The Monothon

I generally make art three ways:

1. On my own, either out in the field or alone in my studio. I mostly paint in gouache or oil, work on my large ongoing mosaic project, or perhaps carve a woodblock for printing.

2. As a teaching artist. Over the course of a year my students range from Kindergarten to 12 grade. Scatter in a few adults and that is my year. The processes and media range from drawing to clay animation to silk marbling to stone carving- always changing and always a new challenge. Seeing former students teaching younger ones is very gratifying.

3. The third category is making art in community, like yesterday.

Sunday, 9-5 was my time slot for the 2014 Monothon at Artspace at Untitled in Oklahoma City. Every year the experience is different – we are either upstairs in the most beautiful and inspiring workshop space I have ever seen, or downstairs in the less beautiful but still well fitted (and cooler) shop. Yesterday we were six artists working downstairs. The goal is for each artist to create two to four monoprints, and the studio chooses one to sell at their fundraiser later in the year. Long periods of silence are interspersed with conversation and commiserating. We usually end up helping each other work out technical issues with the inks and press throughout the day. We used Akua soy-based inks and Revere paper. I like Akua, although their ever-changing formula keeps mastery at bay. My only complaint is their colors are a little muted, especially the warms and whites. For school I prefer Akua for an entirely different reason–it only dries on paper.

I attempted one monoprint based on a rainy street at night I saw in New Orleans a few weeks ago, and one of the huge clouds I saw looking towards Santa Fe from Taos earlier in the summer. My cousin Brian Landreth was also working and added some finishing touches to that one.

Group studio experiences like this are an important and often overlooked part of building community among artists, especially in places like Oklahoma where we are far-flung. It is so good and nourishing to have a few hours to meet, re-connect, and work, and it us a great way for young artists or people new to the area to get acquainted. I find it much more satisfying than standing around making brief small talk at openings, and I never fail to learn something.

What other ways have you experienced this kind of artist community-building?

Ariana Foote and my first plate

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Brian and one of his white dogs. The white dog is a Chickasaw protector spirit and a repeating motif in his work

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Adrienne Day

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Martin Hallren (l), Gilliam Kemper (r)

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8 thoughts on “The Monothon”

  1. Betty, I absolutely love the idea of a ‘space’…to create, to commiserate as you say. This is something that is missing from my life, as a solopreneur. The days can be lonely and I often dream of a space where I can go…and be…and create…and write…and spread out my stuff. And chat occasionally. What a wonderful way and place to spend your time, just creating and the outcome can be a surprise. Love it! Great post!

  2. I love your print, did you do it from memory or did you take a photo or pic to base it on? I used to do visual art at school and for the last 7 years I’ve told myself I’ll get back to it but I haven’t. I’ve been thinking of joining some sort of class/group and this has definitely inspired me. I miss being in the studio surrounded by others (which for an introvert is something to admit!) making art.

  3. What a beautiful concept and a wonderful way to get to know your fellow artists. I love art, I sometimes paint myself but something like this kind of makes me want to do more. I could visualise through your words how the day went, the feelings the tensions and the experience. I absolutely loved your painting as I love the rain, it’s more beautiful than the sun and how you captured it in the light was simply gorgeous. Thank you for sharing it. And anyway, when do we get to know who’s painting gets sold? :)

  4. I love creating as a group – it helps the great ideas hidden inside emerge. The last time I really painted was in art class where we would help give each other ideas. As a graphic designer this is very valuable. During my course, we would critique each others work and it helped us create some amazing designs.

  5. These prints are stunning, Betty! I agree with you completely… it’s so much easier and more gratifying (and educational!) to just get your hands dirty on a project with new and old friends, as opposed to making small talk. LOTS of creative collaboration occurs here in Richmond, VA, but a show I’m in next month called Spiral comes to mind. It is a huge production including sculpture, spoken word, aerial arts and acrobatics, flow arts, and much more. I’m so excited to tell a story with so many diverse talents. Can’t wait to hear more from you!

  6. Love this! Community building is so important!

    I have also experienced this type of a thing at conferences where the future of my field is discussed and we all talk and are excited and discuss our problems and experiences.

    It provides a helpful, nurturing environment for us all. Even the vendors there join in and want to help all of us.

    It’s too easy to get stuck in our little nooks and crannies doing what we need to do all day, great reminder to get out and meet some people!

    So important :)

  7. Community is completely essential! I used to work with a lot of pianists who frequently got burned out because they were in the journey alone. So now, when I coach business owners, I say that you have to find a friend who’s also building their business, whatever niche it is.

    It’s the most satisfying experience to be doing something alone, but still be together, in the same space. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Community is completely essential! I used to work with a lot of pianists who frequently got burned out because they were in the journey alone. So now, when I coach business owners, I say that you have to find a friend who’s also building their business, whatever niche it is.

    It’s the most satisfying experience to be doing something alone, but still be together, in the same space. Thanks for sharing.

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