Sunday, December 20, 2015

New Abstract Painting: Inner Fire

"Inner Fire", 9x9" mixed media on paper. Available. 

Somewhere along the line... and I think it was right around when I did the painting "In the Soul's Light"... my focus seemed to change. I'm still painting movement. I'm still working from drawings based on a living beings doing some kind of activity, lately humans dancing. But I've made a subtle shift... somehow I don't feel like I'm painting the exterior of these people anymore. I feel like what I'm digging for is inside. I watch and I draw, and then I try to take this intangible thing... that thing that draws me to certain people, certain movements, rather than others... and make it visible. Does that even make sense?

I like to watch people. It's a form of entertainment for me, as odd as that sounds. Even as a teenager... I would tag along with my friends to the mall, not because I had any interest in shopping whatsoever (still don't: hence, my wardrobe), but because there were always lots of people, and they were all interesting to me. I love watching how people interact. And while watching a group, I can usually figure out the dynamics within the group and how the social hierarchy is playing out. Work is an absolute treasure trove.... and it is about to get better as we move to a more open concept type of seating arrangement (any of my work friends who might happen to read this... just ignore me drawing away in the corner. I'm not doing anything interesting).

The thing for me lately, though, has been to take this interior tangle of feelings that has been dredged up by all the loss in my life recently, and attempt to overlay that onto this stranger dancing in the youtube video I just watched. In a lot of ways, this painting isn't of that ballet dancer,  it's me... my interior mapped on the moving form of that exterior. Or perhaps a combination of interiors, because I don't think I can obliterate their interior from their exterior... it always will show, because that's how people are. I'm painting the relative connection between myself and my subject. I know it seems like I'm babbling here... I'm still trying to sort out exactly what I am trying to do. I think this is going to turn into an actual body of work, which means I am going to have to write an actual artist statement, which means I really have to have clarity on what I am trying to do.

I have to keep going with this. I have other things on my list of things to accomplish in 2016, but this idea is nagging at me, so I will pursue it. That is, after all, what artists are supposed to do... right? Take that little quirky obsession, that one thing that captures you, and chase it down until you understand it. The final result may not be entirely wonderful (or sellable)... but in the end maybe I will have mended that break in my soul, and in some small way, managed to fix myself.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

New Abstract Painting: Under a Copper Moon

"Under the Copper Moon", 9x9" Mixed Media on paper. Available.

I'm tired. It's been a busy week. My boy is writing his first set of University exams, so he has been holed up in his room studying pretty much non-stop. Work has been insanely busy and I've been there late pretty much every night this week. My Christmas tree has about 5 decorations on it, and there is all of one gift underneath. In my normal life, I am one for planning ahead... and because I get freaked out in crowds, I have all my Christmas shopping done before December rolls around, my freezer is full of Xmas baking and I know exactly where we're going to be having dinner, or who will be arriving at my door.

This year, my life is chaos. I don't do well with chaos.

I'm doing my best to take a step back and not take on any responsibilities that are not mine. I'm trying (not always successfully) not to freak out about missed deadlines at work, because dealing with the deadlines is someone else's job. I have no shows planned, I have very little work out and about, and I am trying to make sure I get some exercise and outside time every day. I have until the spring to sort myself out... and by then I have to be back on my game. I've got classes to teach, I've got art fairs to attend to.

Anxiety has been one of those things that is ever-present in my life. Over the years I have developed strategies to cope with it. I plan for contingencies. I try to go with whatever is happening in the moment. I focus on letting go of things that aren't important. I try not to take on more than I can reasonably handle. Working in an art journal had seemed to help me sort myself out in the past... and yet that's the one thing I seem to be resisting this time around.

There it is.... Resistance rearing it's ugly head.

