Beginning The Grandmothers project has me also reminiscing about my father. He was born in South America and began working at 11 years of age. Their large family imported items from Brazil to Paraguay using an old, unreliable truck which often stalled in the treacherous mountain passes. This required throwing wood blocks under the tires to keep the truck from plummeting down the mountain. It was also when he started smoking.
At 19 he drove my mother to the city of Asuncion to apply for passports in order to emigrate to Canada for a better political situation and for opportunity. He had a voracious appetite for education and an admirable work ethic and was able to work his way from being a miner to a senior manager.
He was always grateful to live in a country that allows everyone the opportunity to do anything they dream of with enough dedication & hard work. This also meant that my brother & I were expected to do well in school as he felt anccess to education was a great privilege. He instilled in me pride in my country, a strong work ethic and love of learning.
With this upcoming Grandmothers project I want to honour the women who have done the same, through their portraits & sharing the stories of their sacrifices and how they overcame their own challenges.
Every year I begin a new journal and choose a guiding word for the year. I used to pick up small sketchbooks at an art supply store, but they began to become more difficult to locate, so I began to use these nice little sketchbooks from Indigo seven years ago. The paper is nice for drawing on and, as I received a Waterman pen many years ago, I always look for nice writing paper and this fits the bill. I use my journals to sketch, make notes, write out gratitude, keep my horoscope for the year and other little cards, doodle out my packing lists, and create to-do lists...I realized that I kind of use them like a Bullet Journal, but a little more creatively. This, along with my wall calendar tends to keep me organized (even though that wasn't the initial intention) and is a wonderful spot to capture creative ideas. I also tend to work through questions in my mind just by writing them down and also writing down my options. The tradition was based on something I read by musician Christine Kane many years ago and I've since learned that it began in Germany as 'Wort des Jahres'. I've found the practice to be monumental in my life. Such a small gesture that is such a great guide.
Anyway, I've decided that this new year's word is 'Delight' - the past few years have been a little heavy and now that my husband & I are empty nesters, we've been doing a bit of travelling (both near and far) on our own...it's fun to have fun again. I'm learning to let go and allow more just to happen in my life. I just want to be grateful for every opportunity and for those small precious moments, and also to remember to focus on delight. To see and read more about previous journals, please visit last year's post here.
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 have a couple of new mini eCourses available on my Etsy shop...one is creating 'Traveller's Notebook' covers. The others that are currently available are:
AIRdirondack Art Project