Stages: Positive Steps toward Self-Expression as an Artisan
by Janine Pilkington

Empress Books
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Fall/Winter 2003

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           Creativity and talent are nothing if they aren’t cultivated. I’ve spent much of my life either drawing or painting, from crayons to acrylics and beyond. It’s taken years of experimenting and taking risks, and I'll probably be doing that for the rest of my life. I live with the fear that I'll never be satisfied, yet, I am in love with the entire process. Perhaps what makes me feel most alive is this constant need to keep searching. The creative process, somewhere beyond the conscious mind, is for me as much visceral and emotional as it is a conscious effort to lay images upon a canvas.
       That urge appeared very early. In fact, I cannot remember a time when it wasn’t there. I was the quiet kid who occupied herself doodling and coloring. There wasn’t much that changed through childhood. In high school, I was still the quiet kid, except the drawings were more sophisticated. I remember doing charcoal portraits for my friends, and my first real experimentation with paint. After that, my four years at Rhode Island School of Design provided a solid foundation. I decided to pursue something I thought I could earn a living doing, so I graduated with a degree in film/animation. The only problem was I enjoyed painting more.
       Fresh out of school, I forced myself to think of a way to make money, or land a part time job. I also found that to be a creativity killer. It was the things I didn’t plan-writing fiction late at night, and painting that were the most fulfilling. Yet, the more I began to pressure myself, the more paralyzed I became. Four years later, I was married with two children, and had lost the desire to paint almost completely. When I finally did regain my hold on the brush, I was hit with a rush of creativity I 'd never experienced before.
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       Painting became my release. Late at night, after the kids were in bed, I’d be down in my basement studio, listening to classical music and the images seemed to flow right out of me. It is difficult to explain this, other than it is a ‘mode’ I get into, where I can push out the day’s thoughts and worry and become filled with the music.
       I’d have to say that this self-indulgent method of painting is my most favorite. It's like meditation on canvas, and I think that's why, no matter the subject, many of my paintings have a free, flowing quality to them. The key is the ability to let go of all sense of what is right and what is reality, and to paint what I love.
       I painted The Peacock using the same technique. I remember I was listening to a lot of Beethoven then, with his Pastorale symphony being one of my favorites. I began arbitrarily laying paint on the canvas, starting with black, and moving with the music. It wasn’t until the addition of some blues and greens that I realized the direction. Imagination was most important. I think if I had used a photograph or anything else for reference, it would’ve disrupted the process. What I liked most about this painting was how unpredictable it was.
       Nature is a recurring subject in my paintings, with a range of anything from landscapes to animals. I definitely favor florals, especially in tight close-ups and odd angles. To keep creativity alive and to prevent from repeating myself, I often jump from one medium to another.
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       I love collage, and lately have been using Asian floral designs, with a variety of different medium. I love the look of tissue paper, especially when coated entirely in a clear gloss. The result is a semi-transparent, delicate design. It's also extremely difficult to work with.
       My frustration with tissue paper, however, didn’t sway my interest in cut-outs and silhouette art. The Blossom Branch collage was made with cardboard and construction paper, which was much easier to work with. I loved the challenge of making the plain and ordinary into something beautiful.
       My moods and emotions have always hugely influenced my artwork. I’ve suffered from depression on and off since I was a teenager, and I can remember a friend asking why I always looked so "evil" in my self-portraits. That darker part of my self has its own style of artwork, something I keep completely separate from the rest. This category includes all the cartoons, and otherwise odd-ball paintings that I’ve done. I guess it's an artist’s way of venting, or trying to work out problems -- maybe just to poke fun at something.
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       The character in ‘The Daily Grind’ was based upon a collage I’d done in college out of newspaper and photocopies. He became a little more toned down and cartoon-like in this painting, where I was expressing boredom with everyday routines. I’m not sure what it was about this figure that kept me interested -- perhaps he was so expressive. These paintings were done in simple cartoon style, using acrylic paint, and came from a time when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I still paint and draw like this from time. I like to think of it as grown-up doodling.
       The title of the moths pastel is 'Like Moths to Flame'. I like to spend a lot of time outdoors, the quieter the better. I was thinking about sitting on my porch after dark, or outside our basement door. During the summer my husband and I sit out there after the kids go to bed. It's just us and the bugs. It's funny how they come out at night, only to gather around the lights.It really is beautiful in its own way, though.
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       At the moment, I don't have anything lined up in terms of a formal show of my work. The last show I did hung at a public library, and was sponsered by the local arts council. They had a gorgeous room set aside for hanging art shows. It was something I happened into. The woman who ran the show saw my work hanging somewhere else and loved it. We contacted each other with the idea I'd do a show in the winter, then another artist fell through and she needed some work. Luckily, I was able to pull something together in a few days. Overall, I was happy with it. I have a couple leads on future shows, but haven't scheduled any meetings yet. I'll probably try to enter a couple of local shows, maybe sell some on consignment to shops and the like. I've been so swamped lately I haven't had a chance to make the next step!
       I started selling my work on Ebay just to see if anyone out there besides my parents and husband would like my work. When it did start to sell, I took the plunge and opened a store. Since then I’ve thought a lot about alternative ways to hang a painting. I wondered what I could sell so the buyer wouldn’t have to worry about a frame. I came up with a scroll-like design using canvas, wooden dowels, and a macramé design (similar to a plant hanger) where the painting would hang from a hook or nail. The ‘Water Flower’ piece is one example, an Asian design painted with acrylics and iridescent gouache, and implementing beads and black cord for the hanger.
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       My Ebay store is very much a work in progress. I’ve been adding and changing categories, and trying to keep a variety of items on the stock list. I include smaller pieces and prints to keep prices reasonable. Some of my larger works are a little more difficult to let go of, so I’ve listed them for more. I also really love the feedback I’ve gotten from people who've purchased my art. It's an extra incentive to keep producing, and I’ve been producing more art lately than ever.
       I do most of my business over the internet. I can be contacted via email at or I’m open to non-Ebay contract work as well. As I said, Gallery Venus is very much a work in progress, where I can display my paintings, jewelry and an assortment of other artistic items. It has been such a positive experience for me, and I try to keep a positive attitude. At the very least, I’ve got a place to display my work that can be viewed by an unlimited amount of people.

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