Even though I didn't complete a Bachelor of Fine Arts back in the 1980's, I didn't stop studying. One year I studied stone carving with a Cree sculptor and invested in carving tools - I love the feel of soapstone and rasps in my hands. I purchased jewellery making supplies and took a metal and leather stamping workshop, though I prefer a less noisy creative endeavor and the pieces used to create jewellery are so tiny and require much patience. For several years I apprenticed with potters, purchased a kiln and completed hand formed clay sculptures and functional objects as I do enjoy working with clay though it is difficult on my hands, very drying. I studied fibre arts with a seamstress, creating patterns, clothing, knitted/crocheted projects and art quilts. At one point I studied printmaking with an artist and worked with a dremel tool in wood and with carving tools in lino and then played with monoprinting using a Gelli plate (all of the tools which I'm happy to say now live with my daughter who uses them in her high school art classes). I studied photography with a high school teacher and watercolour and oils with an artist friend. I have played with mixed media (still love altered books for fun) and yet, through it all, I have always, always painted with acrylics on canvas, studying with an artist through the Winnipeg Art Gallery for a year after college and then continuing to on my own.
Though most of the supplies have moved on to support schools, other artists and art workshops, I think that all of this was necessary, like attending a university built just for me. Taking classes, being mentored, visiting galleries and artists' studios, trying different media and genres, this was important to me in my journey as an artist. I needed to try things in order to know what to utilize, when and how, and to find out for certain where my heart lay. And I do believe that all of this experience has taught me to use different tools in different ways and to view compositions with a fresh eye while making connections between seemingly unrelated things. Plus, the photography has certainly come in handy during this digital era. None of my experience was wasted in the least. Plus I have had an incredible amount of fun.
5'm looking forward to so many exciting things that are coming up in the year ahead. Sometimes I feel exhausted when I look at my calendar but mostly I feel grateful. First I am excited for my exhibit reception at Inglewood Fine Arts on Friday evening at 5.30pm, then teaching two watercolour painting workshops at the Airdrie Public Library on Saturday. Next week I will be speaking to students at Bishop Carroll High School in Calgary and next month the library is hosting an author visit by Lyndon Penner, an exhibit change with work by local artist Brenna Miller, and our final art workshops with local artist Heather Plimmer. Also in May I will be painting with live jazz music at Inglewood Fine Arts on May 5 and this summer, on August 12 & 13 I will be painting at Effusion Gallery in Invermere, British Columbia as part of their Summer Creative Series. There are author visits, exhibit changes and art workshops to host in the library in autumn and finally, I am looking forward to exhibiting my work at the Southern Alberta Jubiliee Auditorium from December to February...such an honour to be invited.
The changes in my studio have been interesting to say the least, yet I think I'm finally beginning to settle in. It's difficult to gauge as my work has been limited to short spurts because of my shoulder injury but it feels good to still be able to accomplish things...especially since I don't handle not being creative very well at all. I still find myself standing to work more than not but it definitely relieves pressure to be able to work with my arms down instead of in front of me as I did at an easel. It is a bit of a difficult adjustment but it certainly feels better, and I do like the fact that the walls and window are always visible, which wasn't necessarily the case with the easel. So far I have been able to work up to 36x48 inches on this drafting table so I am happy as it is easy to manipulate the angle whenever I need to though I am considering investing in some wheels so that I can move it around as required and also to get a small rolling cart that would be easier to move around as well. If there are any suggestions, I would love to hear them!
I remember the first time I saw 'Out of Africa' in 1985, a movie that was based on the memoirs of Danish writer Karen Blixen. The book of the same name was originally published in 1937 and recounts the story of her time during the seventeen years she lived in Kenya. I absolutely loved the movie (it is still a favorite after all these years) but really, who wouldn't with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in the lead roles? And I loved her story. The fact that she defied expectations running her own business and working tirelessly for the betterment of life for the Kikuyu tribes people made her a hero in my eyes. I was only eighteen years old and dreamed of being so confident and committed.
