I’m feeling lost, not unhappy but a little lost in my art practice. It’s mainly the result of interruptions from life, waiting for my studio to be finished, tiredness from my pregnancy always finding other things to do. I can’t seem to find the time to paint and that is essential for me. Even now I’m writing this blog rather than getting my paints out, which I’ve decided to do “later on”. This leaves me open to vulnerability, which is also ok. Starting my MFA I’ve seen that the other students have different styles and approaches to me and I can see the areas where I need to improve. But I feel bothered by it, defensive and even protective of my practice. I’m being challenged by this new situation and that’s exactly what I need. I must take a step out of my comfort zone and so realizing this maybe I can try to accept my feelings of protectiveness or inadequacy.

I was shaken emotionally and physically when I found out I was pregnant at the end of August, it has been so shocking and surreal to me to be in this situation and I had very strong feelings about it, mostly feelings of I can’t do this; I’m not good enough or strong enough to be a mother of two’. I find it very difficult to manage my emotional reaction to things, mainly because I won’t allow myself to just be the way I am. I think this has left me vulnerable at the beginning of the MFA and so I must remember that I have these crises about change but that acceptance will come and I will find my peace with what life throws at me.

What have I been doing and thinking about artistically? Well, I’ve done 4 hours of my first task which is called Take Two Influences. I had to choose two sources of influence in my work and spend six hours in the studio working with one material and pushing the boundaries of my current art practice. I chose the work of two female artists who work in a very painterly way and also make use of collage.

Now they can all hang out...studio shot.  mixed media works on paper and canvas by www.sarahboytsyoder.com

(Image taken from http://www.pinterest.com/pin/245375879670835793/)

Sarah Boyts Yoder is an artist I’ve known of for some time, her work is abstract; she combines a lot of dark and neutral tones with bright colours that make her pictures very exciting and dramatic. Her compositions often include blocks of colour combined with geometric shapes, lines or cartoonish doodles; they have an illustrational and graphic design quality to them. She uses mixed media and collage in her work and everything she does is very dynamic and energetic. I find her work very stimulating and I think that’s something I often try to recreate in my own practice. I’m inspired by her combination of patterns, shapes and above all drawing. The collage element of the work gives me a way of expanding my current practice on A3 paper. I’ve been working in this way for about 6 months now and I feel the need to change format and as paper is inexpensive and portable it allows me to create wherever I am and as often as I want.

(Image taken from http://www.riversideartmuseum.org/exhibitions-archive/julie-torres-close-encounters/)

My other influence comes from the artist Julie Torres, I discovered her work last year and have since found out that she is a very dynamic and inspiring individual who curates shows in her own house or borrowed studio spaces where she lives in Brooklyn, New York. She has drawn an international community of artists around her and is very open to collaborating on all kinds of projects and events. I was most drawn to her work on paper, I like the spontaneity with which she works, she just gets things down and moves on to something else, she builds pictures up on many sheets of paper, she paints on the floor in her house, she has an amazing artistic energy that I really admire and she’s very experimental in her work. She was one of the first artists I mustered up the courage to contact via Facebook and it was very encouraging to me to realise that through the internet I could actually reach out to these people whose work I so admire. As a result of this networking I’ve been asked to participate in group exhibition this December alongside the very same Julia Torres. This will be my first international exhibition and I can hardly believe it. I’ve been so scared of painting and of putting myself out there that I was convinced it just wasn’t meant to be.

Influences can be tricky things, going back on topic for a while, sometimes I can lose myself in other people’s work and find it hard to have my own voice, this worried me when I began to work on the task. But I find that once I start to paint the work takes over and the decisions can come from the work itself or from inside me. I find that my own need to paint can be stronger than the need to emulate another’s work or make something for others i.e. something that I think others will like. I think it’s important to me to let go at some point in the work and allow it to take me where it wants to go, the only problem is when I am too scared to allow this to happen. This struggle and challenge between letting go and maintaining control is essential to my practice and to the meaning I find in my work as it reflects one of my struggles with my life outside of my art practice. I use elements from other people’s work that act as stepping stones, they give me a way into the work but what is important is to jump off at some point and see where things go of their own accord.

These thoughts bring me to my first question about the work: Have I managed to let go of the influences that inspired the starting point, have I managed to let go in this work?

And for me a very important question at the end of this experience is: where should I go from here?


In this video about the lastest Amy Sillman (another major influence on my work) exhibition ‘One lump or two’ she explains her process and sums it up beautifully, reflecting so perfectly my own feelings about painting and making paintings.

“…It’s both knowing and deciding things and also rejecting things and emotionally hating things and reversing things and then remaking them and being surprised. That’s basically the interest I have in making art. It’s a kind of devotion to the procedure of transformation…”

(Amy Sillman)

Here is the work:

Task 1cTask 1b

I made a few pieces on A3 to loosen up but quickly decided to expand my usual picture plane by taping three sheets of A3 together, this created a long rectangular space in which to work. I found it very exciting to be working on this new format and I feel quite pleased with the work that came from this first attempt. I concentrated on drawing and creating an abstract scene or narrative. It felt like that was what was taking place in this new space, I could see a story developing between shapes and lines that where interacting with eachother in the picture space.

Task 1a Task 1a detail

I started a new piece on another collection of three A3s taped together but this time I allowed my marks to disappear off the edge of the page which led me to wonder what would happen if I could follow them and see what happened. I had this idea in my head for a while and when I finally came to explore it I felt some trepidation. As I added cut of shapes to the work it was hard work on the piece as a whole and I found it rapidly becoming disjointed. Although I did find it exciting piecing the thing together and seeing the results. The original piece seemed suddenly overworked at one point compared to looseness of the added on bits. But I have been enjoying the strange sci-fi quality of the image that has emerged full of tentacles, spaceships and giant killer plants.

Task 1dTask 1d detail 3Task 1gtask 1j task 1 f

I wanted to start a new piece on a square made up of four A3s but due to the time limit I was unable to do this which I thankful for because it really made me focus on working on the last piece and trying to get it to work. If I had more time now I would work into the picture as a whole.


4 thoughts on “MFA Task 1: Take two influences

  1. This is very interesting. I can fully understand why it is also challenging. I love your use of colour. Not sure I fully understand your work but can comprehend the influences. I suspect that artists just need to paint as a means of expression and as a means of letting off built up fears and anxieties. It is your way of relaxing though I suspect you don’t realise that? Make time for your painting, it is you time and so very important as you seem happiest when you are creative. Btw well done. Xx

  2. I wish you the best! I enjoy your work enormously and can’t imagine the stress of working toward an MFA and expecting a child. As a 58 year old high school art teacher father of two sons with a wonderful wife I struggle to find studio time. I find your work inspiring and I do understand the struggle. I applaud you and your work!

    • Thank you so much David for this comment, all your feedback and shares on fb really mean a lot to me and help me more than you can know. It is stressful and hard sometimes to do everything I want to do but honestly meeting people like you on Facebook has made such a difference. I felt so alienated by the ‘art world’ before I just felt like I didn’t fit in, but with artists on fb I feel like I’m at home. So thank you.

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