Yesterday I spent the afternoon setting up for the Mayor's Night of the Arts evening at Bert Church Theatre and it brought back so many wonderful memories of last year. The evening really went by in a blur for me, and because I'm usually assisting behind the scenes it was quite a departure being an award nominee and then even more so after receiving the Fortis Alberta Professional Artist Award. The whole evening felt so surreal, I didn't sleep much that night, and then on Sunday when I thought I deserved a Venti green tea latte, I ended up breaking my new cell phone. It may sound strange, but sometimes I wonder if those things happen to balance everything out or if they happen because my mind is elsewhere and I am not focused and present. At the library on Monday as I was doing washroom checks one of the ladies commented how different the two sides of my life are...I prefer to think that the daily stuff keeps me grounded.
Anyway, if you haven't purchased tickets yet there are still a few available here and it is going to be an incredible evening filled with live music, theater and dance. I'm looking forward to performances by Nose Creek Players, Storm and Christian Hudson, our young lad who was the Calgary Stampede Talent Search Winner and who then proceeded to donate his $10,000 award to the Calgary Drop-In Centre. I really do love my community and the wonderful people in it.
I've been spending a lot of time working on the floor on these little 4x4 canvases and am loving how they look and feel together. There have been tiny canoes, tipis, animals and wildflowers which feels a bit like a culmination of the work I have been focused on these past four years. I know I have said it before, but I really do enjoy the process of working back and forth between large and small. It seems to stretch me into new directions and to embrace different ideas.
I have also been spending some time with friends, having tea and great conversation. Recently I met with a sculptor friend, Ken and we discussed certain expectations of an artist like donations - not that I mind, in fact I love supporting a worthy cause like the painted bowls for the annual Foodbank fundraiser. When I mentioned that it bothers me when I am expected to give away my art, he heard 'give away my heart' and I thought how beautiful and fitting. It really is my heart.
For some time I have been wanting to incorporate folk art inspired images into my work as they are so similar to the pictographs and petroglyphs that I love. The stylized birds can resemble such a variety, from swallows to magpies to ravens, and I like the idea of the migration of both birds and people. Migration and moving replicates my personal history as, after my parents immigrated from South America, I travelled from southern Manitoba a few years into my childhood to the north, which still lives in my blood. From there I moved west to northern Alberta, back east to the prairies, and finally landing west once again, this time to a place which has been my home for almost 20 years.
Travelling is also reminiscent of a spiritual process...moving gently from one set of beliefs to another. Not necessarily opposite but certainly different over many years of experience, both good and bad, and growth. Every time I allow these experiences to shape me instead of fighting them, the transition is so much lighter and welcome. So this piece represents all of that for me...the transitory nature of this life.
As an extremely shy child I was always drawn to the unique, independent females in life and Amelia Earhart is no exception. Oddly enough, I have a fear of heights and I get travel sick, so I was never really interested in flying or travelling at all for that matter but it was always her spunk that attracted me. The fact that she tried things in spite of how anyone else felt was such an inspiration to me. Along with my phobias I have struggled with a need to please, but it seems many of us do, and to think of doing whatever tickles your fancy in spite of opposition pleases me greatly. So it wasn't her love of aviation that affected me deeply but rather her willingness to do whatever it took to follow her passion. A very worthy hero, I think.
By the way, instead of putting the paintings away upon completion as I had with my previous 52 WEEKS series, I have been lining these lovely ladies along the wall of my studio. They make me happy. But, at the same time I can't help but notice all the flaws. I'm trying very hard not to make any changes once the paintings are posted but Mary ended up with a halo after all...and I prefer her this way. You can see the new Mary here.
I received a stack of books in the mail this morning and they make me so happy. I only wish the cost of printing and shipping wasn't so high, as even with a discounted multiple purchase these are still $34 each. My goal is that these are actually used as a handbook, something to throw in a purse or bag and highlighted or scribbled in as this information was what I had hoped for in the early stages of my career. Thankfully there were numerous artists and gallery directors whom I admired greatly and who were willing to share their experience with me. Their guidance helped me to explore this creative career in my own way.
After following some great advice early on I ended up submitting six packages (in the days before technology) to six galleries and ended up being interviewed by five of them which was a very pleasant surprise. After my initial foray into the gallery scene, followed by public art shows and writing, I did make several detours (and some bad investments) until I found what worked for me. So what I've shared are suggestions and a few things I have learned along the way and so far I have received so much positive feedback...thank you for that!
This week has been a busy one with art workshops for children, though this is the first to kick off the year at the Airdrie Public Library. As usual, it was great to see the kids again after two months and I'm glad to see they enjoyed themselves and it is a always a treat to see Alicia as she is such a kind and patient teacher. It's always fun to see people respond so happily to art, especially to painting in acrylics which is still my favorite.
