The Boating Party is a series of Q&As with writers, artists, photographers, filmmakers, musicians, sculptors, illustrators, designers and the like.
In times of economic hardship, the Arts are usually the first things to be axed. But, in my view, the Arts are one of the most important aspects of our civilisation.
Without the arts, we wouldn’t have language or the written word. Without the arts, we have no culture. Without culture, we have no society. Without society, we have no civilisation. And without civilisation, we have anarchy.
Which, in itself, is paradoxical, because so many artists view themselves as rebels to society. To me, artists aren’t rebels, they are pioneers.
Perhaps, most importantly; without the Arts, where is the creativity that will solve the world’s problems going to come from? Including economic and scientific ones?
In this Q&A, I am delighted to welcome artist Claudia McGill.
I love her bold, graphic style and use of colour. Reminds me of Picasso’s ceramics.
What has been your greatest personal or career achievement?
I can’t pick out one thing. I’ve been alive for 58+ years and I just can’t pick one thing over another. I won’t even start to speculate or compare, just thinking about trying to do so is unsettling me!
What has been your greatest sacrifice?
Once again, I can’t pick one out. Not because there have been so many to burden me that I can’t choose, thank goodness! but because I think that pretty much, things might have looked bad at the time, had been painful, even life-altering, but in the end, it came out all right, or else somehow I managed, and I have come to believe that this pattern will hold.
To whom do you owe a debt of gratitude?
My husband, who has always one hundred percent supported me in all my endeavors.
Who, or what, inspires you?
I just enjoy pretty much everything about ordinary life – maybe I am easily amused or interested, but I’m always thinking something intriguing is just around the corner, and usually it works out that way.
What makes you unhappy?
Harsh words, intolerant attitudes, and people who do not take others’ feelings into consideration.
What makes you happy?
Too many things to list.
What are you reading?
I read a lot, and mostly I read mysteries. I also like biographies and how-to books. As for the last, I don’t need to want to actually do the how-to of whatever it is; I just enjoy reading about how things are made, done, constructed, etc.
Who, or what, are you listening to?
Usually I listen to audio books; I am not much interested in music. I get the books from my library and I lean toward thrillers. That’s kind of funny because I don’t enjoy reading print version thrillers that much, but having one read to me – I love it.
You’re going on a day trip. Where are you going and what is in your ‘day’ bag?
I might visit a library or go to a park for a run, I can’t decide which. In either case, I’d take a snack or a lunch, some drawing materials, a pen and notebook for writing things down, a sweater (for the library in case of extra-powerful a/c) or extra clothes to change into (the run). Probably a grocery list or items for the cleaners, since I always seem to be running errands wherever I find the time, but that’s not part of the trip, really…
What’s your favourite film?
The Wizard of Oz. My favorite since I first saw it about 55 years ago. What a strong impression it made on me right from the first.
What’s your favourite tipple?
Very easy question! Unsweetened iced tea – since I was a teenager – has been my favorite drink. My addiction picked up after I left school and went out on my own – cheaper to make a pitcher of iced tea than to buy bottles of soda, and at that time, every dime counted. Now, I am very partial to Honest Tea’s green tea. And I like drinking tea from the bottle more than a glass. A very tame addiction, maybe, but it’s lifelong.
If you could go back in time, where would you go?
I don’t ever want to go back in time. I’m interested to read about the past, but I don’t want to be part of it.
What frightens you?
High winds; dogs running up to me, even if their owners say they are friendly; being stung by a wasp; being late; eating food past its sale date; I am afraid of the dentist now, or rather, of any pain at all in dental procedures, though I didn’t use to be; I’ve had some recent procedures that tipped the balance. Let me add that my dentist does his best not to hurt me and I appreciate it. I am not afraid of public speaking or most kinds of insects.
What do you do to relax?
Read. Ever since I learned to read, in 1963, I have never lacked for friends, excitement, new horizons…I can pick up a book and everything is all right.
What do you do when you’re angry?
