I have thought a lot about knowing when to stop this summer while making cards for ICAD 2016. At some point along the way I started snapping photos of cards in various stages of creation, in part because these small photo series show both how a card begins, is added to, and continues to be built, often in small steps on the way to completion. But these stages have often been mixed for me. Often it is the simple drawing to which I am most attached. It is the simple, stark, everyday, black and white drawing that is most me. That is my voice and my lens on the world when I draw.
I know that.
But throughout this summer I have not exactly lost sight of that voice but have (frequently) taken steps beyond my own personal point of completion. Why? That is the question, of course. Why take the next step if it will ruin the drawing, alter the feel, change the way the drawing is viewed or understood? Why risk ruining the work and my own feelings about the piece I have created?
Maybe we can bring the hindsight adage to play here and argue that we can’t be sure that a change will have a negative effect until we see the change in place. (Depending on the medium, sometimes you can test that theory before making an actual change.) But it isn’t always a matter of hindsight.
Maybe we can argue that by being willing to keep pushing a piece and seeing what happens, we honor the spirit of making things without overvaluing them because we are willing to risk ruining our work as we push borders and boundaries and sometimes go too far. (This view might salvage things conceptually, but creating works that have meaning for me is more important to me than creating works that ultimately fail because I pushed them beyond my comfort zone simply for the sake of pushing.)
The card above, card 40/61, was a simple drawing. It is (was) one of my favorite cards this summer, and it falls in a week where I returned to black and white, to my own voice, sinking into simple drawings like one might fall into a comfy, favorite chair with a sigh.
Unfortunately, as I pulled the blankets up around my process and relaxed into the simple drawings that I love, my sharing of my cards stopped. Yes, things have been busy, but in part, I also know the really stark drawing of pens and a few skewed rolls of washi that brought me back to black and white is fairly far from the realm of the ICAD mentality.
So the black and whites didn’t (yet) get shared, and as I mentioned earlier this summer, the sharing is a big part of the challenge for me this year.
Card 40 sat as it was for a full six days. To me, it was done. It was complete. It was exactly what it should be. The space at the top intrigued me. It satisfied me.
I photographed card 40 many times in small groups of cards this week, and it never bothered me that the top was blank, cut off, empty. It was intentional. And I loved the space. But this morning, looking at the drawing I did last night, I knew I had to force myself to put myself out there, to share a few photos from the last two weeks.
The first one I shared (42/61) also has lots of blank and empty space. These cards are quiet. They force you to simply take in the outlines, see the gist of something, and make something of the moment. There is no attempt to fill the space with color, bits of paper or fabric, layers and layers of color and pattern. These cards are me, so very me.
But as I contemplated sharing card 40, the empty top stood out as something that would certainly come across as unfinished. Looking at the card, I contemplated what word might fit there… Several arose as fitting choices: pause, break, waiting. The prompt for the day of this card was “Surfboard.” With a laugh, I contemplated adding hang 10 in the top space and forcing a viewer to think through this simple, quiet act of sitting with coffee in the context of a personal hang 10.
The pattern of the socks seemed like a perfect way to fill the space. I was tempted to use the sock striping at the top without any word. But once I decided to add a word, I decided to fill the space with the striping. But as I contemplated the words, I knew deep down that I was not committed. I knew I was possibly making a misstep in some misguided attempt to meet someone else’s expectations of a card. And I wasn’t sure I was committed to one word versus another.
So I decided to do the word on another piece of paper and glue it in place. (That should have been my warning because I have never done that before. For better or worse, if I write or stencil on my cards, I have always done it directly on the card.)
In the end, I wish I had left the space. The sock striping didn’t work nicely with the size of the letters. I should have done it a bit differently for striping instead of the zebra-like patterning that emerged.
I may have to just glue a blank card on the top — and recreate the emptiness.
Knowing when to stop is part of the challenge with any piece we create. Sometimes we can not tell until we’ve gone that one step too far that it was too far. But knowing when to stop also depends on knowing who we are creatively and respecting our own style, our own sense of voice, and our own creative process.
(P.S. Poor photos… sigh. I have had to make peace with myself with snapping phone photos. If I wait until I have a chance to take good photos, get them to my computer, prep them… I would never make it here to the blog. For now, I am allowing myself to just capture the gist with my phone… and let it go.)