Not long ago, my dear friend Jean sent me a picture of an unusual hibiscus…
Two OCAG artists have been producing collaborative paintings for about a year and a half. Luna Lee Ray and Shelly Hehenberger have been asked to write about their process and here is what they have to say.
Luna Lee Ray:
Shelly and I have found a great format for collaborating that works for us: we take turns working on each surface, passing it back and forth every couple of weeks until it is complete. It is very fun, creatively challenging, and stimulating… and anything goes. In fact, the only “rule” is you can’t cover everything. Something from the previous layers must show through.
Working collaboratively directly addresses issues of preciousness and fear. In order to make progress, each of us has to be completely willing to let go of the efforts we have just made, and look forward to the new and surprising version when the piece is returned. Each of us also has to be fearlessly willing to take the other’s work, and alter it to our heart’s content.
I have always considered myself to be fairly fearless, but Shelly is the most completely fearless artist I know, and working with her is incredibly inspiring. These creative leaps have resulted in images that are intricately layered and beautifully rich, and as always, a complete surprise to us both.
I’m amazed by the collaborative work, because it’s like a child. I can see so much of Luna in it and so much of myself. She’s a good person for me to collaborate with because I admire the way she works and the way she thinks, and the things she values in art are very similar to the things I value. We work really well together. I don’t ever try to emulate her work, but we feed off each other’s ideas, and it’s just complete supportiveness.
I enjoy the collaborating because there’s no pressure. It can be something that I just enjoy working on and I know that Luna’s going to paint over half of it anyway. I had a very influential painting professor as an undergraduate named William Itter. One of the most crucial ideas I gleaned from working with him was the importance of focusing on the act of painting or drawing, rather than the product. I learned that if I genuinely enjoy this act and could do it just for the enjoyment, without having a product in mind, then I could be truly free to express deeply. I have found this freedom to be the key to creating work that is satisfying on many levels.
This is also true with the collaborative work, because I don’t have to worry what the end will be, I just enjoy the process and allow myself to love every layer. In fact, this is how I try to approach life in general, and working in this way helps me remember life is also a collaborative process.
You can see Luna and Shelly’s collaborative work during the Orange County Studio Tour, which will occur the first two weekends of November, at studio #28.
See how they have worked individually in their own inimical style. Visit Shelly’s Hehenberger’s website where she presents images of her artwork, and visit Luna Lee Ray’s website to see her unique style.