I've been searching for a big project—something to provide focus and structure and a goal to work towards. I've been feeling a bit aimless for the past year or so, a bit unchallenged and unmotivated. A lot of my joy in making art comes from the exploration of new ideas or materials. When I first started doing digital collages, I had taken one single Photoshop class. I knew enough to be able to do very basic things, but a lot of what I did was sheer experimentation, clicking on things and seeing what happened. It was fun, and it was scary when I committed to doing an art show consisting of 48 individual digital collages (3 sets of 16). I spent hours and hours every evening after working at my office job all day, figuring things out, experimenting. It was exhausting but also exhilarating. It was my first real art show, after being basically traumatized by art school into being completely unsure of myself and my abilities. Completing that work was incredibly empowering and I count it as the true start of my working life as an artist.
Lately I've been feeling less enthralled with my entire art-making process. Of course I enjoy it, but it just feels kind of easy. It feels like I know exactly what steps to take to produce a reasonably good image. Whenever I start to feel this way it is time to shake things up. There are little tricks I do within the process of creation to try to make things more challenging, like rotating the image or inverting all the colors, and this is one reason I bounce between using digital and traditional media- to keep things fresh and interesting. But I'm feeling like I need a bigger challenge.
One thing I've always felt weird about is how little actual drawing I do. I certainly can do representational drawing, and a couple of months ago set myself the challenge of doing one realistic drawing a day (very simple, taking no more than 10 minutes.) I had fun with it for a few days but then got bored. I felt like I ran out of things to draw. I bought a magazine of the top 100 recent science innovations, because I am very interested by science and thought it would be fun to do illustrations based on those items. But somehow it didn't actually motivate me. I think I was slightly flummoxed by the first item, which was about an artificial pancreas. I had the same feeling when I was working my way through a fancy cookbook and lost all motivation when I came across a recipe that called for some sort of obscure blue corn that is evidently readily available in farmer's markets in California but is of course completely unobtainable on the east coast.
So, I want a project that involves representational drawing, but still has the potential for incorporating my usual working method of layers and alterations. I want a project with an encompassing theme, and something that is of personal interest to me (and hopefully to others). Some time ago the idea of doing a portrait series of forgotten women innovators occurred to me, but I wrote it in a notebook and forgot about it. I think it's time to resurrect that idea!
My plan is to do something akin to this memorial collage that I made of my grandmother. A portrait that tells a story, that includes images that represent what each person accomplished and is best known for. Even though my instinct is always to rely on photos to collage, I want to limit my use of photos and instead work on my digital painting skills (soon to be assisted by the addition of a very cool piece of equipment to my studio!)
I rarely create anything with a set theme in mind. I like to work intuitively and let things evolve, so that's another challenging aspect of this project. However, I think there is plenty of room for flexibility within the scope of "making a portrait of an interesting woman that tells the story of what she accomplished." I think I'm also motivated to just tell some of these stories about amazing women, because wow does it feel like we've taken two steps backwards lately. I can't believe we are still talking about if women should be paid the same as men, or if women should be allowed to do X, Y, or Z, or how shocking it is that a shape-shifting, time-travelling fictional character should be portrayed by a woman (hooray first female Dr. Who!).
I consulted the Facebook hive-mind on everyone's favorite female innovators or heroes were, and received an amazing selection of responses! I've also ordered the books "Rad Women Worldwide" and "Rad American Women A-Z" for inspiration (https://radamericanwomen.com/). I guess I'm a little bit of an artistic anomaly, because I love being organized and making spreadsheets and lists and doing research! That's something I look forward to with this project.
So, who are your favorite female innovators, heroes, or inspirations? Let me know!