I know resistance is usually a signal that I'm heading in the right direction. Have you read "The War of Art"? It's an interesting look at the psychology of creating, from the point of view of an artist. Certainly worth a read... especially for anyone suffering creative block. Anyway... my point is that I need to get my shit together and do something that is going to help my mental state, and I'm pretty sure that should be starting a new art journal. Finding a book that speaks to me will be this week's project. I suppose. Even having said it out loud, I now feel the need to backpedal so I can procrastinate a little longer. Sigh.

Looking at the positive things... I now have a new-to-me vehicle. It's a little Mazda 3 hatchback, with plenty of space to haul around my gear. It has a few quirks... but all cars do when they get older. For the most part it's nice to drive, is pretty good on gas, has an input jack for my music, and is an automatic so my boy can drive it. Check, check and check. Thank goodness for something going right.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Fine Art of Screwing Up... the Evolution of a Painting

"Vein of Gold", 30x30" Acrylic on Canvas. Available.
The nice part about having a piece that has gone thorough as many transitions as this one is that the canvas is
now beautifully textured. And you can see hints of what has gone before... in many of the grey areas you can
see the green hiding underneath. Oh, and that browny looking colour is metallic gold, in case you couldn't tell.
I've been asked many times how I can tell when a piece is finished. Usually, it's not that hard to tell… or at least with the figurative pieces. If the people look "right", there's nothing there that bugs me, and the attention is in the right spot, then I'm done. It's not so easy with the abstract stuff… I'm not as well versed in the language of abstract art, and sometimes there will be something not quite right but I just can't put my finger on what it is. If I'm being completely honest, it also happens with the figurative pieces from time to time… sometimes I need a second opinion to figure it out, and that's where my artist friends are invaluable. I will struggle with something for weeks, and one of my friends will look at and say "it's the mouth", or something equally obvious. Pretty sure it has something to do with not having looked at it for seemingly endless hours at a time...
Lately I've taken to posting working photos online. It can be a bit daunting, since I know that every painting, without fail, is going to go through a phase where I want to toss it. I've been painting off and on for 20 years, and it still happens. All the time. I've been told that my honesty about this is helpful for beginner painters... they see someone that has more experience and still screws up, so they can be a bit more forgiving about their own mistakes.
I started this painting in August. It's now December and I JUST finished it. And it took a lot of twists and turns to get to where it ended up. I had some idea that I wanted it to be somewhat neutral with a hit of bright colour somewhere, thinking either a blue/grey or green/grey kind of thing. I'm more of an intuitive painter than the kind that plans every detail, but after years of classes and reading and looking at art, I have a pretty good idea what makes a decent composition, and I have fairly good colour sense... even if it doesn't seem to make it from my head to the canvas with any kind of predictability.
In the end, in order for me to get something I was happy with, I had to be willing to let go of the bits here and there that I liked, but weren't working with the rest of the piece. That is not easy. When I get something I like my instinct is to protect it at all costs, to the point where I'm afraid to do anything in case I wreck it. Problem with that is the piece never actually gets finished.

There are all kinds of articles online about how you should give yourself permission to make mistakes. I'm a bit of a perfectionist.... more than a bit, actually. I get frustrated when I screw something up, and then I will make an even bigger mess trying to fix it. It took me a long time to get to the point where I will just paint, and be ok... pleased even ...with the result. Especially if it wasn't what I envisioned when I started. Stepping outside our comfort zones and trying new things is how we grow. How we get better. Perfectionism is a mental barrier I had to get past before I could get to the next stage. I think over the last few years I've managed to embrace screwing up pretty well. And I've progressed. So to all you other painters out there, go ahead and make a mess. Screw up royally. Try something you've never tried, and push the limits. After all, it's only paint.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Jazz Legends: The Series Complete

" Jazz Legends: The Cotton Club", 16x20" Acrylic on Canvas. Prints Available. 
For the final piece in this series, I decided to do something a little different. Instead of a portrait, I went with a depiction of the legendary night club, the Cotton Club... the spot in Harlem where so many jazz greats got their start. Reading about the history of this place was a bit of an eye opener. The entertainers were all black, the patrons all white. I had watched the 1984 movie... but it wasn't really big on historical accuracy. Some of it perhaps, but white and black musicians playing together in a band didn't really happen much until Benny Goodman, in the late 30s/early 40s. Anyway, since the club was constantly popping up in my reading about the musicians of the time, I thought it would be a nice finale to my series. 

