Levelling Up began this week and I'm so grateful to have this opportunity to share what I've learned through the years with others. Living a creative life is such a wonderful privilege and I do have to thank all the people who have supported me in this endeavour all these years.
My goal is to share the things I've learned through personal experience and through other artists who have been so generous with me. My goal is to discuss the things I was challenged by when I started out, and in some cases still do...creating a portfolio, exhibiting work, sharing it online (once we had internet in our world). I love discussing art with artists and hope that my experience can help others.
Also, I finished a sweater that I began at Christmas! It's the softest merino wool that was died locally...from Willow'n'Wool which is one of my favourite shops to frequent. This is the first time in many years that my shoulder injuries didn't bother me too much and also the first time I knitted something in the round, so no seams to sew up at the end. Such a treat!
I'm excited to share that I have been invited to partner with a Neuroscientist to create a piece for YOUR BRAIN ON ART. The Branch Out Neurological Foundation created this fundraiser to pair Artists with Neuroscience Projects to create a new work inspired by brain research. Each piece will have National exposure on an on-line bidding site, will be in a week long gallery showing at cSPACE and then is auctioned off as a part of two evening fundraising event.
1 in 3 …is the number of Canadians is directly impacted by a neurological disorder. This means that you probably work with or know someone in your family who is impacted. With over 600 different types of brain abnormalities, including MS, Parkinson’s, Epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, Depression, Concussion, etc. there is both a desire and need for alternative and non-pharmaceutical treatments.
Branch Out funds research to find innovative and alternative solutions to keep brains at their best. Brain research gets a little“science-y”. They decided to flip it on its head and turn to art to help explain it. The “Your Brain on Art” Fundraiser explores the connections between art, technology, and neuroscience. Hosted in the character-filled cSPACE, this fundraiser brings together creative minds for an evening of cocktails, delicious food, theatre, art show, and auction. The evening is capped off by renowned and local playwright, Eugene Stickland, who has created a play inspired by our research. With two evening performances, attendees have the opportunity to enjoy art, see the research in action and meet some of Branch Out’s neuroscientists.
My eldest daughter is currently studying Neuroscience and Brain Development in Education and my youngest was recently part of a clinical trial for treatment of Tourette's Syndrome which was funded by Branch Out so I feel as though this is a perfect match and can't wait to meet with Neuroscientists this week.
For Christmas my daughter got a subscription to StoryWorth for me...every Monday I answer a question she has selected for me, add any photographs I'd like to add, and submit it. At the end of the year, they will print two copies of a book, one for each daughter.
It's been extremely interesting going back in time, especially looking through all the old photographs. I lived in a beautiful place in Northern Manitoba called Leaf Rapids. It was in the boreal forest, near the Churchill River, surrounded by many lakes and rivers. The community was built on an esker which is a glacial deposit forming a continuous, winding ridge formed by sandy deposits left by a stream flowing underneath the ice. The Town Centre, which held everything from grocery store, post office, pharmacy, school, theatre, arena, curling rink, hospital, etc., was supposed to be blue but the rust paint that was used never did change colour as there is no pollution in the community. The ravens are large, with a wing span of up to 6 feet. As much of the natural vegetation was not to be disturbed in its creation, the town received a Vincent Massey Award for excellence in urban planning and is still listed in university planning courses across Canada. My husband and I returned to my hometown to be married in 1988.
Though the town has been getting smaller since the coppery/zinc mine (25 km away) closed in 2002, there is such an interesting history (I lived on Nisku Bay):
Leaf Rapids' culture and history are well mixed with the Cree nation. The Cree are one of the major Algonkian-speaking Indian peoples of Canada, formerly occupying an immense area from east of the Hudson and James bays west as far as Alberta and the Great Slave Lake. Originally inhabiting a smaller nucleus of this area, they expanded rapidly in the 17th and 18th century due to the fur trade with the Europeans. One example of the Cree’s influence on Leaf Rapids is the naming of our roads that are named in Cree after the native culture in our area. For your interest we have included a list of our roads’ Cree names and their translations:
This painting was a wedding commission and has just been delivered to the happy couple. I assume that I may still complete the odd commission but for the most part my work will focus on projects with a focus on portraiture in the upcoming future. This one was bittersweet to complete because it may be one of my final large canoes but I do love the symbolism...green represents spring, vitality & energy and also symbolizes balance and harmony. The lace airbrush patterns symbolize a bridal veil, new beginnings and setting up a new home. And the leaves reference the Tree of Life, ancestors and a family tree. A leaf is an ancient symbol that represents happiness & faith. A swallow symbolizes the epitome of joy. Finally, the red marks represent the family and community that will support this couple as they embark on their journey together.
Change seems to be fairly constant, in some respects, in these parts while in others my creative life stays exactly the same. I've had to accept the fact that working on large canvases just does not work for my shoulders any longer...it's been a long time coming but I've finally come to the realization that it doesn't have to be a bad thing, just another change. And, to be honest, my heart lies with these projects I've been working on for several years in any case. So, give up one thing to focus on something better for me.
This realization has actually been a very good one. Though I struggle with letting go, sometimes I know it's the best course of action. Now I can focus on mentoring with LevellingUp and teaching or writing occasionally, on my university education and on my painting. It still gives me time to read and knit, too, which is a huge bonus. Though I've barely begun my current project (Extraordinary Women), I'm already thinking of the next one. There is just such a great sense of freedom especially as I tend to throw myself into everything I commit to which can cause anxiety.
In all these years as a professional artist, it seems there has always been times of re-direct and this is one of them. As long as I can keep painting, I am happy.
I believe I can now look back on my life and understand its trajectory, both the painful parts and the joyful parts. I know I have been blessed on a scale which is almost ridiculous, but which is pretty much in balance with what I’ve experienced in heartache.
In her searingly honest and insightful memoir titled Something is Always on Fire, renowned opera singer Measha Brueggergosman shares her experiences with music, but also her ongoing struggle to balance her ambition for a life fully lived with the traditions and responsibilities she has committed herself to. She reflects on the ups and downs of marrying young and the tragedy of losing children, on the efforts to understand who she has become in contrast to how she was raised, on how her health problems have changed her, on the psychological push-and-pull of being a performer and the unavoidable effects of consistent audience approval. Through it all, Brueggergosman has weathered the storms, bolstered by her faith and her family, and revelling in her appetite for music, food, yoga and sex.
When I studied Art + Design at Red Deer College in the mid-1980s, we were taught how to mix our own gesso. I haven't done it in years so I contacted my alma mater recently, I asked for the recipe again and thought I'd share it here:
1. 1/4 cup taclum powder.
2. 1 tablespoon white glue.
3. 1 tablespoon white paint.
4. water to desired consistency.
It's pretty simple and the ingredients are readily available. In the past, we also used a dry mix of drywall plaster (Plaster of Paris) in place of the talcum powder and, if I remember correctly, both have that nice chalky texture. For the white glue, I used Elmer's school glue though I wonder if you might try making your own...I used to do this with the girls when they were young though I'm unsure how effective it would be: flour and water heated to a boil and then cooled, apparently you can also make variations using cornstarch or gelatin. I tinted mine a warm grey using Natural Earth Pigments and used an old gesso bottle to shake everything up really good. I really like the consistency.
The beginning of the year is always a busy time for me, often filled with interesting new opportunities for the new year and also a time of tidying and re-prioritizing where I want to focus my energy.