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Am I doing the right thing(s)?

Blog

My musings on art and life, both personal and as an observer

 

Am I doing the right thing(s)?

Elissa Barber

Trying to decide what to do with my (art) life hasn't always been easy for me. I'm a bit non-committal with certain things and if I'm not loving what I'm doing I'm miserable. There isn't much grey area or room for in betweens. My family is Italian - Canadian and I grew up surrounded by a more-is-more style ideology, a stark contrast from my minimal and simplistic personal aesthetic. It has always felt like unless there were layers of process and essentially maximum effort, any art I made didn't "count" as a finished product. If that makes sense. 

So "am I doing the right thing" is not a new question for me. I've probably asked it and obsessed on it a million times over. Never had it weighed more on my mind than in the weeks and months leading up to Fiore's birth in January of this year. When I got pregnant I just knew that my days doing physical and process heavy artwork had abruptly ended. I couldn't just stop being an artist but I'd also dedicated years to developing a body of work that was uniquely mine and I was starting to have some success with it.

 Blue Roses, Canvas I painted in 2015

Blue Roses, Canvas I painted in 2015

 "Girl" piece made for Stef, circa 2015. Kind of similar to what I'm doing now.

"Girl" piece made for Stef, circa 2015. Kind of similar to what I'm doing now.

 My reverse painted glass over oil based monotype print works, 2016. Did this fairly exclusively from 2016-2018

My reverse painted glass over oil based monotype print works, 2016. Did this fairly exclusively from 2016-2018

So I planned and thought of a way to streamline an offering and make it more accessible both to create and purchase. I redesigned my site from scratch and sourced materials costs. Basically I put a plan in place that would allow me to both work and raise a child. To get back to work QUICKLY since I knew I would have to.

I've often thought that if I didn't struggle with anxiety I'd have been able to be more confident and focused earlier on in my career. I was ready to hit the ground running when I graduated and then I got scared and took a job that really didn't allow much free time (or room for creativity). I tend to pivot to the next thing quickly when it doesn't feel quite right and I think up until recently the question of "am I doing the right thing?" has always lingered.

So there we were, January 2018 and a new baby girl. Suddenly I didn't have time to think about myself and my art or much else other than this new life. It was like for a short period of time a huge weight was lifted and nothing else existed until reality started to set in. Beyond the practical need to earn a living to help support our growing family, I needed the creative release that making artwork gives me. It was all well and good tying up loose ends with my site or putting some other "plans" together while I breastfed or while the baby napped but quite another to imagine actually getting back into making the art itself. Where to even start at this point.

When I was a student at Sheridan - I think it was first semester of fourth year so 2010 - I took a sketchbooking class that was pretty well received. I think we all felt like being dedicated to exploring ideas and not feeling pressured to produce an immaculate end result gave way to a lot of freedom and subsequent breakthrough. 

 2010Girl #1 Original, ink on paper

2010Girl #1 Original, ink on paper

 2010 Portrait, oil on paper 

2010 Portrait, oil on paper 

 2009 or 2010, ink and marker on paper

2009 or 2010, ink and marker on paper

 with my line drawings, August 2018

with my line drawings, August 2018

I began to sketch and draw again after a period of absence and it felt amazing immediately. Just really easy. I wonder if it was the fact that I thought I’d already established a plan and was drawing for fun again, just doing what felt natural. Other artists will agree that when something feels laboured and forced it’s just the worst.

My husband was the one who first kind of put it in my mind. He said he’d missed these really fluid, continuous line drawings that I had done so much 8-9 years ago when he and I were first dating and I was still a student. They were his favourite. I realized that they were also my favourite to produce and seemed to have endless possibilities.

Again I redesigned my site to accommodate my line art, built up some portraits so that I’d be able to allow people to actually OWN my work with the goal of creating some larger scale pieces that include multiple figures and more thoughtful composition to exhibit. Once I’m a bit more established with my routine I can get back to making paintings based off of them. On and on with no wall to hit in the foreseeable future. 

Am I doing the right thing? Honestly who knows anymore. I feel like my aesthetic, limitations, strengths and goals are starting to align and they say hard work pays off so time will tell. You can help things along by buying an original piece.

You know you want to 😜