Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I Like To Draw

Fireworks, watercolor & pencil drawing, 2012
I was recently in New York City--Brooklyn to be specific--and had a chance to hang out with some old Olympia friends: Tae Won Yu, Mirah, and Khaela Maricich. It's true, a little known fact: I began my art career in Olympia, Washington--
                                                                         --not that I called what I was doing "a career".

In the 90's I was young and living in Olympia with my daughter, Helen. Everyone I knew in town was making art or music. It was at once both accessible and insular. Ultimately, this is the reason that I eventually left for the east coast in 2002. But seeing my old friends, Tae, Mirah, and Khaela, reminded me of how much I have admired them (and others from Olympia: Stella Marrs, Al Larsen, Kelsey Smith, Colleen Cox, Nikki McClure, Amber Bell, Jenn Kleise, Ariana Jacob, Mary (Waters) Sharp, Rebecca Pearcy, Kelly Kaczynski...) so much over the years. Seeing them reminded me that Olympia was, frankly, the perfect environment for a mother like me to begin her art career: blindly believing that being an artist was a real possibility. All you had to do was make things and show the things you made to your friends. Simple.

The things you made, didn't have to be good and they didn't have to make money. A fashion show. A print. A potholder. A paper cake. A video. A pie. A photograph. A rock opera. A poem. A dress. A song. A bag. A giant drawing. A ceramic bowl. A quilt. A collaboration. A book.
Fireworks on Cayuga, 2011, watercolor and graphite
Fireworks on the Canal, 2012, woodblock
If you have ever been young, broke, single, and with a kid, you will understand what I mean when I say that the art world can be a difficult place to access. These incredibly talented and creative people--my friends in Olympia--never once suggested that I consider another career path. This is truly unique, in that my post-Olympia world has given me about a million reasons to not be an artist. When all that stuff makes it feel impossible, I have kept this simple Olympia idea in mind: all I have to do is make my work.

I look back on that time and cringe a little when I think about the artwork I made. It's embarrassing in the same way as re-reading your old diaries. Perhaps tragically-fortunate my house burned down, and with it my awkward artwork.
Outside, 2011, watercolor and graphite drawing
Outside, 2012, woodblock
In December of 2012, at a bar in Brooklyn, Mirah reminded me that those days in Olympia were pre-interweb, at least in the way we know the interweb now: no f.b. and blogging, websites, iphones, ipads and such. Our friends in real life were our audience. We were specifically conscious of and engaged in our place: our town, our homes, our water, our streets, our landscape, our friends, our bikes, our food.

Also in December of 2012, at a bar in Brooklyn, Khaela reminded me that we didn't have to call ourselves a musician, or a sculptor, or a painter. People unconsciously moved back and forth between mediums. I remembered Khaela's fashion show titled: You Move in a Fashion, and how amazing it was--and yet there is no documentation. The only way to access what happened during that happening is to remember - and only if you were lucky enough to be there.

And in December of 2012, at Tae's home in Brooklyn, he makes pizza and we drink wine. Then he shows me his sketch books and drawings. He shows me cardboard sculptures he made. And record album covers he designed. He shows me photographs he took and blocks that he has carved. And we talk about woodblock printing. His drawings are fresh and real. The work is evidence that he draws continuously as he moves through the world.
Left: Throw Rugs, 2011, sumi ink. Right: Magic Carpet, 2011, sumi ink
Progress, 2012, woodblock and letterpress
Today, 10 years after Olympia, I am a printmaker. But I am not only that. Secretly I like to draw. I practice my ukelele. I sew. I make books. I write. And wonder if I am good enough to call these things my art. It's totally stupid, particularly when so clearly the process of making these things directly informs the prints I make.

After installing a show at the Print Center in the Fall, I have started to make new things. It's always difficult for me to begin new work, after finishing a large series of prints. Because the beginning is always murky, messy, vague and totally daunting. So I begin the way I did in 1991, I sit down at my kitchen table (the one that we never eat at) and make things. Anything I can think of. The main difference is that my daughter is now 21 and I don't have to wait for her to take a nap to find time for myself. 
The Canal, 2012, watercolor & pencil
Fishing with Nets on the Canal, 2012, watercolor & pencil
Night Fishing on the Canal, 2012, watercolor & pencil