Inspiration: Art Is Personal


At least for me it is.  I resisted this for a long time, though.  I think I was afraid that if I let it be too personal, it would not be taken seriously.  So I detached myself from it, instead focusing on experimental landscapes that felt safe.  I was a young woman, trying to be taken seriously (and trying to take myself seriously) while having babies and generally being overwhelmed.  I love a lot of the work that came out of that time period (my mid twenties to early thirties)….. it’s just that it didn’t have that much to do with what was actually going on in my life.  I was full time with kids, and all of the craziness and immediacy that ensues, and didn’t have time to be out photographing and sketching for afternoons, or to come back home and create the large landscapes that I longed to continue with.  Finally, as Julia Cameron would say, the well went dry.  My paintings felt empty and overworked….. the painter’s equivalent of writer’s block.  It was like chewing on cardboard.  

Then I stumbled on a book that tripped me out.  It was Spilling Open by Sabrina Ward Harrison.


 She’s written/painted a few books since then, but that first one is still my favorite.  It is artistically and visually stunning, but what really got me was how personal it is.  It just shot right through me.  This was new to me- the idea that good art could be personal and feminine, and raw,  and just plain tell the truth.  That I didn’t need to distance myself from my experience, and add several layers of hazy intellectualism, in order to make a painting.  It was a new concept, that when I come to the canvas, I am enough.


So then I started asking myself new questions… like if I could paint anything, what would I paint?  If I could use any medium I wanted, what would I use?  I know this sounds silly- like why in the world wouldn’t I be asking myself those questions before?  But I had not let myself think this way in a long time, and it was new.  It has really changed my painting.  And my attitude. Nowadays, I can’t wait to paint.  The resistance I used to feel (you know- that gut churning feeling that procrastination brings on) just isn’t there.


And so much work has flowed from those questions.  The dress series, to begin with, and the nests, and this blog. And I’m finding that if I let my life and desires lead me, the complexity of meaning is still there. Really, so much of desire is universal. And even a dogged kind of intellectualism tags along behind, offering explanations for the symbolism in my paintings.  I like that the explanations don’t come first, though.  The painting comes first. 

I started with dresses.  I think I’ll end with them, too…..


For more about my dress series visit my website.


1 thought on “Inspiration: Art Is Personal

  1. ihanne

    My God – I really enjoy your work – as well as your frank comments !

    And see what a funny incident: I just ordered two of Sabrinas books before I went to Korea. “Spilling Open” and “The True and the Questions”. And I get the same feeling: how well she manages to be very direct – and still it´s not too much… Very challenging – how to balance – and use oneself but still not without being too private…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s