It doesn't happen often but there are times when I avoid my studio...particularly when I feel stuck. I find it doesn't happen as often when I'm working on several pieces at once, but currently I have only one canvas on the go and it has definitely given me pause - as, I guess, have most of the pieces in this new series. So, instead I've been knitting dish cloths, cooking & baking (these wonderful Williams-Sonoma Country Rolls and Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies and delicious macaroni with penne, fresh ham, peas and sauce made with asiago, romano and parmesa cheeses...mmmmmmm...) - and, of course, plenty of reading. 'The Night Circus' is quite beautiful and haunting and I recently completed 'The Birth House' by Amy McKay which was wonderfully written. Plus I've listened to The Civil Wars over and over and over again. Musical poetry. So, last night I brought my canvas up from the studio and placed it on the hearth to look at throughout the evening. I dreamt about the piece and felt drawn to paint early this morning - it is finally moving forward. This painting includes a Haida war canoe along with pictographs of warriors and hunters. Not sure where this will lead but I'm excited. And now, back to painting so I'll leave you with my book review of 'The Birth House':
The Birth House
by Amy McKay
Though this novel was published a few years ago, and I held it in my hands many, many times, it took me this long to finally read it. I'm always drawn to books with beautiful covers and this is definitely one of them. Dora Rare is the protagonist in this one, born with a caul and then studying with an Acadian woman to be a healer and midwife in a time when it was frowned upon as witchcraft though all the towns people took advantage of these gifts. The story takes place in Nova Scotia around the beginning of World War I when a doctor, backed by an insurance company, arrives to bring 'modern medicine' to the area. McKay's writing is lyrical and she has certainly done her research on the medicine of the times. At times funny and poignantly sad, it's a novel about human nature and relationships - I'm thinking I may have to add this one to my collection for a future re-read.
PostScript: I'll be adding a few paintings in the WHISPERS series that where featured in Cloth, Paper, Scissors to the shop today.
PostPostScript: I love eating by candlelight - particularly enjoy the scent of vanilla beeswax candles.
It has been absolutely grey and rainy here for days which is the perfect weather for baking (made these yesterday - delicious!). So, as I wait for dough to rise I take advantage of the time to read. For the past few days I've been awaiting a few books that were ordered (through both the library and amazon) and because I'm keeping a few books on my shelves as summer reads, I decided to grab something out of my daughter's bookcase. I always read voraciously and carry books with me whenever I know I might be waiting for some time so I can read almost anything. This past year I read all the 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' series, the 'Outlander' series by Diana Gabaldon (I'm waiting for her to finish book number eight), 'The Hunger Games', 'The Help', along with numerous others including the books I've mentioned here previously, almost anything by Canadian authors (Jane Urquhart, Michael Ondaatje, Margaret Lawrence - 'The Stone Angel' is a favorite, Elizabeth Hay, Joseph Boyden, Carol Shields, Miriam Toews, David Adams Richards, Thomas King, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Gail Anderson-Dargatz, Mary Lawson, Alice Munro, Rohinton Mistry...not Margaret Atwood) and much non-fiction particularly inspirinational writing (books on creativity) and biographies of creative people. Working at a library eight hours a week doesn't seem like much, but I get so many recommendations from staff and patrons that my reading list is always full. Beside my bed is a pile that includes 'Before I Go To Sleep' and 'The Night Circus'. The last book I finished:
When She Woke
by Hillary Jordan
This is an unusual story, set in a dystopian world where a convicted felon's skin color is altered genetically to reflect the crime for which they were convicted. Though the book is compared to 'The Scarlet Letter', to me it felt almost like an adult version of 'The Hunger Games' as the entire lives of these criminals is publicly displayed on television after they are isolated and then placed in society to survive on their own. Hannah, the protagonist of this story, who was raised in a strictly religious environment and taught that this form of punishment was acceptable, learns through her own experience that human life isn't about absolutes.
Today I began my day by delivering some of these 'whispers' that were featured in the May/June edition of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine to Evanescence Gallery in High River. It is always such a blessing for me to visit Arlene at the gallery - she is such a beautiful soul. And the drive through the rolling hills is so heart-filling. So today has been a busy one, but definitely a pleasant one with great conversation and food and drink, though not quite enough art - I'm glad yesterday was filled with painting. While I drive I tend to do a lot of reflecting...on my challenges and also on the abundance of all that I have been given. It seems funny, but one of my favorite things is to sit and think, to reflect...I was labelled a dreamer when I was attending school and I have to say that must be why I paint, because I can dream my days away. Lately I've given a lot of thought to the future as my eldest daughter is about to graduate and head off to university so it was quite interesting to open the Globe & Mail to read:
"What is your most outrageous dream? What is the one thing you wish for more than anything else? It doesn't have to stay beyond your grasp. You DO have what it takes to make it happen - and now is the perfect time."
In his last two newsletters, Robert Genn has spoken of how he finds joy in creating and sharing art. And I have to agree whole-heartedly. So, I can FINALLY share the fact that Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazine's current issue (May/June) features a 5-page article which I wrote about a process that I had been working on for the last year (see my name in the top right-hand corner?!?). I wanted to incorporate texture and to create 'softer' work while playing with abstract painting, and these paintings titled 'Whispers' were born. It's so exciting to share my work, my inspiration, and my process with others. One of my favorite things about my job as an artist and curator as Art Program Coordinator at our public library is the fact that I do get the opportunity to encourage others.
