September 24, 2013

The beginnings of a plan

Kicked out of work on behalf of my union's job action, suddenly I've had time to deal with my art questions. And after a couple of days to think, wander around, no one after me for a snack, change of clothes, whatever... it returns in a flood. The rush of ideas, the fever to produce something creative, the dread of actually delving in. Creativity.

This morning, not finding anything at the bookstore, I dropped in on the Ottawa School of Art and asked Lauren at the counter for advice on planning a series of paintings. Something like How to Write a Novel, but for artists. Everything else is out there, how to paint a face, how to paint cats, painting in encaustic, drawing from life or in the woods, but nothing on how to take a cloudy idea and turn it into a few pictures.

Off the top of her head, she came up with nothing, but luckily for me her Googling skills outpaced mine. She found a two-pager on a website called Empty Easel. And just like that, I have the beginnings of a plan. 

After scanning it intently on the sidewalk, I charged off to Galerie St Laurent+Hill. One of the too-many-to-count things I've learned from reading Alan Rusbridger is that I don't have enough information. The man interviewed scads of pianists, professional and amateur, and subjected himself to the direction of at least four teachers. He read books about his chosen project -- learning Chopin's G Minor Ballade -- and followed the progress of others engaged in attempting the same difficult feat via Twitter and Youtube. I'm too much alone by comparison, progressing slowly or not at all because of it.

I figured, maybe I should take in some series, get a sense of how others might have done it. But the gallery had no solo show on (come back for Leslie Reid on Thursday, I'm told), and both La Petite Mort and Terence Robert were closed.

At St Laurent+Hill I disappointed myself by not asking the man at his desk for any advice on concretising a broad theme that doesn't immediately call up images and turning it into them. He had a battered notebook in front of him, reams of paper, a weary but inviting face. Surely he's the curator, someone often at the side of many artists exploring ideas visually. I also know people so often love to talk - what am I so afraid of? Bothering people? Being a pest? No, it's that I hate to call attention to myself. What if I raise their interest, and then disappoint? Better to make no impression at all.

At home, emboldened, I tell my husband I will take the list of artists I like in Ottawa and fire off e-mails to every one of them. Won't they accept a free lunch from an amateur wanting a bit of advice? Hopefully I will have the courage to do it. 

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