Recently as I was speaking with high school students I reminded them that no one begins as the CEO of a company. Everyone starts at the beginning...including artists. I've come to realize that there really is no such thing as an overnight success. Even if a musical group or actor suddenly sky rockets to fame, if you read about their history they have certainly had their struggles and they have put in their time somehow. I think there are two reasons for this...one being the fact that none of us is born knowing how to do everything without trying and failing first (like our first steps, or riding a bike), and that others need to see our commitment and growth over time. Some people might get a leg up on the path but they still have to do the work and prove themselves through it.
There are many stories of actors, musicians, writers, and more who had a success early on in their career but struggled after. And more stories of those who have faced rejection over and over and over again before hitting their stride - J.K.Rowling and Walt Disney immediately come to mind. I find peace in this because I have seen this happen time and time again on my own journey. And I don't think it's a bad thing. In fact, sometimes I have seen the opposite, that when something comes too easily to some, they immediately give up out of boredom or a myriad of other reasons. But I do believe we need to be challenged, to continue to learn, to grow. Oh how I wish I knew that as a young woman....life would have been so much easier. But I am glad that I kept going in spite of everything because I love the creative process and the knowledge that comes with it.
I'm so excited that the library has now invited a group of teens to begin an Advisory Council where they get to choose the things that they would like to do and to be involved in...and that one of those things is a monthly Teen Art Studio. This past week I spent time gathering supplies and adding gesso to cradled hardboard panels. The weather was so beautiful that I decided to prepare them out in the garden so that the sun would dry each coat quickly. I love that my job entails selecting and preparing art supplies, that the teens specifically asked for this, and that we have some amazing local artists and teachers who are interested in introducing a variety of art forms to the students.
Most people know of my love of Liquitex products...and yet, years ago when I began working with artist quality paints, I shied away from these. They brought back memories of my mom experimenting with liquid embroidery in the 1970's so I had this notion that they wouldn't be of any great quality. I've tried almost everything since but now I have used these products for fifteen years and am never disappointed. Though I do prefer heavy body paints, in the past few years I have begun to try out other items such as the soft body acrylics, acrylic markers, spray paints and now inks (which I love so far!). And I recently stumbled upon these tiny 22ml tubes (on the left) which fit beautifully into my pochade. They will be fantastic for travelling this summer.
One thing it took me a long time to learn was this interesting, frustrating and fascinating process of creating art. Drawing or painting or doing something once was not a great indicator of whether or not I was any good at it...or if I would improve over time. My husband is a sports guy and because we have been married almost 28 years, I have heard many, many sports analogies in regard to my creative life which unfortunately I often didn't really pay attention to until recently.
A few...Remember that guy that gave up? Neither does anybody else. Every accomplishment begins with the decision to try. Don't grip your bat too tightly. You never make any of the shots you don't take...have driven me a bit batty over the years but I understand what he's saying. Don't worry. Don't think too much. Don't give up, Plus I've come to realize that no matter how poorly I feel that my initial work can be (an embarrassment at times), if I keep going something usually comes of it. Especially when it is something that I feel committed to.
And this is why I began the 52 WEEKS projects several years ago. The first piece in each project has often left me a bit deflated when it didn't measure up to either my expectations or my comparison to others' work. But I can tell you this with confidence...it does get better. And the work begins to look very interesting when there is a series, a beautiful full body of it. Plus there is this amazing sense of accomplishment by taking that one small step at a time. And I do learn something every time I pick up my brush. It's a wonderful experience.
Doris McCarthy is someone whom I have admired for a long, long time. She was a petite woman, and feisty as all get out, drinking her homemade wine and eating porridge daily which she attributed to her longevity (she passed away at 100 years of age). A Canadian artist and educator whose work focused on the rugged Canadian landscape, she was often upset by comparisons between her slightly abstracted work and that of Lawren Harris of the Group of Seven. She was born in Calgary in 1910 and studied and taught art in Ontario, building her own home which she dubbed 'Fool's Paradise' with the help of friends on the Scarborough Bluffs in Toronto. I can relate to her comment about her work feeling too legible as sometimes I feel like my work is so straight forward, maybe too literal, and I really don't want to bore a viewer. Her books are wonderful as is a documentary of her and her work by Alberta artist Wendy Wacko.
Yesterday I had a wonderful time speaking to a group of art students at Bishop Carroll High School in Calgary. What a wonderful school! Such a great history of notable alumni including musicians, politicians and athletes like Feist and James Keelaghan, Alison Redford and Danielle Smith, Mark Tewksbury and Hailey Wickenheiser. And I love their vision statement:
We, the Bishop Carroll High School Catholic Community, commit to providing a student-centered educational journey which fosters authentic personal growth. We challenge each individual to be a lifelong learner, to embrace a passion for life and to share his or her gifts for the benefit of our global community.
After I spoke about my journey and experience as an artist, the students had the opportunity to critique my work which was very interesting. They spoke about the elements and principles of design, of what they liked and didn't like in the work and their interpretation of it. Using words like happy, journey, memory and dream absolutely touched me. What a privilege this was. I don't know how I get such lovely opportunities and am grateful not only to share my journey but to be able to encourage others on theirs.
I had such a great time teaching a watercolour workshop at the library on the weekend. Though I don't teach often, I certainly do enjoy those times that I do. We had a full house in both classes.which was terrific. My greatest pleasure is sharing materials and tips how to use them and then letting them experiment and try everything as I believe it is in the experimentation that we all learn. My goal is always that they have fun and they did. :)
Friday evening's exhibit opening at Inglewood Fine Arts was amazing! The weather was perfect and it was so good to have a show with Patricia Lortie again. So many lovely, lovely people stopped by and I was thrilled to meet several who I have only had the privilege of connecting with online previously. My only disappointment was that I never got to meet everyone who stopped by to visit the show. The next event will be a live painting and jazz evening on THURSDAY, MAY 5, 5.30-8pm (please note the date change). I'm really looking forward to it and hope that you'll introduce yourself if we haven't met.
I have been listening to Ella Fitzgerald for so long I don't even remember when I first heard her sing. Though I do remember hearing 'At Last' several times on Northern Exposure, a quirky television show set in Alaska that I loved. She grew up in Yonkers, New York, and was a very good student throughout her youth, beginning her singing career in church. Unfortunately after her mom passed away when she was only fifteen years old, she quickly moved to Harlem to be with her aunt amidst rumours of abuse by her step-father and this led to struggles in school, legal trouble and eventually life in an orphanage and homelessness. To overcome her challenges, she began singing in the street and performing at the age of seventeen. Her music saved her. I love that she was inspired by the music of Louis Armstrong and then, after a difficult period in her life, became well-known for performing with him regularly and that she overcame so many obstacles without allowing them to make her bitter. Her smile and laughter are still two of my favorite things about her.