When I was in my teens, my first foray into art-making was collage. I would cut out magazine pictures and text and reconstruct them to make something of my own. I drew when I was a child but I never really progressed with the skill -- when I started going to school my days were occupied with lessons and homework and keeping that "crown" of being First Honor Student.
Hence when the urge to create came back full force in my teen years, that period of supposedly finding oneself, I did not feel comfortable enough to make my own from scratch. I did not trust myself to be able to design or imagine anything interesting enough that i can properly translate into physical form. So I borrowed and used the output of others to represent my own. Then I integrated other materials -- cloth, scrapbook papers, found objects. But I was never able to really put together anything that felt right, or that captured what I wanted to show.
I continued to use other people's art and creations to make pieces and in my journals. But magazines change and soon they have less of the kind of images I need. Also they got more expensive. I also began worrying about copyright, and being accused of un-originality. (Today I still use other people's works in my journals to serve as visual pegs and inspiration. But my journals are private so I have less qualms compared to an artwork that I will display.)
Fast forward to two decades later, I am now making my own drawings and have finally managed to break through into some level of progress. But after a while of drawing and painting I wanted more. My ultimate dream of an output is something like the works of Nick Bantock and Barbara Hodgson -- the marriage of words with pictures, but with the pictures much more of my own, especially since I do not have access to the kind of beautiful vintage ephemera that Nick and Barbara are able to work with that render their artworks original and timeless.
I want to be able to integrate other materials into my paintings, even while I am still struggling how I can integrate my words into them. That is also why I am very interested in calligraphy and lettering -- I want my words to have an identity of their own. I have had enough of borrowing or of having to worry about paying for copyrights.
A few days ago, when I was working on a big piece, it occurred to me to introduce sequins into the painting. It would not have occurred to me while working on a small piece because it is easy to fill out the spaces of a small canvas. But a big piece, well, I don't want it to be Zentangly with patterns, but I also don't want gradations of shades to add layer to the wide spaces --- I want consistently bright and strong colours, and I find the Zentangle style too doodly and distracting, and too many of that kind of art is already out there. I want the patterns I use to layer and complement, not to be the main feature.
So, sequins. I love glitter and shimmer and I use a lot of iridescent inks in my paintings to begin with. But wide swathes of just plain ink are also not a good idea. I need layers. And then I also want textures.
I felt good about this last piece. It felt like I was on the right track. And then, something clicked -- it is the next step to evolve my artwork. One step closer to capturing even more accurately the images that have been dancing in my head, the visions of a place where I have always dreamed to visit.
I went to buy more sequins. And I dug out my box of collected found objects and ephemera. Now I know what I have been saving them for.
Then I went to work on an even bigger piece : an 18x18 canvas. When I finished it, that was when I felt that I broken through somehow. That I have made a small but significant step forward. All the time before (since 2012) has been merely practice to be ready for this step. And now I will be practicing a lot more for the next step, until I get to where I need to go. I still need to learn how to work in fabric, ribbons, metal objects, irregularly-shaped objects, and my ever elusive text -- I am planning to look for metallic alphabet stickers, or a way of cutting letters into metallic paper. (Eventually I have ambitious plans of rendering my poems in pieces larger than an A4 paper. And also making giant-sized versions of something like what I do in my journals.) I am thrilled. I am eager to begin again.
I now know what Year it will be next year. This year has been the Year of Serenity, and in many ways it has proven to be so, mainly because I also learned how to flow with what is true. There were lessons of patience, calm, deliberation, awareness, stillness. There were the experiences of relief and quiet joy at finding and being found. Of discovering my own slow rhythms and recognising the gifts within that slowness. There was a lot of inner work, much more than previous years. A lot of inner storms to weather with equanimity while outside there is a semblance of okay-ness.
Next year, it is going to be the Year Of Arrivals.