As I write, I am sitting down to lunch, looking at the total destruction and reconstruction of my studio. Unlike those more fortunate, my studio is really a bedroom in the house that doesn’t even have a closet. As a result, all storage is on shelves with plastic bins, all in the hope of keeping the dust to a minimum. In addition to having shelves of cameras and lenses and other photography equipment in the studio, I also have my sewing supplies, a desk, a drafting table, two filing cabinets, two chairs, a computer, a printer, a scanner, and a couple of monitors. The destruction of the studio is the cleaning out and throwing out of things, as well as reorganizing it to accommodate painting more readily. Things are being moved around to make access to certain items more comfortable.
When I think about my focus on photography over the past several years, I am so glad I feel that I have mastered it to a degree that makes it comfortable, and gives a certain level of satisfaction. Both digital and analog are areas where I feel a level of proficiency – I can take good pictures. I know my cameras, I know my film, and can determine an exposure for a manual technique by looking at the light. This is something that once learned is never lost – the knowledge may get a bit rusty without doing it, but it always comes back once being used again.
Photography, though, is not my first love in the visual arts. Painting is always where I want to come home to roost. The feel of a brush or pencil, the colors of paint or gradations of ink, the physical experience of painting and drawing: all these combine for an experience that photography has never had. I am not interested in painting realistic images – that’s what photography is for – but in the emotional expression or abstraction of whatever that painting provides. Besides painting, I love woodblock printing, and sumi-e. There is a sensual quality to working in these areas that, if I had a darkroom, I might find as satisfying.
With this focus on painting – mostly in watercolor, possibly in acrylic – I will need to revisit the skills I’ve lost over the past several years. Because I tend to be rather fixated on painting in certain ways, I also hope that my sense of exploration and adventure will get piqued. It’s easy to become formulaic in art, I think, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate a lack of focus. Rather, being formulaic means a level of success in given techniques, but it may not open the door to that magical realm of creativity that leads to new insights and processes. This is where I want to go. I want to study botanical illustration because I am too splashy and undisciplined, but I also want to explore different ways of using colors, papers, paints, and pencils. The process, ultimately, is the most important experience to me. Whether or not I become an artistic celebrity is immaterial; it is the doing and being the art itself.