As an avid reader, it has been so great to take my work and put it into books. Initially I created the first to celebrate the completion of my first 52 WEEKS project, then a second and then a third, after a number of requests to print what I share about the experience of being an artist.
52 WEEKS::An Artist's Labour of Love
I knew that I would have a difficult time letting go of the paintings that I had spent a year creating as it felt like the biggest accomplishment but also knew that I cannot possibly keep everything that I create. And so, the idea of creating a book for myself was born. It has been wonderful as Bluerock Gallery sold both the paintings and the books. The series focused on wild animals found in North America along with their totem animal meanings.
This project was actually the third 52 WEEKS project, but as the second is in a personal art journal, I know that I will be keeping it. This series of paintings focused on the wildflowers I have been obsessed with since I was a child (an that my poor children were expected to stop by and learn about every summer...they have heard every story many, many times). This series focused on North American wildflowers, their medicinal purposes and the stories connected with them. The books are available online and the paintings are currently available at Bluerock Gallery.
Sacred Vessel::A Painter's Handbook
This book has been a culmination of a couple of years of work. As a professional artist, I found the process difficult to begin...from creating a body of work, to wiring artwork and writing a statement, to submitting work to galleries. I began prior to the internet and had trouble finding information on how to do any of this as it wasn't taught in art school. I hope that I can help others on this journey. The books are available
I created all three books through Blurb online and found the process to be quite simple, lots of drag and drop. I still have much to learn and am looking forward to creating another book after this year's 52 WEEKS::Heroes project is complete...and would like to create another of our family's favorite recipes for our daughters. And, who knows, maybe when I have some time again (and my shoulder feels better) I might actually create one for the 52 WEEKS::Gratitude project.
There are basically two methods that I use prepare work for hanging after the paintings have been completed. I use the same tools but the method differs depending on the size of the piece.
With smaller pieces under 8 inches wide I find that too much hardware on the back makes things feel rather bulky. I have tried sawtooth hangers and eyelet hooks set into the gallery depth canvases but they are awkward for me to work with...maybe it's because my thumbs are double-jointed and don't always cooperate. My favorite method is to use one D-ring at the top center of the canvas. Once it's flipped up, it hooks nicely, hides any hardware used on the wall, can be hung with a small finishing nail, and always hangs straight.
Anything 10 inches and up are considered larger canvases as far as I can see in regards to hanging wires. I measure the canvases and mark 1/3 of the way down the back which is where I place my D-rings on both sides. The thickness of the wire is dependent on the size of the canvas (the wire is labelled by weight) and I typically wrap it around the D-ring twice and then wrap the wire tightly around itself. I don't pull the wire too taught across the back of the canvas so that it's not difficult to hang, but tight enough so that it hangs flat against a wall.
Nellie Bly, aka Elizabeth Seaman, launched investigative journalism by faking mental illness in order to study patient treatment in a mental institution. She began her career in journalism by writing a fiery letter to the editor in response to a misogynistic column titled 'What Girls are Good For' then was hired to write a series pf articles on the plight of working women, Being pressured to write instead about fashion and gardening, she then decided to travel to Mexico in order to work as a foreign correspondent. She returned to the United States after being threatened with imprisonment due to writing about the lack of freedoms whereby she took on the task of investigating an asylum. She believed that the horrendous treatment of the patients led to insanity rather than healing people. The food was inedible, patients were tied together and forced to sit most of the day while being abused by orderlies. Conditions were terrible with rats running rampant and buckets of cold bathing water poured over the patients' heads.. Her reports were published in a book titled 'Ten Days in a Madhouse' and the grand jury launched then an investigation which recommended numerous changes, including increased funding. She also set a record when she travelled the world in 72 days, in order to prove Jules Verne's 'Around the World in Eighty Days'. She was also an industrialist and inventor, returning to journalism during the first World War where she wrote about the Eastern front as well as writing about the suffragette movement. when she correctly predicted that women would win the vote in 1920.
After we had our first daughter twenty-two years ago, I still worked full-time and quickly realized that if I wanted to continue this creative life I would have to figure out a way to utilize the short number of hours I had every week to paint, and to utilize them well. The thing that I noticed very quickly was that I had to have some kind of plan rather than waiting for the 'muse' or I wouldn't achieve much in my allotted time.
GET UP EARLY
The first thing I did was wake up an hour earlier than everyone else to head down into my studio. It was an amazing way to begin my days...it seemed I had much more energy and was definitely more positive throughout the day, so it wasn't the sacrifice I originally believed it would be. This worked particularly well for me (and still does) as I found that I have the most energy and ideas in the morning.
The second thing I did, and still do, is to make myself a cup of herbal tea. It's great to get me hydrated first thing in the morning and while I wait for the kettle to boil I start envisioning possibilities...maybe sketching out ideas for new projects or thinking about a colour palette on the latest piece(s) I'm working on. It's good for my body and my mind.
TURN ON THE LIGHTS
When I get into my studio the first thing I do is turn on the lamps that I enjoy. I used to light a candle as well, but found that to be a bit of a dangerous practice as, once I'm working, I forget about it for long periods of time. So, now I light a salt rock. It sits beside my chair in my studio and as it warms I like to place my hand on it. It's good for my spirit.
