in which tracey take a peek into the “real” art world and finds something interesting

It’s all Jessica’s fault.

She told me she was taking a journaling class and it sounded cool, so I checked it out. It was about using your journal as a medium in your studio practice, which sounded like a very Tracey thing to learn about. I signed up.

It was five weeks, one meeting per week, and with some homework in between the meetings. From the very first assignment, I knew I didn’t really belong in this class. It was to watch this video:

This is a short version of the piece. There were more videos, but I don’t want to scare you away. 😉 I refused to be scared away by this class, though; I’m stubborn like that. We watched videos in which artists I’d never heard of (which doesn’t surprise me, since I don’t follow the fine art world) talked about their art and making art and what art is and isn’t about. Then we talked about the videos. At length. Then I lost it one day in class (albeit politely).

I couldn’t understand how much talk there was about doing art and that we weren’t doing any. The talking seemed to be another reason to not make art. I know everyone has their processes and fears, but nothing is going to happen if you spend too much time worrying about what people are going to say. I like making things and if they come out crappy, oh well. If they come out great, I’ll show them to someone. But maybe I feel a different kind of pressure than these ladies do when they work. It was nice to say out loud the things I’ve been thinking for a long time and it was a good reminder for myself, too.

Even though I feel that way, throughout the class I was intimidated by these other artists in the group. They all, except for one, have studios in the center where the class was held. They all are mostly full-time artists. They are all connected to the fine art world. I sat there with my homemade journal with all of the NaNoJouMo pages in it and hid the front cover because I had collaged it with deli sheets I had monoprinted on my gelli plate. I felt like a bit of a child in a room full of adults.

Then I realized that maybe it really was a class for me. After all, wasn’t I there to learn?

At the third class, we received the assignment: “draw three 2-inch squares that depict the space between audience and the rules or directions of art making.” Or something to that effect. That lost me. I didn’t go to the session where we showed those, though I did do the homework to the best of my limited abilities. (I even had a dream about it, which was interesting.) But, I was on a roll in my studio that day and wanted to keep going. Or maybe that’s what I told myself.

Our homework for the final week was to draw ten 2-inch squares that expanded upon the previous homework. Here’s our installation:


I didn’t follow the rules (shocker). I did 6 1.25″ cubes and 4 2×2″ squares. The cubes are covered in assorted papers — handmade, hand painted, music paper, scrapbook paper. I set them in a random pile and in front of them, the 4 white squares that each have one word on them: “Make what you see.” Viewers can move around the cubes and the words. “See what you make.”


It was well-received. I felt weird because I don’t like being the center of attention (even though we each had our turn being critiqued) and I felt like my  piece was silly. But by the time everybody had chimed in, I was feeling more confident and understood what I was doing a little more. So, even though I was uncomfortable and lost, it turns out I do care about that space between what I make and what people see, even if I don’t have actual words for it. I also know that abstract and esoteric conversation isn’t my bag and I need to just hunker down and do the work.

But the biggest lesson I learned was that I do have something valuable to share, no matter who I share with. That my conviction that each person on this planet is unique and special also applies to me.

Here are the other artists’ pieces (artwork copyright of its owner, despite my watermarks):

I’m not unhappy that I took this class. I hated being so uncomfortable, though. I guess it’s actually something I really needed. Thank you, Jennie!