Article 25

Archive for October, 2015|Monthly archive page

Artists’ Rituals

In Uncategorized on 10/22/2015 at 3:39 pm


Bobbi Thies, a painter, taught art to children for 22 years.

Making Use of Helpful Things

By Anne Skove

Inspired by Mason Currey’s book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, we have approached a number of artists to find out what makes them tick. Each month three individuals who paint, write, sing, dance or otherwise create share their habits with us.

This month we feature curator and artist Cal Cullen, artist Bobbi Thies and filmmaker Eric Chatterjee.

Cal Cullen and dial phones

You are not only an artist yourself, but you also run a gallery. Are your work styles different for these two endeavors, or are they pretty much the same?

They’re actually very similar. Both my art practice and my gallery administration/curatorial practice depend on personal interactions and communication. I’m interested in building community and social interaction for each; and so with similar goals, so is true for the processes. I’ve struggled in the past with justifying my curatorial practice; feeling as though I should be focusing more purely on my own making. I’ve realized that in many ways curating exhibitions and developing programming is a more pure form of what I’d always been searching for as a visual artist, building community. I’m not ready to give up the act of making entirely. The autonomy I find in the studio is still important; however, I am seeing the gallery more and more as my preferred mode of art-making.

Writer P.G. Wodehouse once experimented with using a Dictaphone. He didn’t like the way his voice sounded, so he went back to using good old paper and pencil. Have you ever had a failed technological attempt? Does technology help or hinder the creative process?

Yes, technology has failed me in the past and I’m afraid will continue to fail me. Since I’m always trying to find ways to harness and display human interaction, I often get lured into the possibilities that new technology offers me. I’ve found actually that older communication technologies (like rotary dial phones and typewriters) are more reliable and easier for me to fix if things go awry. Plus, they’re more aesthetically pleasing. They’ve become my go-to for art-making these days.

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright apparently worked best at the last minute. Currey says, “Wright didn’t begin the drawings (of his masterpiece, Fallingwater) until the client called to say he was getting in the car and would be arriving for their meeting in a little more than two hours. … Wright did not get frazzled by these forced bursts of last-minute productivity; indeed, colleagues and family reported that he never seemed hurried, and that he seemed to have an almost inexhaustible supply of creative energy.” Which is it for you – a marathon or a sprint?

I’m usually pretty good at managing my time, spacing the workload out so I don’t have too much stress towards the due date of a project. It does take a bit of inspiration for art, however, and that I find is harder to manage, since you never know when it’s going to hit. I keep a journal full of ideas, and therefore whenever one is required of me, I don’t necessarily need to have a brand new good idea ready right then. I can just flip through my journal and find one that has been waiting for the opportunity.

Calcagno Cullen is a multimedia artist, curator, and arts educator. She is co-director of Wave Pool: A Contemporary Art Fulfillment Center in Camp Washington, Cincinnati, and adjunct teacher at the University of Cincinnati as well as in the Community Education Department of the Art Academy of Cincinnati.

Bobbi Thies and ‘morning pages’

I keep thinking of what I would add to the thoughts of what inspires me as an artist. My uncle was a watercolor, plein air artist and a commercial artist. He wrote in my sketchbook in a most shaky penmanship when he was well into his late 80s: “The real artist is not the one who sees for themselves but they must make others participate.” I’ve framed this quote and his list of colors he used for his palette. I’ve found much peace with using this as my motto.

Moving your body is important to me. The water exercise classes I go to, even climbing all the stairs in our house – any movement helps clear the pathways to create.

OK, I’ve been thinking about what I do to clear my mind and my heart to paint. Every morning I write my gratitudes to God. Needless to say, the world seems in better perspective after these exercises. The book The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron calls this practice “morning pages.” I use to do this writing and then got away from it for awhile, but I’ve been doing it again the last six months or so.

Painting au plein air gives you a “still life,” and off you go. I believe painting is a metaphor for your total life experiences. So what prepares you for this adventure? Just go paint.

My bio would include a 22-year stint teaching art to grades 3-9 and 23 years of experience as the founding director of a therapeutic riding program. Now I just get to be … an artist.

Eric Chatterjee and deadlines

Fellini only slept for three hours at a time. How many hours can you sleep? How many hours do you sleep?

I sleep about five hours a night. I think the longest I ever slept in the past 20 years when I haven’t been sick is nine hours, but it’s very rare for me to sleep that long. Last night I went to sleep around midnight and I woke up at 4 a.m. this morning.

Bergman said of film making, “Eight hours of hard work each day to get three minutes of film. And during those eight hours there are maybe only 10 or 12 minutes, if you’re lucky, of real creation.” How many minutes of movie do you get from how many hours of work?

Independent filmmakers don’t have the luxury of doing as many takes of scenes as the studio system does. When I worked on Spider-Man 3, we spent weeks on what ended up being about three minutes of screen time. Video has made things a lot cheaper (it used to be hundreds of dollars an hour to shoot on film when you figured in processing costs), but even now it’s still not cheap. I try to get one minute of usable footage for every three minutes the camera is rolling, but the trick is to get all the organization right to get those minutes. A really complex scene could take hours of setup and rehearsal before any shooting at all. But it totally depends on the movie. Currently I’m working on a documentary, and that can often involve looking through hours and hours of news footage for one 30-second clip.

Writer Marilynne Robinson said, “I tried that work ethic thing a couple of times – I can’t say I exhausted its possibilities – but if there’s not something on my mind that I really want to write about, I tend to write something that I hate. And that depresses me.” Is forced creativity possible?

Absolutely it is. I think it was Isaac Asimov who said something like, “The difference between a professional and an amateur is that a professional can work even when he doesn’t want to, and an amateur can’t even when he does.” He proved it on live TV when someone challenged him to write a story right then and there, and he wrote one of his most memorable short stories. I think screenwriting and filmmaking competitions are great training for new filmmakers because they force you to work to a deadline. I’m a big fan of deadlines, because otherwise you could spend forever tweaking a piece of art trying to make it just a little bit better, and never actually put it out into the world. Deadlines force you to move on.

Eric J. Chatterjee began producing cable access programming in the mid 1980s at Warner Amex Cable Communications, Inc. (WACCI) Wasson Road Studios, eventually receiving a Philo T. Farnsworth Award for excellence in broadcasting in the Mid Central States Region. Eric has since worked on programming for four of the Big 5 mass media conglomerates. He holds a master’s degree in digital design and currently teaches classes at the College of Informatics at Northern Kentucky University.