Monday, August 20, 2018

New Painting: Sunday Afternoon

"Sunday Afternoon", 10x10" mixed media on wood panel. Available. 

Earlier this summer I spent a couple weeks in Quebec. It was a wind-down kind of vacation... we didn't have much planned, we did the AirBnB thing so we would have a kitchen and not have to eat out every meal, we spent time with family and I my husband and I had a chance to spend some quality time together.

With my guy being big on fly-fishing, I decided to take some art gear with me to keep me occupied while he was out on the river. The spots were so scenic, I enjoyed the time in nature just sketching and taking photos. I got some great pics for inspiration. I also got some ideas for doing a few paintings when I got home.

My travels have really inspired my art. With this trip under my belt, I thought it may be time for me to try doing some actual landscapes. Never much one for realism, I knew abstraction would be the path I had to take. Literal depictions don't work for me... I wanted to relate how the landscape makes me feel, rather than what it looks like.

"Sunday Afternoon" is the first of a few I have started. This one came together fairly quickly... although at first I didn't realize what I was painting. I had worked on it the other direction, doing my usual thing with dark/light and composing a pleasing arrangement of shapes. I had it drying on a shelf when I caught sight of it the other way and knew this was supposed to be a landscape and not an abstract. A couple quick additions and it was finished.

I have a few more abstract landscapes in the works to be ready to debut at the Arts on the Credit Tour in September. I've even started a new page for them on my website. They will be available as prints as they get finished and photographed, and I'll get the originals on there after the tour. I'm having fun with this genre, so I may continue on for a bit. I'm only half way through my 100 Square Project, so there's lots of room to add a few abstract landscapes to the series.

Monday, August 13, 2018

New Painting: The Road Less Travelled

"The Road Less Travelled", 10x10" mixed media on wood panel.

I've always been a bit of an oddball. 

When I was a kid I was painfully, painfully shy. Like, hide behind my mother and cry if forced to talk to someone shy. I've never had a lot of friends, but the ones I did have were really good friends that totally got me. I hung out with other misfits, and still do. One of my high school friends described us as the "island of misfit toys". Yep, that's about it. 

Being an artist wasn't exactly a choice. It's more a like this internal restlessness that had to be put to use or it would kill me. I tried to ignore it and couldn't... it was like the world just sucked the life out of me and this was the only way to get it back. 

It's not an easy path. It took a long time before I could look at my own work and like it. And once I got over that hurdle, I had to convince other people. I've been turned down by many a gallery, rejected from many shows. I've also gotten into galleries, shown in some prestigious juried shows, and won an award. Obviously opinions of what makes good art differs. I have decided, for better or worse, to be unapologetically who I am and see where it takes me. I'm not sure where I'll end up, but pretty sure I'll be a happier person. That's the end goal for all of us, isn't it?

This painting was a fight from the first layer. You can see it in the texture... there is layer upon layer of paint. I think there was collage on it at some point, although you can't see it at all now. Just the faint edges of where the paper is glued down. I tried to smooth out some sections, but it's still a bit rough around the edges. That wandering line is like the path the painting took to get where it is... there are parts hardly visible but they still effect the whole, and there's one little area I seemed to get stuck in for a bit. I'm glad I didn't give up on it, because overall, it's an interesting little piece. 

It's weird how I can see my life mapped out in a 10x10" square. All art is a reflection of the artist, because we can't help but have who we are show up in our work. Things inspire us, we make choices based on our preferences, decide what to let stay and what has to go. I intend to continue on my own path, no matter who tries to convince me it's a bad idea. The road less travelled is often a more pleasant trip than being trapped in the traffic on the highway. 


Monday, August 6, 2018

New Painting: Summer Storm

"Summer Storm", 10x10" mixed media on wood panel. 

I've always loved storms in the summer. They are so powerful and spring up suddenly... it can be sunny and beautiful out, and within a few minutes it's like you're standing under a waterfall.

You'd think, given the number of times I'd been caught out it it, that I'd hate them. But the power always amazed me. I'd sit and watch the rain pour down and be in awe of nature. Until that massive storm and subsequent flood in 2013.... that's when those storms started to scare me.

Until then, I'd never been in a major storm. Hell, compared to what's happened in other parts of the world, this was not even a major storm. I began to pay more attention to weather related incidents in the news. And it began to dawn on me... holy shit, are we ever in trouble.

I do read the news, and was aware of climate change and the things going on in the world. I had seen an inconvenient truth, but in my naivety, I figured the people in charge were on it, and as long as everyone played their small part, things would work out.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaaaaaaaa!

Yeah, I know.