Here it is... the entire series. 

So, now that this is done.....

What's next? I have no idea. I'm still working on my little abstract series based on movement. Pretty sure I'm not even close to done with that yet. But I've got something else playing at the edges. It's just an idea at this point. I'm not even really ready to articulate it yet... it's just something that keeps popping into my head as I work my way through my little pieces. Maybe it's time to start a new journal, and see if I can take the idea to something even resembling art. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

New Abstract Painting: In the Soul's Light

"In the Soul's Light", 9x9" Mixed media on paper. Available.
Over the last couple months I've been working through a pile of pieces I had started before my dad passed away. I hit the bottom of that pile last weekend (with the exception of a portrait piece for my uncle). I'm in a better place now, mentally… better able to think about something other than how my life has changed and what challenges are waiting for me.

I'm in a different place... as I realized when I was talking to my son about the challenges of finding a car within our budget. At least we can afford to just go out and buy another car. So many people today would have to make do, and spend that extra two hours a day on the bus getting where they need to go. I'm in a place of gratitude and appreciation for what I have. I have a job, as does my husband, that pays the bills with a bit left over. I work with (for the most part) wonderful people whom I genuinely like. I have fantastic, supportive friends. And I have a huge, quirky family that never fails to provide me with something to laugh about. I am fortunate.

So... this piece. What inspired the drawing? I'm not entirely sure. I was watching a video of a couple dancing. Ballet. A pas de deux. It looks nothing like the video, but maybe it did before I started the painting part? I was thinking about connection and my parents and symbolism. I've been reading about spiritual symbols and totems. I've been feeling drawn to things that fly... birds, butterflies, dragonflies. I think I can see a dragonfly in there. I'm sure actually. Definitely a dragonfly. I think this is how this art thing is supposed to work... you feel things, you read things, you ingest things... and then, surprise, there it is in your art. All that I am is there. I can't hide.

My work hanging in the Mississauga Library, on the
3rd floor art wall. 
Speaking of hiding...

I put something on the back, so
whoever finds it knows they can
take it if they want.
If you are following me on social media, you may have seen my posts with photos from an ongoing exhibit at the Central branch of the Mississauga library. It's a huge library... right downtown by city hall. On the 3rd floor, where all the art books are, they have an open area, and there they have rotating exhibits from artists living in the city. It's a huge space in a very busy spot, and it's a great way for locals to be exposed to the work of our own. It's free for the artists as well, which is nice since there are very few venues in Mississauga that are. The evening I was in hanging the work, I didn't even have everything unwrapped when I had a high school student over asking me questions. It was so nice to see the interest. And because I really do love the library system and all that it offers, I'm doing something I do from time to time... I've taken one of my small original paintings, and hidden it in amongst the books, free to take for the person that finds it. It is somewhere on the 3rd floor, and even though the paintings come down at the end of the month, it will remain in it's hiding spot until found. I hope it brightens the day some art-loving soul. I'll leave you with a visual clue... because I don't really want it still there next time I go, and who knows how often those books get looked at. Often I hope, but you never know.

Here is my abandonment in it's hiding place in the library. The titles
should give you a clue where to look.  :)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

New Abstract Painting: Midnight

"Midnight", 9x9" mixed media on paper. Available.
Here it is: the last of the little pieces I had started before my dad died. I use the term "started" loosely… they were all in different states of completion, but for the most part they had a background laid in and some form of drawing started. Based on something. Can't always remember what. This one I hadn't really even chosen a color scheme, but since the background was yellow, and my purple experiment had turned out quite well, I decided to continue on with that theme.

