I've been working on this 5 1/2 foot silhouette which will showcase 100's of kids' art throughout ARTember (in September). These ARTember projects always feel like a collaboration with the kids and I love seeing them in the front window of the library. Can't wait to see it all come together.
I'm also currently renewing my Red Cross First Aid training and am quite surprised at the number of changes over a short period of time. As I went over all the incidents I've witnessed and the times I've been able to assist family members and complete strangers, I was surprised how often first aid knowledge has helped me to help others in need. I don't like the uncomfortable feelings I experience in emergency situations, but am very, very grateful for the training I have been privileged to receive throughout the years. And now, I'm off to class once again.
Yesterday I was involved in a smudging ceremony that was a reflection of those I grew up with in the north. During special occasions when we would gather as a community, a Cree Elder would light cedar and allow the smoke to waft over each of us and say...
I have always loved that blessing and was thankful to be reminded that whatever struggles we may face, they are only for awhile. That there is so much to be grateful for...that we can grieve and then move forward. That we are all in this together, we have each other.
On Friday I had the great pleasure of being involved in a drum circle at work where we shared prayers for the safety of all who have been affected by the flooding. It was so beautiful. The highlight of my career at our public library.
I've also begun working on some small monotype prints which I will share in a few days. It's fun working in a completely different medium, and playing with watercolours as well. Oh no...now I've said it, I'm committed.
To see everyone come together in difficult times...this really has been an incredible week in spite of the difficulties.
Today is my birthday...I am 47 years old. Thirteen years ago a good friend gave me a book that was quite ground-breaking for me. This was thirteen years after leaving art school when I had been struggling with a career and young children and still painting, waking at 5am and going to sleep at midnight just to fit it all in. I was desperate to find work that would blossom into a series, something that mattered to me, something that I felt would reflect how I felt and that I wanted to commit to. Little did I know that I didn't have to find it, it would find me. It still continues to find me. I just have to keep working.
Anyway, the book I was given was titled 'Spilling Open' by a young woman named Sabrina Ward Harrison. It was a catalyst of sorts, a reminder to belong to yourself...just trust yourself...that we all feel fear and inadequacies and that's okay. So, I just painted what was around me. And took that massive frightening leap to share what I was doing with others. And a year later I had my first exhibit opening at the grand opening of ArtSpace complete with an A-Channel interview (yikes, a live recording), Bernard Callebaut chocolates, champagne and a performance by my friend Tim Tamashiro's trio.
Life (and my work) has changed dramatically from that time. I have continued to work and experiment throughout the years. And after what's been transpiring across the province as far as flooding with many friends experiencing displacement and loss, I am humbled and grateful beyond measure. Plus I'm looking forward to turkey dinner with all the fixin's this evening (yes, in June). So this is a good day.
And for those who have wondered...yes, I have legally changed the spelling of my first name to a 'c'. It's just easier this way.
It's been a bit of a roller coaster around here as the flooding has produced a wide range of emotions and evokes memories of the 100-Year-Flood in Manitoba which occurred the spring before we moved here sixteen years ago. My heart is breaking for all those who are displaced right now across Alberta, for those who have lost their homes and their treasured possessions, and especially for those who have lost a friend or family member in these few days. It's these times that I'm grateful I paint as it is very grounding and
This image comes from photos I took in the mountains a few years ago, of the stubborn Bighorn Sheep that refused to move off the highway while he stood and stared at us over his shoulder. He looked a little condescending, actually. It was nice to see the sheep so close but I have to say, as with any wild animal, I was thankful to be in our vehicle.
The Big Horn Sheep is the sign of new beginnings...their horns never stop growing which marks abundance and creativity. They also remind us to maintain our balance in dangerous situations.
And the funniest thing happened yesterday. In the sixteen years I've lived in Airdrie, I have never seen a porcupine but yesterday my husband noticed one hanging out in the lilacs. This was after an hour sitting under them while he was reading. I didn't know they climbed trees. I didn't know that we had porcupines in Airdrie. And I learned from the Conservation Officer that they don't particularly enjoy eating lilac bark, preferring fruit trees (a crab apple tree sits nearby) or poplar. Well, at around 10 pm last night he, very noisily climbed out of the lilac and went on his merry way...to a party, no doubt. What else would you do after sleeping all day?
