Saturday, July 04, 2015

Branching Out Again in the Art Realm

Psychedelic Op Art inspired by the plant-form of high desert Yucca.© 2015 Sheryl Karas
School has been having quite an effect on my art life. I've been taking classes at the local community college to update my software skills in multimedia and explore future directions. It turns out that I couldn't resist the urge to take some art classes, too. I thought it would be a boost to my creativity, and, on some level, it was. I had a big shot of creativity: for getting my school assignments done.

There's nothing wrong with that. I LOVED my printmaking class last semester, for instance, and will post some of the pieces I did here once I have them scanned. And I liked doing the work. . . in a hobby kind of way. Cutting linoleum blocks, in particular, is surprising meditative and pleasing. And maybe I'll find a way to continue with it. But the subject matter and style I naturally gravitated towards in that class is so different from the painting I do, it could be a different person who did it. As is the art I do in my multimedia classes—all in Photoshop or Illustrator with an occasional foray into Corel Painter or On One software, too.

And there's nothing wrong with that. Many artists—Picasso is one who comes to mind—worked in more than one style throughout their careers and sometimes alternated between them.

But I had a plan, and that plan required focus. I intended to use school to work on my portfolio so I could apply for MFA programs in Studio Art. The plan was to teach while working on my fine arts career. But MFA programs want to see a focussed portfolio: proof, they think, that you are a seasoned artist with a significant body of obviously related work. Undergraduate education, however, is designed to expose students to a wide variety of new possibilities. That's one reason I LOVE being a student. But the unintended consequence this time is that I became so enamored of the new things I was learning that my old work suddenly lost its appeal.

And then, being an older student, I got to know some of my professors as equals and potential friends. And what I learned, at that point, threw my plans into total disarray. I can be disciplined and focus on a single body of work in order to present a unified portfolio, but getting an MFA in order to teach doesn't look like such a great course of action. Many of my teachers are struggling to get by. The outlook for full-time teaching after getting an MFA is bleak! The new norm involves piecing together a living with adjunct faculty positions—if you can—while freeway flying from college to college up and down the state of California. Once you've taken into consideration the time and gasoline it takes to do it, and the stress of not knowing what and how many classes are going to make enrollment each semester, it sounds like a crazy amount of pain and misery for the $75,000-100,000 worth of debt an MFA degree would likely entail.

I put some effort into exploring fully funded MFA programs—even went to visit the UC Davis campus on the recommendation of one of the Chico State professors I respect. But all that did was make me want to work for the school instead.

So the plan has changed. I'm looking for decent work while focussing on being an artist instead of preparing, yet again, to try to be one. And that's what I planned to do this summer. I started one large mixed media painting and planned a few others. All in a series, focussed, like a good career artist ought to be doing. And then suddenly the graphic arts part of my personality angrily took control, and I made a number of digital art pieces like the one at the top of this blog. And, like any good graphic artist, I immediately wanted to see this piece on a scarf or a pillow case or a bedspread. (Because, I really see no reason why fine art shouldn't also be functional art that anybody could enjoy.)

But that's right for me. Doing multiple genres of work all at once, or alternating between them, is what I ought to be doing. I let go of the expected career path a long ways back. Having a great career doing something related to the arts is my current work direction. That, in addition to doing art, takes me out of the need to limit my creative expression, so I can branch into any direction I want as an artist. And that's what I really like to do.

Large Scarf
Pillow Case or Throw Pillow
Duvet Cover

No comments: