I also obsessed over Vincent Van Gogh for many, many years. I viewed everything I could that was created by him and read everything available about him, but my favorite were his letters. About ten years ago I created a series of landscapes but I was never totally happy with them. I couldn't capture the light and colour that I wanted so badly but am trying once again.
I was inspired by his dedication to his work in spite of the fact that no one collected it during his lifetime and he created over 2100 pieces. He drew on whatever paper he could find with the charcoal from his fire. And, interestingly enough, he worked as a missionary in a mining region which I connected with as I grew up in a mining community and spirituality is very important to me. I've also always been drawn to the connection art and religion, which seemed a theme running through Van Gogh's life, "...to try to understand the real significance of what the great artists, the serious masters, tell us in their masterpieces, that leads to God; one man wrote or told it in a book; another in a picture."
Because my husband is allergic to smoke, I tend to use smudge spray inside my home. I've tried a few recipes but this one is my favorite:
1 oz (30ml) dark brown or blue glass bottle
3/4 oz filtered water
1/4 oz alcohol
8 drops sage essential oil
pinch Epsom or sea salt
In place of filtered water I like to use melted snow or rainwater. For alcohol I use a homemade vanilla which consists of 2 cups of vodka and 2 vanilla bean pods which steep in a dark cupboard for several months but you could also use any alcohol and add drops of vanilla or lavender essential oils if preferred.
I like to smudge my studio before I start work for the day and this scent makes me feel especially happy and calm. And because the sense of smell is one of our strongest senses, I believe beginning this way flips my brain into creative mode rather quickly. It's a good way to begin my day.
As an artist I tend to keep working over holidays which can be a challenge when everyone else is on holidays. There are many trips and events to attend so it can be difficult squeezing creativity in, but because I love it so much I am sure to make time for it daily. One way to make it work is to spend a little more time in my sketchbooks. I've been playing with stencils and spray paint on my canvases so I have also begun using stencils with spray inks in my sketchbooks...they're a quick and easy way to begin a background for painting or writing.
I only have three colours - a deep red, an indigo blue and a golden yellow ochre - that I received as a gift from Somerset Studio Magazine (Stampington & Company) and though I'm enjoying them I do find that they aren't as permanent as acrylics so as soon as they're empty I want to thin out some of my favorite colours and create an acrylic spray that I hope to use on my canvases as well. The only drawback to using Liquitex acrylic spray paints is the fact that I have to use them outside (or in the garage) and when I'm on a roll I like to remain in my studio so this may be a good solution. I'll let you know how it goes.
For those who have asked, the book 52 WEEKS: An Artist's Labour of Love is available at Bluerock Gallery in Black Diamond and there are still Totem Animal paintings from the series available as well. Visit their online store to see the paintings that are still looking for good homes :) You can also click on images to read about each of them here.
I went through a period of obsession with the work of Gustav Klimt. I loved his use of pattern and colour and the fact that he painted people as it was my portfolio of portrait and figurative drawings that enabled me to attend art school. Though his faces often seemed expressionless, there was so much feeling in them.
I enjoyed drawing and painting nude female forms so much, I think because of the soft, organic shape that I'm drawn to, that I was asked if I was gay (I'm not, not that there's anything wrong with it). I've also incorporated his use of bronze, copper and gold leaf through the years, though sparingly. I love his use of symbols and imagery to tell a story and finally feel as though the canoes I've been creating the past few years finally connect that for me. I've also been drawn to his Biblical and mythical work, and perhaps some day I will embark on that path.
Another of the greatest inspirations of Klimt to me was that he was a founder of the Vienna Secession, a group whose goal was to help provide a platform to share the work of unconventional young artists publicly. That is my goal, too, as Arts & Culture Coordinator for our library. And by young, I have always believed that meant newer to the creative life rather than in age.