Click on photos to enlarge image.
I thought I'd share my step-by-step (can't say that without thinking of the Back Street Boys) process for creating a painting. It's quite intuitive though there are definitely a few techniques and steps I follow. Typically I work on several canvases at once so that there's drying time in between each layer but, in this case because the canvas was small, I used a heat gun to dry each layer as I worked.
First I begin by flooding the canvas with colour, typically a variation of 2-3 warm (orange, red, yellow) or cool (blue, green, purple) colours but in this case I decided to use neutrals (unbleached titanium and payne's gray). After applying the paint very roughly I wet the canvas thoroughly and allow it to sit awhile. Then I usually use a piece of fabric or rag to lift the extra liquid and to add texture and pattern but this time I used an interesting patterned paper towel.
This is where it gets really fun, selecting either a warm (in this case) or cool palette to keep the colours from becoming muddy, I begin adding patterns and shapes using my fingers or thumbs, container lids (milk, shampoo, peanut butter), different sized brushes, rubber stamps, stencils, my hands. After that layer dries, I repeat the previous step with new patterns in the opposite palette.
Because I constantly carry a sketchbook with me, I usually take the time my canvas is drying to flip through my rough sketches for a drawing to transfer to my canvas. Using white or a dark blue or charcoal, I draw the image onto my canvas with a paintbrush, allowing the sketch to be very loose and gestural.
For the final layer, I typically select a pair of colours (often complimentary - red/green, blue/orange, or yellow/purple) and add white to them for opacity and begin roughly painting around the sketch. In this layer I often add scratched marks (symbols or words) with the back of a paintbrush or a well-used pencil and continue adding patterns and symbols until I am satisfied with the results.
Because I grew up in the north, the symbols and imagery of the aboriginal culture resonates with me. Petroglyphs and pictographs as well as canoes and the stories of the Cree Grandmothers and Elders form the biggest pieces of my memory. This work has become extremely important to me as a reflection of not only my history, but of the history of my country.
Throughout the process I step back from the work often to see where a pattern or colour should be repeated and to begin to envision what image might lie in the painting. I also like to add texture on occasion to the canvas prior to beginning the work by using modelling paste and/or gel media, sometimes incorporating paper as well.
There are often times when I have needed to submit a proposal, whether to exhibit work in a gallery, to write magazine articles, or to create public art. I've found that I'm most successful when I carefully read the outline for submissions first and then begin to prepare as if I'm applying for a job.
Fortunately life as an artist is a bit easier these days as compared to when I began more than 10 years ago. At that time I had to travel more to research venues as well as prepare and mail out an artist's package complete with slides of my work along with print material, and now most of it can be done digitally.
Regardless, I still follow the same steps as I did before, though now the cost and time requirement have decreased substantially.
1. Do your research...find out if this a good fit for you & your work and if it will be a pleasure or a challenge to be involved in this particular manner. If there is other work in the gallery or public space or magazine, view it. Make sure your work is different but not totally (ie. don't submit paintings to a gallery that only represents prints) and feels like it would belong.
2. Prepare a resume which includes any work that is related or relevant to the project/submission. This includes exhibits and any art-related work such as volunteering.
3. Create a portfolio page of 10-20 images relevant to the submission. Your images should be clear and the colour accurate.
4. Write a cover letter in your own words that briefly introduces you and what you do and why you'd love to be involved.
5. And, what I believe to be the most important...MAKE SURE YOU LOVE IT. Trust your gut. I have learned to make a point of only being involved in something I would do in spite of any recognition or sales. That way, I won't be disappointed.
Often a website link is all that is required so be sure to keep your own website current, typo-free and authentic to you. It helps to have a second pair of eyes preview what you've written and uploaded. It also helps to take a peek at how other artists present themselves and select what suits you.
I forgot to share my painted cabinets...I LOVE the blue! Though I have run out of steam a little bit and am currently working on other projects so the final coat of beeswax is going a little (a lot) more slowly. I'm still surprised my husband chose this colour as I was sure he'd lean toward the softer grey-blue. Thank you VERY MUCH Jenny of Ava Blake Creations!
