This assignment was very productive for me. I’ve had a lot of ideas percolating, some written down, some already germinated, and some just scribbled in my notebook. I found it very exciting to gather and organize them.
As I’ve mentioned before, my immediate work is to keep making quilts for the online class I’m taking, and I won’t be finished with that until May. I’m looking forward to setting a new course for myself then.
When I started on the “things I care about list” I first used vague conceptual words. My training as a writer makes me want to work toward the concrete always, so I harvested more specific words from my notebook. Then I broke the list into “Qualities & style elements” for the more vague words, and “Content” for the more visual words.
When writing poetry, I dump conceptual words as the visual words develop; they are the ones that speak. However, I did not want to abandon the “quality” words on my list. This nonconcrete list is kind of exciting to me, since my interest in abstract art is growing steadily, and one of my goals is to visually depict inner states and experiences.
As I kept working, I developed a bulging list of concepts and plans that I can draw upon for a very long time. I listed ideas for six different series, and two lone quilts that are begging for my attention. I noticed a few things about the list. Some of the ideas that were extremely compelling to me a year ago or six months ago have already begun to lose their power. Some of these are still really good ideas and I hope I can get the juice back to do further exploration. In her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert says that creative ideas come looking for us, and if we ignore them, the ideas go looking for someone else to collaborate with. Maybe I’ll end up picking the newest ideas to work with because the old ones will have moved on.
The prioritizing step is going to be really hard, especially since I won’t be starting any of the work until May. I think I’ll end up looking at the list then, and picking what has the most juice at the time.
As a visual artist I haven’t yet worked in a series, but I have done so as a short story writer. From that experience I know how I manage ideas, and I’d like to change my ways. When working on linked short stories I would get great ideas for other projects that were completely unrelated to the body of work I was trying to develop. One of my mentors at the time scolded me for writing these quick side stories instead of slogging through the difficult work I had planned for myself. While I don’t think the side stories were a terrible idea, I’ve come to really appreciate the need to stay focused on the plan. If the plan is a good one, sticking to it is the only way the work will get done.
On the other hand, the side projects can be so liberating and can generate new energy. I want to balance the focused work with the playing around, and be the boss of the choosing. There’s a lot I want to accomplish; there’s a lot I want to explore.
Here is a MUCH abbreviated list of the series work I listed:
- Ancestor series—based on the life of one specific ancestor. Have been thinking about this a very long time; challenging to figure out how to go about it. Struggling with figurative vs. abstract modalities. Much writing and research; LOTS of actual content.
- Cancer series—dealing with my own cancer experience, loss of well-being, loss of loved ones. This series might include other traumas such as the violent attack I experienced last fall. (That quilt wants to get made, regardless of whether it sits with others in a series.) Some surface design work already completed.
- Road series—big topic; broke it down to roads in a specific place. One piece finished.
- Culling from one quilt—visual ideas taken from a complex quilt I made last fall.
- Culling from 8 quilts—ideas taken from the composition assignments I’m currently working on
- London map series—further development of ideas from an earlier quilt that explored old London (also part of the ancestor work)