hard tryer

"Hard Tryer" series study by Kelly O'Brien (watercolor, coffee and pencil on paper with burn marks)

This Spring, I'm taking a mixed-media sculpture class through the Städelschule Erwachsenenbildungädel (Städel Museum Adult Education Program). The 13-week semester class is in German and attended largely by serious and accomplished German artists and other fluent expats.

Not only am I far from even conversant in German, I was unfamiliar with the ramifications of "German directness" in an art critique. It's actually refreshing to get clear and honest feedback on what people think of your work, but it has taken some getting used to while I wait for my skin to thicken.

 

"Hard Tryer" series study by Kelly O'Brien (watercolor, coffee and pencil on paper with burn marks)

Add this to a couple of years of sustained exposure to "new" and frequently uncomfortable, and a critical mass seems to have accumulated. It feels like a tightly-stretched wire finally snapped, in a good way. As a result, the work that's emerging feels looser, more playful, and braver.

 

"Hard Tryer" series study by Kelly O'Brien (watercolor, coffee and pencil on paper with burn marks)

Of course, a little self-deprecation has also been helpful when juggling multiple ego-confronting forces at once. Hard Tryer is the series of 2D and 3D studies that's emerging. The title is a nod to the vulnerable, slightly awkward, determined, yet hopeful part of us that conjures the courage to try new things.

My friend Mandy—witness to a lot in our long friendship—has called me a hard tryer for years. It's a label I used to cringe at, and now (ironically) seem ready to play with.