Saturday, August 6, 2011

Artwork for exhibition halls at Fryeburg and Windsor Fairs, and for my Space (7) in Fryeburg Fair's Craft Center, is coming together nicely. Along with horses and dogs, subjects will include barns, assorted farm animals, fishing flies and at least one wagon. Fishing flies are fun to do in watercolor, especially the salmon flies and the various "ghosts", grey and otherwise. Fishermen know what I'm talking about.

"Function in disaster; finish in style." So goes a saying (actually two sayings combined into one) by an educator named Lucy Madeira. From the first time I came across the saying(s), including two more that she was fond of: "Make haste slowly"---which she would quote in Latin---and "Keep calm at the very center of your being", I was intrigued by Lucy Madeira. Who was she? Did she live by the sayings she quoted so often? In my research I found that in the early 1900's she founded a private school for girls, The Madeira School, and was a very exacting teacher. As near as I can tell, she used her sayings to encourage her pupils, and seems to have encouraged herself at the same time.

The portrait photo of Miss Madeira greatly resembles my favorite high school English teacher, Miss Dwelley. I was in her classes I learned so much about, and came to love, creative writing as well as reading. She encouraged us to search out answers in the books and stories we were assigned: why did the main character act in certain ways? What were the results of his actions? How were other people affected by what he did? To this day I remember those questions as I read. The material has so much more meaning that way.

As well, she had wise advice for us. One day in class a student said, "I wish I could know what would happen in all of my life." Miss Dwelley looked at her for a moment and then said, "Oh, my dear, if you knew, you wouldn't be able to stand it." Though I wasn't the student who voiced that thought, life has certainly proved Miss Dwelley to be oh so right.

And so, function in disaster. That has been going on for me, for several weeks now. Various factors spelled disaster, but now I am out of the tunnel. I've figured out all of the artwork for the two Fairs, the reference photos are paired with the paper I'll use, and this afternoon I'll finish the preliminary drawings. Tomorrow I plan to finish a portrait that needs to go out very soon. Then, complete concentration on the Fair artwork---and at that, I'm weeks ahead of my usual schedule at Fair time. "Make haste slowly" applies here, as I haven't rushed until my head is spinning, but have thought out each step, determined to enjoy the process.

Wesley Dennis, who illustrated many of the Marguerite Henry books, used to say, "If it isn't fun, don't do it." I can see exactly what he would have meant---if art stops being fun, quit. That doesn't apply to artwork in its beginning stages, because each piece has to go through an ugly stage when you could cheerfully scrumple it up and THROW it AWAY. That's definitely not a fun stage. We have to work through that stage, and gradually the work comes right and we're happy. We've conquered our doubt by working through. If making art in general has become a chore, though, and the joy has gone out of it, no matter what we've done to work around the negativity, I can't help but think it would be time to stop. Who knows? Maybe after a little break, we'll be ready to give things another try. Who of you has gone through this sort of thing?

"Finish in style"---I very well know that for me THAT won't happen until my space in the Craft Center is completely arranged, furnished, and the pictures fill the walls, and the mugs, matted paintings and prints and the packages of note cards are in their places. Then I can sit down with a cup of tea and contemplate the coming eight days of activity in my booth, where old friends and new will stop to see the latest work and the favorites from another year, and we'll do a little catching up. A quietly stylish finish. How have you felt after working through obstacles and finally coming out on the other side, especially when it looked as though things might not come together?