The Process of Creation: Visiting Artist Cameron Martin and the Dieu Donne Paper Mill

The Process of Creation: Visiting Artist Cameron Martin and the Dieu Donne Paper Mill

This week’s art semester was quite insightful one, that focused heavily around the process of art-making.

It began with our visit to artist Cameron Martin’s studio in Brooklyn. Martin was quite a welcoming figure, and was open to sharing much about his artistic journey with us. Martin, who is now an Abstract painter, spoke to us at length about his transition to Abstraction, and how he had to create and disavow standards for himself and his art before he could progress. By the look of his art, it seems to have been a successful transition. Martin’s style consists of cleans shapes and lines, with bold colors that agree with each other enough to please the eye, but differ enough to give the works a sense of animation. His style seems graphic, like it was rendered on a computer, which it makes it all the more impressive that it is painted by hand. With a paint sprayer, no less! The lateral undulations of color remind me a great deal of Lichtenstein, which drew me to his work even further.

View from Cameron’s studio. Pictures of the art were discouraged for privacy reasons.

Cameron’s discussion was uplifting to hear as an artist. I feel that there very much exists an expectation, that once an artist has their own signature style and subject matter settled, they then cannot deviate from that style or subject matter for the rest of their career. Even if the artist wishes to explore other routes of art-making or influence, the public from they became notable will often not enjoy the change. Martin is proof against that notion. Halting and abandoning the representational art that helped lead him to prominence, Martin jumped fully into abstraction, and hasn’t looked back since. When speaking with us, he informed us that this was much more of a possibility in our careers than we would like to believe.  

We then took a tour around his studio, as he relayed to us the journey he took in finding the right medium for his oeuvre. Just like his style, Martin is open to experimentation every medium. He assured us that we could change our medium just as quickly as our style, and that is was alright if that change constituted several attempts.

I enjoyed our visiting his studio. It not only assuaged many of the fears I had as a practicing artist, but also allowed a deeper look into the facets of changing one’s style. I like his work a great deal, as it possesses a visual dynamic that inspires further contemplation. There was a particular piece by the door that I notice when we arrived, which is currently unnamed, that I was taken with the moment I saw it. It reminded me somewhat of a cross between Lichtenstein and Mondrian, because of its use of thick lines and bold primary colors. Martin spoke about it at length towards the end of our discussion, and I fell in love with it even further.

View of the pulp-tinting and pressing section workshop at Dieu Donne.

Visiting the Dieu Donne Paper Mill was also an enjoyable experience, as it provided a look into the physical realm of art-making. The studio environment of Dieu Donne was an intriguing one, as it existed as a hybrid of both studio and exhibition space. The studios, separated by the mediums handled in each, extended back from a gallery space near the entrance. It displayed works from artists whom had collaborated with workshop, many of them resident artists, and ranged from prints to pulp-based sculptures. The tour took us through the complexities of the paper-making process, while our guide Tatianna explained to us everything from fiber types, to the various methods of paper pressing. Visual examples supplemented all that we heard.

Various fiber types on display.

I found this visit to be the most interesting part of the day, as it touched upon an aspect of art that I seldom consider. Using paper so much in my own art (collage), I have never really contemplated all the intricacies of making the medium. And how that making the medium in itself could be an art form. I also appreciated how intimate the tour was in regards to the physical process. Tatianna could have very well just spoken to us in the main room or walked us around the studio briefly. But it was the fact that she allowed us to get up close and personal with pulp-mixers, vats of paper pulp, and pieces of completed works that made the information truly resonate.

Print series, Artist Unknown.

The atmosphere of this week’s trip was a tad different, focusing more on the conceptual and physical aspects of making art more so than visiting galleries and admiring art already made. But I felt it to be a refreshing change of pace, and one that made me appreciate the craft more. It reminds me that art’s beauty lies not only in its appearance, but also in the process of creation.

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