When I was at the TAG exhibition a couple of weekends ago, I got to spend some quality time with artist (and musician and teacher and designer and, and, and...) Bill Russell in his studio. I had the honor of seeing some of his recent work in which he was exploring a new direction ~ or rather, using a new motivating force from which to create. Bill usually draws upon music, specifically jazz, as inspiration but recently he's turning toward a particular emotion to guide his creativity. And that same emotion was a driving force behind a series of pieces I worked on this summer. I could relate to what he was doing and where he was going.
As I was taking in his work, he opened a sketchbook and and asked if I wanted to collaborate on a page. My immediate reaction was panic. You see, I don't do sketchbooks. I'm not a sketcher. I'm not even a mark maker. So when he asked me I thought, "Oh, boy. He's gonna think I'm a fraud artist." But when Bill admitted he doesn't collaborate and was just as uncomfortable about the idea as I was about sketching, all my inhibitions melted away and I dove in.
We had a wonderful conversation during that sketchbook time about collaboration and how it works ~ making marks on the page along the way, reacting to each other's actions, back and forth and back again. And the question Bill kept asking was, "Are we done yet, Barb?"
And that's a great question.
The next day, I was back in my own studio and instead of marbling, I got out large sheets of papers and started making marks. I grabbed paints I don't marble with (oils and hard bodies and inks) and let loose. Without a specific plan and letting the moment take over, the next thing I knew, I had a dozen really interesting pieces that made me see my own medium differently. Bill had opened up something new in me.
And that's what collaboration will do to you. Even if it's just one page in a sketchbook.
The answer to Bill's question is simple: no, we are not done yet. And hopefully, we never are.