Collaboration

Collaborative Painting for Paintpushers "Collision" Show  36 x 36 Acrylic on Canvas Artists Chris Vance & Melynda Van Zee © 2016

Collaborative Painting for Paintpushers “Collision” Show
36 x 36
Acrylic on Canvas
Artists Chris Vance & Melynda Van Zee © 2016

Dear Creative Heart,

Over the past few months I’ve been working on a collaborative painting for our yearly Paint pushers show. I attend a monthly critique group with artists from the central Iowa area and once a year we create an art show together. The goal for the show this year was to pair two artists together to collaborate together to create a 36 x 36 piece of art. Each individual artist was also to paint 3 10 x 10 pieces of work to hang alongside of the collaborative piece so that viewers could see the individual styles. We could also create individual smaller works to be hung on walls with the work of all contributing artists blended together.

First layers on collaborative painting

First layers on collaborative painting

At our monthly meeting in April we drew names out of a hat to decide which artists would be paired together for a collaborative work. I drew the name of artist Chris Vance and we began the collaborative process this fall. Chris typically paints on wood panels so he provided me with the 36 x 36 wood panel and I began the piece by laying down line work with polymer medium. I added a thin glaze of fluid acrylics in turquoise and golden yellow colors and then made myself stop and turn the painting back over to him.

In the middle of the collaborative painting process...

In the middle of the collaborative painting process…

After he finished his first layers, we traded the piece again and I set to work adding multiple layers of translucent fluid acrylics. When finished with my layers, I gave the piece back to Chris to add the final details.

Collaborative painting by Chris Vance and Melynda Van Zee  10 x 10 paintings on the left by Chris Vance 10 x 10 paintings on the right by Melynda Van Zee

Collaborative painting by Chris Vance and Melynda Van Zee
10 x 10 paintings on the left by Chris Vance
10 x 10 paintings on the right by Melynda Van Zee

Friends- Collaboration can be a very useful tool for your work. To let someone else interact with your work while it is being created…to give up control…to release a specific outcome…to not know the final direction…to interact with changes as you go…to wrestle with variety of techniques or art supplies…to face the challenge of colors or vision for a piece…to work with someone else who is not you with different viewpoints, skills, technique, ideas…this is the world we live in. Working together makes us stronger, brings new energy, stretches our flexibility muscles, teaches us new skills, and helps us to see our work in new ways. Collaboration may not be without anxiety or frustration. It will probably push us out of comfort zone. But, I encourage you to look for opportunities to collaborate in your world. If we as creative individuals are going to face the challenges put before us in this generation, we are going to need the skills to collaborate with a wide variety of individuals across our cultural landscape.

With Passion,

Melynda

“Collision”, a Paintpushers collaborative showcase, hangs from now through Jan. 2 at the Des Moines Social Club with purchases made possible through the Viaduct Gallery.

“Collision”, a Paintpushers collaborative showcase, hangs from now through Jan. 2 at the Des Moines Social Club with purchases made possible through the Viaduct Gallery.

 

Do you have any paintings in neutral colors?

Horn's Ferry Bridge #1 24 x 30 Acrylic on Canvas Melynda Van Zee © 2016

Horn’s Ferry Bridge #1
24 x 30
Acrylic on Canvas
Melynda Van Zee © 2016

My dearest creative hearts,

I’m sitting at my computer desk gazing out of my window on a gorgeous fall afternoon- it is an unbelievable 72 degrees on Nov. 4. (I am born and raised in Iowa and we are long trained to start most any conversation with a comment on the weather!) And, now that the gorgeous weather conversation has got us going…what’s really on my heart and mind is a recent artistic challenge I’ve been wrestling with.

