I think that one of the most often asked questions that I receive is 'How do you find your inspiration?' It's something I think about all the time. Sometimes my ideas work out but other times they fizzle out, at times quite dramatically. I'm guessing this is such a common question because I work in large bodies or collections with the same theme, style and media.
Initially, in college we were encouraged to work in series as it helped to build our eye-hand coordination and developed our skillset. That was a lesson I've taken to heart and continued throughout my many years of painting. Then, a number of years ago, an artist told me that it was important to pay attention to what grabs your attention.
With my 'Simple Pleasures' series that consisted of large interior paintings, I had been nursing a baby (then two) for almost two years each due to digestive issues they both experienced. I was sitting a lot and kept a book and sketchbook nearby to keep myself occupied. Those little sketches led to large paintings (typically around 24x24 to 36x48). I loved being able to work large and loose while on my feet after sitting so much, plus it was nice to have a single piece to focus on at a time.
The 'Sacred Vessel' series began because my daughters were getting older and I was experimenting with patterns and colours. At the time I had so much more time on my hands and I was really missing my childhood in northern Manitoba. We lived by the Churchill River in the Boreal Forest and were immersed in Indigenous (Cree and Metis) culture. As part of my public education, we learned how to survive in the wilderness and how to paddle a canoe. I missed that part of my history so much that I began to paint canoes which turned into another body of work.
In 2013 I decided to create a painting a week of common wildlife while trying out a variety of media. This was two-fold, as I wanted to learn more about painting animals as I didn't have a lot of experience with the subject matter, plus I wanted to try different mixed-media. It became my first 52 WEEK project, where I completed a 7x14 painting a week for 52 weeks. This eventually led to the 52 WEEKS::Heroes potrait painting project which led to the 100 day 'Nasty Women' project in response to the political climate in North America.
Currently I am on the final leg of 'The Grandmothers' project. Another portrait project that was inspired by going through old family photographs a year after my father's unexpected passing. I wanted to focus on something really positive and on portraits again. We sometimes forget what the women before us have had to endure and overcome.
There have been many 'mini' projects throughout the years, in between all of these, but I think these are the most important to me as they continuously get me thinking as I work. Occasionally things don't work out and I do let them go, even once I've started as I don't want to feel burdened or stressed by the work I've committed to, but rather want to feel excited to hit the studio every day.
I write notes on anything I can get my hands on, make sketches, and have learned about the power of collaboration. When I get these little nuggets of inspiration, I often discuss them with others (my youngest daughter inspired me to begin the first portrait series) and place a call online for contributions or ideas. I always keep a small travel sketchbook with me to doodle or write in. And I sometimes do a little research because I find it fun. I think my greatest pleasure is preparing canvases to create a new body of work. It gets my mind flowing.