Except. I just worked my way through a week in New York and Boston with that gallon-size bag, and as I think about my process, I realize two things that might be different when I go digital: Time and Mistakes. With access to the delete key and the undo button I may inadvertently create problems for myself. Don't like a line? Delete. Want a different shade of purple? Undo. I could spend hours going backwards, trying to create a perfect image.
But I don't want to do that. I like the serendipity and chance learning that happens when I'm working with three-dimensional things. Striving for the perfect digital image may obliterate those opportunities. I'm wondering if the delete key and undo button are actually a source of anxiety for my students. When you make a physical object you can take it apart up to a point, but you can also learn how to problem solve. Artists don't generally debug by painting over; we go through. We accept the mistake; the artwork takes on a life; and we move forward, paving the way for a new resolution.
In writing we have the opportunity to keep revising—which can become obsessive—but at some point we have to call it done. I've talked to other writers who can't leave their work alone. I've woken up thinking about one word that could be changed in something I'm writing and how it would be so much better. Like the art process, the writing can take a turn and you have to figure out how to write yourself out of the corner, but unlike art you can save multiple drafts and submit it only when satisfied. Sometimes in writing you can salvage parts of it and then rewrite the rest. If visual art is too thickly layered or overworked it may turn to mud. (What's that saying? Aim for perfection; accept reality?) Sometimes artistic mistakes are a source of tension; perhaps we should just see them as challenges, stepping stones to the next level.
Years ago, a printmaker friend suggested that everyone ought to make a reduction print at least once in his/her life. (It's kind of like batik; see the cover for She Is the Keeper, below.) If you haven't made one yet, here is the process: draw a picture that has multiple colors. Take a linoleum block or woodblock or white plastic carving block and carve out only what you want to remain white. Ink up the block and print it (my first color was lime green). Now carve away what you want to remain that color. Print on top of the first color (second color: olive green). Repeat carving and printing until you've printed all of your colors (process blue; then reflex blue). If you carve out too much or too little, well, that's it; you'll have to discard the block (delete) or change your design (work through).
|She Is the Keeper, 2003|
I enjoyed collaging my ephemera in my travel journal (it was a blank book model I made years ago and I'm accepting the mistakes in it). I had a few "mud" pages. But I found a way to use the discarded scraps that satisfied me, something I wouldn't have discovered without the actual objects. I'm thinking that in the future I'll take pictures of the tickets and receipts and bags, add my handwriting, and making digital montages. It is possible I could still learn something new…
|From a brochure|
|From a bag|
|Drawing and leftovers|
|From a business card and a placemat|