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On Honest Painting...

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What am I really saying anyway???

I’ve been consistently creating and as a result, making a fair amount of work. Starting the 100 Day Project last April really got my daily making practice back on track and I’m on day 162 with no looking back. I’m feeling kind of like a snowball, gaining momentum and speed and rolling somewhat haphazardly downhill . I’m ready to control the roll, direct it, make sure no innocent bystanders are taken out in the process and when it stops have something to show for it.

I’m working really hard to connect back to my voice as an artist. To hone in on my visual language so when I’m finished working on something it becomes part of a greater story and conveys what I really have to say, think, share about the world.

I was emailing with a friend a couple of weeks ago over exactly this process. We were sharing the concern that pops up while working that boils down to “what am I saying?”

The question presented to me via email was, “Am I just drawing coffee cups and food? What's the point?”

My response was as follows, “I so completely get this. I have been really struggling with it, especially with a daily project. Like what the f&*$… Cassia... you're painting this why??? You should be cleaning the floor or making some money. Then..... I heard Brene Brown state that creativity is the process of folding our experiences in to ourselves and it was a game changer for me. Now when I am working on something the question is what is the purpose? Also I want to share a quote from a mentor about my work that speaks to this... “

I shared the following printed in Watercolor Magazine in 2006:
“Cassia Cogger’s watercolors envelop a wonderful range of composition, figuration, and abstraction. She treats the medium with great confidence and intensifies the naturalness of everyday objects. Her skill in organizing her private universe reveals a very powerful sense of form. Very rarely have I seen watercolor treated with such a personal and physical dynamic.”
—Will Barnet

I went on to state, “I share this because I believe you painting those coffee cups intensify their naturalness and also lets people in to parts of your private universe. This is important.”

I blasted off the response and went about my day. Later when I returned to my inbox I had a message which in part read, “I LOVE what your mentor said. Shit, I would engrave that and hang it up! What a gift to be seen like that.”

I laughed and thought maybe I should make a plaque somewhere knowing it was highly unlikely I ever would. Then, I actually read the quote again and something in me clicked. The voice that I felt was honed so clearly 9 years ago after an intense number of years studying and painting and working started to fade when my life changed.

We had two children. We left New York. Our business struggled. My life experiences intensified and so my voice had to change. I had new data and in turn new things to say.

As I have returned to painting regularly I have struggled to regain that old voice. To return to the subject matter, the inspiration, the visual language of art before kids. Some of it has returned, so much of it hasn’t. I hadn’t been able to understand why.

When I read Will’s quote his words helped me understand. My private universe had changed immensely since my earlier works and I had different things to say. This helped me relax a bit. I didn’t know what to do with this new understanding but it helped me feel better.

I sat down last Wednesday night to do my daily painting and suddenly felt like I might have something clear to say. I realized there was room for it all. No either/or, no this/that. Anything that floated through my mind that evening as I worked had a spot on the page and I allowed that.

When I finished painting I was tingly all over. Staring down at the 10” x 14” page in front of me I realized it was the most honest pieces I’ve ever painted.

I think I’m starting to figure out what I have to say again and it feels exciting!