Typically most of my paintings are started in a similar fashion. I begin with a background that includes many layers of colour and pattern added by using brayers, brushes, stencils and an airbrush. After the paint cures and hardens well, I start the process of adding an image by using a rich colour that will stand out well from the background and is also fairly transparent so that I can add washes of colour to create shadows. After it dries well, I begin by adding some highlights and more colour until I feel like the piece is interesting, leaving some portions slightly unfinished because I love a painterly appearance. Finally, I hang the piece for awhile until I decide that it is complete...sometimes I go back in to change some colours or shapes or to add a few more layers of shadows or highlights. It's my standard process whenever I paint, even if I don't add pattern to the background as I still always begin with a toned or painted ground.
I think that clarifying in words why I select the imagery I do in my work can be a bit challenging at times. I've spent a lot of time working on this latest series which has given me a lot of time to think about this body of work and what it means to me. Why fashion? Why these particular dresses?
Psychological - fashion represents personality, a personal statement, fashion as body language, as therapy & positive mental self image, creativity.
Historical - Glenbow Dior exhibit, portrays a message of self, search for identity, consumer culture & how it relates to social culture & social movements, innovative, fashion's influence on society, communicates to the world who we are & who we would like to be.
My history included fashion education as does my daughter's current experience. Fashion is a form of personal expression from the inside out and of transformation. As a way of knowing yourself. I see it as a positive form of self expression, a way to share who you are without words.
Back in the studio...
After travelling in many different ways, I have come to the realization that I don't really like to paint outside of my home and studio. I do like bringing small moleskine sketchbooks with me in order to jot down notes and make small sketches, but I really do love to keep the messy creative stuff at home. So, it was wonderful to get back to the studio after travelling this time, and to utilize my travel time to spend quality time with my husband, to relax and refresh, and to get a lot of reading done. I was itching to get back to my 'Fashion Plates' series. This is painting number 16 of a planned 22 piece body of work. I'm beginning to see the finish line which is very exciting to me!
I spent a week in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic last week and it was wonderful. Every afternoon it rained while we enjoyed our afternoon coffee (my husband) and hot chocolate (me) - both are major imports for the country and they are so, so delicious. We brought some home with us. We visited with several artisans while we were there and were able to select a couple of pieces to bring home, which is always very important to me. I love to be able to support local artists and it is lovely to see them at work. The plants and animals were, of course, very different from our home in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and I've been inspired...I can see the inspiration of a new little project heading my way. The people were incredibly friendly and welcoming, I hope to return someday.
Liquitex Paint Pen
Often when I'm working smaller I like to begin by drawing on the canvas with an acrylic paint pen. This is especially convenient when I'm transferring an image from a sketchbook to the canvas as it feels much like the marker that I use to draw the original image. I've always drawn, though I don't tend to share my drawings very often, and like to use any implement including pencils, pens and markers to sketch and doodle with, but I still view these drawings as the basis for paintings rather than completed works in themselves. I always view them as my preparatory work. For as long as I can remember, I have drawn, which makes this a natural part of my creative process. Plus, using paint pens means I can use a damp cloth to 'erase' any marks to make adjustments as I go while the paint is still wet.
'Under the Sea'
I've recently completed this painting, which is a bit of a departure for me, for the upcoming VIM Future Oceans fashion show that will take place in Victoria, BC on July 1 and in which my daughter, Katherine, is one of the designers.
The Future Oceans Design Competition is an innovation challenge presented to international fashion designers by Victoria International Marina, in Victoria, BC, Canada. The Ocean Legacy Foundation, and Natural Talent Alliance. The mission of Future Oceans is to inspire hope and promote positive activism toward environmental conservation and recovery.
“Five trillion individual pieces of plastic are estimated to be floating in our ocean. More than a million seabirds and over 100,000 marine mammals die every year from plastic. Small weathered micro-plastics are now found within digestive systems of sea life, birds and mammals globally. Over 220 million tons of plastic are produced each year, we must choose to reduce our need.” – www.oceanlegacy.ca
“Our journey is one of passion, purpose and action. The Oceans need our attention and we are answering with action led by a community of artists, backed by well-thought-out strategy and some of the smartest and most proactive people in the world. Our Designers and Ambassadors will help spread the truth about the health of our oceans while stimulating positive discussion on solving the issues that plague them. Communication is more powerful and effective when it comes from leaders, especially when told through the lens and in the vernacular of their professions.” – Craig Norris, CEO, Victoria International Marina
While I've been living with the Fashion Plate series on my wall, I've begun to see a few things that I'd like to change, beginning with this piece. I've added a creamy white over the entire dress as the original dress is unbleached muslin, but also want to add some more washes of dark shadows and perhaps some stamping using the images I had carved for my daughter to stamp the fabric in the first place. I've been wanting to use the sugar skull I created for her for some time and wonder if that is what would complete this piece for me. It's always a challenge...to leave things as they are or to alter them slightly. That is probably my greatest difficulty when I live with my work too long, I become more critical and want to make changes. Sometimes it's successful, other times it's not. Hopefully this is a good decision.
Yesterday I completed this painting before spending the rest of my day with a Cree grandmother. The painting is symbolic of the medicine wheel in its colours:
Indigo (west/fall) - intellectual/knowledge
White (north/winter) - spiritual/connection
Yellow (east/spring) - emotional/awareness
Red (south/summer) - physical/movement
Both the medicine wheel & raven symbolize balance and a little magic. I love that.
My wise 80 year old guest gifted me with a braid of sweetgrass and a sage bundle for smudging. She shared so much wisdom and joy with my daughter & I, whom she calls wolf & raven. I am so honoured that she owns several of my paintings and that she took the day to travel to us. Beauty just emanates from her and my life feels richer for her company.
Watch Over Me & Heading Home
I've completed two more pieces in the Fashion Plates series, both measuring 24x24 inches, which brings me to fifteen paintings. Only seven more to go. Of the final pieces, I have a larger canvas prepared which will be the largest of this series (36x48), and a couple of smaller ones. The squares have been interesting in this series, the smallest measure 20x20 and the largest 36x36, so working on composition has been a happy challenge. In every painting I like the idea of challenging myself in several different ways, and one of them has been to center the image while still making the composition interesting. I think the movement of the fabric and placement of the arms helps. It's also been interesting to have a variety of shapes and sizes of canvases prepared as I often work in series on one size at a time. I also have no idea what I'll be painting on each canvas until I get to it which has been very compelling for me. Anyway, still plugging happily along, not sure where this will head once it is complete, but definitely enjoying the process.