I also forgot to share the book I mentioned previously - UnMarketing by Scott Stratten. I really enjoyed it. The author was funny and the message was terrific. The tag line "Stop marketing. Start engaging." attracted me because I am not a marketing guru...in fact, my husband always tells me how terrible I am at it because, really, all I want to do is paint. I had initially heard Mr. Stratten speak and enjoyed his valuable information as well as the light-hearted way he delivered it.
The biggest thing I took away from this read is that I need to feel comfortable with whatever I do. I've learned not to give up too fast when I try something new, though, because it took me a couple of tries to become comfortable with blogging and then with facebook, but now I really enjoy both because I have connected with the most amazing people. Currently I'm confused about twitter but I figure if I give it a chance, I might begin to enjoy it, too. I really enjoy hearing what's happening in my community, what artists and friends are up to, and I get so excited when I hear of the successes and joys of others. I guess we'll see where this journey takes me next.
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”
I always keep a sketchbook with me, it helps to pass the time and is a great place for ideas and notes. Awhile ago I read an article on 11 tips to bolster your creativity and this is what I wrote in my sketchbook...
1. Use different eyes...look differently, from a different physical or emotional perspective, using different tools or media.
2. Forget the rules...yes, there are some rules that help as an artist, rule of thirds, perspective, line, form, shade...but sometimes it's good to let them go and just paint.
3. 'Just do it'...stop worrying about another's perception or your own...just do it for the fun of it, paint like a child once again.
4. Keep moving...keep going, keep looking, keep showing up.
5. Find muses...find those things that you love, that inspire you...music, colour, people, words...put that into your work.
6. Remember contrast...opposites attract...colour, shapes, words, values...opposites add excitement. I like to work in complimentary colour palettes because they sit on opposite sides of the colour wheel.
7. Don't be afraid...do something that scares you a little...speak in public, write, sing, work with a different media or subject...and bring those experiences back to your work.
8. Use your body...I usually work at an easel or on the floor so that I can gain a different perspective and use my media in a new way.
9. Let it go...don't hold to tightly to anything or you won't allow room for exciting and happy 'accidents'. Keep in mind that every experience feeds creative growth.
10. Stay...even when you feel uncomfortable. It is usually in those moments that a huge shift occurs.
11. Don't. Give. Up.
Only two more weeks and I'm at the half-way point of this 52 WEEKS PROJECT. There are times (like this one) where I wonder what I was thinking and that perhaps it's not too late to create something else to submit at the end of the year. But, I plod along and somehow something shows up.
This time I knew I wanted to incorporate the stencils I've been creating along with a barn owl of some sort. So, this would be owl number three. They are such interesting creatures...they represent wisdom and helpfulness and have the power of prophecy. There is an ancient Greek story of Athene who banished the mischievous crow then honoured owl by making him her favorite.
The Barn Owl is also known as the masked owl, has a magnetic personality which can either draw people to them or make them uneasy. They believe in shared responsibilities though they tend to work alone. Working in a different fashion leads to ingenuity and inspiration.
They have also been viewed with fear, associated negatively with witches and evil omens, but I like to think of them as gentle and knowing, which is a good thing as owls are one of my daughter's favorite species.
So, I've finally completed the two pieces I began in Samantha da Silva's FEARLESS painting class and though I took photos under several lighting conditions I just couldn't seem capture the nuance and depth I physically see in the work (thus the detail images).
The beauty of EMERGING I+II is that even though each canvas began with absolutely different palettes, the layers that followed brought the pieces together. I also love the fact that they stand alone as separate works, can be hung side-by-side or as they appear here, one over the other.
I don't publicly share my abstract work very often, and even though I have completed several abstract commissions throughout the years, it still feels so out of my element. It sometimes feels a bit like sharing the deepest parts of myself. But the process is delicious...just responding to personal thoughts & feelings, to the images & music to which I am exposed, to the media & tools available to me. A wonderful way to work.
AIRdirondack Art Project
Alberta (above) +