The fact that Laine Justice creates her masterpieces of art with a series of paints and paint brushes– and not a magic wand– is utterly mind blowing, as is the patience and thoughtful time she carefully crafts each piece with. With an instinctual draw to the tender and delicate details of each character that greets her at the end of her brush bristles, Laine creates vivid and ethereal worlds that reach far beyond the surface of the viewer’s eyes and continue to venture into long-forgotten crevices of the imagination. Having been called to engage in creative arts since a young age, Laine eventually studied at Pacific Northwest College of Art and Pratt Institute and has been painting every day every since, with a recent project to co-write and illustrate a wildly imaginative and lovely children’s book. A 2010 recipient of the Sonoma County Emerging Artist Award, Laine will present her work at the Sonoma County Museum, with the opening reception on Saturday, February 12. Petals and Bones is giddy at the opportunity to share Laine’s inspiration and wonderfulness with our readers! - D.B.
1. Can you give some background on your life as an artist? How did you come to choose this career? What kinds of projects have you completed? Did you get a degree in the arts?
Accident is a huge actor in choice. I have found that no matter how deliberately I contemplate taking a course, the ultimate direction ends up being unpredictable. Even so, every road I have chosen, has moved and changed me, and I like it that way.
That’s not to say being deliberate doesn’t matter. I couldn’t have discovered materials chemistry as a source, one that allows my paintings to speak in the language of my preference, if I had not been intentional in pursuing my fascination with materials and effect. Attending Pratt Institute was a choice too; but even that decision, I was willing to stop, undo and bounce into the ether, if the almighty friend Impulse showed up, whispering of another path.
It was on just such a detour that pigments and a winterlust for hazelnut bonbons found me….just as it was Bunny who provided the impetus for Sea of Suddens when she landed on a doodle, and persistently refused to be delegated to the stack of no longer useful paper.
As a child, everything I did was on a whim- no direction was so deliberated it could lose its sense of charmed caprice. I was full of wonder, and this nature has allowed me to remain smitten with the world I find myself in. In the beginning I didn’t think to question why holding my breath was crucial to the process of watching my foamy sponge animals expand in water – or why fluorescent rainbow shoe laces made be feel at least a bit bigger, than my typical tiniest self. They just did. These innocent pleasures, may always be inexplicable. For me, the joy that comes from the making of things, from looking deeply into what is right in front of me, holds the same magical comfort. My deep curiosity and the native delight I derive from places and ways of being, remains a continuous source of surprise to me.
From childhood to the present the chance of finding the big whatmightbe has remained an unabated source of fascination. From that starting point I can encounter the chance discovery, the nudge that will drive me in a new direction. When I set off to turn left, I’m aware its possible, that I’ll reverse my course completely, perhaps ending up far to the right, upside down or in both places at once. It is the accident, and the willingness to have it, that provide possibility. Determining to make way for accidents, deliberately holding open that door so that breezes, drizzles and sometimes storms can refresh my thoughts, is a constant.
I’m not put off by the work I need to do to understand how something functions in its place. Life study, studio practice, making mistakes, spending two months drawing the same something, and walking away from it -knowing that process is what’s required to truly see, means that everything I make by its nature, has a purpose, regardless of the end product. Commitment to this type of learning, is not one that an art education can teach you to apprehend the meaning of, nor embrace. I believe that while an education is helpful for formalizing your knowledge of materials and obtaining hand skills, ultimately it is not theory or classroom exposure to history that compels you out of bed, out of funk and out of despair to fight your way through the making of something until you find it beautiful. It is a commitment to be constant in probing for discovery, of applied ignorance, of unadulterated wonder, of listening to the recently lost or long misplaced instinct about a thing, that matters in getting to that place.
This understanding means that at any moment, I can ruthlessly wipe out and reverse course, change my mind and trust that it will bring me somewhere. If it doesn’t, I start over. If not that, then something else. In science it works, in writing it works, in art it can work too. Succumbing to the idea that you have to follow a plan and get it right in the beginning is not my idea of a successful, let alone enjoyable, creative experience. If I am not loving what I’m doing every second, how can I expect another being to step before the product of that, and want to be there?
In the making of an oil painting I start with one second. The memory of one fraction of a breath in one moment of time, and it is with this pneuma that I struggle, and often fight my way into a visual plane. This process does not stop until I feel the place I have painted is real, almost as if it where not a human creation, but a snap shot into a space in time. In this sense, many things come, go, emerge and are erased, and sometimes, a painting can take over five years to complete, with four years of time outs, naps and tantrums.
