Wednesday 28 October 2009

Introduction to issue 5

Introduction to Colouring Outside The Lines issue Five.

Colouring Outside The Lines started life in 2004. The zine interviews female artists and includes reproductions of their art, giving the artists the power and voice over their own creativity. When I started writing Colouring Outside The Lines there wasn't much media writing about, or crediting the women creating the sort of art that meant something to me. I kept reading about artists part of an ‘art world’ that worships at the feet of certain, celebrated (mostly dead) artists that don’t necessarily hold any relevance to me as a mid- to late- 20 year old living in 2004-present, with a history in feminism, punk rock, diy, self-publishing, and queercore. I wanted to (re)address this absence in representation, so decided to make a zine to try and counter what people could get their hands on. I wanted to know about and hear from female artists that I loved and that said something to me, but whom I couldn’t find much information on, or wasn’t aware of that much documentation of their individual voices.

The zine came from my will to celebrate women, document their lived-histories as artists, and crucially inspire and encourage others’ interest &/or others’ creativities that I believe we all have but are either bashed out of us by a society that would rather criticise than encourage, or our lack of self-confidence, or the belief that art is only for ‘certain’ people. I wanted to make a zine to show women that we can ALL be artistic and creative within our everyday lives - a collection of interviews to inspire and encourage and let women know that their contributions are important, worthwhile, and wholly valid.

The zine was constructed from the position of 'amateur', from the position of 'uninitiated'. I didn't study art, don't speak 'art-speak', and certainly don't know as much as maybe I should – but that's kind of the point… I am a firm believer in smashing the amateur/expert dichotomy that keeps so many women at a distance from their potential, from expressing their creativity, or from viewing and learning about others'.

I have been fortunate, as a result of the small success of the zine, to work collaboratively on further art projects; co-curating a small art exhibition and auction benefit for The Truth Isn’t Sexy anti-sex trafficking organisation (2007); curating the Female Comics Zine exhibition at the Women’s Library, London (2009); writing for the American women’s arts publication, Art XX; and excitingly this issue is launching at the first ever Colouring Outside The Lines exhibition – an opportunity to raise awareness of and showcase some amazing home grown female talent. I almost can’t believe it!
All of this has led me to work with, and to promote and share the work of so many amazing female artists. Varied, individual artists working in many different mediums, creating all different kinds of ‘art’, on their own terms. I have had the pleasure, whilst working on these projects, to be introduced to the work of amazing artists, to meet amazing women, and to be fed contacts for further connections with yet more amazing creative women. It’s reaffirmed my belief of the ever-present, amazingly diverse and exciting web of female creativity out there, for the touching!
But, trust me. Believe me. If I can do this, so can you. I am nothing special. My part is tiny. There’s always room for more of us to stand up and be vocal, be creative, to organise, to make and produce and express.

I recently read writer Daphne Gottleib speak of the collaborative writing projects she leads, saying that:

‘I guess what I want and need to believe is that a rising tide does move all boats – that we can do things as a community that we can’t do alone, that we can offer each other opportunities that we wouldn’t find in isolation. I’m delighted to be able to showcase other writers.’

When I read this my heart swelled, as I’d love to think of this zine in a similar sort of way. I am *delighted* to showcase the artists in this zine – whether it be the interviewees, or the gallery artists. I think there’s something really special in bringing the work of so many women together in one place – creating an artistic community that has a wealth of skills, knowledge, talent, contacts and communication to offer and share with each person involved in, or reading the zine - with potential ripple effects beyond the zines’ pages. Furthermore, I love the thought that the rising tide of these women’s creativities being collected together in the form of a zine has the ability to move the boats beyond established artistic ones; i.e. that of each and every one of our everydays. Through the idea of a web of female creativities being exposed and opened up comes the idea of there being more to take personal inspiration from. Inspiration that may not have been actualised in isolation from such a powerful collection of creative female talents.

I read a blog post by Pip of ‘Meet Me At Mike’s about singer, Leslie Feist. Reflecting on an interview Pip had read with Feist, she blogged of her understanding of Feist’s creative song-writing processes, ‘sharing her ideas was the most important part of her creativity’. ‘Her creative life revolved around gathering up like minded people, and creating something great.’ ‘She’s all about evolving things together and bouncing off a constant stream of exciting, ever-changing collaborative options.’ Considering this perspective of collaboration Pip continued:

‘As far as I can see, we all have plenty untapped goodness to offer, and we need to be on the lookout for others and share the ride with them because of [the potential for] ingenious ideas and fabulous friendships and untapped opportunities and amazing realisations! To sum it up, when you share your life and ideas, good things happen!’

By collaborating, sharing the creative process, you get to see all the unexpected, unplanned, fantastic, fun, satisfying, and exciting things that can occur through shared inspiration and ideas; i.e. you get to see all the great stuff others have to share. And that’s why I make this zine – showcasing others as a form of collaboration, cuz jeez do these women have a lot to share. I hope you enjoy the ride with them!

Melanie Maddison
Leeds, UK
June 2009

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