First, I know this is very wordy. I can't help it--I'm a writer and that's how I roll.
I approached the Notan exercise willingly yet puzzled. I’d never heard of the expanding square exercise, and I wanted to know more about what it is intended to teach, design-wise. I got a book or two and became very intrigued. I did this research before I put my knife to paper. This is my usual way—I have to understand WHY before I can proceed. I wouldn’t say it was a stalling technique, though, since I started the exercise the day after it was assigned. But it has taken most of the week for me to connect this to my exploration of art making in general.
I’m a diligent learner, so I wanted to see how applying the rules would pertain to my study of design. Without the research I might have considered the black square of paper as a bit of a drag, boring, pedantic. I looked at the paper still a bit dumbfounded as to how I was going to get it to open up and reveal a design that had some air in it. So I learned as I cut. Opening out the square also opened a little something in my mind, something structural that I needed for my understanding of composition. I enjoyed seeing how making one cut would affect the overall design. I enjoyed making the symmetrical shapes, but that made me realize that one of my internalized “rules” is that in order for art to be good or real, it has to be wild and free. The symmetrical squares are anything but that. I felt very methodical making these, and they are very folky. It would be good to try some more assymetrical squares, but I’ve run out of time this week. I have a composition assignment for another class, and my Notan exercise evolved into making a mockup for that assignment—so in that way, I “rebelled” a little.
As for the Rebel exploration, it fits when thinking about just doing art and orienting myself to being able to apply myself in a regular practice. In college I crawled onto the achievement track. I left behind my art classes, put aside my paints, out of fear that I would perish in the “real” world if I didn’t get Practical. One thing led to another, and my working life consisted of being analytical, practical, strategic, etc., forcing me to tamp down my emotional states and my artistic nature. “Adulting” led me away from devoting myself to art, and it wounded me in the process.
Last year I left my job and jumped off that achievement track. Now I am free to take a purely aesthetic approach to life. I get to turn inward, do some deep personal tuning, and bring back poetry, color, and movement. This is a deeply rebellious way to live.
However . . . I’m finding it hard to justify applying myself to art, the way I always wanted to. Do I really deserve this? My personal art-making won’t change anyone’s life. It won’t put food on anyone's table. Indeed, very few people will ever see what I make. When people ask me, “What are you doing these days?” I sort of cringe while I say “I’m making art.”
I’m having trouble owning it.