Looking Back, Looking Forward

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Looking at photos of older work (or myself) isn't my favorite thing, but it's a good reminder of progress. The above photo is of me standing next to one of my pieces at the Anacortes Arts Festival Juried Gallery last August. Having artwork accepted to this show, is something I could not have imagined 5 years ago. So when I had two pieces accepted last summer and one of them sold (hooray!) I was thrilled.

But sometimes, I get so focused on the goals in front of me, that I forget to stop and pat myself on the back for the goals I've accomplished. Does anyone else relate to that?

Recently, I had the opportunity to share a bit about my background and artwork with an online artist group that meets once a month via ZOOM. Creating the slideshow presentation proved to be a good opportunity to reflect on how I started and how far I've gone in my creative journey.

The way that I create and how I approach my work is second nature to me today. But, not so long ago, I knew nothing about acrylic paint, gel plate printmaking, framing artwork, mounting pieces to panels, adhesives for collages, varnishes, and plenty more.

If you're curious about how I started sewing, gel printing, and other
stops on my journey please keep reading. I put some of that presentation with photos into the following list.

#1. I'm a self-taught artist. I don't have an art degree, After college, I started taking lots of creative classes in the evenings after work; everything from woodworking to oil painting to upholstery to sewing. In the below photo, I'm wearing the PJ top created in my first sewing class.

#2. Learning to sew was amazing. I loved using this new skill and started creating "Sports Scarves" from recycled t-shirts. I gave some to friends, sold a few on Etsy, did a local craft fair, and made A LOT of scarves. Here's one for the OSU Beavers. 

#3. But, I eventually got bored sewing the same thing all the time. I had a son by now and was putting more time into creative projects for him and our home. I started a crafty blog to document these projects. These Sesame Street hats were my post-pinned item from that old blog. We wore them for Halloween as a family, I was Oscar. :)

#4. In 2012/2013 I took my first Gel Printing workshop from a local artist and instantly LOVED IT. I had dabbled a little in screen printing and also taken some traditional printmaking classes, but gel printing was a technique I could do from anywhere with minimal setup or supplies. Plus I loved the texture created with layers of paint.

#5. I played at home with gel printing for a few years, but when we moved to a house in 2015 I finally had a dedicated space to make messes. I also started to combine sewing with gel prints. These are some pieces made on Thomas Guide maps, which I used for much of my early work. You can see the faint lines of machine stitching too. 


#6. I was fortunate to work for a non-profit arts center, Schack Art Center, and there were other artists on staff (not that I was ready to call myself one). We would have "Staff Shows" in the large classrooms, so I started framing and sharing some of my work this way. You can see some early references to rocks in the piece on the left. 

#7. When the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020 I had a new baby and suddenly a 3rd grader at home for school. After several months of this situation, which we joked about as "Mom School", I was exhausted and frustrated. My solution was to make time for my creativity and make time for myself. I decided to start getting up around 5am, before my kids were awake, and spend an hour in my studio working on anything art-related. This has turned into a ritual that I still do M-F today. I'm not naturally a morning person, but I love spending the first hour of my day on art.  (Admittedly this plan would not have worked if my daughter had been a poor sleeper, but I am grateful that she usually slept thru the night at this point.)

#8. In early 2021 I decided to join the #100dayproject. I didn't have a specific project in mind, but I knew it would make me more comfortable posting on Instagram and sharing my artwork. And it worked! I ended up doing 100 days 10 days at a time, so I would focus on a different gel printing, collage, or sewing technique for 10 days and then switch.  I credit this time with lots of wonderful experimentation and for pushing me out of my comfort zone on social media. The photo group shows a variety of the ideas I tried during the 100 days.

#9. In late 2021 I started teaching workshops on gel printing at the Schack Art Center. A very full circle moment for me since I started with gel printing nearly 10 years earlier in the same room! I couldn't find photos of me teaching, but I think this is a photo from one of my earliest classes.

#10. Today, I continue to exhibit artwork and teach gel printing workshops throughout Western Washington. I'm unsure what's next, but I try to keep my eyes and mind open to new opportunities. Here are photos of me with my artwork at different shows.

Thanks for reading this far! If you have any questions feel free to email me at hello@marenoates.com. And, if you happen to be an Oregon State, Ohio State, or Arizona State fan, I have 3 random sports scarves still hanging around my studio.

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