The purple I have in my arsenal is a very transparent violet. I really like the color, but it is the only purple I have, as most of my work in the last few years leans toward the warm tones. To give myself some variation I added a blue and a couple different metallics… the iridescent Mother of Pearl I used in "Twilight", and the mother of all reflective paints, Tri-Art's Liquid Mirror. This paint is so reflective that I used it for all my highlight areas. All the white looking areas are silver, and in some areas I used my transparent violet over it for a lovely contrasting effect. Along with the iridescent, I may have possibly overdone it a bit… I haven't decided yet. I definitely can't show the effect with a scanned image. It's just one of those things I guess. In keeping with my learning-the-new-stuff post of last week, I'm going to try embedding my Instagram post of the video. The painting was only half done, but you can get the idea. Hopefully it will work….

I have a couple other metallics in my box of paints that I haven't used in a long time…. I wonder if they're still usable? As much as I love the Tri-art colors, I can't say I'm enamored with their packaging… the heavy body acrylics have a tendency to dry out in a relatively short timespan, whereas my Goldens are still good even though it's been months since I've used them. I sometimes need pliers to get the lids off, but what's inside is still a nice consistency. Nothing more frustrating than having your heart set on a particular hue, but having a dry, clumpy mess you have to dig out of the tube.

I can't imagine I'm going to have much time to work in the coming weeks… my car unceremoniously crapped out on me last week, and given it's age and milage we have decided to decommission the old girl and find another way to get around. The bus has proven a bit impractical. Work, which is an 11 minute car trip, is an hour and two transit systems away, and while I could get there in a half hour on my bike, the direct route would involve taking my life in my hands on a twice daily basis. According to google, I could walk in an hour and a half…. but winter is coming, and I live in Canada. I have a good coat and boots, but I have no intention of walking 3 hours a day in sub-zero temperatures. So, now I'm looking for a decent used car. Wish me luck.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

New Abstract Painting: Twilight

"Twilight",  9x9" mixed media on paper. Available.
If you follow me on either Twitter or Instagram you may have seen this one already. I finished it up a few weeks ago, but wasn't particularly happy with the image I was able to get from it. In an attempt to capture the "night sky" feeling I was going for, I pulled out my iridescent paints. I chose "mother of pearl", which has a gorgeous purple cast when looked at one way, and a green when looked at the opposite way. In my photo? It just looks grey. Damn.

I fussed with it a bit, but I was stumped as to how to show the metallic effect. If it was plain metallic, I suppose I might settle for this, but I love that iridescent effect and wanted to show it off. Finally the only thing I could think of was to film a few seconds of video, moving the piece in the light. I couldn't even get that right. My attempts saw the piece going in and out of focus, or I could get the purple but not the green, or the glare from the lights made it so you couldn't see much at all. I tried. This is the best of my attempts... 

One thing about being an artist.... there is always a learning curve. Back in the day (yes, I actually said that. I am that old), you did your work, hopefully got into a gallery, they sold it and sent you a cheque. They did the promotion, printed catalogues, held the parties, dealt with the collectors. Times have changed. The advent of social media totally changed the playing field, and today most artists promote and sell directly. That means keeping up with changing technology, learning how to photograph your work, figuring out how to get paid, and dealing with your own packing and shipping. Then there's the whole website thing, and blogging if you decide to go that route. I've been doing this blog for 3 years now, and even though I like doing it, I've had days where it was the absolute last thing I felt like doing. I've learned how to plan ahead and schedule for stressful times.... and the fact that I've only missed one week during the most stressful time in my life shows that I've at least got that part down. 

And just a reminder, most of the work I post is available for sale. I'm working on adding e-commerce to my website, but in the meantime, if you see something that peaks your interest, shoot me an email and we'll talk. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Jazz Legends | Lena Horne

"Legends | Lena Horne", 16x20" Acrylic on Canvas. Prints available.
Number 11. Oh so close to finished. I hate to say that I'm anxious to finish up this series, but really, I am. My attention has been pulled in a different direction, and painting these is beginning to feel like a bit of a chore. Not that I don't enjoy it once I get going, because I do... but I have to admit that getting started is becoming difficult.