LISTEN TO SOME MUSIC
For many years, my choice of music has leaned toward CBC Radio and almost anything related to it. I like the variety, from folk to classic to jazz, and the fact that it's often quite calm rather than frantic.
READ SOMETHING GOOD
Then I settle in my chair to read something inspiring and begin journalling and/or sketching. Typically I tend to read something like 'The Artist's Way Every Day' followed by either a gratitude list, a to-do list or just jot down creative ideas.
It's interesting to me that after all these years, these rituals tend to prime the well so to speak. These days my challenge doesn't tend to lie in not knowing what to create, but rather on focusing on one thing at a time. Not such a bad thing, I think.
Let me list for you some of the many ways in which you might be afraid to live a more creative life: You’re afraid you have no talent. You’re afraid you’ll be rejected or criticized or ridiculed or misunderstood or—worst of all—ignored. You’re afraid there’s no market for your creativity, and therefore no point in pursuing it. You’re afraid somebody else already did it better. You’re afraid everybody else already did it better. You’re afraid somebody will steal your ideas, so it’s safer to keep them hidden forever in the dark. You’re afraid you won’t be taken seriously. You’re afraid your work isn’t politically, emotionally, or artistically important enough to change anyone’s life. You’re afraid your dreams are embarrassing. You’re afraid that someday you’ll look back on your creative endeavors as having been a giant waste of time, effort, and money. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of discipline. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of work space, or financial freedom, or empty hours in which to focus on invention or exploration. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of training or degree. You’re afraid you’re too fat. (I don’t know what this has to do with creativity, exactly, but experience has taught me that most of us are afraid we’re too fat, so let’s just put that on the anxiety list, for good measure.) You’re afraid of being exposed as a hack, or a fool, or a dilettante, or a narcissist. You’re afraid of upsetting your family with what you may reveal. You’re afraid of what your peers and coworkers will say if you express your personal truth aloud. You’re afraid of unleashing your innermost demons, and you really don’t want to encounter your innermost demons. You’re afraid your best work is behind you. You’re afraid you never had any best work to begin with. You’re afraid you neglected your creativity for so long that now you can never get it back. You’re afraid you’re too old to start. You’re afraid you’re too young to start. You’re afraid because something went well in your life once, so obviously nothing can ever go well again. You’re afraid because nothing has ever gone well in your life, so why bother trying? You’re afraid of being a one-hit wonder. You’re afraid of being a no-hit wonder.
It has been awhile since I've been able to work on a larger canvas from start to finish and this piece was such a pleasure. Recently, after one of our trips to the Rocky Mountains, I sketched a flying raven (they were quite chatty while we there) and knew I wanted to add it to a canvas, just uncertain as to whether the painting would be large or small....and I thought it would overlap another image. But, while I was working on this canvas, I just knew I wanted to paint a large raven to be the focus of this painting. Lately I have been giving a lot of thought of the direction I would like my life to head. I know that I want to continue to paint, that is always forefront in my mind, but other than that I often question my choices. I love my work as the Arts & Culture Coordinator at our public library but sometimes it can be exhausting as much of my work consists of planning and executing events and programs. Not that I don't enjoy it, as I am an organizer at heart, but I do find it draining at times when I would rather be at home, painting and learning. And yet, there have been periods in my life when I have just focused on our home, family and art, and I missed being involved in the community. And thus, this painting seems to encapsulate my desire at the moment...and that is to find my way.
I'm often asked what I pack when I have a live painting engagement. I've tried many different setups throughout the years but have simplified things to make things easier for myself. The main things are a canvas (usually around 24x30 inches), my collapsible easel, a tripod (for my pochade - above), my smock and a mat to place on the floor (I get a little messy). Inside my pochade I keep:
I vividly remember listening to Billie Holiday while working late nights in the drawing studio at Red Deer College and I absolutely fell in love with her voice. When my eldest daughter was a born and even to this day as an adult, Billie's voice has been a balm to her. As a toddler, we just had to turn up the volume and our daughter would fall asleep immediately. Billie was born in Harlem as Eleanora Fagan and lived a turbulent childhood. When she was young a neighbor attempted rape but she fought him off, then became an errand-runner for a brothel, eventually becoming a prostitute alongside her mother before the age of 14. She then followed in her suspected father's footsteps by becoming a musician and taking on his stage name. Her debut album was released when she was 18 as she recorded an album with Benny Goodman, where she was compared to Louis Armstrong. She had a reputation for being temperamental and unreliable after complaining about poor salaries and working conditions as well as refusing to change her style and was the first female black singer to perform with a white male band and also to perform in the segregated south. Unfortunately as an adult she experienced abusive relationships along with drug and alcohol challenges which caused her voice to suffer and eventually caused her death in the summer of 1959.
The longer I delve into my family history, the more I realize that the history of the place that I grew up in the north is similar to what my ancestors experienced...the rustic lodgings of the trappers, the fight for survival in a difficult situation. And it's interesting how I have always been drawn to a simpler lifestyle, dreaming of a life in a log cabin surrounded by nature. With these pieces I wanted to continue to explore the use of a graffiti-style application of paint in many layers, to add texture in the skies, and to keep the drawings of the cabins minimal, like blueprints or architectural drawings...lighter, almost like a memory of the past.