This month we’re featuring Tamsin Avra for the Capitol Hill Art League’s Mind of the Artist feature. Read her story and check out her artwork below. You can view more of her artwork here:
Though I have painted and created art since I was a child, it is only recently that I’ve begun to think of myself as an “artist.” I think this is at least in part because I have never received any kind of formal art training – in the absence of any guidance or instruction regarding what makes “good” or “bad” art, it seemed easier to think of myself simply as someone who enjoyed painting. Less at stake that way. The other reason is that for much of my life, I understood art as the product you wind up with at the end, rather than the approach to the process of creating.
Committing myself to practicing multimedia abstract art was a huge leap of faith for me, but has proved very fruitful. Previously, I primarily painted landscapes and still life in oils and acrylics, but the ability to imbue these with feeling and life always escaped me. I found that I fell into a pattern of trying painstakingly to reproduce on canvas what I saw with my eyes. With abstraction, I am re-learning how to see. I am coming back to painting as a mode of creative play and expression.
I enjoy using watercolors because they are difficult to control. Mistakes are hard to repair and sometimes you just have to incorporate them into the piece and make the best of it. The shapes I use in my paintings are inspired by watercolors themselves – they engulf and permeate each other, they go where they please. The tedium of hand-sewing hundreds of beads onto the paper is an important part of my process. This act feels very loving and tender to me. It is another reminder that the art is in the process, and that what I am making is not meant to be an easily-reproducible commodity. Its value is immaterial and non-quantifiable. Embroidering my work is an homage also to the centuries of women not recognized as artists because their craft was considered a domestic chore.
There are many things that inspire me to put brush to paper but in particular I find myself moved by excess. Twenty-first century life is characterized I think by a certain reaching-beyond-ourselves and an endemic societal confusion. This constant dull hum is something I struggle with, as do many others. Painting, I can recognize this inability to make heads or tails of anything. Not ameliorate it, but give it a place.