I have a little wooden box in my treasure and junk drawer; it was a gift from my grandfather when I graduated from college. I was puzzled at the time, because the stained cigar box is filled with old paper money and coins from the United States and places like China and South America. I have never collected coins, but it was old and I suppose it was something of his he wanted me to have. Who knew paper money came in such small denominations? Recently I've been a little obsessed with scanning old family photos and paper items (letters, report cards, clippings) with the intention of somehow working them into mixed media artwork. I've played with this idea, done experimental journal entries, little collages, anything I could think of.
But here's the thing: I don't know what I'm doing. So I decided to sign up for a workshop that I understood would be about creating mixed media pieces. I may have read my desires into the description, because I just spent a day in a hot room with a dozen people doing exercises similar to those in The Artist's Way. I liked that book, but I worked through most of the exercises, kept journals for several years, and have come to a pretty fair idea of what general direction I want to go with my art. In a nutshell, the workshop is not what I expected, and I'm trying to make the best of it. Thing is, right now I wish I had the money and the time instead.
So, at what point does an artist quit casting about for help and just do the work? I have an uneasy feeling that's where I am. Perhaps if I'd met this instructor, a good person whose work I respect, earlier it would have been good. But right now I just want to make art, not journal about it. I think what I want is to find a peer group, honest people who can inspire me, advise me, challenge me. I think I have things to offer too. I'm just not sure where to look.
One other thought. These illustrations by John Tenniel from Lewis Carroll's Through The Looking Glass are favorites of mine. They come from a boxed set I've had since childhood. Coincidentally, I've been looking at magazines that feature collages, altered books, and other mixed media ideas. These magazines are guilty pleasures; I don't want to copy other people's ideas. Also they are fairly transparent in the way they advertise materials that could easily break the bank. But I look at them, and wonder if I could find creative ways to use the materials I already have on hand. It's hard to resist all that glossy photography.
Have any of you noticed how many collages use images, often old photos, of women and children wearing tall pointy hats (dunce hats? witch hats? party hats?) or crowns? Have you noticed how many have striped stockings? Wings? Looking at these old illustrations I wonder how many artists have been subconsciously - or maybe consciously - influenced by Alice and her world.
I'm going to sleep on all of this. Tomorrow is another day.