Imagining Forth!

As both a poet and an artist, I tend to wander back and forth, crossing the invisible line between the two like a drunk on a bicycle.

I give many of my paintings poetic titles and I write poems about art.  I’m not the only one who does this.  One of my favorite books on the practice of writing is titled The Writer on His Own, and much of what’s here applies just as well to my painting.

Take this one, for instance, one of the many short bits of advice from author David Greenhood:

“Our main effort should be to imagine forth, rather than to be always backtracking.  Ruing. Picking up stuff that fell off because we were overloaded or so badly loaded that we couldn’t carry it.”

I like this thought a great deal – for art, for writing, for life.  “Imagining forth” strikes me as just the thing to keep the energy and excitement of the work, any work, going.  And in my head it goes nicely with the great line from one of the songs in A Chorus Line:  “Keep the best of you, do the rest of you.”

As we work in any creative arena, we learn new things all the time – at least we hope to if we’re creative and not robotic.  Our work builds on these new things, and we either figure how to incorporate the old with the new or we drop the old.  We “imagine forth” instead of backtracking.

It’s pretty simple, really.  We start with our ABCs, but once we can read poetry and novels, we don’t backtrack to saying our ABCs every morning.  Art, writing and life are about building, incorporating, imagining forth.

When I got back to my art a few years ago, I did collages.  I’ve liked collages since I first saw those done by Picasso and Braque, so it seemed a good place to start – tissue paper, recycled images, a little paint.  I gradually moved on to more paint and less paper, finally going full tilt with paint.

This week I decided to “imagine forth” about what would happen if I combined the paint with paper but in a new way, so I gave it a try.  At the top of the page are four images of the result from start to finish.  The piece looks nothing like my old collages or my newer paintings either.   And it sure doesn’t look like Picasso or Braque.  It was an experiment.  And every time I try a new experiment, I am a happy fledgling again!

I really want an “Imagine Forth!” tee-shirt now.




The Map and the Body

Work in progress.
Work in progress.

I love maps.  One of my uncles was a surveyor and he taught me a lot about them when I was a child, made up map games and generally instilled in me a love of these beautiful and useful tools for finding one’s way.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a workshop at The Studio Door in San Diego, a wonderful, relatively new gallery/studio/workshop space.  The workshop, titled Art To Market Road Map and led by owner/artist Patric Stillman, was exactly that.

I came away with pages of information and ideas especially helpful to the fledgling that I am.  I keep thinking of the wise words of an artist friend I knew years ago:  “We are all richly gifted with inexperience.”

Believe me, I’m incredibly wealthy when it comes to inexperience!

One of the pieces of information/advice from the workshop that rang a serious bell for me was the notion of developing a body of work.  I’ve done a number of collages over the past couple of years, many that I like a lot, a few that I’ve put into gallery shows elsewhere, most of them stacked against the wall, but a body of work is something different.  Even with all these pieces I realized, alas, that like the old song says, “I ain’t got no body…”

The notion stopped me for several days as I considered how I wanted to approach developing a body of work.  I’m an eclectic thinker and writer and now artist, and I tend to wander hither and yon, experimenting with this, trying out that.  A body of work means at least a semblance of commitment to a subject or form or idea.

After several days I settled on an image I’ve used more than once in my work – that fact alone led me to understand that the image was important to me in ways I had not yet considered.

I was in the middle of another piece that I’m in the process of completing and when I do, I’ll move on to explore the beginnings of my body of work feeling confident that it’s not only possible but the first step in a great adventure.  Ideas are churning all the time.

I’ll still experiment and try new ideas, but the very notion of the body of work has provided a much-needed anchor for all that experimenting.  I don’t feel constrained. I feel freed up.

And I have a good idea where I am on the map.

Now That I Found It, Where Do I Put It?

"Oh no, not again." Molly Larson Cook, 2014
“Oh no, not again.”
Molly Larson Cook, 2014


Working as I do in mixed-media collage, I’m an avid ripper and clipper and scanner – old magazines and books, old photos, images I love and want to use more than once, things I pick up on my walks – most recently a beautifully dried and partially shredded shiny brown palm frond.  I am a keeper of the scraps.

Like others of my ilk, I have boxes filled with bits and pieces, remnants along with books and magazines still intact but with pages ripped out for my arcane purposes.  When I buy used picture books, the sellers often note how beautiful the pictures are.  I hate to break their hearts by telling them I’m going to rip them up for art.

The upshot of all this is that about once a month I decide to organize my collections.  I have boxes and files and little drawers and all manner of places to store my bits, but I never get it right.  “Put all the people in one place,” I tell myself, “and all the plant material in another,” but as soon as I begin, I know I’m in trouble.  So I regroup and decide to sort by color.  This leads me nowhere as well.

The problem for me is that my mind and creative spirit don’t put the pieces together this way.  Other collage artists may be more organized or know exactly where they’re going, but I’m not there.  My eclectic mind wants to have fun with the work and I don’t know when I begin what I might want to put with what.  I work slowly and add images and color a little at a time.

Case in point:  I have a small collage in the works. I prepped the background in a new way to get some color combinations I haven’t tried before, rather quiet combinations, then I added the tissue scraps I use, a scrap of a dress pattern and then a bird I’d had in mind for this piece.  All in all a pleasant little piece, but I’m not about pleasant little pieces and something was missing in the upper left space.

While going through one of my boxes, I found just the thing and have now added a smallish image of a happy accordian player behind a row of red geraniums. I had no idea he’d show up here, but he’s quite perfect and it makes me laugh to see this guy with the lovely bird.

I realize once again that I can continue to buy boxes and drawers for all my treasures, but my collection will still be stored in my quirky random way because I never know what’s going to inspire what.  Or make me laugh.

My world has never been perfectly organized like some cosmic underwear drawer.  My boxes of treasures are, in my old professor’s words,  rich and complex to me, not complicated or confusing.  And that’s good enough for this fledgling.