Thursday, January 17, 2008

Artist Profile: Rebecca Brown

Cormorant

Artist: Rebecca Brown
Website: RBrown Designs

How do I describe my work….
Nature orientated, detailed, realistic and fun. I don’t like “serious” art, people should enjoy it not be depressed by it. With beads it is pretty hard to do something depressing anyway but I have seen it done. I picked my business name so that it could be used with both my painting and my beading work. Not terribly imaginative but when you are creating two diverse forms of art it is hard to find the right word and logo that will fit both.


Teapot

My creative process….
Well I don’t know that I have one. Since I basically work for myself I find the best way to go about making my next piece is to give myself an assignment and then find out ways to complete it. This gives me focus and keeps me from being overwhelmed with all the possible things I could paint or bead by just walking out the door and into the garden. It is the same thing I do with my botanicals. I generally focus on either plants that are endangered, have medicinal uses or I just like the plant family. That way I am not overwhelmed by all the possible plants that I could draw which in the end causes paralysis, the symptoms of which are you end up doing nothing.


Keeping My Eye on You

So I start with an idea and then try to recreate it. In the case of the eye cup I actually had made the felted form by accident and it was so cute I didn’t want to waste it so I thought I would see what I could bead on it and go from there. That piece is one of the rare ones I did where it was not planed. I have only done that twice and for me it is a very uncomfortable process but at the same time a liberating way to work (when it turns out okay).

Normally for all my bead embroidery pieces they are all drawn out in detailed drawings on the piece so that I have guidelines. (All that is explained in my book by the way, so there are no secrets on how I do it.) Then the whole range of colors are picked out but they will usually shift as I go along. For the three dimensional pieces I make paper or clay models of what I want to do so that I can visualise how it is all going to fit together. My greatest weakness is the mechanics of getting a heavy piece of beadwork to hang properly. Sometimes it has worked and other times not. Which is why I am shifting to more sculptural forms. Well one of the reasons, the other more compelling one is since I don’t wear jewellery myself (and never any of my pieces), I was wondering why am I making this stuff… hence the shift away from that.


Blue Choker

Beading I normally do in front of the TV at night. Now that it is summer in New Zealand I spend my days painting while the light is good and my nights beading. Beading I think is actually a rather boring process and tedious once you have all the designs and stitches worked out so I watch, or rather listen, to a lot of movies while doing it. Moving out of the studio into the family area also allows me to be in the same room with the family so that I don’t alienate them completely. Depending on how tired I am I will work 4 to 5 hours at night on the beading but than another 5 hours during the day on painting… or all day on the beading when I am not painting. We have a huge video library so I have lots to listen to. It has to be mindless listening though; anything that would require me to actually think about what is being said would be too much as I still have to concentrate on my work. As dull as it is, it still surprisingly needs a fair amount of concentration. I can paint in silence but not bead.

What kind of training…
I have an art background and dual degree in Horticulture and art. I supplemented that with scientific illustrating workshops and other related courses. I picked up other painting workshops as I went along. When I wanted to learn beading I sought out the people who could teach me. When I was looking for a particular style of beading I kept taking workshops until l found the one technique that I liked the best and then once I got good at that I looked for ways to expand that technique. It doesn’t matter how good you are you can always learn something. I have taken workshops from David Chatt and Virginia Blakelock and even though I am at their level (and some of my own techniques have gone beyond them) you can always learn something no matter how good you think you are. If for no other reason it is reassuring that you are on the right track. In this day and age art is a solitary pursuit so it is nice to interact with other people that you feel are your peers and it is a definite energy boost being around other creative people at the same time beginners or advanced.


Work in Progress: Fungus Bowl
More vines, leaves, and whatnot to come!

I never considered myself a hobbyist. My wish was to do scientific illustrating which is what I did but never was able to work for anybody so I had to develop the discipline of working for myself. Beading was just another outlet that came at a time when I didn’t think the illustrating was going to go anywhere but I always considered it as a serious art form and treated it as such.

Tools I can’t live without….
My eyes and hands. If I lose my eyesight I will be the most depressed person in the world.
Oh also my golf clubs….


Seascape

What inspires me to create…
Everything in nature. Art is all I know how to do and recreating the bits of nature that most people don’t see or care about is what keeps me going.