I continue to do what I can. I live close to my job, I keep my car tuned up and take public transit when I can. I ride my bike. I recycle and dry my laundry on my clothesline in the summer. We don't run the air conditioner if it's under 30°C. And we eat a lot of fresh food and avoid the processed stuff. Not really much in the big scheme of things, but it's what I can control. And anything else, I just block out of my field of vision. I think I'd have the trouble motivating myself to do anything if I thought the end of the world was just around the corner.

So anyway, back to my painting.....

I worked on this piece for what felt like forever. I kept adding and adding layers, but it just wasn't speaking to me. When it came together it was so fast.... I was looking for something to add some life to it, and what I found was interference orange. Pink and orange isn't a combination I would normally use... it reminds me of 70s polyester fashion if I'm honest... but since the painting wasn't working anyway, why not? It totally pulled it together, and it instantly became one of my favourite pieces.

Sometimes doing something drastic and unexpected can solve a problem in a unique and creative way.

Monday, July 30, 2018

5 Ways to Find Time to Create When You Have a Busy Life

"Disarming Melodies of First Light", 10x10" mixed media on wood panel.
Prints available on mariannemorrisart.com, original to be available soon. 

I have a full time job. I am also married and have a child, a house to look after, friends and family I need to stay in touch with... all the usual things that go along with being a middle aged woman today. I also create on a regular basis. I make upwards of 20 paintings a year.

On my most productive year I made 54 pieces (yes, I count... I keep track of everything. See my post from a couple weeks ago). They were all small, and not all good, but I it was the year I realized the painting was helping me deal with all the other crap going on in my life and made me a calmer, more reasonable person. Creating took over a few things like the "keeping in touch with friends" part of my life, so I had to scale it back a bit. Lesson learned.

I have friends at work that often ask how I find the time. To look at me, you wouldn't think I was that well organized. I often look a bit dishevelled. My desk is a mosaic of sticky notes, reminding me of various things from people I need to call to how-to notes for things I don't do very often. It may not be the prettiest system, but it works for me. As for finding time to create, it really isn't that hard if you make it a priority.

Guard Your Time

Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings are studio time. My husband knows it, my kid knows it. I don't answer the phone, I won't look for your {insert missing item here}. If they bug me they get barked at. If I have any other available time during the week I will go into my studio and work instead of surfing online or watching Netflix. I usually do my social media stuff in the mornings before work or on my break, so I don't have to think about it again. I don't let it take over my evenings.

Another of my 100 Square Project. Working in series lets me
work on a few pieces at the same time. The colours then
carry through and they tend to look great together. 
Think Small

Working on a 4x5 foot painting can be gratifying, but when you've only got a few hours a week to work, that can stretch out over months. If it takes you 3 months to finish something, how motivated are you to actually finish it? I know myself well enough to know I will lose interest half way through, and that damn thing will sit there taunting me. This was the catalyst for my 100 Square Project. I know that a 10x10" square will get completed even if I'm short on time, because an hour is enough to do something significant.

Work is Small Chunks of Time

If you're working on a small painting, it's amazing how much you can get done in an hour. I often find the first hour is when I do my best work, because I'm fresh. Even on days when I have all day to work, I break the day up into two hour chunks, doing something else for an hour in between sessions. I know that around the two hour mark is when I start making bad decisions... I'm tired, I've been looking at the piece too long and I can't see the problems.

This, of course, is easier if you have a dedicated space to work in. I totally get how an hour can get eaten up by having to get all your stuff out and put it all away again when you're finished. Which leads me to the next thing...

Keep Your Stuff Organized

One of my drawings from when the Boy was
young. Ink is the easiest to work in when you're
short on time. Cap on pen, pen in basket, basket
on shelf. Done. 
When my Boy was small and I was trying to get back into art, my available time was really limited. I also didn't have a dedicated space. I had a table in his play room (which was the extra bedroom in our home), so I could work and watch him at the same time. I worked in dry media, because it was easy and fast to clean up... usually only requiring washing of hands to tend to something else. These were the years of drawings. I had a high shelf in the closet, and when I was done my tools went into a basket and onto the shelf where the kids couldn't get into it. Paper went into a folder and also up on the shelf. His stuff was there too, so if he wanted to "help", he had his own sketchbook and tools.

I still use a variation of that system. I have an old dresser in my studio where I keep all my gear. When I start a painting, the colours I choose go into a basket so I don't have to go hunting through the paint drawer to try to remember which one I used. My brushes are in containers according to size, so a small painting gets the small brushes and the large ones are out of my way. Paper is in a folder and sorted according to size. Canvas and wood panels are prepped and sorted according to size, stored in a closet. When I've got a big project going my studio can look like a disaster zone... and there is a point where the mess deters me from going in there. It really is easier to find motivation when you keep yourself organized.

