There are times when I'm experimenting with a new image, well new to incorporating slight abstraction to an image I'm familiar with, when I feel myself tighten up and question my decisions. These are the times that it's imperative for me to remember that layers only add interest and to allow myself to keep in mind that this is just an experiment, ultimately a joyful experience. This is also the time I often switch hands and work with my non-dominant hand which not only has the benefit of connecting my to my creative brain but also forces me to let go and loosen up.
Sometimes I have to step back, away from the canvas and even out of my studio. Some days I go for a walk along the creek or read awhile or put on different music. Other times I go through my portfolio of past work. These are valuable moments for me as they are the times that a colour or line will or passage in music will inspire a new direction in the work. There are times that just disconnecting and allowing my mind to come up with a solution without my assistance is the best course of action.
P.S. My book, Sacred Vessel::A Painter's Handbook, is now available through Blurb books online here.
Well ARTember 2015 ended with a bang for the Airdrie Public Library with Culture at the Creek on the weekend. With the amazing assistance of a number of volunteers we were able to work with 250 children to create beautiful things with clay, Barbara Reid style and it was fantastic! There is always so much to do and see during these 16 days with the library offering so many different types of programs and even though Barbara Reid was unable to attend the library and schools as we had hoped it was still absolutely wonderful. There were programs and events ranging from henna art workshops to creative writing and journaling along with everything else in between. I have to say as much as I love it, I am always glad when it is finished as I tend to be extremely busy the entire 16 days - from AirdrieFEST to the AIRdirondack Art Project & Gala, to programs and workshops in the library, and meetings and other art related events outside of the library - I am exhausted...but very, very happy.
Mertensia, a wildflower named after German botanist F.C. Mertens, grows in cool, shady, moist areas and resembles oblong bluebells. Traditionally plants were believed to be shaped in the form of their healing properties, and this one was no different as its lung shaped leaves were thought to be a sign from God to treat lung diseases and so the plant is also known as lungwort. The flowers were used to make a tea to treat respiratory problems, asthma, cold, and flu, Externally it has been used to treat ulcers and sores. It is full of vitamins B and C as well as iron.
I'm often asked how long it takes to complete a work and I don't really have an answer for that as there are so many extenuating circumstances. For example, in this piece, I had no idea what the finished work would look like but only knew it was inspired by autumn's colours and feeling. As I worked, the layers of colours became rich and deep, and because I work on several pieces at once, the other pieces somehow bled into this one. Sometimes colours transferred over and other times it was different methods of mark-making. Once I had decided that I wanted to incorporate a leafless tree, I began to pay attention to the steely blue autumn skies. And then birds...initially they were intended to be crows but I didn't want this to feel like halloween and I was inspired by watching the swallows outside my window when I was reminded of a murmuration of starlings (view on YouTube here).
There are times when the work flows from one step to another and then others, like when I was close to the end of this piece, that I felt something was missing. It is usually at this point I bring the work in our living room and lean it against the hearth to live with it for awhile. And suddenly, one morning as I sat and looked at it while drinking my cup of tea I suddenly knew which marks needed to be added.. Though many people may not even notice the subtle differences at the end, I do.
I also think of the symbolism behind the images that I use - swallows represent hope, opportunities, and communication; the colour orange represents warmth, encouragement and also communication; a tree also symbolizes hope and a new beginning. And though I don't initially choose the images for their symbolic meaning, they always connect in the end.
If I'm painting live, I begin to formulate a bit of a colour pattern along with the shape of canoe or tipi and sketch out ideas for symbols and images that I will incorporate. Usually those pieces don't come to completion until I've lived with them for awhile, and I tend to be physically and spiritually exhausted after focusing so intently on a work instead of allowing it to flow intuitively as I go. But I can do it.
