One of my favorite bloggers, textile artist Lisa Call, has been writing an “Online Retrospective” on her blog, and I’m enjoying finding out about the origins of one of her favorite series. In addition, one of my favorite painters, Ian MacLeod, has been posting images of his older works on Facebook, and I have found it fascinating to follow his process of development.
So I’ve decided to do something similar on my blog. I’ve been digging through old photo albums (I didn’t get a digital camera until 2005!) to find the origins of my pathway as an artist, and I will be presenting images of my older works here as part of an ongoing series.
After years and years of starts and stops, confusion and delays, and attending one semester at one college and another semester at another college, I finally earned my bachelor’s degree from Lesley University’s Adult Bachelor’s Program when I was 31. (When I attended in 1991-3, it was Lesley College’s Intensive Residency Option Program.)
By this time, I had determined to become a professional artist. I wasn’t entirely sure what that involved, but I knew I wanted to JUST PAINT. If it meant doing something else to earn money and support my painting, that was fine with me.
I knew I wanted a master’s degree, but I realized I needed more studio experience to get to that level. So I applied to and was accepted as a “special student” at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, where I studied for 3 full-time semesters in 1994 (spring, summer and fall) with the intention of: 1. immersing myself in creating art as many hours of the day as I could, and 2. compiling a portfolio that would get me into graduate school. (A career counselor told me once that I shouldn’t use the phrase “special student,” but that is the name Mass. Art used to describe those who are studying alongside undergraduates but who are not themselves matriculated or on a B.F.A. track.)
I signed up for a figure drawing course, as I had always loved working from the figure, and I enjoyed an excellent class with Barbara Grad. I also signed up for figure sculpture but instantly hated it and dropped it after the first day (I am not a three-dimensional person). And the rest of my credits were taken up with what was called “Painting Studio” – in other words, you are given a studio and assigned an adviser (mine was the wonderful Dan Kelleher), and you just paint paint paint whenever you want to. I was in Heaven.
Below is one of the figure studies I created in Barbara Grad’s class (she showed us how to use ink and a mop brush for our gesture drawings). Today I appreciate that this picture reveals the first stirrings of my love for abstract shape.
During my Painting Studio hours, I soon moved into making works on paper like the ones shown below (using various combinations of acrylic, ink and pastel). I notice in retrospect that they all have door-like shapes, as if I understood subconsciously that I was stepping over a threshold into new territory.
In a future installment: My discoveries at graduate school, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.