Creation remains magical, because the intellect can tell you all day long that you are the author, while onlookers confirm it, but if that is so ….how is it that we still don’t know the ending? How is it then that we can paint one thing, and the object tells us we are wrong? Yes, as strange as it sounds, I am listening to colors, papers, lines, and shapes all of the time. The painting itself, the object, is a correspondent with its own authority. Always demonstrating and reminding me of that intimate relationship which exists between a created counter party and the creator. A simple, yet highly vexing mystery…
2. How do you stay motivated to be creative? Where do your ideas come from?
Staying motivated is mostly about remembering. Calling on the impulses I had from the time I was a little girl, and cultivating them as much as possible. Loving to make things, being excited about how the watercolors came out of the tube when they where doled out at craft hour…really basic, unexplainable fancies, never fail to delight my spirit when I most need it.
I conjure my most elemental, raw self by answering this question: Am I joyful about what I am making, right now?
If I am not joyful, I stop. Not that I stop making things- just that thing. I immediately bustle around to see if there is something else that needs making. Staying motivated isn’t so much an intellectual determinism, but an active doing. Even if I don’t have anything on the make, or I just cant think like that for the day, I go out, and I look. Venturing out with eyes wide open, knowing that for sure, something, someday, one moment, will change, or be found, is one of the most valuable decisions I’ve allowed myself to make.
Alongside adventure, I intentionally maintain an array of ideas, makings and projects to choose from on the days I decide that only making something, will do. It stops the creative cannibal that would massacre a manuscript in an effort to make it better with just one last, all devouring edit, and halts the character who would literally not just erase, but mar beyond measure, a mark of beauty on canvas because it wasn’t working yet, as in that very moment. Almost all of my paintings, reveal themselves to me on their own schedule. Changing the pace to embody what I want, when I want it, has rarely delivered me anything of beauty.
3. What advice do you have to someone who wants to be more creative or bring more creativity into their work?
I don’t think there are bars, or levels of creative engagement – after all, simply making something, even if its as simple as throwing some noodles into boiling water, is the creation of a meal. That is to say that making an object or creating an idea form of any kind is only as good as the effort put into them. A beautiful painting on tawdry canvas will always have a weakness imposed on it. Whether this shortcoming is characterized by haste, or carelessness, it embodies a lack of love for the work itself. Craft, a dedicated and tireless pursuit of improved skills, will lead an artist to the place where inspiration can successfully meet and meld with capability. At that moment, the production of an object embodying the union of beauty and passion truly becomes possible.
4. How important is discipline to your creative output? How important is idle time/relaxation?
I don’t distinguish between creative time and regular time, idle time and work time….to me, its all just ….time. If I’m not creating, I do what I can do. I remain committed to the vigilant endeavor of being. I study and I stumble. What is it about the molecular properties of the rose madder root that just seem different than the synthetic alizarin counterpart? It glows under black light, and the synthetic doesn’t? Wow!! I read as much as I can about Persian miniatures and Matchbox Erector sets. I hunt for tiny toys while wandering in flea markets and adventure like mad. I play with dirt and cultivate specimens that excite me, pen pal and plant poach with the world famous pug Winston.
It should be said that I do distinguish between procrastination, certainty, and promise.
Discipline to head off procrastination, so that there is a possibility for that vital, giant open space where creativity happens, to emerge, is crucial – especially if I want the ability to inhabit it and step into it full force when it does arrive. Understanding how to apply the discipline of deliberate engagement with a project, as opposed to listening the mind tell you that you’d really be better off if you just took the dog for a walk, went to get that cup of coffee, color coordinated your book shelf and oh by the way, if you only had a chewy oatmeal cookie first, or mediated, or took care of that ticket. . . .then it would be the perfect time to sit down and write, or paint…..is…. difficult.
In those moments I confront myself with this question: Will this choice, provide for the possibility of something beautiful, that’s full of promise? The answers I get are typically irrefutable and full of all the direction I need. This way when the procrastinator shows up to fist fight with the creator, because he never really, ever, goes away, his chances are marginal; unless of course there is the prospect of a homemade oatmeal cookie sandwhich nearby.
5. What does a typical day look like for you?
Typical and daily, are not two words I find myself easily able to apply….except with the coolest Laine fort ever, my studio. My desire to maintain and inhabit this space never wanes. It is where I rise and set, create things, nourish myself, and live…allowing for adventuring to be useful, providing a constant to return to. If I am to include habits…I’m a willful slave to French press.