Throughout my journey as an artist, there certainly have been times when I've encountered creative blocks. Sometimes I wondered if it was time to throw in the towel, to walk away from this creative life. But instead, I've learned to allow the harrow and fallow or feast and famine, balancing times of work with rest. There are several methods I practice which I find to work wonders when I need to refresh:
1. Read...about art, artists, different forms of creativity, human nature (I'm especially drawn to Malcolm Gladwell and a great creative refreshing read is Twyla Tharp's 'The Creative Habit').
2. Rest...enjoy afternoon naps, watch a movie, soak in a bubble bath, daydream, drink copious amounts of really, really good tea while enjoying the scent of a delicious scented candle (I prefer beeswax & vanilla).
3. Look...visit galleries and interesting shops, visit artists' website and blogs, learn about different techniques, watch artists at work (vimeo is fabulous for this).
4. Create...try something different utilizing a new medium or subject matter or ground - draw, write, paint, carve, take a class or workshop to learn something new.
5. Change...try working in a new environment, create in a new place - I tend to take my small pochade box and sit in a café or I head into the mountains to paint or sketch.
Mmmmmmmm...glorious colour. Nothing like getting up at the crack of dawn (or pre-dawn) to squeeze out paint and layer it on a canvas (or two). Time in my studio is a balm for anything that ails me.
I have heard some sad family news of late and am extremely grateful for the healing properties of this work I am privileged to do. Painting heals me. It allows me to be present, to slow down and breathe...all the things that are necessary to bide my time in this world. Focusing on beauty helps me to see it more frequently and reminds me that not all is dark, not all bleak. That life is ripe with possibility and that it's all up to me to pay attention.
My neighbor has experienced terrible losses in a short period of time but she is one of the most positive influences in my life. She allows herself to grieve briefly and then pulls herself up and allows herself to be happy by doing things that give her joy and by doing things that make others happy. I know I too have a choice, to wallow or to get up and help to create a better world for myself and others.
I have mentioned the family history of clinical depression, alcoholism and suicide and my hope is that others can find their way to joy the way that I have...not necessarily through painting but through faith and creativity.
“Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can't cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It's just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.” ― Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar
Yesterday 'Medicine Wheel' was delivered to its permanent home at Highland Primary Care Network...it will live in the board room which has already been dubbed 'the canoe room'. It feels like a perfect combination, comprehensive contemporary health care and the traditional teachings of the medicine wheel.
Alberta is known to have 66% of the world's medicine wheels (46) consisting of a circle of stones radiating from a central pile of rocks which constitutes a central meeting place for Plains tribes. Most of them are located in the southern region of our province. It teaches us about the four directions, four seasons, four sacred colours and four aspects of a person and is an outward expression of our inner dialogue with Creator God and Spirit. Though the colour meanings may differ between different ethnic groups, this is what I was taught:
1. East / spring / yellow (healthy mind) - representing harvest, sunshine and illumination
2. South / summer / red (strong inner spirit) - meaning battle, hunt and passion
3. West / fall / black or blue (inner peace) - for water, cold and reflection
4. North / winter / white (strong healthy body) - symbolizes warmth, peace and wisdom
I was intrigued how the colours of the Hudson's Bay Company blankets match that of the colours of the four directions and because it was such a huge part of my life in the north I wanted to incorporate a representation of it as well. I know I've mentioned it before but I really do love when my work is in public spaces. A real honour.
Oh...and that bag over my shoulder was made by a Guarani woman in South America when I was a little girl spending a winter with my relatives in Paraguay. I had the great privilege of watching her weave it for me beside her tipi and I have loved it since. And the scarf was handmade in Peru, one of my all-time favorite gifts from my husband.
This painting is based on the Legend of the Caribou boy which originated in Dene oral tradition several generations ago. A young boy is having trouble sleeping at night because he is being called to fulfill his destiny. This destiny lives on today in the traditions and culture of the Dene people and their relationship to the caribou and the land on which they live.
The Dene people live in the boreal and arctic regions of Canada, their homeland lies between the Yukon and Nunavut, in northern British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alaska and the southwestern United States . The term 'dene' is the Athabaskan word for 'people'.