How do I keep going…
Well I want to see what it looks like when it is done. It is easier for me to keep going with the bead work than the painting. I have been known to restart a painting 2 or 3 times before I go on to complete it. With the beading sometimes I will rip out whole sections after I have worked hours on it because I know “it isn’t right and isn’t ever going to right so stop working and do over”. When I do that I have to put it away for a few days so I can forget about the time I just wasted and then pull it out and finish it.

I think it is just my personality not to leave things undone. Genetics, good parental models.

What is the best piece of advice…
l like what Sir Edmund Hilary , who just passed away, said, “It is not the mountains we conquer, but ourselves.” He is right, and I would have to add to that you need to be willing to go backwards before you can go forwards. You have to say right I want to learn how to do something new, while at the same time you have to realize that when you embark on changing your style or technique or are trying to learn anything other than what you are currently doing than you are going to struggle and you are going to go backwards before you can master it. It is those that can stick with it even though it is difficult who will move forward.

This a particular pet peeve of mine in this day and age of the instant everything, people want it right away, they want to be perfect right away, yet they are not willing to go through the steps it takes to achieve that. Nobody wants to feel like they are failures after working so hard to get to where they are but the truth is there is a learning curve one has to go through with anything you do and in order to move forward to your objective you have to be willing to go through those learning steps as they are presented to you. Some things you will pick up easier than others but overall you have to crawl before you walk and that is true of anything you do whether it be sport, school, anything , to beading.


Hu-Hu Beetle Felted Purse
The very first felted piece of wool I ever did

The craft stores and the bead magazines have been dumbing down the crafts for some time now and I personally think that is the wrong way to go but than I am looking at the industry from a professional standpoint rather than a hobbyist. However, regardless of who you are you should always want to do take your work to the highest level and that requires patience and a belief in your abilities and seeking out those people that can help you get there. And then ultimately in the end you simply have to have the drive to just do it .

Sorry for the speech…I just hate to see the direction art is going and would like to see the value on craftsmanship raised and appreciated. For some reason art is being poorly taught in the schools. My argument is if you want to learn to swim you aren’t just thrown into the pool to swim, you start from the beginning and work up to the strokes. If you want to get better at your art than go back to the beginning. Learn how to draw, learn how use colors, learn design…all these things you need for every aspect of art you do whether it be beading or painting or sculpting, to computer graphics…Unless you are an art prodigy which very few of us are (even though the art galleries keep saying so) , you simply will struggle with your work until you learn the most basic art concepts.

Oops, my speech went on a little longer. I don’t mean to put people off. I have taught people with no previous drawing experience who end up doing very good work when they follow the basics. I had one person who was capable of doing great work but didn’t because she was bypassing some of the more basic lessons. She could not see the value of black and white drawings and jumped into painting before she was ready; however, she has realized that if she wants to move forward she is now going to have to backtrack and learn what she didn’t think was important. It will set her back some but in the end make her a better painter. We all do it, I did it with sketchbooks. I didn’t think they were important to do and struggled with my art, but now I keep a sketchbook of all my trips and forays into the field and I have become a much better painter and seeing more tones. The important thing is to realize your weaknesses and then don’t be afraid to go back and relearn what you thought you didn’t need. You can’t be in a hurry.

You can also turn those lessons into works of art while you are learning. Ie, if you need to learn shading or how to get depth in your bead pieces than work only with white, grey and black beads and see what you can do with limited colors.. There are endless little pieces you can make while learning at the same time.

What else takes up my time…
Sports. I am a golf addict I admit it. If I could play everyday I would be out there doing so. I could have gone the sport route in school had it been as profitable then as it is now for women, and my confidence was as good as it is now…but alas it was not to be… I used to play soccer and rode horses and jogged and you name it I did it. All of that, however, has taken it’s toll on my back so now I spent most my mornings either swimming or golfing. I also did the martial arts for years and do Tai Chi now so I guess as long as I can stand I will continue to be active.


Dicksonnia Squarrosa

One of the reasons I love doing the botanical paintings is that it is an excuse for me to go tramping in the mountains to find the plants since I usually draw them all in the field. Anyway my excuse for the golf is that I work all day at close vision so the golf is a way for me to use the long vision It creates a nice balance. Plus so many beaders sit hunched over for so many hours that their posture starts to show it and I don’t think that is healthy, so doing all my sports actually keeps me strong so that I can sit for long hours at a time and it doesn’t bother me.

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