Currently unless I'm working on altered books I tend not to mix media (ie. gel media, papers, copper or gold leaf, etc.) but rather mix the methods I use to apply acrylics to canvas or paper. I'm currently working on a large triptych, three 30x40 inch canvases, which I hope to turn into three separate paintings that can work together or apart. I decided to work on them vertically so in the end the piece will measure 40 inches in height by 90 inches wide. I've been missing our van as I used to be able to haul large paintings but these days I have to work in diptychs or triptychs if I want to go larger than 36x60 now that we have an SUV instead.
Anyway...with these pieces I decided to play with monoprinting using my gelli plate, then moved onto layers of translucent drippy washes of colour in warm tones and then brought everything out to the garage to utilize spray paints and stencils. I love incorporating the hand cut stencils I created and decided to use both positive and negative shapes to create the feeling of cave painting (petroglyphs). Since my work focuses heavily on pictographs and petroglyphs, I found that this has been a terrific way to include these images in my work.
Last year as I created the 52 WEEKS PROJECT I wrote about buffalo as a symbol of abundance (here) and swallow (here) so it was nice as I worked to be reminded by these messengers to continue to work diligently and with determination in order to find my way home.
It took me a long time to figure out what success as an artist meant to me. Originally I thought it was for my work to be recognizable by peers and patrons, then to be published and/or accepted as a professional artist, and finally, to have a modicum of sales which would ensure that I could continue on this sometimes lonely but not inexpensive path. At one time I felt like a success when my work was published alongside Pavarotti in the Avenue Magazine in Calgary, or when I was interviewed for Shaw and Global television.
But these days I tend to feel most successful when I work...even when the work isn't exactly heading in the direction which I had initially planned. Just being in my studio (or on occasion in the garden or garage) and working stems more ideas and really gets those creative juices flowing. I find that the more I work, the less critical I am of myself which allows the work to flow more freely...though it doesn't mean it's all good, but rather that it's just part of the process. I love the process now more than anything and sometimes become saddened at the end which is a far cry about how I used to feel.
In the beginning it was all about quantity over quality. I think much of my life was like that. Amassing more rather than focusing on what matters. Maybe it's my age or just gathering experience over time but these days I like to think that success is trying rather than not. As my husband likes to say (he's full of sports analogies) never, ever, ever give up (Vince Lombardi paraphrasing Winston Churchill).
While I was wrapping Christmas presents I ran out of gift tags. The funny thing is that I used to make them along with my gift wrap but as I've become more and more involved in the arts in the community there have been a few things that I stopped doing, and this was one of them. And because I'm a huge proponent of reducing, reusing, and recycling I had been using the gift tags that came in the mail the past few years (you know, all the promotional material...but they were cute).
Anyway, as I looked around my studio I came across a small sheet of watercolour paper that I had been doodling on but didn't like the doodles so I erased them, sprayed the sheet with water and then roughly covered it with red watercolour. Red is definitely my favorite colour for the season as we tend to get Chinooks which create grey, hazy days and the pop of colour is refreshing.
This year, with one of my fantastic Michael's coupons, I purchased a tag cutter and so this part was quick and easy...previously I used to hand cut tags with an Xacto knife and cutting board though they weren't quite as pretty as this (these are terrific for mixed media and altered books)...and then added a hole with my small hole punch. I found a holly rubber stamp which my daughter had purchased at a dollar store for 50 cents a few years ago and Voila! Gift tags. Quick, painless, simple. And they look so cute attached to the presents with red & white bakers twine.
I love, love, love bread.,,all kinds of bread. Savory and sweet. Baking it. Eating it. These days one of my favorite recipes is an artisan no knead bread which I bake in my cast iron pot. It's an easy one:
Stir together 3 c flour, 1/4 t yeast and 2 1/2 t salt, then add 1 1/2 c + 2 T tepid water and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit 12-18 hours. Sprinkle counter well with flour and turn sticky dough onto it, fold over a couple of times and allow to rest on a well floured or cornmeal coated towel for 2 hours. Heat oven to 425F with a lidded cast iron pot. Take heated pot out of oven, sprinkle well with cornmeal and gently roll bread into pot. Cover with lid and bake 45 minutes to 1 hour. Yummy!