Susie Monday

Artist, maker, teacher, author, head cook and bottlewasher.

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The art I make is the result of a life-long love of pattern, texture and color. How I teach is a skill honed by experience (I started teaching creative arts to younger kids when I was 12). After earning a B.A. in Studio Arts from Trinity University, I helped lead an internationally recognized educational foundation, designed curriculum exhibits for schools and other institutions, wrote and edited for a major daily newspaper, opened the San Antonio Children's Museum and then, a dozen years ago, took the scary but essential (for me) leap to become a fulltime artist and art teacher.

About This Blog

This weblog is about the maker's life. The teacher's path. The stitching and dyeing and printing of the craft of art cloth and art quilt. The stumbling around and the soaring, the way the words and the pictures come together. Poetry on the page and in the piecing of bright scraps together. The inner work and the outer journeys to and from. Practicalities and flights of fancy and fearful grandeur, trivial pursuits and tactile amusements. Expect new postings two or three times a week, unless you hear otherwise. 

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    « Exhibit at Northwest Vista College | Main | Your Path, Content and Themes »

    FInding Your Way in Media and Materials

    Another pathway to finding one’s voice has to do with the materials and media that are central to the form. For me media is anything that takes the idea into form, be it writing, silk paint, cookie dough or conversation. Most of us as artists have the luxury of finding, exploring, layering and learning about many different kinds of media, and this time in play is an important part of the process of coming into our unique style. Some ideas work in cookie dough, others don't.

    Experimentation, fluency and craftsmanship all play a role. Experimentation means taking the time and having the will to push a media or material beyond what you have seen others do with it. For some, this is easy and essential, others of us have to work hard to "break the rules," since our inclination or training may make this tantamount to heresy.

    Fluency means playing with possibilities and with the borders between media, combining it with other materials and using new tools with the medium. Fluency is the brainstorming equivalent but with stuff, not just ideas. Fluency also requires “just sticking to it” long enough to get beyond the first easy idea, and this I think is the dirty little secret behind developing facility and technical skills -- ie craftsmanship.

    Many artists want their first of something to be fabulous, but most of us who have stuck with art long enough know that expertise does clarify the voice. Experience with the technical handling of the media, the tools, the physical material of one’s art and craft means that the message becomes clear, the hand of the artist is consciously visible rather than intrusively visible. You’ve simply got to keep at it and the “it” has to be something you like enough to carry you over the drudge, slog and boring parts. Paints gotta dry. Dye needs its temperature. The ink line needs the right brush and the paper that lets it do what you want it to do. If you break the rules here, it's because you want to, not because you can't do it "right." 

    Sounds a bit like a teeter-totter and it is. Too  much attention too soon to craft and you may end up with a dead something instead of a living idea. Too little attention to skillful handling, and your idea may disappear under the clutter of incompetence. And of course, all of these aspects are ever moving targets for most of us!

    PS All these photos are from the recent Baker Idea Institute Workshop, where we did a lot of playing around with materials/media. Exercises are among those included in New World Kids, The Parents' Guide to Creative Thinking.


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    Reader Comments (4)

    You never know when Stumbleupon is going to stumble one's blog. Hope you new readers enjoyed and will return!
    January 29, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusie Monday
    What you say about experimentation, here, is so true!
    I must say that it is essential for me, to be constantly attempting to find the more elegant (usually simpler) way. And though I am sometimes aware that I may be doing something considered heretical, it hasn't stopped me yet. It's that stubborn streak my long-suffering mother was afraid would ruin me. Instead, if aimed in the proper direction, it can take you far! Did I say stubborn? No, I meant to say determined, persevering, "having the will" as you so kindly put it.
    January 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCarol Wiebe
    It's not hard for me to push the boundaries at all...I am so constantly in the Experimental Stage, that I rarely actually finish anything. I thing my love of experimentation can be my best friend and my worst enemy.
    February 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLauri
    I am so laughing at myself right now! I am re-reading this 'series' of posts because I like thinking and getting more input on me, hoping that it will make me a better artist.

    Anyway, I'm reading this post thinking "I experiment too much and never really get anything totally finished or accomplished". Then scrolled down to the comments...and there I was! Thinking the exact same thing as I was almost 2 months ago. Maybe I am actually starting to get some insight into what really makes me tick.
    March 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLauri

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