Saturday's JR ARTISTS' WORKHOP at the library was another full house and the kids had a great time, as usual. We were so fortunate to have mixed-media artist Rhea Dallaire teach an altered book class. It always amazes me...when you share some information with the kids, give them materials, time and space they create incredible things and push the boundaries even further.
One parent thanked me for the program as his son has been struggling with academics in school and since they've made an effort to find arts programming for him his marks have been improving. I feel so fortunate to be able to work in an environment that offers this to the community.
Sometimes this creative life feels really hard...so much work to be done but nothing coming to fruition. Varnishing, wiring, preparing canvases, documentation, and yet, nothing new to share. My body is aching as the past two weeks have been quite physically demanding and though I am extremely happy to do it I do wish I had one small new piece to be able to say, 'Yes, this is done'.
Don't get me wrong, I love what I do. But I used to begin and finish one piece at a time or on occasion two, and it felt like I accomplished something. Now, though, with this method of working each layer takes time to dry so I must be patient and wait. I'm glad that this week I do have something to show for the work, nothing complete but rather several canvases of varying sizes that are almost ready to take to the next level. It's time to begin adding images which makes me very glad.
Typically I wire each piece as I complete it - I didn't with the 52 WEEKS PROJECT (I hung the project in my studio using thumb tacks, hadn't documented it or varnished it at that point) as I was completing work for exhibits and magazine articles at the same time and now the finishing of these 52 pieces has been rather taxing. By Sunday everything should be done (whew!) and though I have a Jr Artist's Workshop at the library on Saturday I'm confident that it will be complete.
I have to say thank you for all the emails, comments, messages and words of encouragement throughout not only the 52 WEEKS PROJECT but through this daily grind. Honestly, just like any job sometimes things in my line of work can become a little discouraging, and there are those aspects of the work that I don't look forward to but which have to be done, so I am grateful for the kindness along this journey. I hope I don't sound like I'm complaining, because believe me, I love what I do and wouldn't trade it for anything. And, practicing patience is a very good thing for me.
A few more paintings are about to travel to new cities and for that I am beyond grateful. This one, Kanata, is leaving Good Earth Café today and so I'll stop by to hang yet another piece in its stead. Throughout the years I have always been amazed at how many of my paintings have been purchased after showing the work in public spaces. Such a huge honour.
The Mohawk word 'kanata' was originally believed to be the origin of Canada's name but early explorer Jacques Cartier learned in his travels that it actually originated from the Iroquoian word 'canada' meaning 'village' or 'settlement'.
Since the canoes are 'Sacred Vessel' and the transition to tipis has been seamless, a natural flow and progression of the work, I've been calling this series 'Sacred Space'. So, with the beautiful weather this week and the support of so many wonderful people who appreciate what I do enough to want to live with it in their own homes, their own personal sanctuaries, their sacred space, it has been another great day.
I've been working on the birch bark for the past four hours this morning...cutting and cleaning it and beginning the work of transferring the totem animal meanings for each painting in the 52 WEEKS PROJECT. Believe me, I have begun to wonder what I was thinking, but I do feel that this is an important part of this project. The paintings have all been varnished and prepared with hanging hardware, so this is the final step in completing this project before it is exhibited.
I think I'll have to take a walk through the park on this glorious Chinook-warm morning in order to be able to continue. As much as a challenge that the project has presented, I'm still so grateful for it. I have learned a few lessons along the way...about commitment, about having faith in my own intuition, and about the value of creating for creation's sake. I really hope to have this complete and the entire project ready for delivery by next week.
I'm so excited! My order of birch bark has arrived. Now I can finally put the finishing touches on my 52 WEEKS PROJECT. My vision was to add the totem animal meaning for each piece and tuck it behind each canvas but I didn't just want to use a piece of paper so I began to dream of the birch trees I grew up with in the north. When I was younger, a Cree Grandmother taught me how to harvest birch bark sustainably, but since we have no birch trees here I had to order some and I have not been disappointed. So today I will cut up the bark and begin the process of transferring the information that I had gathered over the past year which makes me very happy.
Traditionally birch trees have been extremely valuable to many Indigenous people. Because of its waterproof nature it was used to create buckets, baskets, plates, funnels, utensils, bowls, wigwams or tipis and canoes. It was used medicinally and often in burial ceremonies. It was also used in several different forms of artwork such as birch bark biting. It was so valuable that it was honoured in religious ceremony in which the spirit of the forest was offered thanks and a request for protection and strength.
Losing an hour over the weekend is definitely tough on the psyche...though I know that there is no such thing as actually losing an hour, for some reason I find it difficult to bounce back. So today, I've been taking advantage of the sunshine (thank goodness for the warming temperatures) and decided to work upstairs.
I've had this cold that seems to have returned once again. I just can't seem to shake it fully, and I know it's because my month ahead is scheduled quite heavily...just the knowing that I have so much on my plate tends to cause me anxiety, which affects my sleep, and in turn affects my health. It's silly, but I've come to accept that this is how my body reacts.
Though getting to my easel with a nice cup of tea (and a few home baked cookies) seems to life my spirits and with that comes a lightening of my symptoms. Interesting how that works. So, in spite of everything, it's still a good day.
I'm often asked if I paint every day (I do) and how long it takes to create a painting...and that's a tough question to answer. Just because I paint daily doesn't mean that a painting is completed daily. In fact, there is just as much work that ends in the trash heap as is shown publicly. I worked on abstraction for several years before connecting it with my canoes, and no, I never publicly shared the abstraction. It's not quite as painful if I'm working on paper but a stretched canvas is tough to let go of (or burn in a cathartic fire)...especially when I'm not stretching them myself as the cost is quite high. Last Thursday I shared a photo of a couple of small tins of paint, that alone costs over $500 but I have to say, it is all worth every penny.
This year I have been making a point of sketching daily and this morning I ended up cutting out more than a dozen pages from the sketchbook to toss. It's not that I'm ashamed of the work, although it can be really terrible. It's just that this is part of my growth in my creative process. Early on I learned to let go of what isn't working for me, a hard lesson but valuable. If I don't experiment, take a chance, try something new, I will remain stagnate. If I didn't try or remained exactly where I began, I do know that there would still be those who would support what I do BUT I know that I wouldn't be happy...not like I am when I take a leap of faith.
So...painting every day is good, what I paint every day is not always so good. And that's okay. Though it does mean that I can't really pin point how long it takes to create a painting. Every step that I take leads to the next...and sometimes it's a step back...but it's still a step. In the end it's part of my creative growth...which is all good.
The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood,
and I—I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The thing that is really hard, and really amazing,
March is a busy month for me and for that I am both nervous and excited. The greatest challenge is to keep the quote above in mind as I prepare for each.
** The Art Gala was last night and it was FANTASTIC! Almost 100 people came to support the students.
** Next weekend at the library is the altered book project at the Jr Artist's Workshop.
** The week after I have to deliver a presentation at City Council.
** The following week I will be presenting a documentary at Council Chambers.
** A meeting to attend to plan for the first Mayor's Night of the Arts.
** I have three magazine articles to complete (honoured!).
** I am preparing new work for two exhibits in the next few months (also very honoured!).
My month has only just begun and I've already had to miss a meeting I was so hoping to attend. But I know all will be well. I feel very fortunate to live in a community with a growing and vibrant arts community and to do everything I get to do. And, thankfully, amongst all that is happening in my life, there is always the meditation of painting in my studio.