Meditation or Migraine Part 1

Meditation or Migraine Part 1

Robyn Campbell

'My art practice is totally engaging in so many ways and if it was only overall meditation that would not be enough' - RC

Robyn's approach to her art practice is pretty serious. She is one of the most organised and meticulous artists we know. And art, making it, looking at it and thinking about it makes up a significant part of her life.

There are some elements of Robyn's work that we know were a temporary migraine. In the beginning, these ceramic wall pieces presented a technical challenge. Here's how Robyn explains whether it's meditation or migraine for her:

 Robyn Campbell wall ceramic Suki & Hugh Gallery Bungendore

S&HG // When you’re making, what are you thinking about? Is it all technical or are you able to let your mind wander?

What I’m thinking about when I’m making is entirely dependent on what I’m doing at the time.

If, for example, I’m slip casting or making a mold for glass casting, I need to be highly aware of the technical process to make sure I’m doing every step correctly. The focus can be quite exhausting.

When I’m cutting a glass or clay surface, using diamond wheels on my lathe, or hand building a clay sculpture, I’ll usually listen to podcasts. I do lose myself in the process to some extent though, the need to focus is still there, but I’m very familiar with the technical part of what I’m doing, and it generally flows easily.

In contrast, when I’m drawing I need silence and get very irritated with background noise. This is when I really lose myself in what I’m doing. I don’t think about anything else. If I do, I can’t draw. Hours go past in what feels like minutes. The drawing process can be so completely absorbing, it’s a wonderful feeling.

Charcoal drawing Robyn Campbell Suki & Hugh Gallery

Also, a lot of what artists do involves problem solving, which engages the mind completely. Every new idea has aesthetic and technical problems to solve, it’s part of the fun.

S&HG// Have you ever had makers block? How do you overcome it?

A few times I might have been stuck for an idea, but I have always kept journals where I write down most of my ideas both good and bad. If I go back through my journals, it will usually trigger something, and I’ll start forming new ideas.

If I’m consistently working in the studio, one idea leads to another three and on it goes. It’s only if I have a break from making that I might get stuck. But going into the studio and working on something, even if it’s rubbish, gets me back into the flow quickly.

Getting out into the natural world helps me form fresh ideas too. Random things trigger ideas for new forms or marks.

S&HG// Overall, is your art practice meditation or migraine?

Migraines are reserved for the two weeks before a deadline, usually an exhibition. Time can get tight if you’ve had more technical issues than you expected and there’s always so much to do.

I usually have a patch, as an exhibition looms, of deep doubt in the work I’ve made, but this happens so consistently that I now realise its part of the process for me. My family and friends remind me… “you always feel like this”.

Meditation is in there but it’s far more complex than that. I’m mentally engaged by planning and problem solving, and my art practice is often quite physical. I play and have fun. There’s the admin stuff too, which can also be creative - documenting work, applying for things, building a website, social media, writing etc. My art practice is totally engaging in so many ways and if it was only overall meditation that would not be enough.

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