I have always watched old movies and when I was very young, probably about 12 or 13 years old, I was in love with the 'Tammy' movies. They were funny, sweet and romantic and I was hooked. Though Debbie Reynolds was the original Tammy, it was Sandra Dee who really caught my attention. As I grew up I learned that Sandra (originally Alexandra Zuck) struggled with the sweet image Hollywood forced on her. She began modelling at the age of four, was sexually abused by her stepfather, enjoyed cigarettes and alcohol but was expected to hide it, and ended up struggling and eventually dying of causes related to anorexia nervosa. In interviews she often talked about growing up too fast, which is something I have always kept in mind when raising my two daughters.
Yesterday was a really good day...it began with this nice photo taken by my friend Christina in the City View and which also featured another friend. Zac and I were two of the artists who have painted picnic tables for the City of Airdrie in conjunction with Volunteer Airdrie as part of their Placemaking initiative. It was such a treat to paint as it was so large, unexpectedly but happily so...though that also made it a bit of an interesting challenge as well. I also spent time yesterday painting my kitchen cabinets and they're well on the way to completion, then an exciting high school football game with my daughter, and my day ended with a presentation to a small group of students. My contribution was about the value of a website/online portfolio so I thought I'd share some information here as well.
My career as a professional artist began before personal computers and required a lot of difficult research. There weren't many resources available at the time though I did find a great book titled 'Taking the Leap' by Cay Lang which taught me the basics for creating a curriculum vitae, artist's statement and artist's package to submit to galleries which, unfortunately, I hadn't learned when I studied art formally in college.
Then, when computers became available, there was still much financial investment and education required to set up a website. Now there are so many options for free web platforms, I use Weebly, though I do pay a minimum fee for my domain name/URL (web address) annually, though I highly recommend being wise in spending your time and money. It is better to invest in quality materials and education while at the same time being consistent and remaining professional online as whatever you share on social media will come back to haunt you (certain politicians come to mind).
Creating a website, whether it is static or fluid (ie. including a blog), is extremely helpful as a practicing artist and there are a few pages that I think are important to include:
1. HOME: This page can be about you or include current information such as exhibits or workshops. Mine currently features areas that I have chosen to invest my time in order to create passive income - Merchandise through Society6 (just required editing photo sizes and uploading) and Books through Blurb (created through the use of blog posts). In both cases, I don't have to have an inventory in my home which means that I don't have to pay for products in advance, nor do I have to store and ship material. Though I only receive a couple of dollars on each item sold, it is a nice way to receive a few hundred dollars monthly. I also have links to other social media where I also share information. Many artists find one method of sharing that suits them better than another and will focus their attention on that but it is still important to have an updated website to share your professional portfolio.
2. BLOG: This can be news updates but in my case I have posted Monday to Friday for several years and have found that being consistent has drawn a daily readership of thousands of people which is amazing to me. At the beginning of each week I like to create visual rich posts that can include anything from quotes that inspire me to works-in-progress and completed pieces. Writing authentically in your own voice and focusing on what matters most to you always allows you to connect with others that feel similarly. I have connected with numerous collectors of my work as well as other artists worldwide because of it and am so very grateful for their support, encouragement and friendship. Because my work is usually quite solitary, this has been a wonderful way to keep in touch.
I also find that blogging helps me to put everything into words so that I can speak more clearly about my work and why I do it.
3. PORTFOLIO: This section is key as it can include the curriculum vitae (artist's resume...keep track as it's interesting how much and how quickly we forget what we've been involved in), artist's statement, biography and, of course, photos or videos of your work. I have taken several photography courses through the years and have learned that the best way to photograph artwork is outside in light shade with no flash. Be sure not to tilt the image as it can be distorted and then to crop it to include only the image, nothing extraneous.
4. GALLERIES: Working with a gallery (or anyone who is willing to share your work including any public space or business) should always be a symbiotic relationship. It's important to have a good feeling about anyone you're doing business with as they really do represent you to people you have never met before. And it is a relationship, which means that you need to support one another by linking through social media and sharing gratitude for what they do for you.
5. CONTACT: A way to get in touch is also extremely important. And even more important is to be sure to respond to emails. Even if you don't have an answer immediately, let that person know you have received their email and also let them know when you will be able to respond properly. It's a professional courtesy.
Regardless of whether you are a visual or performing artist keep in mind that everything takes time. No one begins as the CEO. And always, always use your own voice as it is your story that others want to hear.
When I first began exhibiting my work professionally about 15 years ago and the tender age of 35, I had no idea what lay ahead of me. I worked in the lowest level of our four-level split home in the park and though I had no windows for natural light, the lighting was nice and the space was warm. I could work at any time of the day or night without disturbing my young family which was a real treat. At that time I painted, worked with clay and woodcut prints...just for fun. There was a lot of advice shared with me, some of it good, some of it not so good...not for me, in any case. The best advice I received was to trust myself more. And I'm so grateful for this age of technology as it has changed the face of the art world so that artists have more control of what they do and how they do it.
