the mid year assessment? bulk up.

16 Jul

We are halfway through the year and I am in scary territory.
I am not meeting art targets.
Life is keeping me busy… perhaps too busy?
My mid-year self-assessment is daunting.

To make artwork I spend as much time as possible downstairs.
Computer tasks generally keep me upstairs way too long.
Maintaining a happy and healthy personal and family life is time-consuming too.
I juggle these priorities and tasks most days.

The studio is, thankfully, haunted by ‘voices’ downstairs regularly keeping me to task.
The variety of podcasts I listen to is increasing. I listen whilst my hands are engaged, sometimes with multiple ‘plays’ as my mind may (hopefully) get lost in the creative process. I often resent working on ‘chores’ upstairs for too long – I ache to get downstairs to listen and learn.

I always have lists of projects/chores that I want, or need to do, to keep me on track or get me ahead. Five decent NON ARTWORK projects are well underway, so far this year;

1. The December Gallery website is complete. TICK
2. Boxing up all my artworks. Mostly done. TICK
3. I have redone my ARTWORK database – of sold and unsold works.  A TICK for the moment but there is still much more work needed in this area.
4. Editing OUT all sorts of things. Computer programs, equipment, books and ‘stuff’ that no longer gives me the joy it did. A little TICK only.
5. Alongside the editing out comes the repainting of our house interior – which was completed last week. (I may need to explain that my house is through a door from my studio and of equal size:). BIG TICK for me not doing the painting myself as I repainted most of the studio, in stages, last year. On the weekend we started hanging artworks but I still have lots of freshen up projects this year – new curtains, remake of the ‘sail’ blinds, new cushions and eventually a new quilt for our bed. A TICK for getting this far, this year!

The WONDERFUL, last but not least project for the year, is this;

6. Getting back to clay. I am through my second term of my muddy ‘one morning a week’ – a hand building class at Fremantle Arts Centre. I receive supported ‘free rein’ in what I want to do…AND I LOVE IT. The work so far is on-theme but merely fledgling.
I cannot guarantee it will see the gallery spotlight in December.
BIG TICK for making it happen.
BIG TICK  for absolutely loving it.

Much of my time, though, is still hoovered up in researching The Swan River Colony so that I can direct appropriate themes, and nuance, to my artwork.
Novels? Who needs them when I can read The Mind that Shines twice…back to back!
But the why?
I want surety that I am both following the theme and doing both the learning and my creative output equal service. I am also simply addicted to knowing and understanding more about this place I live in.

The research is ongoing. It also has breadth and variety.
Sometimes I follow a thematic lead, sometimes a visual lead.
Sometimes it is one written line that sparks my imagination.
Sometimes it is about the inherent materiality of an idea….how DO I approach themed work in clay when I no longer have a go-to style or even method of working? When there is a fear of failure menacingly present?

Research started in earnest late year and continues – I daresay it will for years to come. There is so much to explore and to be inspired by.
So then, how did I break the research down? Research does not necessarily become art.

The next few visuals are the early breakdowns of the project that I need to adhere to. Distilling my research was a matter of what I was continually excited by or intrigued by.
The things that festered in my noggin…

I edited my broad research down to the five boards that will follow.
As they are written to empty my brain they may not make sense to you…then again they just might?

Keep in mind that our exhibition theme is ‘History/HERstory – a new life in a harsh foreign land.’ Also that this is MY particular take on the theme…





These five boards have been on my upstairs wall since then. I wrote in them in January in one of many attempts to clarify and to still my thoughts.
I return to them continually.

As the year has progressed the boards have become one…a sort of mantra?
I don’t need to be reminded of the intricacies.
I do need to be reminded to keep tightly on track.
I just need to get onto the work below.
It doesn’t look like a year’s work does it?

Working titles have started to appear.
These titles have a foundation in the colonies’ stories/history.
Titles go a long way to help me tell the story. They also keep the work on track.

So far there are two titles/ two series, that are set in cement, as they have bodies of work complete or close to complete;
Sing No More My Heroes & Out of Kilter
I may stay within these two series themes only – although I have a few more that I’m itching to get underway.

A big worry is that I have been frustratingly slow at getting the works started and then completed. I produce ideas easily but the winnowing and finding the strong kernel of each work is variously frustrating and celebratory.

I am also working with a mix of techniques and materials quite freely.
Paper piecing for example!!!
Never before on my radar – using this ubiquitous technique was key to one particular puzzle I needed to work out.  Paper piecing allows me to celebrate the back/the papers,  and the process, rather than the front or the usual final function.

I am paper piecing in a rather freeform manner.
That is only one part of the story though.
I will flesh out the workings of this series here some time in the future.

It is early days in MUD land but I am easing my hands back into a very intuitive way of making sculptural objects. The mental immersion in this busy and convivial (yet solitary) weekly session is intense as I need to tease out relevant images from my head whilst making 3D sense of a tricky clay body, porcelaineous stoneware, which will give me the refined the look I seek.
I have a long way to go but am hopeful.

The project that became the priority is one that has been the most difficult to work out.
It is also the project completed and already exhibited!

I have written before about my collection of cast-off feathers – which has been growing for a few years now. The time was right, and I was very eager to make use of them.
The theme, and the story that they illustrate, is one of the many little historical quirks that resounded strongly with me;
Swan River Colony… Three MEAT meals a day… Crops failing…Birds an easy target.
Bird life decimated…Feathers discarded or used….and how?

I will try to flesh out this project, Sing No More My Heroes, another time in another post… soonish:)

Meanwhile, my mid year progress report is clear.
“This year’s project shows promise, it is on task… but Jan needs to do more flexing of the art muscles to bulk up enough for the looming December deadline.”

I’m okay with that for the time being.

Jan Mullen

B. Ed. Art/Craft (Textiles/Sculpture) Living in Perth, Western Australia Artist, Fabric Designer, Author, Teacher, Mentor.