I live in a very special part of San Francisco, nestled between Mt. Sutro and Golden Gate Park. Walking around both landmarks is a regular part of my day – Gus and I go to the park twice a day, every day, and my gym is halfway up Mt. Sutro. But it wasn’t until last week, after I’d finished two new textile collages, that I realized how much my recent work has been influenced by these walks.
I’ve written before about how much the landscape of Highway 5 continues to influence my work, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise that my local landscape would creep into my work. But I do delight in nice surprises, so I’m not beating myself up over my momentary obliviousness.
I have another show scheduled for May 2017 (more on that next year); I’m sure my local landscape will appear in that show’s work!
Vera Neumann was a prolific artist who worked from the 40s until her death in 1993. She originally started by printing her own work on parachute silk and making it into scarves, then became the most-licensed artist of the 20th century.
If, like me, you were born before 1980, odds are Vera products were a part of your life. My parents had the most amazing pink-striped Vera sheets. Because my mom never throws anything away, they are still put to use, usually on the guest bed that I sleep on when I visit. I keep meaning to covertly swap them out for something else, so I can add the sheets to my Vera collection.
Ah, yes, my collection. I started collecting Vera scarves about six years ago. I recognized her signature from my childhood – when I was a kid, I thought the name was “Usna,” and that it was a brand name, not the name of an actual person. It wasn’t the brand itself that interested me; I was attracted to Vera’s use of squiggly lines, her disregard for perfect registration, and, most of all, her fanciful use of color. It didn’t hurt that, six years ago, her scarves were easily found at thrift stores and yard sales for under a dollar.
Here are a few scarves from my collection. If you’re a Vera fan, or think you might become one, the fantastic biography “Vera,” published in 2010, has photos of her extensive body of work. It’s a must-read.
“What inspires you?”
“What is the inspiration behind this collection?”
I get asked these questions a lot (there must be a book out there called “How to Talk to Artists”), and I can rarely answer them to the questioner’s expectations. I usually mumble something about doodling for a week, or cutting up pieces of paper and gluing them until I have a pleasing pattern. Unsexy stuff.
I think that the real belief behind this question is that artists get inspiration, and that inspiration is what drives their work. In fact, it’s the opposite. Work is what drives work. And it’s often work that drives inspiration.
Inspiration is not what makes artists artists. I may see something and get an idea (and this happens less often than you’d think), but sitting down and plugging away at something is what gets the creative work done. Showing up at my drawing table, even when I feel I have nothing to say or create, reworking an old sketch or doodling for two hours (or two days) – that’s what leads to inspiration. And that inspiration leads to even more work.
At the end of the day, work is what gets the work done.
I’m half on vacation in LA this week, so there’s no “My Self-Employed Life” post today. Instead, I thought I’d share this Creative Mornings video featuring Seth Godin. It’s been making its way around the internet, and for good reason.
If you’ve heard Seth’s TED Talks, or read his blog, or listened to any of his interviews (like this one on On Being), you’ll know that what he says (and writes) is often thought-provoking, yet so simple.
So, enjoy! And share this if it resonates with you.