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For the Joy of It: Another Punk Rakusu
Reflections on making art for art’s sake
I have been reclaiming the creative freedom of my childhood by creating art for the joy of it alone. As part of this practice I am sharing reflections on the growing Joy of It collection I started in 2022. My hope is that these reflections will inspire you to do things for the joy of it as well, as joy is a precious and unlimited feeling we could all use more of. Please leave a comment sharing anything you’ve been doing for the joy of it!
For the Joy of It, installation #3
My denim vest started as jean jacket bought on sale. My partner got one for each of us, the light blue wash for me and black for themself. The sleeves of both were ill-fitting and so off they came!
I immediately dove in on my Punk Rakusu, the use of disappearing ink forcing me to stick with it on a daily basis. After several weeks of stitching patches and flowers, I started to eye my Unicorn’s vest, particularly as the patches they ordered for it arrived. This was around the time I began to embrace calling myself a multi-genre writer and a mixed-media artist. The qualifiers of both titles brought a new level of creative freedom into my life.1 I suddenly felt like I could use whatever materials I want when working on a project—sometimes doing this pivot mid-way to surprising and fun results.
For my Unicorn’s Punk Rakusu they requested an Australian-themed image to go alongside text matching my own design: Do not squander your life. They specifically wanted an Aussie magpie and, if possible, the elaborate seed pod of a Banksia tree. The bird wasn’t so difficult. I found a lot of images for reference and made various sketches, knowing I would paint the white and grey parts of the magpie with acrylic paint and outline the entire thing with embroidery floss.
The seed pod was more challenging. I researched other artist’s depictions of Banksia seeds and the materials they used. Everything I found was far more detailed than a black denim surface would allow.
I changed tack, looking at botanical art more generally. Within the first image search I had a solution: Linocut printing! The clear lines and slightly sketchy design worked brilliantly for plants. A bonus, with a linocut, I could have two perfect2 prints from one carving.
I ordered the supplies, knowing what I needed from a linoprinting unit I did during high school art classes. Unlike linoprinting in high school, I managed to successfully prep the lino block without cutting myself once!3
Despite doing a test print and getting one perfect print on the back of the vest, I mucked up the second one. The edge of the printing block rested on a seam of the jacket, so the block didn’t press fully down. When I attempted to fix it I smeared the paint and blurred the image. I was annoyed with this for about a day, but taking a note from Bob Ross, I remembered there are no mistakes, just happy accidents.
I looked at the smeared print and thought of the late, hot date we’re at with climate change. So many great human beings are doing anything they can to respond to that urgency and the raging seasonal fires of Australia have become a symbol of the need for that urgency. As a practice statement, “Do not squander your life” is meant to create a sense of urgency. Another similar teaching is, “Practice as if your hair were on fire.”
I could easily imagine stitched flames filling in the gaps where the Banksia pod print didn’t press down. Those flames would emphasize the text, as well as the anti-Capitalist theme my Unicorn had opted for with their patch choices. Global warming is, after all, almost entirely due to deregulation of corporate entities under late-stage-Capitalism.
While the rest of this punk Rakusu remains to be done, the flames were the perfect finishing touch to the art on the back panel. They fit the overall calls to action of the project…and they look really cool.
What about you, dear reader?
What are some projects you’ve been doing For the Joy of it? What are some happy accidents that have led to a surprising and fun direction in a project you’ve worked on?
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I also no longer beat myself up for not “specializing” and I’m a heck of a lot less frustrated when people ask me what I do. I don’t ramble around explaining that I write essay-style blog posts but also long-form fiction and short creative non-fiction and the occasional poem. I don’t have to list that I work with acrylic paint and embroidery and pencil crayon and have dabbled in gouache and paper art and used to primarily do sculpture and have always loved to draw.
Anyone who has worked with linocut knows this was an incredible achievement. All the more so because it’s been over a decade since I last wielded such razor sharp tools.