It has been awhile since I shared a list of books that I enjoyed so here goes...
by Rosie Thomas
I have been in a circus-themed kick for awhile so this was a treat...though not a circus but rather a theatre in Victorian London, it hit the spot. In some ways it reminded me of Water for Elephants or The Night Circus (both which I enjoyed tremendously). It was a Christmas present this year and I loved it, can't wait to get the next book, Daughter of the House.
by Emily St. John Mandel
This novel, set in a dystopian world after a pandemic changes everything, but different from many stories of its kind due to the positive outlook of a number of survivors. I enjoyed reading about characters who, though they were changed drastically by events in their time, overcame those challenges and brought beauty to the world through Shakespearean theatre. It interests me to see how the positive side of human nature can prevail.
by Emma Donoghue
I had enjoyed reading ROOM so much that I decided to read this novel by Emma Donoghue as well. It's quite a different novel and, unfortunately, I was a little confused at times as events kind of moved slowly but I liked this story because it was based on true historical facts. It is set in San Fransisco in the late 1800's during a heatwave and smallpox epidemic and revolves around burlesque dancer Blanch Beunon and her friend Jenny Bonnet's murder. I highly recommend reading the epilogue at the end of the story.
Church of Marvels
by Leslie Parry
Another story set in the late 1800's but this time at a Coney Island sideshow. This was a terrific read, complete with a young woman waking in a lunatic asylum, a deadly fire and a baby found at the bottom an outhouse. I loved how each of the characters eventually connected to bring the mystery to a close.
Six of Crows
by Leigh Bardugo
This is actually a young adult novel, but with a title featuring crows I couldn't resist. Another dystopian novel, set in a place called Ketterdam (reminiscent of The Netherlands), featuring an impossible heist and an unlikely crew of outcasts. Looking forward to book two in this series.
The Memory of Love
by Linda Olsson
I wanted to read this book because I had enjoyed her novel titled Astrid and Veronika many years ago (of course I picked that one up because of the title). Linda Olsson is a beautiful writer and her descriptions and point of view are such a delight to read. In this story, Marion Flint, who is living a very secluded life has come upon a young boy who she hopes to save. Because of their involvement, she is forced to reflect on her life and to recognize that she must forgive herself for the past. Beautifully written.
Come Thou Tortoise
by Jessica Grant
This book was recommended to me several years ago and I finally read it with relish. It was funny and sad and everything all together, which for me is a perfect read. The story is told through the narrators Audrey (Oddly) Flowers and her opinionated tortoise Winnifred. I don't want to say too much about the story, but read it, it's really good.
by Donna Tartt
I have mixed feelings about this one...great story, though long, but so very depressing. I struggled with not only the challenges that thirteen year old Theo experiences but also how he responds to them. He experiences one tragic loss after another in his life but also some amazing people and opportunities. I guess he disappointed me in a way though I am glad I haven't lived his life.
All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr
Beautiful writing, poetic and such an interesting point of view. The novel takes place in France during the second World War and is told from the perspective of a young French girl and a young German boy. I loved how the author shares their separate stories and then they intertwine to share the good in two people on two different sides of an awful war. Definitely a different perspective on both sides.
The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins
I was in the mood for a psychological thriller last August and found this book strangely riveting. The story was told from the perspective of an alcoholic narrator who is really struggling with her day-to-day life, as you can imagine. She begins to daydream about a life that she views from the window of her commuter train, one that definitely isn't hers. This follows a long line of twists and turns that had me addicted from beginning to end. I hate to say it because of the subject matter but I thought it was a fun read.
The Book of Speculation
by Erika Swyler
The cover of this novel attracted me and when I read that it was similar in feeling to The Shipping News (one of my favorite novels) I had to read it. Plus it features a librarian names Simon...working in a library myself, I definitely couldn't resist. Simon receives an antique book written by the owner of a travelling carnival in the 1700's and through it begins to research the tragic history of the women known as mermaids in his family. I loved it!
Last week I had the privilege of teaching 200 grade 5 students how to paint with acrylics. They are currently studying the history of Indigenous people and the animals that are native to this part of the country so we had fun making marks and using lots of colour to paint animals and tipis. We wanted to give the students the opportunity to paint something that was important to them, so having a few options worked beautifully..
As exhausted as I get teaching (I really don't know how teachers do it!) my heart is also filled when I see kids create. There are times that they become frustrated and struggle but then are typically very proud of what they accomplish in the end. And I am so pleased to be a small part of that...if introducing them to art allows them to become excited about it then I feel what I do is a success. I also enjoy watching the teachers have fun with it, too, and hope they can carry this experience forward to future classes.
I promise that all the women I paint in this series won't be artists....but I also can assure you that this list will contain several. It was through the work, lives and tenacity of these women that I wanted to become an artist. My biggest challenge with these portraits is getting the likeness that I used to be able to capture very quickly but I try not to be hard on myself as it has been many, many years since I've practiced drawing portraits. Plus I want these to be quick, not laboured, and to enjoy the process as I go.
So today my artist and hero is Emily Carr. I was first introduced to her work at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, along with the members of the Group of Seven (aka the Algonquin School) as, even though she was not a member, her work was supported by Lawren Harris of the group and was considered some of the earliest to represent the rugged Canadian landscape in a fresh, purely Canadian way.
Emily is well-known for her paintings of totem poles which she wanted to capture before they disappeared but it is the spirituality that feels so highly present in her forests that has always drawn me. I loved her feisty personality and her love of the Indigenous people and their way of being in this world. And the fact that she wrote as well as painted is an inspiration to me.