Art was always an important part of my life. I was the child that asked for a paint set for Christmas, took photos with the family camera, and spent recess drawing horses for my friends. When I was in the second grade, my teacher selected one of my drawings to post on the bulletin board. I don’t know what she saw in the drawing, but she told me I should be an artist, and it stuck. So I decided that’s what I was going to be.
I studied graphic design and moved to New York. I was overwhelmed by the vastness of the art — to stand in front of masterpieces that I had only seen in books was a spiritual experience. Thursday nights were for gallery openings for emerging artists, and Sundays after brunch were for museums and old masters. When I visited the Museum of Modern Art, I would end my tour by spending time in front of The Sleeping Gypsy by Henri Rousseau.
I’m not sure what it was about that piece that drew me in; maybe it was the ambiguity of the subject.
As a graphic designer, my work required precision. Designs require precision down to the pixel, so photography became my place to play. I headed into nature and waited for subjects to appear. I captured portraits of trees, paths, beach grass, and oceans. Time stood still while I searched for the best angle or waited for the light to change.
The process connected me to nature in unexpected ways. I had no control over the subject except to choose to be in that moment. It taught me patience and gave me joy.
Art saved me during COVID isolation and the subsequent stress. Living alone, the only interaction I had with other people was online. I discovered a whole new world was accessible. I explored museums virtually with a friend. I discovered online art classes. I took as many classes as I could fit in. I explored the collage shapes of Matisse, expanded my iPhone photo skills, and studied films for inspiration. It was easier to experience multiple disciplines, and the outcome was no longer a priority.
It was like being a child again… learning to let go and just play. There was no longer a purpose to making art for me except to make it. Now I spend time capturing landscapes through photography, creating collages, or learning new skills like printmaking and ceramics. Art has become the priority, to take the time to create and to see where it goes.
I learned from The Artist Way by Julia Cameron to make a weekly Artist Date. The idea is to take a festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. I recommend implementing this as a daily practice. You never know where it will take you.
VAWAA has taken me to the Canary Islands, where I learned a different approach to photography from Tomas. In Barcelona, Roser encouraged me to let designs evolve and spend a week playing with shapes and experimenting with color. And in Lisbon, Ines showed me how to build a temporary mandala with natural materials. I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Written by Judith Barker