the mountains of Killarney on a wet, October day. It also brings to mind the odd moaning of the wind through the yawning tombs on the hilltops of Loughcrew and the rattling echo of cranky ravens at the limestone cliffs of Kesh Corran.
The mountains of Wicklow where you hear the rush of the wind through the gorse and the creaky calls of the grey crows.
The rushing waterfall of Glencar, made famous by W.B. Yeats in ‘The Stolen Child’
Karen’s image of the mountain caves of Kesh Corran in Co. Sligo where the ravens inspect every visitor.
My Projects do three things for me. First they create a focus on a theme; a specific cluster of ideas. I love to draw, so on this Project I will be working on detailed drawings for the most part. But I will be looking at some different things. Silverpoint is something I have only dabbled in. And I hope to try some colored pencil and watercolor. So I’m learning techniques as well as wallowing in some artistic comfort zones.
Projects appeal to my sense of education and learning. I keep track of my research and the steps that lead me to a final product. I love the research. In this Project, I will be digging into the Irish language in order to get a feel for the invocation. I’ve read a number of translations. Some appeal to me more than others and I wonder which ones are closer to the original spirit. I have studied the techniques of translation in a number of different ways in a number of different situations over the years. Perhaps it will help.
And Projects appeal to my spirit; the reason that I can’t stop making artwork whether I have a market for it or not. In this case, perhaps I will share with you my love of Ireland. I have studied it, both mythic and modern; the Battle of Moytura and the struggle for independence. I’ve walked across parts of it. I’ve worked there. I will invoke the land of Ireland for you and for me. My more pragmatic sense hopes that the art will finance another trip there.
I’m hoping to do another project of landscapes, which will include outside requests. Send me pictures and a story and I’ll illustrate your moment of Ireland. It’s a thought.