There are days I would love to go back to that studio on the creek. To toys and a crib in my studio. To experiment and play for the first time. And then, I think of my daughters who have become lovely young women and who, I hope, if nothing else have learned to follow their hearts in spite of any advice that they receive...from me or anyone else. There are jobs now that weren't even in existence when I was a young woman so I know that opportunities will present themselves when they are ready, too.
Sometimes I feel rather obsessive about this art life of mine. I can't seem to not paint...ever. I travel with paint and my favorite holidays include demos or plein aire painting and, to be honest, I'm not much of an outdoor painter as I tend to prefer my studio....unless it involves a lovely glass of wine and snacks. When I'm asked how I find the time to paint, I honestly have to say that I have to find time to do other things...you know, like clean my house, work and volunteer. I feel the same about reading. When my daughters were born I had a playpen in my studio space so that I could continue to paint as they played or slept. And I'm grateful for this obsession as it grounds me and gives me absolute joy.
I have really been enjoying working with acrylic inks to stain my canvases lately as a small amount goes a long way and the colours are so vibrant. They are quite moist and do take longer to dry and set than acrylic paints but I do like how the colours layer and bleed. In combination with Liquitex acrylic spray paint and heavy body paints I find the different textures add so much interest to the finished paintings. Occasionally I also use paint pens but more often in smaller pieces. With the ink as a base, the texture of the canvas is visible and I sometimes wonder if that is so important to me because I sewed before I painted, expecting to have a career in fashion design rather than as a painter. I also didn't have any confidence in my colour usage as most of my prior experience was in pencil drawing. But I am glad that my life ended up this way...thanks to painting classes as Red Deer College.
Almost annually I re-read 'Gift from the Sea' by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. It reminds me that life has always felt hectic, even in 1955, and that our lifestyle really isn't any different from the ones past, but that we each have the opportunity to change that for ourselves. Her husband was known for his flight around the world and she became the first female to earn a pilot's license in the 1930's. Their first son was kidnapped at 20 months of age and his body found two months later. Though she and her husband seemed happy, moving on after the loss of their son to having five more children, they both had affairs (she even had a brief one with Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of The Little Prince and he fathered and supported several other children). In spite of conflict and challenge in her life, she was recognized for her contributions to both aviation and literature as well as being rewarded with numerous college and university degrees.
Alberta Culture Days were busy for the Airdrie Public Library beginning with a day spent with Metis storyteller and drummer Denise Miller. She had all of the elementary school students enthralled with Cherokee, Mohawk and Cree stories and song. It was wonderful to watch. Then, my friend Brenda Campbell shared her new colouring book titled The Canadiana Collection with an adult colouring workshop. We hosted Voice & Vision which was a collaboration between 12 artists and 12 writers and I'm so glad I got to take part in it as it was an amazing experience. And finally, we spent two days sharing colouring bookmarks at East Lake park. I decided to draw several patterned feathers to represent quills in homage to the first books created. I think I have finally recovered and, as exhausting as ARTember in Airdrie is each year, I wouldn't trade it for anything.
I took this photograph on the weekend (before adding Virginia Woolf to the bottom row) and I can't believe this year's 52 WEEKS project is 3/4 of the way complete. Every morning I sit in my studio and view this wall it gives me great pleasure to see the progress. I have always enjoyed working on large pieces and, through the challenges of adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder), limited time and space, I am beginning to wonder if this isn't how I should work more often. I guess it has been several years since I began working in this manner and I don't think this is the end in any case, but it certainly makes me think of my creative work a little differently.
A few weeks ago I painted Daphne Odjig and sadly learned this week that she has now passed away. I'm glad that in my small way I have been able to honour her and her contribution, not only to the arts community, but to the First Nations' community as well. Every time I look at these paintings I am reminded how valuable the contribution of every single woman has been in the world as well as in my life. And I am beyond grateful for these women who have paved the way.
When I was invited to create works for the upcoming 'Winter Whites' exhibit at Effusion Art Gallery in Invermere, BC, initially I considered painting a canoe or two. One day, as I was reading about endangered animals I knew that I wanted to focus on them instead. A polar bear came to mind immediately because of the conversations about climate change and the challenges being faced in northern Canada, but I also thought a lot about caribou and the effect of the changing environment on them. I researched a bit more and learned about the Peary Caribou, which I hadn't heard of previously. They are also found in northern Canada, their coats turn white in winter and they are the smallest of the caribou family. These pieces were a pleasure to paint and I hope they bring joy to whoever sees them.
The glass ornaments I painted for the Westside Legacy Trial fundraiser are now on their way to Effusion Art Gallery in Invermere, BC. These were a bit more of a challenge than the wooden ornaments I have been painting as glass is a tricky substrate but I found great paint and was able to heat set the pieces before varnishing. They, along with the work of several other artists, will be hung on the gallery tree in November which I'm excited to see. A special thanks to the gallery for the invitation.