Friday, February 23, 2018

The Art of Unfolding

This has been a strange month: everything I set out to do mysteriously morphs into something completely different than my original intentions. Whether it's writing, artwork, or my day job, my so-called plans have been no use whatsoever. 

Thanks to my writer's group I've discovered a solution of sorts: The Power Path, a website based here in New Mexico one of our members suggested I take a look at. Every month the site centers on an inspirational theme, and this month's theme is "Unfolding." 

The idea of unfolding immediately makes me think of a box. One of the things we have to do at my day job is fold boxes, lots of boxes, for shipping. I’ve become pretty good at seeing a flat, unfolded square of cardboard and then figuring out how to put it together: e.g., flap A gets bent over to slide into slot B after flaps C and D have been creased along their respective lines, etc., etc. Over the years I've learned it truly is an art to fold a box correctly and efficiently. 

Unfolding, on the other hand, sounds easy enough, but for me, there are some fundamental problems, like when I unfold a map. On the surface this is almost too easy: just open it up and study the required section. But then comes the hard part: folding the map back up again. No matter what I do even the smallest tourist map remains a wadded-up mess I can never force back into shape. No wonder I tear them up for collage!

The reason I get so frustrated with things like maps and fitted sheets is that at heart I am a folder; I like things folded. I will fold an unruly sheet or towel twice, three times to get it "right." I'll do the same with T-shirts and sweaters.  Heck, I even like the word folder when it refers to an organized filing system. Unfolding, at least to me, means making a mess. Unfolding also means letting go, and worst of all, being open, revealing what’s inside. Pretty scary stuff! 

Scary or not, I know I need to work more with this concept of unfolding; I want to jump out of the proverbial box and if possible, abandon the need for maps altogether. I want to be okay with letting things happen without a panic attack when they don't go the way I've planned. 

One way I thought I could apply the concept of unfolding to my creative life is to let my artwork and supplies stay out in the open. This might sound a little weird, but I’ve suddenly become very self-conscious about my art-making, especially since I’ve started working on “real" projects starting with the drawings and paintings for my proposed picture book, The While Pony and my series of doorways for my literary novel,  Ghazal. I’ve become so nervous about any kind of potential critique that I’ve started putting rubber bands around my sketchbooks, a bad move as it makes me reluctant to remove the band! Without realizing it, I’ve set up unintentional boundaries keeping my art so private I almost have to ask permission to go into my own studio. 

To counter this, I'm making a radical move this weekend; I'm going to set up my art table with a dozen different mediums, pencils, paints, and a big pad of paper, then start an art piece that I don't put away. If I leave the unfinished piece out in the open I might be more inclined (tempted??) to simply sit down and doodle on it over the coming days until it's finished. Then I'll start another one using the same process. It will be messy and I'm sure it will feel totally unnatural to not clean up after myself, but my resistance could be a very good sign that this is exactly what I need to do. I also want to try letting each picture unfold the way it wants to without too much interference on my part. 

Tip of the Day: Ever since I decided to work with the concept of unfolding I keep seeing references for origami patterns. Talk about ironic! My basic interpretation of this is that there is a time to fold, and there is a time a time to unfold. Both of these make great journal as well as sketchbook topics. Get out your pens, make a big mess, and let me know what happens!

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