I read and re-read her memoir many times, laughing over some of her misguided ideas and weeping for her losses in life. I longed for her independence as I had moved out of my parents' home the day I had turned eighteen and struggled to figure things out for myself. I desperately wanted to attend art school but didn't know how I would make it work but after seeing this movie I realized that I would have to find a way for myself. Thankfully I had the assistance of my high school art teacher and school counsellor who were both so supportive and encouraging, helping me to apply and to plan a budget (which I wasn't very good at keeping at the time). It's interesting how totally seemingly unrelated ideas can spark something in someone else. For that I am grateful.
The other day I was picking up art supplies and was drawn by this vibrant colour which I couldn't resist. Normally I use heavy body acrylics but so far I'm really enjoying this consistency...for now. I wish Liquitex carried a range of vibrant fluid acrylics, like Golden, but I definitely still prefer the heavy body acrylics. And I still want to try the inks and do love the spray paints and paint markers, too. They're great for layering pattern and colour. Has anyone tried the inks? I'd love to hear your experience with them if you have.
48Now that I have experienced chronic pain on two separate occasions (5 years ago with frozen shoulder that took two years to heal and now with severe tendinopothay in both shoulders) I have the utmost compassion for those who suffer on a daily basis with ailments that are not treatable. In spite of working shorter periods of time and a little smaller than I would sometimes like (36x48 to 48x60), I cannot believe how much I have accomplished in this first quarter of 2016. I'm glad that I have been keeping track of this year's work as so far I have completed...
12 - larger paintings (20x20 to 36x48)
14 - 7x14 (52 WEEKS)
32 - 4x4 wildflowers, tipis, canoes & animals
2 - 5x7
...and I have almost completed another 24x48. I guess this is a testament to the fact that slow and steady is remarkably effective.
Since I've removed my last 52 WEEKS project (the wildflowers) from the studio wall in order to bring them to Bluerock Gallery, I have been missing all that vibrant colour and because I wanted to look at this year's project while it is in progress I thought I would hang the Heroes project. I have prepared all of the canvases with under painted colour and pattern so it will be nice to be able to watch the images as they begin to emerge. I can't believe a quarter of the year has already passed as it feels as though it has passed so quickly.
Many years ago a mentor suggested keeping myself surrounded by my own work - advice that I wasn't comfortable with at the time. She told me the best way to learn and to improve as an artist is to look at what I had done while keeping in mind the principles of design (line, form, value, colour, texture, shape and space) and to consider how to do things differently. She noted that it was good to view my work with a critical eye and to pay attention to what I felt to be working and what didn't and then to bring that to new work. It is advice I follow to this day.
On a daily basis I have company in my studio. Walter watches what I do very closely, as well as reaching out a paw on occasion to play with my lids and grab my paint rag. There are times he places himself between me and my canvas as though he is critiquing my work and those times I am reminded to step back and look at what I am doing as well. Plus he's great to cuddle while I look...definitely a win win situation.
Louise Nevelson came into my life when I was sixteen years old learning about contemporary art. I was fascinated by her. She was a tiny Russian woman who was utilizing reclaimed materials to create large monochromatic (mostly black, sometimes white) assemblage sculptures. I often wondered if it was because her father was a lumber merchant that wood became her media of choice. She studied art in high school but worked in an office as a stenographer before she was married and then went on to study fine arts even though artists were not well regarded by her husband's family. She eventually divorced her husband but continued to study the arts and became Diego Rivera's assistant (and his mistress for a time...as was almost everyone it seems) as he worked on a mural at Rockefeller Plaza. She painted, worked in clay and printmaking living mostly in poverty with her son until she began creating large sculptures out of found materials (mostly wood but also experimented with plastic, metal and aluminium) in her 50's. She received financial and professional success in her 70's.