A complete Lena with the face blocked
out.... lovely, isn't it?
Finishing what I've started has been a life long problem for me. That's why when I start a series I don't usually set myself a number of pieces that I want to complete. I just get going, and when I'm done, I'm done. This project was different... it was suggested that I could use the images in a new calendar, and to do that I have to complete 12. Unfortunately, that calendar isn't going to be 2016. I would have to have had the files to the printer already, and given that I'm not actually finished the paintings yet, that hasn't happened. C'est la vie. This particular piece was a bit of a problem for me. I actually finished it once... then decided that although the painting itself wasn't horrible, it didn't actually look like her. So I painted it over and did it again. That was a tough call so near the end of the series. But ultimately, I didn't want to let it go when I wasn't happy with it. It would bug me every time I saw it.

I have a few other unfinished projects hanging around that I really need to get done. Sometimes they just take forever... and as much as I hate to admit it, my short attention span makes things worse. I get bored and want to move on to something more fun. Working out a visual problem can be called a lot of things, but fun usually isn't on the list. Then there's all the other stuff that has to get done but is definitely not fun. Anti-fun even. Matting and framing, entering stuff into my inventory, doing paperwork.... ugh. I've been doing better lately.... working through my pile of small abstracts and finishing up the bits and pieces hanging around my studio. I'm hopeful that by the end of the year I'll be ready to move on to a few new things without the baggage of uncompleted work weighing on me. Artist Crystal Moody has started this great thing called "Finish it Friday" . Every Friday she makes a list and finishes a project or two. She wires, frames, varnishes, files... all those little undone things that pile up and make prepping for a show absolute hell, because you haven't touched it since the last show.  This week I took a page from her book and not only finished this piece, but wired and varnished a bunch of other pieces. It feels good to know I won't have to do it later. In fact, I think maybe I'll do it again next Friday.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

New Abstract Painting: Dance in the Sunshine

"Dance in the Sunshine", 9x9" Mixed Media on paper
Over the past couple weeks I've been experimenting with different types of movement, and trying to relay the experience of movement of different living things. My diving experiment from last week had me looking back to a subject I've worked with before…. dancers.

The drawing for this piece started while watching a couple dance at a late summer event. It wasn't like swing dancers…. that would be interesting and probably a lot more complex… I'll make a note to try that one. These people were just moving to the music and responding to each other. The color palette came from the surroundings: yellow for the sunshine, purple and turquoise from their clothing. I did a bunch of drawings… I'm drawing things all the time now, and by the time I get to painting them I probably won't remember what I was looking at at the time. They are all just shapes and movement. I'll have to remember to make notes in my sketchbook. I'm sure it's more interesting to read about the inspiration behind a piece of abstract work than just "Here it is. Look, isn't it pretty?" What do you think?

My life outside of my art seems to be settling down a bit… oh, work is still insanely busy, but I'm managing to keep my stress levels from spinning out of control. Something about losing someone close to you really clarifies your priorities. Work is just work, it's a way to pay the bills while I pursue something that i enjoy. There are days when I'm glad I have something that forces me out of the house and to interact with people. Left to my own devices I'm pretty sure I'd have spent the last couple months in my pajamas and not left my house. Can't do that if I want to keep a job…. although I have had days where I think maybe getting let go wouldn't be such a tragedy. Except that I would still need to eat, so I'd have to find something else. And that would suck.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

New Abstract Painting: Escape Velocity

"Escape Velocity", 5x15" Mixed Media on Paper
This past summer, Toronto hosted the Pan Am and Parapan Am games. It was a big deal. There were events scattered all across the GTA. Everyone I know got into it somehow... they went to events, watched it on TV, a few friends even volunteered to help out. It pretty much took over the city for a good chunk of the summer.

