Friday, August 1, 2008

Art Blog: Broken Momentum

I am still digitizing slides. I will probably be doing this for months. It is a long process, but it is so fun to do. I feel like I am on the TV show “This Is Your LIFE!” as I go through all the work I have done over time. I haven’t seen some of this work for years. Also, it is giving me chance to revisit where I have been and gives me ideas as to where I want to go.
As I sorted the slides into categories, I came upon a couple of series I started, but never continued.
Years ago, I received a fellowship to go to the Vermont Studio Center. I stayed there a month. It was the most productive art making month of my life. I had no worries. They cooked and fed me. They gave me a place to live. I didn't have to go to a day job. I had no bills. Like other artists, I was there to make art. That is it. I did make art. I made a lot of art. At that time, I was known for being a painter and abstract sculptor. However, I decided I wanted to try other things while attending the fellowship. When I was a teenager, I loved doing graphite drawings. I gave that up in college. So when I planned my fellowship art strategies, I decided to draw. I would call the series “Modern Fairy Tales”.
Here are two examples:

“Private Parts” by Sheree Rensel

“Tantrum” by Sheree Rensel
When I scanned these two slides of the series, I realized how I loved these drawings. It is also fascinating to me that each work is about issues of interest, but I put scenes of Vermont in the drawings. In fact, the “Tantrum” is about an incident that happened during the fellowship. There was this snotty girl who was one of my roommates. There was a party, she got drunk, and angry. She left to walk home. I followed behind her. Halfway home, I watched her as she kicked the sign down in front of the church. I hid behind a tree so she wouldn’t notice I had witnessed her vandalism. The next week, I did this drawing documenting the incident. She became livid. She was afraid everyone would know the damage was her doing because I had put her cat’s toy in the foreground. Opps!!!! LOL LOL LOL
I did ten of these drawings. I got back to Detroit and showed them to a few chosen friends who had a preconceived notion of what my art should look like. Nobody said anything. Silence. Well the worst review is NO review, so I hid them under the bed for years. I sold five of them at one of my art “fire sales”. I kept four. I threw one away. I never continued with this series. It is as if my momentum had been broken. I have never drawn in graphite ever since.

"Balance" by Sheree Rensel

"The Palace" by Sheree Rensel
Also while in Vermont, I started a series of watercolors. This was to break the monotony of such rigid drawings. I hated these watercolors. I threw them all away. They were too cutesy. I wasn’t feelin it.
Well, back to the scanner!


self taught artist said...

i have to say when i saw these works my mouth dropped. Tantrum is especially fascinating and to read about this body of work and why you stopped making this type of stuff was touching and a little sad to think how delicate some art is and how easily it can get squashed.

ps balance isn't cutesy at all...i find it seasickening but quite good. its astounding all the different work you have done!

Sheree Rensel said...

This is why I write this blog. It isn't only for me to review my past, present, and future, but to help others learn from my triumphs and mistakes.
Back when I did those drawings, it wasn't "cool" to do realistic OR graphite stuff. This was especially true for the crowd I hung with. Also, they look too much like illustrations. That was another faux pas. I was silly enough to bow to peer pressure. I didn't continue with them because I didn't feel they would be accepted. That is stupid, but it is a live and learn life lesson. It is funny because if that would happen today, I wouldn't give a rat's ass if anybody liked them. However, I am older, wiser, and far more secure now.
I have done SO MUCH work in my life so far. You haven't even seen the tip of the iceburg. I still have ten more pounds of slides sitting here. This is what happens when you start getting old!! LOL LOL LOL :-)

Laurel in Austin said...

hi Sheree-i read your blog regularly and feel great kinship. for lots of reasons (not good ones), i am not making art currently, but want to re-enter that wacky world. have tons of slides, but no idea how to digitize. any tips about how to get myself into the 21st century would be appreciated. how to start?

Sheree Rensel said...

You feel a kinship for lots of reasons "but not good ones"?? What does that mean. I have no idea how to interpret that statement.

