Improvisation is the act of making or doing something not planned beforehand, using whatever is available. All the arts, and some non-artistic fields, have forms of improvisation. In writing, it would manifest as stream of consciousness, in music I would say jazz is the mothership. Our lives, in general, oftentimes are improvised. No matter how we want to control or pre-plan, sometimes the Universe has other plans, as in a pandemic, and we adapt, we improvise.
Improvisation is an essential part of my art process. As a matter of fact, I love listening to jazz, and all ramifications of jazz, when I draw. It puts me on the road to creative freedom. I've tried so many other genres of music to create, and I come back to jazz. Most days I live stream WBGO from morning to late afternoon, listening through the Blues Break. Whether it be the improvised sounds of Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, or Miles Davis, the percussive beats of a Latin jazz jam, or scat singing by greats like Ella Fitzgerald, there is nothing like jazz to set me free. For me, drawing and writing, or any creative act is an act of self-expression, freedom of expression, surrendering and allowing the authentic self to be heard, seen, and acknowledged. Improvisation, or allowing the 'flow' of the self to reveal itself without censorship or editorial input, is where I spend much of my creative time and is the reason I choose jazz to accompany me in the journey.
"Our bodies have formed themselves in delicate reciprocity with the manifold textures, sounds, and shapes of an animate earth - our eyes have evolved in subtle interaction with other eyes, as our ears are attuned by their very structure to the howling of wolves and the honking of geese. To shut ourselves off from these other voices, to continue by our lifestyles to condemn these other sensibilities to the oblivion of extinction, is to rob our own senses of their integrity, and to rob our minds of their coherence. We are human only in contact, and conviviality, with what is not human."
Abram, David. The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World .
Today kicks off week three of working on a new artwork for my Tree Stories series. It is the first time I am using four panels of Indian (shizen) paper to construct one image. The piece is inspired by the photo included in this post which I took during a 2018 winter vacation in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Trees and "wildness" are my ultimate teachers. I wonder what colors and lines I will discover this week as I listen and look deeper?
Have you ever written your name on sand? Chiseled your lover's initials on a tree trunk and brushed off the splinters with your hand? Pushed your fingers into the soil to plant a seed? Do you remember the graininess of the sand particles? the rough uneven edges on the bark? the chalkiness left between your fingers once you pulled your hand from the ground? I love those textures.
The idea of trying out Indian paper for my pastels came out of a love for textiles and fibers. I wanted to test various surfaces and see if the pastels would hold and stay true to their colors. So, I went to Blick, a huge art store in NYC, and bought a bunch of different color Indian paper. As a writer, I love paper in general, but Indian paper, also known as shizen paper, is made of recycled cotton rags, not trees, and so my love for it has grown that much greater.
After I returned from a trip to New Mexico where I fell in love with the land, light and expansive landscapes, I did my first piece on Indian paper in an effort to capture the textures of that beautiful, massive earth. This particular image, was one of the first ones I did, if not the first, you can literally see the fibers on the paper. Since my New Mexico series, I've experimented much more, and my love for the raggedness of the paper and its interaction with pastels has deepened further. I also did a three part piece which I threaded together with wool, all in the name of experimentation and texture. We will see where the threading leads me.
Working my fingers through Indian paper reminds me of bark, touch, rope. It braids me into connection with Source.
It grounds me.
Ana Martinez Orizondo
Artist and culture creative.