Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sometimes retreating can be a good thing ...

Just back from another of my quarterly art retreats with a group of friends in a little red farmhouse on an island not so very far away.

We started doing these retreats in August 2009, and I love how we've grown together as a group. As a person who plans overmuch, it is a real joy (especially the last few times) to turn up with the rolly cart full of supplies and my head empty of plans ~ letting whatever ideas come to me in that time and in that place be the thing I do.

Along with our mountains of art supplies, and an equally healthy supply of food (or is that supply of healthy food?), we also bring our favourite books to provide inspiration, and this time I let Sabrina Ward Harrison's Messy Thrilling Life give me the visual courage to create a series of 16 collages about the complications of growing up in a dysfunctional family. What I create at these retreats is often a surprise, even to myself. Immediately after I get home I am struck by the fact that something *interesting* that didn't exist before has been created, either by me learning a new technique ~ there is plenty of sharing around the table as we all work on our various projects, or by exploring some heretofore unknown nook of my heart and brain in the process of creating.

Those of you familiar with Sabrina Ward Harrison's work will see at once that I am nowhere *near* as loose and spontaneous as she is (planning overmuch rears it's ugly head again!), but you'll just have to accept that this *is* a step in that direction for me. The 16 collages tell a little story, and I relied on a very limited supply of materials to work from ~ no access to computers or the internet ~ mostly a few magazines, some washi tape, gesso and caran d'ache crayons. I *tried* to write as loosely as she does and make it look good, but I don't think I even got close. But am I happy with my series? You betcha.

A bazillion thanks to the women who make this experience possible ~ for their organizing skills, for their openness and generosity and creativity and even the cooking. Even? Surely I mean *especially* the cooking ~ I may learn a thing or two in the kitchen if I'm not careful. As a person who has stood on the outside looking in for a lot of my younger life, to be inside the circle is amazing ~ it just took me awhile to find you.


celeste said...

tearing up. I already miss you and the rest of the gussies so much!
I sure hope we get to hang out in Seattle sometime before June.
(and of course here on our blogs :))

misspickle said...

Beautiful collages... especially the one with fish-air-balloon so original!

Anonymous said...

Lovely post Pen. It put me right back there. Do bring your finished book next time. The collages just look so amazing. I'm deeply touched by how brave and honest you are in sharing yourself.