In the Studio
First of all, I have to share how much I LOVE my new space...it's cozy, yes, and though I wouldn't have selected the wall colour on my own (I don't know why because I absolutely adore every shade of blue) I really, really like it. I've been spending quite a bit of time working on the floor on some small commissions as well as the landscapes I began recently and also on a new altered book. This one is a self portrait of sorts and utilizes a neat child's board book with cut out circles. I'm slowly finding my way with it.
Also, I'm currently preparing a simple painting project for a large group of Realtors which will be held in a couple of weeks. I'm quite excited for it as I used to do the conveyancing (legal documents) for a local Real Estate office 18 years ago and always enjoyed how much fun it was in the office. Such a happy group of people. Plus, wine and paint are a great combination ;)
And I'm also looking forward to seeing the completed mural that a group of teens I worked with last week are currently creating. They were such a great bunch of kids, extremely creative, so I kind of can't wait to see the finished product. I think I probably learned more from them than they did from me.
As you can see, the process part of my work kind of clutters my space, but I always end the evening with a tidy studio and a fresh jar of water so that I can begin anew with the sun rise. I crave order and I need to know everything is where it should be so I don't have to go searching when I'm on a creative roll. And so this new space is working really well for me...this move has my creative juices flowing. A change really is as good as a rest.
Thankful Thursday::Y for Yarn
Though I don't knit or crochet much anymore, I still love yarn. My Oma first taught me to finger crochet when I was three years old and since then I've created many gifts for myself and others through handwork...blankets, sweaters, and toys. And now I usually use yarn in mixed media work, particularly when I create altered books. I do still knit my dish cloths, a perfect hobby during the cold winter months when I'm snuggled up by the fire with a good movie. There's nothing better.
Wednesday Inspiration::Benjamin Chee Chee
I though I would spend the next few Wednesdays sharing the greatest creative inspirations in my life. As I consciously think about what I do and why I do it, I definitely notice where the work is coming from...but also see how it changes through a combination of my interests, skills and experiences.
The earliest influence in my life was Benjamin Chee Chee. He was basically a self taught artist and a prominent member of the Woodland Indian group of painters and though he died tragically young, he began something very new in the group by simplifying form and creating slightly abstracted images. He also moved away from narrative story telling, something that I tend to enjoy in my own work which is probably why I like writing artist's statements.
Chee Chee's work was the first original artwork I was exposed to at a very young age and it still fascinates me. In honour of his work, I incorporated some of his line drawing into a few of my 'Sacred Vessel' pieces and even created one of the 52 WEEKS Totem Animals, Goose, as a tribute to him. In 'The Village' (above) I added my version of his print titled 'Friends' as every time I looked at his image since I was a child I always thought of the adage 'It takes a village to raise a child.'
The War of Art
Creative work is not a selfish act
Landscape painting has always been a bit of a mystery to me...I've battled with them on and off for many years. On occasion I feel like I have been to capture exactly what I'm feeling, and those pieces found new homes instantly, but other times I've struggled to utilize the vibrant colour palette and the simple, almost abstract shapes I love. I'm really enjoying this body of work and I think I may have finally figured it out. There are a few steps I've taken this time that I hadn't tried previously:
1. My brush is quite a large flat for the size of these canvases which means I can't get bogged down in details. Plus, since I'm working alla prima it means that I've just got to lay down the colour and move on.
2. I'm beginning the work at the top, in the sky, rather than beginning with the horizon line and this seems to keep me from creating really grey skies...so far.
3. I spent the past two summers sketching in pen and watercolour which has made me focus on shapes rather than my pre-formed ideas of a landscape. I've also been jotting down colour notes so that I don't get stuck on a photo which tends to flatten the colours for me.
4. I've been working on both textured and flat canvases which keeps the process interesting, therefore, once again I'm not getting caught up in the details.
5. Finally, I've been focusing on strong contrast which tends to be what excites me when I'm in the landscape. Dark tree lines, complimentary colours, changing skies.
