An Artists’ Journey

Very few paths thru life are straight and unwavering. My artistic journey is actually circular. Out of college and in the workforce I felt a need to add some new aspect to my life. Something beyond facts and figures, kids and mates, home and hearth. An escape to that part of my brain that pushed all the day-to-day aside and released the forces of creativity.

I actually started with a nighttime watercolor class, picturing in my mind ethereal, transparent works of vivid color and loosely flowing strokes. Instead I got tight, detailed, overworked pieces. I might surmise that my paintings reflected the state of my life at that point. I switched to pottery.

starfish design pottery lantern

Pounding and shaping clay into submission worked for me and I stuck with it for years. I did mostly hand building. I loved experimenting with textures and glazes (a love that carries over into my watercolors to this day.) There was a book I cherished, Finding One’s Way with Clay, by Paulus Beherenson. It was a testament to pinching pots of clay, getting lost in the process and hand shaping your way to spiritual and artistic growth. I don’t do clay work anymore but I occasionally go back to that book. His philosophical thoughts apply to any artistic endeavor. I began to experiment with mosaics where his focus on the meditative really came to light.

I started small with some coasters and before you knew I was doing table tops, wall hangings and musical instruments. Sometimes, I combined my clay work with my mosaics. There is nothing like nipping glass or tiles into small pieces and rearranging the bits onto something, creating a whole new piece of art. Hours go by, the mind clears, and all is right with the world. Unfortunately all was not right with my hands. A medical condition resulted in my hands cramping up when I did such detail work. I went back to my original love, painting watercolors. Maybe all these years later I could do it “right.”

watercolor flamingo

My exploration of watercolor has followed a meandering path through the medium with many deviations. I started by doing your traditional representational pieces, you know, birds, flowers and landscapes, but quickly found they left me emotionally unsatisfied. Detailed studies slowly morphed into looser interpretations and finally into full blown abstraction.

When I paint an abstract all else disappears. The normal world, full of stimulations, computer screens, breaking news flashes and annoying bings from my phone are silenced and pushed aside. I tap into some inner source, pull from the ether and have a dialogue with a blank sheet. Each color responds to another, each mark and brush stoke builds off a previous one. The finished product is a unique culmination of a specific time, place and emotion.

I don’t love every piece that I do. Many go on “the pile” waiting to be reworked, painted over, given to someone who likes it, or just forgotten.

But the ones I like, I like because I have an emotional connection to them. The final combinations of color, shape, texture and movement, resonate with me and somehow expresses whatever was banging around in my unconscious mind at the moment.

As an artist my hope, my goal, is to get you to stop. Stop and look. Spend some time with the piece and see if there is a connection, a feeling. It may not be the same as mine but does it draw you in and make you think? Does it make you feel something? If so I’ve succeeded.

-Judith Callison