Through all the years that I've painted chairs, I don't think I've ever painted them this small...besides possibly in a sketchbook. These are the cutest 4x4 inch interiors and so much fun to create while watching 'The Muskateers' with my daughter. It's been fun to shift back and forth between the chairs and canoes and working so small has made me reconsider some of the tools I've been using. It seems that almost everything I watch on BBC becomes my favorite new series...Downton Abbey, Grantchester, Endeavor, Broadchurch, Sherlock, Ripper Street, Foyle's War, Poirot, Father Brown, Dr. Who (though I lean heavily towards Matt Smith and David Tennat), and of course anything Jane Austen. I always enjoy being asked to create work from my past as I did love that series that spanned so many years. And though I am also very glad to have moved on to new work, it is nice to re-visit the work that really felt like it stared my life as an artist.
Well, it's that season once again, where the library offers art programs and I was so glad my friend Samreen was there to teach us all about henna this week. I love how she lets the kids try the henna, applying it to a canvas or photo frame. She spends hours drawing out the patterns in advance of the class and allows the kids to learn and she also leaves time to create a henna pattern on each of them (the boys usually choose dragons). Plus, it's always a treat when Samreen does my hand, too!
Last night our Mayor asked if I would paint live during a Council meeting and I was honoured. Every time I begin a piece I go through that stage of wondering how it will look, I had a vague idea but added the raven later, and whenever I stop to look at the work in progress I begin to question my choices of layered colour and marks. But I push on and in the end am usually very happy with the results. So many of those present wondered along with me, as my beginnings are typically very messy and seemingly unconscious but there is a method to my madness. This piece I titled 'Raven's Song' as it was interesting to me to see the process of local government as the floor opens for questions and concerns and residents are welcome to speak. I think that's the greatest beauty of living in a democratic country, that everyone's voice, or song, is heard. PS You can watch the painting process here.
Red geraniums always remind me of Italy but there is something about small white geraniums that make me think of fairies and happy little ghosts. They are a little surprise as they grow in woods, thickets and along shady roadsides, looking fragile and yet more resilient than they appear.
An infusion of geranium was used as an antiseptic or mouthwash while dried powder sprinkled on cuts was known to stop bleeding immediately. A strong tea solution was applied to breast to stop milk flow. It was also used externally as a folk cancer remedy.
The Latin name of this particular species is attributed to Scottish botanist Sir John Richardson who travelled with Sir John Franklin on the expedition to the Arctic in search of the Northwest Passage.
Today I'm dropping off a couple of new pieces at Inglewood Fine Arts...a beautiful fall day, my favorite time of the year, and one of my favorite neighborhoods in Calgary. Whenever I venture into the city, I try to make a bit of a date of the trip, enjoying local goodies, visiting galleries and shops, and in this case, take a walk along the river.
ARTember in Airdrie has only just begun and I'm already exhausted, being gone during the day and several evenings and still have art workshops this weekend, a wonderful visit with children's author/illustrator Barbara Reid, and then Culture at the Creek on the following weekend. It's all good and happy but I definitely need a re-boot and this serves me well.
Also, on Monday evening I will be painting at City Hall during their Council meeting and I'm really looking forward to that...painting live is one of my favorite things as I still get to be involved in community but get to do the work that brings me so much peace.
P.S. There is a link to the Arabella architectural magazine that features my work on the gallery's website here.
Lately I've really been moving regularly between large and small works, from 5 feet to 4 inches, which I think has been really good for my creative muscles. Just when I get comfortable working in one size, it's time to switch. It's also great for working out issues I have with a work-in-progress, giving me a new perspective and some breathing room.
Seth Godin recently wrote an article about small being the new big in reference to the challenges that large companies face but I think it can also refer to the challenges artists encounter when facing a large blank canvas. Sometimes it can be difficult to get those interesting, fluid, noticable marks on a large canvas...you know those marks that can happen accidentally during the process. Also, I think we're often less intimadated by a smaller surface...maybe because it doesn't cost as much so it is more forgiving. Working small also doesn't require as much in the way of materials or time.
Anyway, I love working big...like really, really love it...but I have to admit that there is an intimate, happy feeling to working smaller. It's a good mix.