But I do know that I prefer to do the thumbnail sketching while I'm out and about but still like to complete the work in my studio. When I'm removed from the subject matter I tend to loosen up. I have a few more small canvases to go and then it's onto large pieces...wish me luck!
Thankful Thursday::X for Xmas
I know this is cheating (sort of) but I love Christmas and with the season soon upon us this seemed perfect for my book of gratitude. My husband always says I'm like a kid at Christmas. I get so excited and can barely sleep at night. My greatest pleasure is to see someone unwrap a gift that I know they were dreaming of...that's the best feeling. This year will be interesting as it's the first with a cat so I think we'll put up the tree sans decorations for a few days and then slowly add to it...wish us luck!
ALLA PRIMA (1823): Italion, at once; a method of painting in which pigments are laid on in a single application instead of being built up by repeated paintings (Merriam-Webster).
Over the past few years I've been challenging myself to work in new ways and to focus on subject matter that I'm not as comfortable with...and in the past week I've been playing with both alla prima and landscape. Many trials on paper have ended up in the trash but this morning I thought it was time to push myself and finally try a canvas. The sketches I've been creating on the road have been invaluable and I've chosen to continue using acrylic paint as it's definitely a favorite. This piece is still wet so it will be interesting to see how the colours change as it dries. Then I'll have to decide if I want to varnish with a gloss, semi or matt glaze.
Whenever I work in landscape I like to coat the substrate with red oxide so that there are no white bits glaring through at the end. Plus, the rich ochre tone really compliments the greens of the landscape. In order to prepare myself to 'jump in' I have been working on small thumbnail sketches just to clarify the composition in advance, but I'm allowing myself to trust my intuition with colour selection and mark-making as I work. I have several canvases ready to go, so wish me luck. I'll share more next week.
Over the past few days I finally finished moving into my new (smaller) space but I really, really like it. My daughter had chosen this colour when we re-did her room previously and I've decided to keep it as my canoes look fantastic against it. Maybe it's because I love blue which means I use a lot of it in my paintings. The closet still needs a bit of reorganizing, but I'm being ruthless about getting rid of what I don't need or use. The curse of an artist is to hang on to everything 'just in case'. Well, I think it's time (once again) to share some of this bounty with the library's art programs.
I have never minded painting in a smaller space. When I first married a quarter of a century ago I would tape plastic bags onto the dining room wall of our one bedroom apartment (the curse of living with an artist who loves to work large). In our second apartment we had a spare room which was huge for me as in college I had to paint in my bedroom. And since then I've always had my own space, the best one being a home we lived in previously. It was a four level split which meant the lowest level had no windows, but the lighting was fantastic and we put in a vinyl floor so that meant spills wiped up effortlessly. And it was always warm, which is an issue in our current lower level as it has so many windows and not enough vents, which we can't remedy unless we want to gut the whole basement and start again...not going to happen.
This new space has two large walls for decoration and to use as an easel if I'm working extra large. I tend to prefer to hang work on a wall when it's that large in any case so I'm just glad for the space. Plus I need a tidy, organized space in which to work (no distractions) so it will force me to clean up at the end of each session.
Besides inheriting the colour on the wall, I've also inherited a hobbit hole which I've been told is not allowed to be covered. But I have been asked if it can be replicated in the new room, of course it will be. And, in any case, every studio should have a hobbit hole...don't you think?
Jr & Adult Artists::Adila Saeed
We had such great art workshops at the library on Saturday as a wonderful local artist, Adila Saeed, shared her jewellery making knowledge and materials with us. The kids created beautiful bracelets while the adults created earrings. It's a great time of year to work on handmade with Christmas just around the corner, though I do believe that most of the items created on the weekend will remain with their creators. It was the final art class for the year with new workshops slated to begin again in January. I'm so grateful to be able to share the talents of such wonderful artists. We're very lucky here in Airdrie.