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Delving into Oneself to Create a Body of Work

Roxanne Blackwood artist mom artistic journey body of work contemporary realism experimentation female artist figurative painting finding oneself imaginative motherhood new new direction oil painting parenthood searching inward social media

 Closeup of a Work in Progress Oil Painting on Canvas

Today I want to talk about creating a new body of work.

One of my goals for 2019 has been to focus on creating a new, cohesive body of work. From an artistic standpoint, the past 3 years have been characterized with heavy experimentation and openness to possibilities. This means creating many "one-offs" and working on several different micro series of paintings to investigate my interests at that time and/or curiosities around technique/approach.

During this period I found it incredibly challenging to create a hybrid approach that fully encompassed my various interests and working methods while addressing the changes in my life since the last time I possessed a distinct working process and routine in the studio.

I believe that a reliable and routine studio practice is in direct relationship with one's ability to create a cohesive body of work. In retrospect, I allowed myself to not impose a structure and let it happen naturally with the hope of finding my true intentions - even though I wanted to create a cohesive body of work, with every fiber of my being, I could not force it.

To complicate matters, as a new mother, my studio time had been very limited and unpredictable between 2011 and 2014, the time leading up to these past 3 years of experimentation. During this pre-experimental time, I would try to work in the studio but I had no idea what to paint (or who I was post-motherhood) and could do so in short and unpredictable bursts.

Closeup of Oil Painting of a Girl Smelling A Rose with a Bumble Bee Inside of It

My advice to anyone in this situation - Screw trying to figure out what you want to communicate and just draw and paint what you see around you over and over again (and what pops into your head) until you get it out of your system. It might take you months or years to figure out what you want to latch onto and stick with but fail fast and fail forward.

In telling you about all of this, I promise that I am not trying to do any of the following:

  • Make you feel sorry for me (it is a luxury and privilege to have any time or resources towards painting pictures and I am grateful that I get to do it at all).
  • Pat myself on the back for figuring it all out - I haven't even scratched the surface yet.
  • Discourage you from painting - if you want to paint just do it and do it as much as you can whenever you can and don't worry about what it all means on a grander scale. Paint for you and don't paralyze yourself with comparisons. 
  • Make it seem like it is impossible to be a mother and artist - it is not but it can be difficult at times depending on the situation, season and one's support system. Everyone's situation is different and it is challenging to do even when you have all the resources a mother could wish for. It was my decision to become a parent and when you make that decision you put your kids first and I don't have any regrets about putting them first even if it meant making less art than I could have. I'd rather make crappy pictures than be a sketchy parent. 
  • Make anyone feel bad for not fully fighting for their existence as an artist/creative due to circumstances, lack of encouragement/support or inspiration. All humans are struggling in some way to keep their dreams alive and the last thing we need is to feel bad for any lost time. We live the life we want to live starting on the day we are ready to do so and in the best way we can, one step at a time. 
  • Make anyone feel bad period.

My aim here is to simply provide some context into my artistic journey up to this point and celebrate the fact that I am working in a way that I really love right now. I don't feel like changing things up (too much) and rather than feeling limited by it I find it freeing. It is nice to put down roots again.

I once again feel openness to new possibilities but from a different perspective :) Does this mean I will cease to experiment? Of course not. My inner Radiohead will always be there. Rather than laying off experimentation, I would like to think that I am spending focused time on one big, long and intimate experiment that might take me a a few years to unpack. 

This new phase all came into being after some soul searching over the past year. I decided I would  look inward for answers. I asked myself about what I really love and what I would do if I didn't care about what anyone thought. In the age of instagram and the proliferation of social media in every aspect of our lives, I found this task more difficult than it needed to be.

To be honest, I believe it was easier to get lost in one's work before Facebook and Instagram. You have to train yourself to pretend that nobody is watching you. I came to the conclusion that I wanted to go back to oil painting, that I missed painting people.

Work in Progress of Oil Painting of Girl Standing in a Rose Garden

I wanted to go back to the visuals I truly loved as a child that stick with me today. My current body of work is a meditation on my own childhood and that of my children from the perspective of a mother watching it unfold.

It is a search for those moments of calm, quiet contemplation, inner peace and satisfaction... when the world stops and nothing else matters except what is going on in one's head at that moment. It is about joy and about the secret world of the childhood imagination and being one with everything beautiful that is around you. It is about dreams, desires, and the transitory nature of life. It is about wishes and hopes. I want them to be spiritual but not religious.

I want them to make you feel good but also make you wonder about the meaning of life in some way or spark a memory or conversation about your own childhood. I want the size and scope of the figures or the grandiosity of the narrative in the paintings to make the figures seem larger than life to reflect the big feelings that kids often have.

Those same big feelings we have learned into adulthood to control and suppress. In these works I am also asking myself a lot of personal questions about what it means to be alive, to grow up into this world that in many ways can seem so anti-child, anti-girl and anti-mother.

Closeup of a Work in Progress of an Oil Painting on Canvas of a Girl Surrounded by Beauty

I could go on and on what these paintings are about but I hope that I give you some ideas that scratch the surface. The paintings are also very much about paint - juicy, tasty, luscious, yummy scrummy paint.

As the body of work grows, I will continue to post here about my progress and share more peeks into my studio practice. 

As always, thank you for reading my blog and following my artistic journey. Art can feel so singular and selfish and it is all the more meaningful when it can be shared, when it can start conversations and when it allows us to connect with each other somehow.

If you have any questions or comments, always feel free to send me an email or comment here. Until next time, I wish you all the best!

-Roxanne Zuniga Blackwood

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