What a wonderful evening we had on Wednesday at the Airdrie Public Library - Gail Bowen was incredible! She was witty and inspiring and such a treat. Our host (and good friend), BMO's Rob Jamieson was excellent and received rave reviews as well. I'm already looking forward to our next author visit, though it won't take place until November.
I grew up in the Boreal forest in northern Manitoba and loved stumbling into copses of birch trees in the woods. There are days I wish I still lived in the woods, in a log cabin in the woods to be exact. And I'm often reminded of The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost and of the choices we are fortunate to be given.
I used to be terribly intimidated by a blank canvas and so, to get over this fear I began covering my canvases in colour and I felt so much better. Initially I used a solid cover on the entire canvas, a terra cotta for landscapes and a vibrant green (like a green screen in movies and television) for interiors but now I just grab whatever grabs my attention and let go.
I like to pour and drip and scribble and roll on colour, not really concerning myself with any outcome. And then, once everything has dried, I do it again until I have basically covered my canvas to create an interesting base. Then I add patterns - circles, triangles, dots and lines using brushes, container lids, and brayers - and once my canvas is full of beautiful colour, I begin to envision how I will use the arrangement of colour in my completed piece. Much like mixed media work, but using pattern and colour instead. This is where I decide whether my canvas will be vertical or horizontal and which image I am drawn to include with a drawing. And then I add more colour and pattern again.
These days the work has come even further by introducing mixed media in the form of metal leafing, lately it's been copper though I have used gold in the past. And I've been incorporating drawing by using Liquitex paint pens and I'm really enjoying the outcome. Let the rumpus begin!
Prince's-Pine is known as a winter lover because of its glossy evergreen leaves and its dry, brown fruit that tends to overwinter on the stems. The Cree name, Pipsissewa, means 'it breaks into small pieces' which refers to a substance in the leaves that was believed to dissolve kidney and gall stones. As a tea, many First Nations' Peoples and early settlers used this plant medicinally.
This was my contribution to Convergence on Tuesday. As I walked around speaking with the students, the ideas of puzzles, shapes, and nature kept coming up so I decided to work on a piece that resembled a puzzle. Using 9-4x4 inch gallery canvas I began by adding a variety of colours and shapes (circles, triangles, rectangles, lines) and then decided to incorporate a crow as they were circling around outside the windows of the lab where we worked. It still didn't feel complete to me, but this morning when I awoke at 6am I knew exactly what I needed to add...more patterns. Using white brightened up the background which I initially found to be a little less of a contrast than I had originally wanted (the challenge of working fast, wet on wet) but adding white at this stage was the perfect solution. Plus, as I worked with the students I kept thinking back to the Volunteer Appreciation week at the library and how the symbol of ripples in water reflects the impact each person makes in the world around them and so I decided that adding these patterns was the final logical/creative step. As I work, I often find I do it so intuitively that I don't consciously think about my choices and selections and how they work together as a whole while I'm working but rather respond to the environment around me. And yet, in the end, it all connects, like a fascinating puzzle. This, I think, is the key to creativity...to allow experimentation and flow. I really need to apply this removal of over-thinking things to my entire life.
Earlier this week our home was broken in to while I was volunteering and a treasured senior member of our family passed away. Since then I've been especially focused on gratitude. I am thankful for the smallest of things...that my husband and daughters are well and safe, that Walter our cat was fine though a little shaken and didn't leave through the wide open door, that material things are just that, that our local RCMP are so kind and helpful, that so many friends step up in great measure when things are not the way they should be, that my studio is still a place of sanctuary...that and the beauty of the wildflowers that are beginning to grow. I remember when I found these lovely flowers with my name many years ago. The Veronica Speedwell is a dainty, almost fairy-like flower that grows in pinks and periwinkles which are lovely. I've grown them in my gardens as long as I've been married and though my last batch didn't survive last summer's hailstorm, I'm hoping their roots survived and that they thrive once again.
It was a real privilege to be involved in Convergence (art+technology), which is part of Beakerhead (a smashup of art, science & engineering) for Rocky View Schools. Almost 250 of the most engaged art students in the region came together to work in tandem, whether in fine arts, music, drama, or video, on the theme of 'Connecting'. As I walked around speaking with the students it was interesting to see how they related to that theme - trees+nature, technology+social media, the human experience+circles. Because the students had access to a large variety of media and substrates, it was so interesting to see how their vision came to life. I'm excited to see how this all comes together with the rest of the Beakerdrop projects on Thursday.
I finally finished reading 'The Successful Artist's Career Guide' by Margaret Peot and though it was geared to an American audience I did find many words of wisdom for artists:
* express genuine enthusiasm for your wok
* everything you do must generate from your center
* saying no can be a positive step towards something that is a better fit for you
* know the direction you are heading
* remember good manners
* an artist's statement should be 100 words or less
* start from the beginning, doing your work your way - don't start with compromise until you 'get recognized' (Michael Bendele)
* everyone who has a success story has found a way to make art that is deeply meaningful to them
* even if you have an art-related job, carving out space in your life for your own personal exploration is crucial to your growth as an artist
* if the work is good, it has power; if you are on your path, the way will be cleared for you because you mist return your gift; there are helpers along the way; you must be willing to sacrifice; know what makes you feel right
* "...the imagination needs idling - long, inefficient, happy dawdling and puttering. These people who are always briskly doing something and are as busy as waltzing mice, have no slow, big ideas." (Brenda Ueland)
She also shared a story about her grandfather when he was attempting to find work during the Great Depression. Though a local sawmill had no work available, he showed up every day, swept the floors and helped wherever he could in order to allow the operators to continue working. At the end of two weeks, his value was realized and he was hired as he was helpful, diligent and friendly. I love that image of dedication and commitment and reward.
Spreading dogbane is commonly found in wooded areas as the flowers tend to droop in the heat of the day. The pods of the plant are poisonous though the stems have strong fibers which were used as a strong, fine thread by First Nations Peoples. They were twined together to create bow strings and woven to make fishing nets. The leaves and stems extrude a milky sap which has chemicals related to digitalis and so was used medicinally but due to harmful side-effects the practice stopped.