Work in Series

I can be working on up to 5 paintings at a time. When I get stuck on one I move onto the next one. I know a solution is more likely to present itself when I'm busy doing something else. Waiting for inspiration to smack me upside the head just leads to a lot of wasted time. Since I do this as a regular thing, I often will have 3 or 4 pieces in a similar colour scheme that look really great when hung together. I've had clients buy the set, because while maybe that one little painting might not quite work, three fills up a hallway or an awkward spot in a creative way.

These are all things that I do to make sure I can get some creative time. I know a few artists read this blog.... What kind of things do you do to find time to create? Got some tips for the rest of us? Leave a comment below and let's start a conversation!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Rules? There are no Rules...


Many years ago, I was one of those artists that planned stuff. I did sketches. I worked out compositions using thumbnails, just like I was taught to decades ago. I sketched out my large version of what I had decided on in my sketchbook, and then filled in areas one at a time. I followed compositional rules. I used my colour theory. I did it the way I was supposed to.

I know this works for some people, but it really did not work for me. I was always disappointed in my results. And if something wasn't working, even if I knew it wasn't working, I had a hard time abandoning it. Somehow I felt that since I had already sunk in so much time, I had to see it through to the end.

As you can imagine, I eventually earned myself one very large, very long artist's block. I say earned, because it was totally my own fault. I worked my way into it, one bad painting at a time.

For five long years, I did nothing creative whatsoever. I told myself I wasn't inspired, I had nothing to say, I didn't want to, I didn't have time.... the excuses went on and on. Thing was, I did still have moments when I wondered what the hell had happened to me. It was usually during my kid's birthday parties, when I had him and a bunch of his friend in my driveway creating an imaginary world in sidewalk chalk. Or I was showing him how to draw spiderman while we waited to be called at the doctor's office.

Finished painting from the above video, "Spring Fever".
10x10" on wood panel. 
I missed that side of myself, so I signed up for a class. I enjoyed the class, but we worked from photos, and while my painting turned out ok, I didn't really feel it. So I signed up for another one. I watched videos and did Zentangles and made some stamps. It wasn't until I flew across the country to take a class with Jesse Reno that my Eureka moment happened. He broke through that block with one short conversation.

Just start. There are no rules. Put the paint on your brush and the brush on the paper. Keep going until you are happy. Don't make it more difficult than it is.

WHAT??? It was like he was giving me permission to ignore everything I had ever been taught and go do whatever I wanted.

I've been working like that ever since, and I haven't had even an inkling of a block. Ive done a series of figurative pieces, and a series of abstract pieces. I've gone back to drawing because I like to draw, instead of as a planning device. Sure, things like composition, design, and colour harmony still matter, but now I work it out as I go instead of sticking to some pre-envisioned plan. I enjoy seeing what happens when I try something new, even if it doesn't work. It's fun again.

I may, at some point, take another class with someone who I think can take what I'm doing now and make it better. I've got my eye on a workshop with Nicholas Wilton that I think would be awesome. But for now I will just carry on with what I'm doing, and try to make the most of what time I have.

After all, I'm not getting any younger.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Business of Art

"In a Circle", 9x12" mixed media on paper. Congratulations to "eafoort", you have won this
piece in my email list draw! Check your inbox, and email me back so I know how to get this to you!

A week has gone by since the last time I set foot in my studio. An entire week. That's not how life as an artist looked in my head, when I decided to really try to get somewhere with this. But unfortunately,  in real life, that's how things work out sometimes.

Yes, I have a full time job. But that is only one of the things getting in my way. The list is long... and surprisingly, a lot of those things are art related. You don't necessarily think about it, but being an artist is like being an entrepreneur in a lot of ways. I make a product, but then I have to market and sell that product or it will sit in storage forever. And I will starve.

I have to make sure people know about me and the product I make... that means finding shows to participate in, art fairs to go to, places that may want to hang my work. And then carting it there, setting it up, possibly standing in a booth/tent for a few days introducing myself to people, packing it all up and carting it home again. And keeping track of it all, because somehow events always manage to overlap and it's way too easy to miss a pickup date.

Note: this is one reason I enjoy travelling so much... most of my vacation time from work is spent working on art stuff; Prepping for and participating in shows. I've cut down how many I do the last couple years so I could actually have a vacation. I was getting burnt out. 

I have inventory software and I track everything. I know which images I used for which application, and whether it was successful or not. I know which paintings were in which show. I can tell you which galleries actually sold my work and which didn't. In my state of overwhelm last year I stupidly let my inventory updates lapse... it took me a ridiculous amount of time to get caught up. Sometimes I think being prolific has it's drawbacks.

I have to keep track of how much money I spend and on what. I keep records of what art supplies I buy, what courses I take, how much my website is costing me. I track entry fees and hanging fees and commissions.

