For the most part, we artists like to show the works we think have turned out at best, spectacularly and at worst, wonderfully. But because “only God is perfect” is one of my favourite sayings, I thought today I’d illustrate for you A Day in the Life of an Artist as a Possible Failure. I have no problem with this. My self-esteem happens to be intact today. And I know there will be other opportunities for me to show you some stellar creations. So I would like to share a failure, because I can.
I have been creating mandalas as part of the Soul of a Pilgrim course (see previous post). And I have had in my possession for some time now, a pile of white tea towels. I had considered making prayer flags out of them but today I got an idea to put a mandala onto cloth. I also happened to have a brand new set of 24 Sharpie pens so I was kind of excited about the possibility of it all. As I was ironing the wrinkles out of the cloth it occurred to me that I would like to see what would happen if I let the pen ink bleed through to the next layer. My idea was to Symbolize how our Words and Deeds leave an imprint on the Other as they are executed or spoken and that often, that imprint is permanent. They can not be taken back or washed away.
So I folded the cloth into quarters and began drawing out the first mandala with Sharpie pens and no concern of the ink bleeding through. And for my first mandala I used shapes to Signify the Many Shapes and Sizes we All Come In. And I did not measure the spaces between so some of the shapes ran into or over one another and that was ok too. This Symbolized that We Only Have So Much Control of our Lives and Mistakes Happen. I outlined and colored in and to be honest got a little high off the Sharpie fumes. Eventually I pulled the collar of my turtleneck shirt up over my nose fearing brain damage. Fortunately I was the only one home, no one saw me.
“It takes great discipline to be a free spirit.” – Gabrielle Roth
So I carried on and when I was finished I pulled up the first layer and found that the ink had only bled through one layer and the other two were still white. And Sharpie’s are permanent and fast drying so they weren’t going to bleed any more. No Problem! I’m an Artist! I flipped the cloth over and began to create another mandala on the other side and this would bleed into the facing blank quarter. Now I would have Two Symbolic Images leaving imprints. For the second mandala I decided to move away from haphazard geometry into nature. This mandala has flowers and leaves, Symbolizing Nature’s Sacred Impact on our Lives and how the golden moments gazing at a flower or watching a leaf fall from a tree are Moments of Grace and those moments will also imprint on our souls.
As I continued with the flowers, I decided I didn’t really love the white of the cloth and thought that dying it a different color would be fun. I’m a big tea dye lover and thought a black tea would muddy the work but a green tea would give it just a subtle shade and age the cloth a bit. This would Signify and Symbolize Nothing At All. So after I finished the flower – and was not completely satisfied with the bleed through on that side either, I brewed a cup of tea for me and a bowl for the dye bath. I scrunched up the cloth into the bowl and let it sit there for a while. I was tired now and a little spacey from the Sharpie fumes so I placed the damp tea bags over my eyes to refresh them. Artists do stuff like that.
When my eyes were refreshed I threw the tea bags out and put the mandala cloth and tea water into the washing machine and gave it a spin. Then I dried the cloth for 10 minutes in the dryer and assessed my days work as I ironed it out. Alas, it did not work as I had hoped. The colors were nice, the mandalas fair, but the bleed through was vague and the piece as a whole was not good art. It was Failed Art. It did however make a fine dish towel for our kitchen. The kind of dish towel all artists should have. So all was not lost and I am not perfect and I’m OK with that. Now it is definitely time for a nap.