Anyway, regarding digitizing slides:
It can be very complicated or it can be easy. I took the easy way. It is less expensive and the quality might not be the highest, but it works fine for my purposes.
I bought a Canon 8800F scanner. It is a regular scanner, but it comes with various film scanning brackets. I was scanning slides ten minutes after I got this scanner out of the box. It is that easy! You just put the slides in the brackets and scan them. I have mine set up to open the images in Photoshop. So once they are scanned, I just resize and crop just like I would any other photos. The only bad thing is you can only scan 4 slides at a time and the scanning process is slow. It takes about 5 minutes to scan 4 slides.
I think that is enough info to get you started!! If you have more questions, feel free to email me!

RJ said...

I LOVE "Tantrum"! It's really pathetic that your friends didn't accept these drawings. Oops-- I almost forgot-- anything resembling illustration or having any degree of realism or representation of any actual objects=bad, anything non-representational=good. "My bad", as my students would say.

Sheree Rensel said...

Thank you Rick,
I can't really blame my friends. We all had gone to the same university. We had all been taught by the same professors. We were all fed the same load of crap. We were young and vulnerable. We believed them. I did too.
It took me years to shake the prejudices and twisted philosophies of art of the times. It is ok, now. We are all older and wiser.

RJ said...

Brainwashed is more like it. Believe it or not, there is current literature out there that promotes something called "deskilling" of students when they come to study art in college. In other words,

These poor students, stuck in the past of the long-dead "skill-based" art; we must remove from their minds anything having to do with "skill"! Skill=bad, non-skill=good! Art is dead-- long live non-art!

Fortunately, this is not true everywhere. I get the sense that there is, in fact, an increasing acceptance in the art world of things like realistic painting, etc. I think that an increasing number of artists are starting to re-evaluate the dogma of modernism. This in not to say that I don't like modern art-- I DO like some of it, but I think a lot of it is pretty lame. "Ooh, look at me, I'm an artist! Wheeeee!!!"

Deskilling. Wake up, people. Non-representational art reached its zenith over 50 years ago.

If anyone is interested in more of my take on this, see the essay on my blog, titled "deKooning has jumped the shark; Elvis has left the building." Here is a link:

de Kooning/Elvis

As Sheree would say, LOL LOL LOL!!!

Sheree Rensel said...

I will read your essay in a minute. I was just anxious to respond to your comment. I can understand deskilling. My goodness. When I entered college, my idea of art was all about the "regulars" in art history. One of my first high school oil paintings was "Jesus on the Mount" for goodness sakes. Wyeth and Rockwell were my heros. I soon found out in school, that if I mentioned either one of them I would be SHUNNED!!! Actually, I am glad I learned about the whole new world of contemporary art.
However, back then it was very different. There were such clear cut parameters of fine art, commercial art, and craft. I don't see this as much anymore. Thank goodness for that.

Gayle said...

Sheree, It's fascinating seeing some of your old work and hearing your thoughts on them. I know artists are their own worst critics, but I really admire your old drawings/watercolors. I find I do the same thing, though. I've thrown out a lot of things that didn't strike my fancy at the time and I now wish I'd kept. It's amazing how a few years time can make you appreciate what you've done (sometimes!) :-)

Sheree Rensel said...

First, thank you so much for your feedback. You know since writing this post, I have been doing a lot of thinking. I do NOT regret throwing away the watercolors. I do regret not continuing with the drawings. I think I might just add graphite drawings to my future work. It can't hurt. Nobody is buying my work anyway. LOL LOL LOL

Kelly said...

Sheree, lovely blog! thanks so much for stopping into mine. i'll have to check in more regularly now. interesting discussion you have going on here about modernism...there is often the same debate between what is art and what is craft. take care...kelly

This Brazen Teacher said...

I'm so happy you found my blog. I really think reading your blog has made me remember how much I love creating. Thank you :-)

Sheree Rensel said...

If I have one accomplishment for which to be proud, it would be helping people to remember their creative side. WOW! That would be huge! You really need to be your authentic self. I am the last person to sermonize about how teaching or any day job can help you to forget all that. However, I am glad I can jog your memory even a little bit.