My Artistic Voice

McKenna Woolleynews

Ever since I began my journey as a visual artist, it’s always been my goal to find my own voice. Work that someone sees and thinks, “Oh, yeah, McKenna Woolley made that.” And I feel like I’m finally making that breakthrough in my artwork! There have been several elements over that past little while that I’ve really found the ability to mesh together in a way that I feel is my own. In my art journey I’ve also allowed myself to cut out things that were distractions in my work and I feel that I’m finally coming to an artistic resolve and finding myself in my work.

Lemme lay it out //

#1 Color. Embrace it!!

I’ve come to realize that I AM A COLOR PERSON, through and through! I know, it’s ridiculous that I have to say that out-loud, but really, once I’ve allowed myself to NOT use black, ever, and NOT stress over having a significant amount value-contrast in my work I’ve really been able to be FREE! Color, highly saturated, bright, yummy color is where it is at for me. If I ever throw in black or brown it’s automatically unsettling. So yay! Victory #1!

#2 Abstract VS Realism, or both or whaaat?!?!

One thing that I’ve really been trying to find is the best way to represent my subject matter of choice. I want to paint things that I really care about and yet I’ve struggled terribly to find the balance between making my art abstract or non-representational while adding elements of figurative or realistic imagery.

I’ve always leaned toward abstract artwork and expressionism. I think because working with photography for so long, if I wanted to copy an image precisely, I may as well photograph it. My whole interest in painting and drawing began with the fact that I wanted to create things that you can’t see with a camera but what come from the mind or simply from an impulse or emotion. This desire to create something unseen intrigued me. My goal has been to find the correct balance between the two worlds. Making something recognizable as either a symbol or an emotion that is evoked from viewing the work, while not being in-your-face realistic. 

#3: Finding MY subject matter, something I care about.

Since becoming a mother I’ve really been obsessed with that incredible process of creating life, giving birth, along with the religious aspect of motherhood, birth and it’s correlation to re-birth or baptism, the whole bit. In my sketch book and throughout some of my work over the last year or so I’ve struggled back and forth trying to use human forms and shapes representing mothers and babies and though I’ve liked a few of my pieces I’ve just been stuck trying to mesh the color world WITH the moms and babies world and do so in a way that’s not overly obvious and suiting to my personal tastes.

In my water media class I spend a large portion of this semester simply exploiting ALL these different possibilities. I did about 20-30 large pieces just working through my ideas. The key was volume in numbers and not quality, I just needed to work large and work fast. Fail fast is the motto, so I could just move forward. So that’s what I did. I made A LOT of ugly stuff. A LOT of mud, and just okay work and along side that I made a few pieces that I liked, they were nice, but just weren’t THERE yet.

#4 My self symbol. A representation of me through shape and line.

It was in my drawing III class that I’ve been working with finding a self symbol. A self symbol being either a shape or line or something that I felt represented me. In the work I just talked about I found myself going back to using the oval very often in those paintings. I used it to represent the shape of the womb. I began just working through many quick color explorations using the oval and pulled out whichever colors I was drawn to using at the moment without even thinking.

#5 The elements. Bringing in symbolism and tying it all together.

Along side the self symbol assignment was to incorporate 1-2 of the elements  by use of color; earth (brown, greens, neutrals) air (white, pastels), fire (red, orange, yellow) and/or water (blues, turquoise, purple). I knew water was a must because turquoise is a color that shows up very often in many things I do and in all the elemental tests I’ve taken I usually turn out to be water or air. And let’s be real turquoise is my favorite color after all. I also found I’d been drawn to red-orange, metallic golds and bright purple and really loved the two together.  Through this it turned out that fire was the other element that my inner self was needing to further explore.

Then was the part where I was told to take ALL the color explorations that I had done and start tearing shapes and forms out of them and collaging the pieces together into one completed work of my self symbol as an element. When putting together these elements in a collage I came upon a shape Id been trying to use in my work all along but hadn’t found a way to do it. I seriously had my ah-ha moment!

Just look at this::

Hopefully when you look at this for a few moments you can start to make out the shape of a pregnant figure. I really feel like this is finally tying together so many elements in my work. It may not be spot on but that’s okay, I’m excited to refine it and continue exploring this path by executing it in various way to find different and hopefully even better results. This process has really opened up new doors for me but also helped me come to a really great resolve. One I never thought I’d be able to accomplish to a degree that I would feel satisfied.

This conclusion is my work is really bringing all of what I love together, it’s full of life through color but also has a deeper meaning, it’s not overly realistic but there is still a recognizable form in it. I’ve never wanted my work to be obvious at first glance and I’ve deeply wanted but hadn’t yet found that way to incorporate symbolism into my paintings. By adding in the elemental components it really draws on so many deep things for me. Water is a large part of birth on many levels and fire is a key aspect of re-birth or baptism of the heart and soul. Combining these two in this form just ties it ALL together and I finally feel that I am creating artwork that is MINE!

Even if no one in the world finds my work intriguing or something they’d like to own or look at for hours and hours, what’s important is that I find value it, I love to look at it for hours, not just because I made it but because it means something to me.

Ah! It’s a miracle! 

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