One question I have been frequently asked is “Do you have any paintings in neutral colors?” Now to be honest- I’ve met these requests to paint with more neutrals with a variety of responses…down right ignoring them, laughing them off, feigning interest while internally shouting “But I DON’T paint neutrals, they are boring”, followed by a crossing my arms pose while internally staking my claim “I paint COLOR!” Occasionally I would let myself wonder, maybe I could try it, but then a whole other host of excuses and fears would rise up. I would worry that in light of my earlier work with bright colors, I “shouldn’t paint neutrals” because it might dilute the signature colors I usually put on my palette. Artists are trained by professionals and gallery owners to do consistent work in a recognizable palette and style so that people can easily recognize the work-deviating from the known can create marketing challenges. But, underneath all the mental gymnastics, what I think was really going on was fear- fears I wouldn’t figure out the technical difficulties of switching to a new color palette, fears the paintings wouldn’t be beautiful (what if people don’t like them?), fears that maybe people would think maybe I was “going through a hard time” if I starting painting gray paintings. Oh- the power of fear to block our creative experiments!

Horn's Ferry Bridge #3 12 x 36 Acrylic on Canvas Melynda Van Zee © 2016

Horn’s Ferry Bridge #3
12 x 36
Acrylic on Canvas
Melynda Van Zee © 2016

I wish I could tell you that I was so self aware that right away I just started painting neutral paintings. But the reality is that I had to personally do the steps to the creative process that I have taught in my classes so many times throughout the years. One benefit of having painted for many years is that I am becoming more knowledgable about my own resistance patterns to creativity. Sometimes I can’t or don’t take the time to step back and figure out what is going on internally, to really digest what truly is getting in the way.

Horn's Ferry Bridge Marion County, IA Completed in 1881

Horn’s Ferry Bridge
Marion County, IA
Completed in 1881

What finally helped to break my creative roadblock was taking a walk to one of my favorite places-Lake Red Rock. I explored again old territory by doing a slow walk across the remaining section of Horn’s Ferry Bridge that still rises above the Des Moines River.

I allowed myself to go and hang out at a place I have been hundreds of times before, but this time I saw it with fresh eyes. I walked the planks searching for inspiration and sure enough I found it-under my feet.

knots

The weathered boards…

the knots…

the lines…

the gaps…

Horn's Ferry Bridge #2 16 x 40 Acrylic on Canvas Melynda Van Zee © 2016

Horn’s Ferry Bridge #2
16 x 40
Acrylic on Canvas
Melynda Van Zee © 2016

The creative cycle going full circle- a problem to solve, making something new from something old, letting the past speak into my future, letting my specific place in this world inform my art and inspire new creative leaps. A settling of my spirit in knowing that this series of work is authentic to me and my story and my places. And, that the seemingly simple requests for more paintings in a neutral color palette took me on a creative ride back to pieces of my own story.

With Passion,

Melynda

 

horns-ferry-bridge-sign

You have the opportunity to purchase one of the new “Horns Ferry Bridge” series at any one of these three upcoming shows in central Iowa or by contacting me directly at the studio- just send me an email (melynda@melyndavanzee.com) if you are interested.

2016 Art Show Schedule

  • Santa’s North Pole Show, Booth #413, Parkview Middle School, 105 NW Pleasant St, Ankeny, IA (November 5 9am – 4pm) 
  • Art on the Prairie, Hotel Pattee, Perry, IA (November 12 & 13)
  • Iowa Arts & Craft Show, Varied Industries Bldg, Iowa State Fairgrounds, Des Moines, IA (November 18, 19 & 20)

I’m also working on a collaborative painting with artist Chris Vance for the upcoming Paintpushers show “Collision”. Painting in progress now- make plans to see the collaborative piece and meet all the Paintpusher artists at the opening reception on Dec. 2 at the Des Moines Social Club!

2016 Art Exhibits

  • Collision, Paintpushers Collaborative Showcase, Des Moines Social Club,
    Des Moines, IA, December 1-31, 2016 
    Meet the Artists Opening Reception Friday Dec. 2, 2016 5-9 pm

Why all the swirls?

