Archives for the month of: March, 2011

For anyone interested in art, music, or the 70s, I recommend “Just Kids“, by Patti Smith. It’s a deeply honest memoir about her young adulthood spent in NYC with Robert Mapplethorpe, developing her art and eventually her musical talents. I came across a passage that really spoke to me about the learning process of creativity and making mistakes. Here, Patti is co-writing a play with Sam Shepard, in his hotel room, literally writing a part, handing the typewriter to the other, going back and forth:

When we got to the part where we had to improvise an argument in a poetic language, I got cold feet. “I can’t do this,” I said. “I don’t know what to say.”

“Say anything,” he said. “You can’t make a mistake when you improvise.”

“What if I mess it up? What if I screw up the rhythm?”

“You can’t,” he said. “It’s like drumming. If you miss a beat, you create another.”

Wow. This is so liberating! My biggest challenge in my art is taking that next step, placing that next line, in fear that I’ll screw it up. I sometimes have a hard time finishing pieces, and my work can be slow going, because I deliberate, I practice (also because I’m new at this, so I tell myself), I do tryouts, and then I finally jump in.

I’ve been noticing that if I had just pushed forward with each idea, willing to make a mistake and even mess it up, and then started a new piece for every new thing I wanted to try out, I would have a much larger body of work, and this is what happens to artists! The work in early years is rough, but that’s because they are experimenting and doing at the same time.

My photographer cousin, Thomas Moore, coincidently just made the a similar comment on my last post, about accepting “imperfections” as part of the work that perhaps make it better, not worse. As artists, as people, we may have heard this advice before, and it’s an important reminder. And combining it with the analogy of the changing drum beat does something exciting for me – it allows me to realize that, instead of trying to force the outcome or feeling like I will have to throw out the things I mess up, I can listen to the changing beat and let it teach me what needs to emerge next.

In some ways, there is no such thing as a mistake.

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In my last post, I started to describe the screen printing process that I learned in a class I took this winter. In that post, I described how I picked out an idea and transferred it to the screen. Here, I talk about the printing and end result….

As you can see, there are two images on the same screen – you can utilize your screen to maximum capacity, as long as you leave enough room at the edges to press the ink in. I taped over one image while printing the other, and then vice versa. Then I mounted the screen onto the work surface, which has two clamps with hinges, allowing the screen to be lifted up to place paper underneath.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures while I was actually printing, so I’ll just have to describe it. Basically, you put a decent amount of ink at the top of the screen (from this perspective, above the right image), and then use a squeegie to “pull” the ink across the screen. Anywhere that is open (in the image above, anywhere that is white), the ink will go through.

I did several variations of color, one was yellow for the right side image, and blue for the left side image (reversing the whole process: cleaning the screen, taping over the right side, and pulling the ink across the left side). I printed a run of the right side first, then I let them dry, reversed the setup, registered the paper, and did the other.

Here’s the resulting print – I’m pretty happy with it, for a first try.

I had some trouble leaning onto the squeegie while pulling the ink, because of my broken rib, so I’m going to create my own screen printing surface with clamps and try the whole thing again here in my studio. And, as I mentioned in my last post, I made a mistake when initially prepping the screen and I didn’t get all of the polymer out – you can see an imperfection in the top left corner of this image where the yellow doesn’t fill in the corner all the way. In the future, I’ll have to fix that by hand every time I print this – live and learn! That’s what this blog is all about….

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