On Saturday I taught a workshop for kids aged 9-12 and decided to teach the lesson of blind contour drawing. It's an exercise to connect the eye, brain and hand. If you want to try it, all you need is a pen or pencil and a piece of paper. Look at the object you want to draw (a vase, fruit, a sleeping pet, a shoe) and begin to follow the edge of the object slowly with your eyes while at the same time moving your pencil on the paper. Don't look at the paper as this isn't meant to be a final drawing. Do this several times (on the same piece of paper or on several) and then do it again while drawing the inside and outside of the object, still not lifting your pencil. Finally, draw the object while looking at both the paper and object. This forces your eyes and mind to see what is in front of you - paying attention to distance between spaces and the actual shape, focusing on the perspective.
This issue hasn't hit the newstands in my area, but keep an eye out as it will be around very soon. It's such a wonderful publication and I am thrilled to be part of it. You might see my work grace the pages again sometime ;)
Since I was a little girl I had old hands...hands filled with lines, stubby and crooked fingers. These hands are filled with stories of babies held and the clay pots thrown, words written and tubes of paint squeezed (sometimes too much just because it feels good). These hands held the hand of my husband in an emergency room, have signed documents for a myriad of personal medical tests, made many, many matcha tea lattes, turned many pages, and always carried found rocks, branches and feathers. I will be 46 years old this summer and I'm beginning to grow into these hands. These are the years I looked forward to for as long as I can remember even all the while knowing that time wouldn't make anything easier, that the challenges I would face would still be there but would be different, but also that the memories and joys would increase. Accumulation. The most beautiful woman I have ever known was my grandmother. The lines in her hands and face foretold the wisdom behind her sparkling eyes. Her skin so soft, her long locks of silver like plumage. I wanted to be like my grandmother...and instead of being wise and kind and softly quiet, I am full of emotion and cry tears of joy, of sorrow, of anger. I am a chatterbox who loves to laugh and to share everything I have learned. And I am learning to love myself just as I am. To be thankful for the wisdom and kindness of my grandmother; to remember to let go when I know I should; to appreciate every thing, every day; to be grateful for these hands.
Yesterday I worked all day, continuing to add pattern and color to the canvas I began and then last night I slept like a baby. Today, I will add some symbols that I dreamt of but will also be writing. In the past I had the great privilege of studying with a wonderful local poet, Cecilia Frey, and also have had poems published. But, even more so than my painting, or maybe because I have already shared my paintings in many, many exhibits, I find it difficult to share my poetry publicly. So, to challenge myself, and to open my soul even more, I have been writing poems in conjunction with this series of paintings I've been working on. I may read a few at the opening and thought I'd share something in progress today:
My Paddle Sings
I miss the song my paddle sings
as it dips
in the cool
over boreal forest
'I see,' I think.
My home is this land
north of 56
Timber Wolf talks to Moon
Black Bear turns to watch
with amber eyes.
'Yes,' I think.
This is the song my paddle sings.
I've now completed 11 paintings in this series and have just begun canvas no. 12 which measures 30x36 inches. In conjunction with this piece, I will begin painting number 13 which measures 48x60 inches...that's the one I'm really excited about as I love working large. I have held these pieces a lot closer to me than I usually do, only sharing the completed work with very few people and I think it's probably because they are so personal. It's been fun sharing some of the steps in progress and as much as I'd like to share the completed work, I know that it needs to sit quietly for awhile. This body of work will be shown as a series at the Inglewood Fine Arts in Calgary this fall so I will be happy to see them exhibited as a collective. I am so happy to have this work for my hands and my heart as I have been struggling personally. My eldest daughter is about to leave the country and though it is only a short trip this is the first time she's been somewhere that I cannot be near. She is also preparing to leave home for University in fall which makes my heart heavy as I love having her here. All this separation is definitely causing me some anxiety though I know it will be so good for her...and for me, too. I am grateful to have a younger daughter to dote on while my other grows up and away. And I am extremely grateful to continue this work that gives me so much joy.
I'm so excited - I've just signed off the final proof for artwork to be published on tea tins by The Naked Leaf located at 305 10th Street N.W. #103 (Kensington) in Calgary. It will be available in the shop next month. Can't wait to get mine. Also, more good news from another publication that is publishing an article I wrote which will be out later this month - excited to share with everyone once it arrives. Spring is always an interesting time for me - both physically and spiritually. This time of year is the most eventful as far as the weather on this side of the Rockies. A few days ago I was wearing sandles and then, the next, boots and a parka. In my home I like to take this time to 'lighten up', to go through closets and cupboards and let go of the things that I know I really don't need or necessarily appreciate as much as I should. By nature I'm a very organized person and tend to feel slightly claustrophobic when I'm surrounded by too much - too many things, too much on my schedule, etc - so I look forward to these times of cleaning house. And I always feel good knowing that these items will move to places where they will be seen and appreciated with new eyes. At the same time, I am always rewarded in return in other ways, with new opportunities and gifts. Reduce, reuse, recycle...it's definitely a great model.