Emerging Through 36 x 48 Acrylic on Canvas Melynda Van Zee © 2016

Emerging Through
36 x 48 Acrylic on Canvas
Melynda Van Zee © 2016

One of the most frequent questions I get asked in my art booth is some version of “Why all the swirls?” I love this question! I’ve always sketched and doodled swirls, spirals, waves and circles. My notebooks/diaries/journals have been full of spirals since a young age. I even have my childhood Spirograph sitting in my studio. However, it wasn’t until several years ago when I was exploring creating a body of work involving spirals, that I began to connect the dots in my own visual language journey. I started to research the deep symbolism of the spiral (and by “research” I mean standing in the Minneapolis Institute of Art book store browsing a book on symbolism in art) where I discovered two interesting things. First, the spiral is the most commonly found form in nature-I had NO IDEA!?! Really, the most common??? I also read that for centuries the spiral has been the visual symbol for growth and transformation.

This idea connected with me- it made sense at very deep personal level. I have a background in education and art. For years, I’ve been teaching and encouraging the processes of growth and change. I love to read books about the creative process and how it helps to facilitate openness to change. I discovered in that moment for the first time that these things that I was creating intuitively, made sense to me on intellectual, emotional and spiritual levels as well. Basically, my head was catching up with my heart.

emerging-through-2

I also think on some level this research somehow internally gave validity to my visual pursuit of this series of work. It makes me feel so “human” to admit that I had to wrestle internally and for years to find the value in my own creative processes. I’m still on this growth curve, but I have learned to be more aware of what my art is teaching me about my own life and moving through life with those around me.

emerging-through-3

We are all swirling and spiraling through stages and phases. Some are more colorful that others. Some come with more pain, some with more joy and they are all a part of this process called life. So, I paint the spirals and loops and movement capturing bits of emotion and life experiences on the canvas as I go. Each stroke a brief glimpse into this human experience- full of movement, transitions, transformations, and change.

Noticing the colors,

the drips,

the surprises,

the intersections,

the overlapping,

the deepening layers

emerging through.

The Rollercoaster of Creativity

Pathway of Life 30 x 40  Melynda Van Zee © 2016

Pathway of Life
30 x 40
Melynda Van Zee © 2016

This summer we joined our extended family on a day trip to the local amusement park. Of course, the older kids wanted to head to the brand new roller coaster the minute they entered the park. As they sprinted across the park to be first in line to try out the multiple upside down twisting “Monster”, so aptly named, I somehow thought I should be the “adult” and safely accompany them on the roller coaster ride. The line was short early in the morning, but once safely strapped in the ride…the anticipation was long…what was I thinking?!? Trying to booster the enthusiasm of my fellow riders, I was all confidence, but inside…I was seriously wondering if I was thinking straight by putting myself in such a situation. The ride took us straight up-and then straight down and head long into a series of upside down twists which resulted in us hanging in mid air only secured in place by the heavy lap brace.

the-monster-1

The sense of weightlessness, which seemed to hang on and on, is what got to me the most, a sense of such powerlessness while being flung through the air- really wondering if we were going to be hanging like that for a lifetime. I survived the ride. I even kind of liked it, but to be honest, I let the kids take another aunt along for the next ride and decided to keep my feet on the ground for the rest of the day.

the-monster-2

Here in the studio, I just finished a couple of BIG creative goals. The kind of goals that were totally out of my comfort zone with possibly big ramifications for my creative work. They were “next level commitment” kinds of goals-incredible opportunities, but each one took me for its own internal emotional and creative roller coaster ride through the waiting to start, fretting, and repeatedly putting myself physically in the seat in front of my computer. Completing the goals meant multiple times at my studio work space over a series of months- battling out individual steps that were uncomfortable, forcing me to make creative decisions, causing me to ask for help, and making me commit in specific directions.

If you asked me if I was glad I did it, the answer would be YES on all accounts (riding the Monster and completing my creative goals), but they weren’t comfortable processes and they pushed my limits. The process of creativity can throw us for a loop-sending us through a roller coaster of emotions as we complete our creative goals-causing us to face the unknown, our numerous fears and our own perfectionism. I’m quite sure my finished projects aren’t perfect. I’m quite sure they could even be a bit stronger, but this is where I am today and for today all that is required is that I took the ride and said YES to the next step in this adventure called life.