Ingredients for productive, creative collaboration: two people with focused enthusiasm, purpose and vision, who are different enough to raise questions and push one another into new territory, and alike enough to make decisions and reach understandings without drama. A great pleasure and satisfaction in my life in the past year is the collaboration between Jerry McLaughlin and myself on our upcoming book, Cold Wax Medium: Techniques, Concepts, and Conversations, which we will be self- publishing this coming late fall/early winter.
One of the first things Jerry and I discussed-- and immediately agreed upon--was that our book's content would go well beyond how-to instruction (although there will be plenty of that) to include other topics that deepen an artist's experience with the medium. We both felt strongly that the "why" of using cold wax was as important as technical aspects, and that thoughts and ideas about process would be as important in the book as purely practical information.
We have big dreams for the book--that it will provide solid information for those who are new to cold wax, and inspire those who already use it to push into new territory. That it will help build a community of artists who use cold wax by sharing their work and ideas, and encourage readers toward stronger work, good studio practice and thoughtful self-critique.The scope of this can seem overwhelming at times, at least to me. (Jerry seems the have the energy and focus to move mountains.)
Earlier this month, he and I spent a couple of days in Santa Fe working intensely on the book. The experience was gratifying on several levels--although we had a daunting list of things to decide and discuss, we did manage to make our way through the entire agenda. But what I came away from those two days with was something bigger than appreciating what we'd accomplished. It was knowing that, as huge as this project is, the two of us will make it happen. It was feeling the excitement and intrigue of being part of a long-term, creative collaboration--for the first time in all my years as an artist.
Of course, the book has been a collaboration from its inception over a year ago--when Jerry first approached me with the idea--through all its various stages to date. We've talked over ideas, content, design, who will write what parts, publishing and marketing details--all those necessary steps to get the book out there. We've had countless emails and several in-person meetings, with more planned for the near future. Jerry has led the way with organizing and researching, and curating the work of the many artists who sent in images for the book. I've edited, come up with additional information to the content, perused my blog for insights to add depth to various topics, and am currently writing several chapters about technique.
Yet something has shifted in my perspective since Santa Fe. I feel I am understanding better the special energy of this collaboration--that it is more than pooling our resources and ideas, dividing up the work, consulting each other about decisions, and putting it all together. If that were all that was involved--going through the steps of a huge project in a prescribed manner---I think I'd be burned out by now. Instead I'm finding collaboration to be dynamic, generating creativity, fueling itself as we move along. Between us, ideas are proposed, take root and grow, or are edited down or tossed aside. There are sudden inspirations, discoveries, major revisions and minor tweaks. In many ways the creative process is similar to painting, but it is a shared process; there are no dark corners of solitude or paralyzation. Everything is brought to light, nothing is so precious or personal that it can't be questioned, and there's nothing that can't be elaborated on or delved into further if we are so moved. There is a lot of emailing back and forth as we work things out-some of it is lighthearted, as we've become good friends in all of this. We learn from each other, in delightful equilibrium.
Not everything we are doing to get the book out there is fun or interesting, of course, but as the vision we share has become clearer to me, more compelling and motivating, I feel more motivated to push through the tedious parts. As we worked in Santa Fe, with ideas bouncing around, merging and growing, the power of collaboration was clear, and I feel very grateful for this experience. When a first heard from someone called Jerry McLaughlin back in 2014--laying out his idea for a cold wax book in an email titled "wanted to run something by you"-- I had no idea what lay ahead. Thanks, Jerry, and thanks to all of you who are contributing and following the progress of the book--you too are part of the collaboration!