Sometimes an artist can’t see what she’s making until it’s been done for a while.
My latest piece, Filtered Beams, is hot off the encaustic press, so to speak, and I’m still getting acquainted with it. It’s made of pieced hand-dyed fabric with appliqué and encaustic wax overlay onto a solid backing. I wanted my blog readers to see it first but also to use it as an example of how one artist’s creative process can unfold. Fair warning that this post is more about art than the whales I include in it.
Like many of my fiberartist friends, I started with love of a particular piece of fabric – that left hand strip of dark blue showed up while sorting a bin of hand-dyed fabrics. Two concepts were in my thoughts around that time that guided the design. Ever since I saw the photo of sperm whales sleeping during the day, I’ve been wondering how whales spend their nights. And then the ongoing concerns about rising sea levels have reignited my interest in how the moon affects our tides on a regular basis.
The Illusion of Planning
I have my own checklists and prompts for developing the theme of a piece as many artists do. My teacher, Gail Harker, gave me a good grounding in ways to do this and she continues to teach this part of supporting one’s creativity. Of course, the ideal of having a created work arise full blown in your mind or happening spontaneously as you work is lovely and does happen at times. But it is also useful to have some prompts and rituals, habits and tools, to get going on days when deadlines approach without helpful spontaneity
So I went from whales at night, a moon, and that lovely left hand strip through design steps including quick sketches and auditioning fabrics and layouts. (I’m leaving the details of assembly and adding encaustic wax to be shared in a later post.)
Surprises in Making Art
The crescent moon was planned but the stars didn’t get added until later when I decided that the plain sky evoked the stars naturally. Figuring out how to create them took some experimenting until I was satisfied with hand-stitched versions.
It has only been as I live with the finished version that I’ve realized how important the stars are to the whole image. I retained my focus on the moon by the title of Filtered Beams, but am delighted with how unexpected details are leading to new directions. I’ll be including both moon and stars as I continue on this series about the night sky and whales.