The caribou image is my homage to Isaac Bignell, one of my favorite Woodlands Artists who was born in northern Manitoba and was gone from us when far too young. He was influenced by the history and traditions of the Cree people:
My art is strongly influenced by the traditional ways of my people. I was brought up to live off the land from an early age. Hunting and trapping, living in harmony with the the earth has taught me to respect the animals and the spirit and power of nature. I hoop dance and sing at Pow Wows to maintain my cultural heritage. Through art and dancing I attempt to influence native people to continue their cultural ways; the gift that was given to us by the Great Spirit.
I vividly remember the first time I painted in public. Before I got to the location, I had the strangest thoughts... what if what I create sucks, what if I don't hold my brushes properly or mix the right colours, or make unusual faces when I paint? I kept wondering if what I do might seem boring to others.
And yet, once I began painting I totally zoned out...just like I do when I'm painting in my studio at home. My biggest challenge tends to be remembering those around me and paying attention when someone asks a question or just wants to chat for a moment. I love when I can inspire someone else to try it or to pull out their own art supplies again.
Because what I do is generally extremely solitary, it's a real pleasure to go out and connect with people. For me, painting in front of people is definitely easier than speaking to a group of people. On Saturday a little boy walked into the café and when he noticed me painting cried, 'Awesome!'...and several people that I met the last time I painted there came specifically to see what I would paint this time, all full of kindness and encouragement.
Whenever I paint publicly I tend to leave the experience feeling refreshed and ready to work some more - it really does get my creative juices flowing.
I'll be painting on location again...
GOOD EARTH CAFE
1109-35 Mackenzie Way SW
Saturday, February 22, 10-12pm
This little painting was created on a 5 inch block of wood...something I've been wanting to try ever since I painted an wild rose for the Alberta Flood Rose Project last fall. I love the bevelled edges of these wood blocks and may try some more in future. This little treasure is now off to its new home in Lethbridge.
I've also been enjoying the company of my daughter and her boyfriend from University this week...I always miss my baby...and enjoying a great read:
The Forgotten Garden
by Kate Morton
A wonderful read that features three generations of women from the same family. A little mystique, a family mystery, a secret garden and powerful women...everything I enjoy. It begins in Australia and travels back to an English manor when a woman learns the truth of her heritage on her twenty-first birthday and sets out to find her real identity. Her granddaughter, Cassandra, continues the search after her grandmother's death and in the process finds her true self.
I am honoured beyond measure...another of my wee tipis has found a new home in a
Northern First Nations Community. I am so grateful to AyrSpace Gallery. Thank you Jill. :)
I've been working on commissions lately and am often asked how I begin a piece. Unless I'm working on my abstract tipis and canoes, I tend to add colour to the white canvas...earlier on when I painted mainly interiors, I used a vivid lime green which acted like a movie green screen. As I would paint shadows and highlights, the images would pop out against the green ground. When I work on landscapes or any type of outdoors images, I tend to work on a burnt orange background. Something I learned from Tom Thompson of the Group of Seven.
When we lived in Manitoba years ago, I mentored under a painter through the Winnipeg Art Gallery where there was a large collection of Group of Seven works. At the time I was particularly drawn to Tom Thompson's small landscape studies on wood panel on which he always applied an orange ground. For me, this ground works in four ways:
1. A white paper or canvas can be intimidating so flooding it with colour helps to break that 'purity'.
2. Wherever paint doesn't cover the canvas, a beautiful warm orange glow shows up instead of the glaring white canvas.
3. Leaving spots of the orange strategically throughout the painting tends to tie the scene together.
4. There is just something beautiful about blues and greens against warm colours...kind of like a green or blue painted wall against hardwood floors.
So, I think I'll be finished one commission within the next two weeks and then can continue on the other...as well as continuing work on some new canoes for my own pleasure. I am so lucky...my studio is my happy place :)
'The Raven' has flown to a new home (thank you Sonia) and I have to say I'm very pleased that it will be well-loved. This piece has special significance for me as it is the closest representation of both my current foothills home and my previous northern home - ravens and a birch bark canoe, boreal forest pictographs and markings from the Okotoks Erratic - all symbolic of my life growing up Canadian.
It's always a treat when I get to meet the new owner of a piece I create. This time it was especially special as this was a first-time purchase of original artwork. She felt an immediate connection to my work when she saw it and said she had never felt that way before...that she knew she wanted to live with a piece. What an absolute honour for me.
We spoke about books we had read and planned on reading, with numerous similarities. I know that who I am comes through in my work, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear of many other similar interests. I love connecting with others and feel extremely privileged when someone wants to live with my work. I just can't begin to tell you how that touches my heart.