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Why the Artistic Process?

posted Jan 26, 2018, 6:59 AM by Catherine West

A collage of personal reflections of arts, health and training professionals after participating in a day of arts activities

  1. Working in pairs draw portraits of each other, using one’s non-dominant hand and/or never lifting the pencil from the paper

In the simplicity of dealing with the portrait of the other, who in turn also takes (draws) me back, something intimate happened.

It was difficult to think about myself when I saw how the person in front of me was looking at me and drawing me. At that moment I was thinking how he saw me.

She didn’t look at me as much as I think I studied her – but I wanted to allow her – I wanted to return the gift. It felt a privilege to be able to study her.

I was thinking about myself when the other person was drawing my profile. I didn´t see his eyes and my reflection in his eyes. Without the reflection in his eyes I had more possibility to see myself in my own mirror.

I think I can´t draw. Especially, when I have a task to draw a human being. To draw the person’s face, which is so important for the owner of the face. The mask. The image. The mirror of the person´s soul. The person´s presentation to the whole world!

When we worked in pairs,  as I was portrayed by the other person,  the artist challenged  me to think about some aspects of myself: to make contact with parts of me. I felt like a mountain, I felt the strength of the mountain, hard and heavy granite, which isn’t easy to demolish.

Looking closely at another felt a real privilege – to be allowed to gaze deeply. I felt trusted and in an intimate relationship. I could see when she relaxed, I could see when she felt awkward. I could feel when her guard dropped. Her smile was genuine and her eyes generous. We shared the experience, without a common language we became closer.

They worked in pairs: one as a “model” and the other drawing, so in a reciprocal portrait. The model was invited at reflect on words that can define his/her own personality, while in silence and firm. Faces could be drawn in profile, at ¾, or frontal. The participants chose freely the “partner” but were encouraged to work with someone from another a discipline (we had artists, healthworkers, trainers, and people in recovery from addiction) and with another language.

In the first exercise, the rule of the game was drawing with the hand that usually can't write and draw (the left hand or the right one if the person is left-handed), a way to forget how draw and start, all together, from our incapacity. I invite the participants at drawing in a size near the reality, do not draw a small face. It verifies at the end of the draw time, the presence of important traits of the face observed.

In the second exercise, the rule of the game was drawing with the hand that we usually use to write and draw without raise the hand from the paper: in that way the drawing follows a continue line and reaches a great synthesis.

On the table there are a big assortment of pencils, graphites, charcoal and pastels on various gradations and thickness, so that everyone could chose by personal attractions. The participants were encouraged to  experiment. At the end of this phase, all drawings were placed on a table or hung on the wall and people tried to understand the identity of the various “models”.

2) Create a self portrait in collage or wire

During the exercise I felt a sense of tranquility and peace with myself (it hadn’t happened to me in a long time) as if there was no ones else next to me, only me and the other "me" that was coming out in that cardboard.

I wanted to represent anger precisely because often it’s difficult for me to express this feeling through words, show to other people a moment of my anger , because I tend to hide it. I'm glad i had the chance to do it this way.

I created my self-portrait very spontaneously and quickly. Later I heard one interpretation on my quick work– you are living very quickly, very stressful. I noticed that people love to make conclusions very quickly. I think the reason of my quick work was different – I believe we have to answer psychological questions very quickly in order to have the most truthful answer.

It was an experience of intense enrichment both on a personal creative level and on a relational level. It allowed me to access first at a perception of myself and of how others perceive me as new person, even saying it better.

An unexpected image of myself emerged in composing my self-portrait. For the first time I saw myself attracted by desire and life, tempted by all experiences, but also with a deep need for rest. Of a long rehabilitation sleep. All this in the space of a sheet, cutting and composing with whites, blacks and reds, with the certainty that only through geometric shapes and primary colors could I be told.

A SELF PORTRAIT IN COLLAGE from fragments of cardboard cropped or ripped (black or coloured), glued on an oversize support (a paper dark or white, free choice of it). Everyone are invited to give the face to be realized the maximum expressions and add many personal symbolic elements.

A face of WIRE, inspired at Calder’s artworks, continuing the second exercise, the graphic ones. It is about “drawing” in the area with a line made of wire both ductile and resistant, finding a way to lead and tie the wire, going slowly towards the volume. At the end of this laboratory phase, everyone is invited to present her/his self portrait to the others and share the choices in relation to  the feelings that she/he felt.

3) Work in small teams to create fantastical creatures

I liked the team spirit, the chance to get to know others from a different perspective.

Initially everyone initially felt the need to respect the space of the other, both in the choice of materials to be used and in the characteristics of the artistic product to be developed, until little by little an authentic group dimension was created. A barrier naturally was brought down, and became a trampoline for the work of the other person. It was necessary to stand in a state of individual suspension in order to overcome one's own resistance and thus enter in the collective plane in a deep harmony.  Unconscious archetypal energies were then expressed through the creative work.

We´ve created Vento Vejas. He is living in the air. He is eating the gas and so on. But the most important thing for me is the name which consists of two languages: Italian and Lithuanian. Our group consisted of 5 women: Italian and Lithuanian. Two different languages, 5 different personalities, but the name sounds well. Two different cultures, but we can work together.

The method chosen was inspired by "Cadavre exquis" (corpse delicious) of Surrealists: one person started drawing a part of an existing animal and, one at a time, the others continued the drawings “transplanting” fragments of others animals. In that way, playful and unpredictable, it is solicited the part less rational of participants and it is integrated an aleatory part in the conception of the creature. This exercise creates a collaboration in the group: they  listen to each other and dialogue to finish the collective achievement.

Every chimera would be associated to a natural element (air, water, fire, heart). In current language we use idioms like “follow chimeras” or the adjective “chimeric” in relation with something impossible.

After the preliminary research on a paper for sketches, each group had a large paper (100x150cm) and at ones choice acrylic painting or oil pastels. At the end of the pictorial work, the group was encouraged to define the drawing up of a form with name and modus vivendi of the invented creature (habitat, food, temperament, the way of reproduction…).