We look to artists for inspiration, ideas, permission even, to try out what they do for ourself, not wanting to BE like them, but with other motives: to find the path to our own expression. Seeing images of Brice Marden drawing and painting with sticks expanded our notion of what we can use to make our own mark as a way of revealing what lays hidden in our mind and heart. We think of Mondrian painting “to find things out”.

What medium or implement or movement will unlock the hidden, wordless part of ourselves?

Catalogue of works exhibited at Matthew Marks Gallery and Documenta 9; Photo David Seidner

It could be anything, really. Mary Jo Hoffman uses foraged leaves, stems, twigs, flowers, antlers, dirt that she finds in the land around her home. The commentary she includes makes it clear that her assemblages reveal something of her inner landscape…

Mary Jo Hoffman @maryjohoffman

I’m feeling like this today. No, not perfectly balanced. More like fragile, with lots of delicate but important bits about to roll off the edge at any moment. Ohh, the creative process is not for cowards.

She views her pine needle assemblage as a poem…

A pine needle poem about the beauty of winter, the silence of first snow falls, the gunmetal gray of frozen lakes, the heavy heads of winter stems, the rattle of stubborn oak leaves, and a solitary owl calling into the darkness.

Recently, we found ourself gravitating to the big sweeping, all-encompassing strokes we saw in videos of Japanese brush painting…

Wondering what a big brush dipped in black ink might reveal, we bought the simplest, cheapest most immediate form we could find, a pen with a brush tip fed by an replaceable ink cartridge, along with an inexpensive block of heavy watercolor paper. It was curiously thrilling to move the brush on paper and see what appeared; we loved the feeling. Wanting an even fatter brush, we bought a set of cheap brushes to fool around with. We used black ink to start, then found ourself yearning for gold. Not liking the phony tones of the gold inks we tried, we read how to mix our own with gold pigment powder, gum arabic and distilled water… Lovely stuff.

One thing led to another and we found ourself in a quiet private realm of marks and images and writing that was like tapping a hidden language.

We’ve been contemplating fat brushes with long handles…and …sticks…

Sometimes we can’t know the medium for our self-expression until we find our way by trying …

Top image from Helen Marden’s instagram @goldenrock.

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