My Storytelling Folk Art

It’s been a very long time since I have written a blog entry. Long story short, I have had a series of health problems known as sleep apnea. I’ll write another post regarding my health experience with that as I believe it is a health issue more people should be aware since it is difficult to detect. I decided to get back to writing after a recent experience that I continue to think about that helped me find answers to questions and allowed me to make an exciting risk as an artist.

 

On April 28, 2017, there was Pop-Up Market at The University of New Mexico that was held by the World Folk Art Movement (WFAM). It was a great market that focused on story telling through folk art from people in the state of New Mexico. The group created a geodesic dome that held several art pieces on its outer wall (see picture below). Inside the geodesic dome were art displays from artists that shared their stories to how they make their art and what inspires them. As one of the members shared with me, the project was created to allow the community to experience folk art without having to pay for an expensive admission fee to a folk art festival. Folk art in New Mexico not only represents southwest, but the culture in the state; everyone should have the ability to learn and experience it.

 

A friend involved with WFAM asked if I was interested in helping them out by making a painting to add to the outside of the geodesic dome. I accepted. I forgot I accepted as she asked about six weeks prior to the event. About three weeks prior to the event, she notifies me that she had a canvas for me to make my painting. My only instruction was “storytelling” on a triangle canvas. I accepted happily, but was intimidated for a few reasons. With sleep apnea, my anxiety and stress are far from my control. I simply had too much on my plate but felt irresponsible to say no because I had already committed, even though I did not remember the conversation. Eventually, I did remember the conversation and a thought that I had in mind at the time. That thought was that it would be a good way to get my artistic abilities out of my comfort zone and actually make art like I had been wanting to since my sleep apnea began. For an odd reason, I kept yearning to make art during the most difficult times of sleep apnea. I learned why that odd reason was there after finishing my painting.

Geodesic Dome. Photo credit: Corinne Foskey

While working on my bachelor’s degree, I took drawing classes with artist Hanna Hannah, who taught me a variety of techniques, including painting. Her biggest critique was that I needed to let my mind flow and stop controlling what I was doing. I would plan every step of the way to create my artwork. I never had a fluid mindset or hand gestures. I was aiming to be perfect and I do not know why. I was probably trying to be my best and was pushing myself into the wrong direction. Either way, I learned that I liked planning and strategizing my decisions. It did not translate well in my art work. Seven years later after I finished my bachelors, I was finally able to do what Hanna recommended I needed to do: flow.

 

I held onto the canvas for a few days, feeling intimidated that I needed to impress myself. Artist are their own worst critics; it applies to me. I had no idea of what I wanted to do. The canvas was a triangle and I had not finished a painting since my undergrad days. (I still have two I haven’t completed. I forgot what I was doing with them.) After a stressful week, I went to the park to de-stress and unwind my mind. I tried clearing my mind and just took in the scenery on a beautiful morning. I noticed people playing sports, people walking and running, new trees growing, birds learning how to fly, and all of it interacting in one park. That’s when it struck me that I had an idea.

“Letting go is difficult, especially when you want to be your best.” 

After about 10 to 15 hours, I completed my painting (see featured photo above). For the first time, I allowed myself to follow an idea. I kept avoiding critiquing myself as I made progress so that I could just follow my vision. I used oil paints for the first time. I used a variety of brushes and my fingers. I never once had a clue what my next steps were. I stopped caring. I allowed myself to enjoy and explore. Time ceased in the process. If I made a mistake, I followed it rather than correcting it. If I used the wrong color, I added more of it and mixed it with another. I did not sketch my vision. I did not worry about proportions or perspectives. I followed my energy and synchronized my hands and mind as I worked. I got messy with it and got paint all over the wall and self. Rather than focusing on all the small details and the “big picture,” I found a middle level where I could visualize an end result and the beginning. I just wanted to reach an end, especially since my days before submission were few.

Due to rain, the geodesic dome had to be covered to protect the art.

Since completing the painting, I find myself repeating that same process in everything I do. It has helped me ease my mind. I continue to have creative ways of thinking. I managed to break my own rules about strategizing and planning. It is like I set myself free because I was ready to fall into another unknown. That is when it all made sense. As much as I promote risk taking, I was calculating my moves more than I knew and wanted to accept. Letting go is difficult, especially when you want to be your best. This experience has allowed me to grow in several aspects: professionally, artistically, and personally. The important lesson for me was to be okay that my vision does not end the way I visualize it. My painting turned out better than I expected. It was not exactly what I first saw in my mind nor the last thing I wanted it to be. It was better than I imagined. I’m proud of myself. In regards to my sleep apnea, my mind and body wanted me to loosen up and enjoy a portion of my life without having to compensate and plan just to blend into my surrounding. I have been sleeping better since.

 

I am very thankful that my friend invited me to participate in this Pop-Up Market. The experience was rewarding. I’m sure it was not her intention for this personal experience to occur, but sometimes we don’t realize that our small actions can turn out to be something much larger for the receiving end. I’ll never know how to thank her personally for this opportunity. In that same line of thought, I decided to share my experience with everyone in the hopes that people are encouraged to collaborate and work together more frequently. You’ll never know what will blossom from a collaborative effort towards a greater good. This was a turning point in my life and I will always appreciate my friend for it.

 

As for the painting, rather then telling you what my thought process was for painting it, how about you tell me what you think of it? I would enjoy to hear your thoughts. After all, no artwork is complete without a formal critique. Critique away! 

 

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