Investing in Myself

In March, I engaged artist Gwenn Seemel as an Art Guide, a service she offers to help artists evaluate their work and goals. She also helps her clients figure out how to get unstuck and how to set reasonable goals. I engaged her because I was having difficulty making decisions about a series I’m working on called “Look Closer” on disability and sensuality.

She helped me take me myself seriously, to narrow down my goals (I tend to make bigger plans than I have time or energy to do), and get some focus. She also helped me to come up with a brief statement about the series.

LOOK CLOSER, paintings on Sensuality and Disability: Passion is a basic need in our lives, but people who have unique or disabled bodies are often left out of the media surrounding sensuality. This series explores ways people express their sensuality no matter how life transforms their bodies.

I initially wanted to do all nudes, but in discussing my end goals and where I wanted to show these paintings (rehab hospitals, Veterans hospitals, and various places people are dealing with body changes), I realized that doing all nudes would limit where I could show the paintings. So now I’m coming up with ways of showing sensuality without full nudity.

A lot of my paintings deal with the body in transformation anyway. But this is the first time I’ve felt driven to paint about the sensuality and beauty that springs from body diversity. (I was inspired by Ben Duffy’s “Take a Look at this Heart” but wanted to capture still, intimate moments in my paintings.)

The first painting I did for this series was a nude, and when I imagined it, I didn’t have any idea about the way the gold and blue fabric would take over the composition:

Yet Desire Seemed to Expand by Joy Murray, mixed media, 2020

I wrote about the series on an earlier blog post. I stated that I wouldn’t share these paintings on this blog until the series was finished, but would show my progress on my Patreon page, to those who support my art and writing. I decided since they are not all nudes, then I’d like the feedback that the blog can provide me with. So my dear Patreon supporters will get first looks and get writings and pictures of the process of how I make each painting, but I will share the finished paintings here as they are completed.

With the help of Gwenn, I am more focused on it. I also am doing more complex compositions than I ever have, and will be making fewer paintings to sell. If you want to help with finances while I’m working on this series, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter or giving a donation through Paypal.

While working with Gwenn, I got distracted by my Mandusa painting and other ideas, but the weekly session kept me grounded. I finished one piece featuring a person who uses a tracheotomy, called The Color of Air.

The Color of Air by Joy Murray, acrylic paint and ink
The Color of Air (detail) by Joy Murray

I planned to paint another in this series in April, but I realized the composition I wanted to create wasn’t something I could manage yet. I also had to have a few medical procedures that threw me off my schedule. (I’m fine now.) I’ve been practicing in my sketchbook and have started working on another painting.

I don’t think I can be cured of my circular way of working and tendency to be distracted by new ideas, but meeting with Gwenn helped tremendously. We’re still living in a world of social isolation, especially for those of us who are mobility impaired anyway, so it helped to have a Skype session each week for both the social aspect, and the deep talk about art. Investing in myself and getting encouragement and constructive criticism was just what I needed to jumpstart this project.

Check out Gwenn’s work here.

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If you find a typo, let me know, and I’ll send you a postcard.

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