I love to end my year by looking back at the things that I was privileged to take part in. Though I painted fewer pieces, it was an even better year than the last...thank you for that. It seemed to be a great mix of teaching (a little less) and exhibiting (a little more), with many new opportunities. Though a few things didn't work out as I had hoped, it did space for others.
Whenever I'm out, whether teaching, visiting, at appointments or during other day-to-day activities, I keep a small moleskine sketchbook with me in order to jot down sketches for painting ideas or to take notes. I recently stumbled upon these interesting lessons that were written by Elliot Eisner and been published by the National Art Education Association:
1. The arts teach children to make GOOD JUDGEMENT about qualitative relationships. Unlike much of the curriculum in which correct answers and rules prevail, in the arts it is judgment rather than rules that prevail.
2. The arts teach children that problems can have MORE than ONE solution and that questions can have more than one answer.
3. The arts celebrate multiple PERSPECTIVES. One of their large lessons is that there are many ways to SEE and INTERPRET the world.
4. The arts teach children that in complex forms of problem solving purposes are seldom fixed, but change with circumstance and opportunity. Learning in the arts requires the ABILITY and a WILLINGNESS to surrender to the unanticipated possibilities of the work as it unfolds.
5. The arts make VIVID the fact that neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can KNOW. The limits of our language do not define the limits of our COGNITION.
6. The arts teach students that SMALL DIFFERENCES can have LARGE EFFECTS. The arts traffic in subtleties.
7. The arts teach students to think through and within a material. All art forms employ some means through which IMAGES become REAL.
8. The arts help CHILDREN LEARN to say what cannot be said. When children are invited to disclose what a work of art helps them FEEL, they must reach into their POETIC CAPACITIES to find the words that will do the job.
9. The ARTS ENABLE us to have EXPERIENCE we can have from no other source and through such experience to DISCOVER the range and variety of what we are capable of FEELING.
10. The arts' position in the school curriculum symbolizes to the young what adults BELIEVE is IMPORTANT.
I've been enjoying the challenge of working on these small 6x8 'Ancestors' paintings. I find it difficult to paint portraits on substrates this small, but also, using canvas paper instead of canvas seems to add to that challenge. The paper absorbs the paint and it certainly reacts differently than I'm familiar with and the texture requires a lot of work when creating the features on such a small scale. But I am enjoying these vintage images and love to think about the women in them.
A year ago my daughter was diagnosed with high-functioning autism (commonly known as Aspergers syndrome). The interesting thing is that as a family we weren't surprised, and for her it was a relief. Recognizing that her differences which were a challenge for her in high school are also her gifts. I think knowing the things that make a person's life more difficult, which in her case includes bright lights, noisy spaces and uninitiated touch, helps to set boundaries for a healthy life. Some things like misunderstanding social nuances can be hard but, at the same time, what she says and does is always authentic. In a world where there are times that behaviour is intended to be hurtful, I find the pure honesty refreshing. So she has learned to spend time with those who view the world similarly and appreciate her for who she is and I have never seen her happier.
**tintype photograh by rilyjb.com
I've been having so much fun working on this painting of Stephen Avenue in Calgary but, though I tend to work very organically, I realized that I needed to straighten some of my lines. This is where painter's tape always comes in handy. I tend to love strong lines and edges in paintings, but usually work with them very organically, which typically means that nothing is straight, but with this image I felt that it was important to get those details right (or a little more right in any case). I'm sure I'll veer off my taped lines at some point, but I do think this is a lovely way to work right now. I actually like the look of the tape, that lime green looks pretty fabulous against that burnt orange background.
I was recently privileged to paint a portrait as a gift...this one was especially meaningful because it is to honour a loved one who is no longer with us. There have been several opportunities to create these special memorials, and I cannot express how touching it is that I get to be the one to do this for others.
As I've been going through old photographs, I found one from about 5 years ago when I got a new painting apron...when I compare it to the apron now, it's fun to see the results of several hundred painting sessions on it. When my husband & I were married over 30 years ago, I used the chef's apron he had, which lasted for so many years. Finally, when the ties could no longer be repaired, I finally invested in my own painter's apron. It felt so stiff & uncomfortable that I tended to lean towards a pair of old ripped jeans instead of the apron most of the time. Now that it's been worn in, though still stiff but now from paint, I love putting it on. When I slide it over my head in the morning, it's as though the ritual pushes my brain into creative mode. I love that.
The time I've been spending both in and out of my studio recently has been so refreshing. At times I struggle with the direction that I want my work to head, and yet, whenever I trust myself and follow those little nuggets of inspiration, everything tends to fall into place.
I'm glad I painted the small series titled 'Fashionista' to honour the 20% of female fashion designers that have been recognized. And enjoying the extended time I've been spending in the city has inspired another series of large paintings...something I've been thinking about quite a bit lately.
And, of course, I am very excited to begin 'The Grandmothers' series in the new year. I am struggling a bit with the total focus...to paint portraits or full images, rely on the vintage or more contemporary photographs, or to work in a more neutral palette (keeping the background colourful) or continue to paint portraits as I have been doing for several years (leaning towards that). Anyway, I know that I will trust the inspiration as it comes.