And then there is the relatively new arena of social media marketing. It's really just showing up and participating in the community, but it takes up a surprising amount of time. Facebook and Instagram are the big ones for me (and I presume most artists). And they change so regularly it's difficult to keep up. Now Instagram has "TV"... I assume trying to steal some of youtube's marketshare. I already figured out how to film myself painting, so now I just have to make sure I do it regularly so I can post something there along with all the other places. It's no wonder some artists just say no, and let their gallery do all that work. I don't necessarily think that's wise, given the way galleries come and go these days, but hey, we all make our own decisions on where our time is best spent. Whatever works for you.

I've been thinking about how all this is really like having a second full time job. It's taking the making part, which I love, and turning it into something I have to struggle to have time for. Not sure that's really where I wanted this to go. I understand that I have to sell my work... there are many reasons, but the most pressing one is that I just don't have enough space to store it all. And to do that I need to show it. But I don't need to do every show that there is. I don't even have to apply for them. And I don't need to use every shiny new feature on every platform that comes along. Perhaps I can pick one and focus on that, and do it well enough to get by.

The main thing is that I have time to do the work that keeps me sane, and keeps the stress levels in check. At least until I can retire from that day job.


Monday, July 9, 2018

Travel as Inspiration

The Bonaventure river in northern Quebec. I sat on these rocks sketching for hours. My backside went completely numb.
Every summer of my childhood, my family of 6 would pile into our station wagon and make the 8hr drive from Mississauga to the Eastern Townships, in Quebec, to visit my grandmother. Being the youngest and the smallest, I would get to camp out in the back with the family dog, separated from my siblings by all the gear. I'd have a sleeping bag and a pillow, paper, crayons and a pile of books. I'd lie back there, listen to the music, stare out the window and daydream. 

Note: This was before seatbelt laws, when you could do that kind of thing and not get arrested. Don't try sticking your kid in the back now unless there is a proper seat with a seatbelt. We would sometimes ride in the back of pickup trucks too. And I'm pretty sure you could get on a motorbike without a helmet if you wanted. It was the 70s.

The fabulous hallway in the Abbey of
St. Benoit du Lac. They make cheese there.
Amazing cheese. We came home
with a cooler full
The Appalachian mountain range runs through the eastern part of Quebec. The highway that connects Toronto to Montreal is a beautiful drive (when you are not actually in either city), with the road being like a valley that had been blasted out of solid rock. As a kid I loved watching those rock walls fly past... I imagined I could see things emerging from them... faces, animals, birds... I always wanted to get out and touch them. Just run my hands over the jagged edges and veins of colour, maybe see if the life I saw was actually there. Of course that never happened. It'd be a death wish to stop on the side of the 401. My dad knew that, but I was always a little disappointed. 

We took my mom along for this trip. We were going to her childhood home and she hadn't been back in probably close to a decade. It was an interesting experience for me... I got to hear stories from her youth I had never heard before. We went places she remembered but I had never been to. The area took on new meaning for me. It was always where family was, a summer get-away spot, but seeing it as an adult meant seeing it for what it had become. And I totally fell in love. 

Waterfall a short drive and a 5km hike through the woods
from where we were staying in St. Siméon. Was totally worth it. 

We went a little further than we had before, since it really was my first time seeing the province as an adult. My husband's family is from Newfoundland, so we met up with them in the Gaspé for a visit. The men in the family are avid fly-fishermen, and this is Salmon season. Happy to report my guy caught a 25lb-er. No photos... given his history with dropping his phone in the river (it's happened twice now), there was no way in hell I would let him take his phone with him if I was there to stop it. Unfortunately I slept in that morning and didn't go. Hopefully he will forgive me one day.

Travel is a way to experience things outside my everyday existence. Being immersed in a different culture brings new and surprising revelations about how we live in comparison to others. Having lived in the Toronto area my entire adult life, I spend much of my time dealing with things that are the norm for city dwellers... pollution, traffic, crowds, concrete, skyscrapers, and angry people (everyone always seems to be angry)... my everyday consists of driving through traffic to a job where I am surrounded by people then back home where I attempt to carve out a place of tranquility for my family. My place to commune with nature is my backyard, and the occasional jaunt to the local park by Lake Ontario, which I cannot even ride my bike to without risking my life.  Every time I visit somewhere smaller and less chaotic, I see a difference that convinces me that we are doing it wrong here. Life can be a whole lot less stressful if we just adopt a different version of what success looks like. 

I returned from my holiday refreshed and relaxed, and ready create. I imagine my work will change, much like it did after my month in Portugal in 2017. I have many new images to pull from, and new memories to inspire me. 

The Abbey at St. Benoit du Lac

A field overlooking Lake Memprémagog, with the mountains in the distance.

A beach along the coast of the Gaspé Peninsula. Look at those rocks. What a colour. 

The setting sun on the Gaspé.