Speak right up and let it out. When I am angry people know it. I don’t like being angry, though.
What can’t you live without?
My husband, my friends, my art and writing activities, and libraries.
What’s your motto?
“Give it a try and see what happens.”
Where is your Utopia?
Wyncote, PA, right where I live now and have for the past 25 years. It’s taken me time to understand it, but somehow, I’ve landed in (or made it into) just the right place for me.
If you only had one year to live what would you do?
Just as I am doing now. I like my life and I don’t long for things to be different. I might make sure I eat more chocolate cake than I do now, though.
Up who’s arse would you like to stick a rocket, and why?
Really, no one’s, to tell you the truth. I mostly want to go my way and let you go yours.
Who would you like to be stuck in an elevator with?
The person who knows how to fix it the fastest so I can get out of it. I am not very fond of feeling trapped…
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on some paintings, for a friend, of his house and his dogs, for the art portion of the question. In my poetry writing I continue my Installment Plan Poetry Marathon sessions, in which I spend a scheduled time every week focusing on writing poetry. I am also working on returning to running and my goal is five miles straight – I am making good progress. Maybe in the fall I’ll get there.
What is your ambition?
To take care of my house and those in it, do art, do poetry, exercise, and visit friends. That’s it.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
That chocolate cake would have very few calories and in fact be necessary to maintaining health.
Which six people would you invite to your boating party?
This one I can’t answer, because I don’t want to make choices and hurt anyone’s feelings. Maybe I’d make a list and draw names? Here’s a sign-up sheet…
What would be on the menu?
Chocolate cake. I guess you knew that!
What question would you have liked me to have asked?
I’d loved to have told you about how much I enjoyed working in the cafeteria in college, something people can’t believe, but it is true – and so you would ask me – what did I learn there that I could have learned nowhere else – and I would say, A lot of things, but one tangible skill I have as a result is that I know how to cut a pie into 9 equal pieces.
Thank you Claudia.
I am a self-taught artist. I came to art later in life. Because of these things, making art for me is not a separate compartment in my life but a thread that runs through everything that I do.
Currently I concentrate on painting in acrylics, but I also spend time working in collage/mixed media as well as doing some hand-built clay, mostly tiles and sculptures. I got my start in fiber art, making pictorial appliqued wall hangings.
Here is a synopsis of some of my activities.
Fiber Art: I did many craft projects when I was growing up, and I learned to knit and sew clothing. I turned to appliqué quilting as a hobby in my thirties, eventually developing a style that used machine sewing to interpret my ideas as collages in fabric.
Collage/Mixed Media: After some years, I wanted to spend more time on composition and less on sewing. I began to experiment with collage, seeing similarities in the artistic process with my fabric work. In the beginning, I created pieces that were usually based on photos I’d taken of landscapes, city scenes, objects, or other images of this sort. I then interpreted them in collage using papers I’d painted myself with acrylic paints.
As time went on my work grew more abstract. I became more interested in portraying feelings, emotions, memories, or imaginings rather than representing scenes. I began to use found papers and materials in addition to my own painted papers and started incorporating painting (in acrylics) as part of the compositions. As well as creating art intended to be hung on the wall, I made and still do make postcards, artist trading cards, embellished art books, etc.
Acrylic Painting: My painting work was an outgrowth of my mixed media art, which familiarized me with acrylics. Painting is now my main artistic activity. My works are inspired by the world I see around me but my intent is not to represent it. Instead, I pick out what appeals to me, set these pieces together as I think they might like to be placed, and concentrate on how it all fits together, color and shape.
Other work: I have done hand-built clay for some time, changing styles as my interests change, but focusing on sculptures and tiles. I’ve recently begun spending more time sketching with pen and ink; I enjoy the focus and observation that go into this activity. I also write poetry and have self-published a number of books.
In all my activities, I work with a sense of purpose and hope mixed together. Making art is very important to me as it is the way I work out answers to questions and guide myself through everyday life.