[Originally published at shoeboxarts.com]
What does a day in your practice look like?
My day painting starts weeks before my brush ever touches the canvas. Most of my works are a melding of world events, personal prayers, favorite passages from what I am reading. Each painting starts from sitting silently and allowing myself to make visual the things that loom largest in my days. The images are often amorphous.. defined by color and movement and at times adopting natural shapes. I go to my sketch book and quickly document the images and the dominant theme with graphite, color and side notes. I allow myself time to step back and rework the final sketch. Days prior to painting my work, I set up my paints, colors, graphite, water soluble drawing mediums…I set up my canvas and move my studio around as to allow me some freedom in working on my new work. The night comes and that is when the most satisfying work begins…I allow those hours before falling asleep to walk through the process of creating my painting.. familiarizing myself with what tools and media to use…and modifying my composition. The next day starts early. I stand in front of my canvas and one layer at a time, I patiently define my envisioned composition. I allow a day or two between layers of interference paints and transparencies…there is much time spent visiting the work in progress and allowing myself the joy of “listening” to my work…I always am amazed at the fullness of my heart when a work is done…I often learn far more from my painting than any shared conversation with my closest friend. The process often is a melding of eyes, hand and heart.
What would life be like without art?
I am so very grateful that Art found me as a very young child. I was a very shy and insecure gentle child. I was an empath very early in life…I was not a very outgoing child but I was a very happy child. I was in second grade when I discovered the joy that painting, drawing and sculpture gave to me. I was and am very visual. I grew into a creative empath, often a thoughtful observer-adult and on occasion, when necessary, I am able to muster up being social and at times mimic being eccentric and outgoing. I realized quickly the place I feel most comfortable and the most seen, is in making my art, looking at art, reading, writing, watching a beautiful choreography, listening to a sublime piece of orchestration, engulfed in a Byzantine chant, hiking in an overgrown forest, standing on a precipice looking at the ocean…eventually everything becomes art, a feast for the soul…the language of the heart…that all eventually find a way and become my art.
What is the best advice you have been given?
A dear friend of many years and she herself an incredible and accomplished artist visited my studio one day. We both had studio spaces in the same building. Her studio space was upstairs from mine. Sometimes I would see her coming downstairs to leave, and I would grab her and demand she look at my new work before she left for the day. Her response was always the same. “Keep painting Angelica, you know what you are doing. Your work is beautiful…keep following it…let it take you. Keep showing up, even on the days you don’t want to work. Show up, sweep your studio, wash your brushes…keep showing up.”
If you could change anything about the art world, what would it be?
Wow, 7 decades later I could write a thesis. I started making art in the late seventies. Then it was “a good-old-boys-club” in the California art scene. So much has changed for the better for women artists but there are still residual “ceilings” that have stayed around from those days in the 70’s and 80’s. There is a hierarchy (not always art-makers…but, end product bottom liners) that deems what is “in” and what is not “in”…shrouded in money, power, status, what is-flavor-of-the-week, and many diverse “isms”. The fall-out from these anchors on the artist is not always conducive to the purity of the artistic language.
I often wonder what the art world would look like if making a living at our craft was not an issue and we could spend our days seeking, preserving and making beauty. Most artists, speaking for myself, have zero business sense.. the hustle is not a natural part of the artistic personality. For some artists, they are able to do both with great success… but, for others, it dampens their spirit.
What inspires you the most?
Everything I see, smell, hear, feel, remember, pray eventually becomes my works. Living in a broken world. My works are created in a reciprocal choreography between my heart and the world outside of me. Both the external world and my interior self seamlessly converse…my art through my use of color, texture, movement, light and darkness create a palatable reality for me.
A beautiful hike, a sublime piece of music, holding a child, reading a fluid prophetic poem, a beautiful work of art that takes me deeply into the mystery of life and gives me a glimpse into eternity, the aroma of soup on the stove, the sunlight through the trees, the kindness of a stranger, all are pure gold and crack open my heart and fuel my desire to make my works. My works, for me, create order out of the external chaos of the world. I can meander in the surface of my painting for hours and revel in the beauty of the many colors of a reflected blue. I can surprise myself when taking a dot of red or gold leaf and be beside myself on how compositionally the work is pulled together. I seek beauty in the most mundane places, and I always find it… my work does the same often for me…
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
I have no choice. Art is how I process the world around me. Making my art keeps me sane and hopeful…my art has become my lens on how see the world. My husband shares with me that when I have been too long away from making art, I am unsettled and sad. I love obsessively thinking about what my next work will look like when done…the creative process is a bit like being a co-creator with the “powers that be”…there is alchemy, there is divinity, there is unity, there is humanity, there is reverence, there is humility, there is accountability in the creative process. As my art studio friend shared with me, continue to “show up” and do the work.