Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Approaching a Theme

Carol Sloan here.

The group has been talking a little bit about what we're going to post on the blog.

We decided that you, our readers, would love to know the good, the bad and the ugly about how we are preparing our work for each theme.

Most of the time we only share the successes of showing art, the fun details or the glorious outcomes.

Today I will approach it in a more honest way.


Our theme is "Empty Spaces".

The very first thing that I do when I begin a new piece is research.

I look up each word in the dictionary. I also look at similar words to really familiarize myself with the range of meaning for each word.

Sometimes I search for poems or quotes on the word or the intention of each word.

As I am reading, I jot down anything that I like, anything that has a special meaning or significance to me. And usually somewhere along the way, something will really resonate with me.


Let's take this theme "Empty Spaces".

I looked up "empty"  as well as "spaces" in an online dictionary. I've added links to the exact definition that I looked at.

In looking at the list of definitions, several possibilites began to germinate in my head.

One definition in particular resonated with me -"having none of the usual or appropriate contents".


My ideas often stem from what is going on in my life at the moment or in the past.

Since my mother passed away a couple of years ago, my extended family has not been as close. My mom was the glue that held us together. Her death left many empty spaces in my life. I have allowed myself to think about those spaces on a limited basis since her death. The pain is just too heavy, it's buried so deep that it would take a lot of prying to get to that place.

The death of my sister four years ago did the same thing. I struggled (and still do) with many issues after her death that I never considered before. An entire list of "should have's, would have's" that take on a life of their own after you lose a loved one.


I began to think about the theme as that kind of empty space - the space left after the "usual or appropriate contents" were emptied.

With this seed of an idea germinating  in my mind, I began to think of other empty spaces.  Spaces that existed for another purpose.

Like in the garden. You dig a hole (a space that is now empty) to drop a seed into it.

Or maybe in the forest. A tree falls to the ground, rots and eventually leaves an empty space there. Yet, in that space, mushrooms begin to grow. Small plants sprout up. The space is empty yet the death of one thing has provided a fertile space for another.

Life finds a way to fill that empty space.


After thinking about the theme with those things in mind, I returned to the original thought - the empty spaces that loss can leave us with. It doesn't have to be death, it could be the loss of respect, loss of love, loss of trust.

I spent a few days hiking in the forest right around this time. I had many hours of solitude to work through this thought process.

I wrote pages of notes while I was out there. Sitting there, surrounded by nature, hearing the rushing water of the nearby river helped to clarify my thoughts.


I decided to approach the theme armed with the painful knowledge of that empty space that is left when we experience a loss. My loss would be one that was within my family structure. I could best illustrate that loss in an abstract way.

The next step for me was to consider what I would need to begin.

I decided that letters, pieces of clothing from each person, photographs, handwritten journal entries, symbols of grief/anger/traumatic events/death and other reminders of that time in my life would be a good beginning.


[caption id="attachment_188" align="aligncenter" width="120" caption="I may use this line drawing to symbolize that growth does come from the Empty Spaces"][/caption]

I'll be scanning these items in order to print them out on various substrates, making thermofax screens out of some of them while printing others out on a suitable paper.



My hope is to document the journey while creating this piece of artwork as well as to inspire someone out there.

Please comment on what you'd like to see, anything you'd like to have explained more clearly or any questions/comments.


Thank you!

posted by Carol Sloan




Annie said...

Carol, thank you for sharing this. I love reading about the process one goes through. The one you describe is pretty much like mine!

Wendy said...

I've arrived here ia Sketchbook Challenge and then your blog and I have found myself reading an entry that really resonates with me. Emotional recovery - a mind full of thoughts spinning around and a heart with empty spaces. Once the origin of the space was identified somehow I was able to begin the process where they could be filled/healed. Yes, whatever the origin, loss leaves a very empty space.
Thank you for sharing your experiences.

carolsloan said...

Annie - thank you for reading! It takes one that works in the same manner to fully understand how a cohesive piece can stem from such a chaotic beginning.
Wendy - Yes! Yes! I can see that you fully understand what I was feeling. I think that those empty spaces are meant to lie fallow for a season or more. It allows the space to be properly nourished in anticipation of something new.

Bren said...

Appreciate your vulnerability in expressing what and where 'empty spaces' is going for you. I never cease to be amazed at how the process of creating works on us in so many deep and rich ways. Excellent post