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A week ago Friday, Tom and I had the pleasure of seeing San Francisco Film Society present An Evening with Don Hertzfeldt. Wikipedia states that “Hertzfeldt has never held any job other than creating his own animated films, not even in his youth.” This intrigues me. My curiosity was appeased when he asked the audience to thank his parents for never pressuring him to do anything responsible in his life. Wow! I appreciated him sharing that. And even more than what you’re given, it’s what you do with it, that matters. Nice to see an example of a working artist who was given a lot of freedom and has created his own unique, successful direction in a non-commercial way.
I’m continuing to work on Alyson B. Stanfield’s Relatively Pain Free Artist Statement e-book. I’m on the third question and it’s getting difficult. On a side note, I’ve started flossing on a regular basis. It just clicked, I made a decision and decided how I could fit flossing into my routine. What I’m really talking about is self-discipline and that’s what I’m dealing with as I continue blogging and working through Alyson’s questions. Eventually, I’m hoping it’ll become “just what I do”.
I’m writing about my experience creating the book above entitled “Honesty” at an incredible retreat: An Artful Journey with DJ Pettit in February 2010. My biggest takeaway was that it gave me the desire to teach differently. I’ve been teaching some project-based book binding classes and while I enjoy them, I’d like to encourage my students to do work that is their own. I’d like to teach technique, not necessarily specific projects and really encourage students to do work that speaks to them. I want to provide less materials, less control and more freedom.
In teaching bookbinding classes, I’ve provided the majority of the materials. It’s been an easy way to focus on the binding technique. It’s similar to what I’ve learned in other bookbinding classes I’ve taken. Occasionally, students will come up with alternative ideas from what I demo and I’ve been encouraged. I want students to think about how they can make their work theirs. I want to teach technique, share inspiration and create a more open, creative structure that doesn’t stifle the students’ freedom.
I’d like to create a space where students make work that oozes their passion and personality. I want to bring people out, connect with them and help them connect with themselves. When I saw DJ Pettitt’s work on her website I knew I had to study with her. Her books, her texture and colors… I was drawn to her. I felt I wanted to learn to paint on photographs as well but late Saturday night at the retreat I wasn’t so happy with my photograph paintings. I got a chance to connect with DJ. She appreciated my photography and suggested I could use my own photos by themselves without painting over them. I was encouraged. She also said, “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do” and relayed a sweet story about her husband. It made sense. When I struggle with something, I need to look and be super honest with myself… What is my purpose in doing this work? Am I really enjoying it? What I had really been enjoying was my previous day ‘s art where I was making a “mess”, painting abstracts and creating a lot of work in effortless excitement. I focused on that fun, inspiring work and cut it up into smaller pieces (with some inspiration from Kelly Warren!) and created the book above out of my work that really spoke to me.
I know there’s a learning process and things don’t always come easily and immediately but if I focus on what I most enjoy, I produce my best work. When I go back to projects that I haven’t finished, many times I’ll realize why and be gentle on myself for not finishing them. I made more books this weekend. That’s something that just comes easily. I’m a little obsessed.