I'm not much of a sports fan. I was never much into team sports until my son started to play hockey, and even then I couldn't really follow the game. I just looked for his number and crossed my fingers he didn't get hurt. The few sports I have taken an interest in over the past few years are olympic type events. Things like high diving and ski jumping. While I was watching the divers compete this time around, I found myself watching their movements intently, and wondering how I could possibly translate a dive into abstract shapes.

This small painting started off as one of many drawings done while watching videos of the divers.... obviously vertically rather than horizontally. When I started trying to translate the drawing into colour and shape I flipped it because the shapes work better for me this way. I think I lost the downward pull of gravity somehow in this one, and that's why it feels better turned. I think I'm happy with this piece visually... if I just focus on the feeling of movement from one side to the other I think it works, even if the sense of a dive is lost. But I will have to try again... just to see if I can do what I intended. It's an interesting concept to play with, and one that can be expanded to include so many things.

And now I'm wondering.... what would a hockey game look like if I was just following the movement?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

New Painting: Infinity

"Infinity", 18x24" Acrylic on Canvas. Private Collection.
Regular readers will know my life has been in a bit of chaos lately. Anyone who has followed my progress for a while might also recognize that birds are a subject that I tend to go to when I either a) don't know what to do or b) am stressed. I draw them, I photograph them, I paint them, I abstract them... they are a subject I don't seem to get tired of.

My older bird painting,
"In Harmony". Private Collection.
A while ago I was contacted by someone who really liked one of my earlier bird paintings, but as the one she connected with was already sold, we talked about creating one especially for her. Larger, to fit her space. Her anniversary was coming up, and it was an occasion for something special. I thought it would be fun, and since I had recently started working with birds again, I had lots of reference photos at my fingertips.

I started working. We decided on colours and I laid the background in. Then my dad got sick. Things happened quickly, and my weekend away to help out my mom turned into a week... and suddenly my dad was gone. Then my uncle. Then it was over, everyone returned home, and there I was with a half finished painting and my motivation level at an all time low.

To get myself back to the proper frame of mind to work, I had to think about all the things these birds were representing to me. They symbolize freedom, they represent the idea of flight... not just the physical but the emotional and mental. They are alone, but they are together. They are really the perfect subject for an anniversary. And the perfect symbol for those we've lost. Love, to infinity.

I hope she loves her painting.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Jazz Legends | Dizzy Gillespie

"Legends | Dizzy", 16x20" Acrylic on Canvas

Feels like I've been working on this series forever. I was checking to see how many portraits I've posted so far, and realized this one somehow got missed. It was actually the first one of the series I did, and the one that set me off doing these portraits in the first place. I had intended to post him in between some of the earlier ones I had working photos for, but somehow he got shuffled to the back, and never made it onto the blog. 

Dizzy had so much style... He had a look that wouldn't necessarily be out of place today. In fact, my son has glasses very similar to the ones he wore. It was fun working out this piece. I had a couple photos of him without his cheeks puffed out.... although that is how he is most recognizable, I was pretty sure I would manage to mangle it if I tried to do it that way. I found an old photo with an interesting angle, and drew in the glasses and cap he sometimes wore on stage. The frantic, almost chaotic background that I started with was an attempt to convey some of the energy of the music. I continued on with this type of approach with the other pieces, but somehow I think this one has a unique feel... maybe because his music is different from some of the other performers I've done. 

I've got a couple pieces left in this series, and then that's it. I don't know what's next... I've been working on my little motion abstract pieces that will probably be worked up into a few large pieces, but at some point I know I'll get back to painting people. Maybe I can figure out a way to combine the two. I've got lots of time to figure it out. One piece at a time. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

New Abstract Painting: Elusive Muse

"Elusive Muse", 9x9" Mixed Media on paper. Available.
This is also the title of a popular art website that I happen to love. I'm using my pile of already started pieces
to get myself  into a suitable frame of mind to do more creative work. The title somehow fits. I have a feeling it's
going to be a long haul...

This past week I've had the unfortunate experience to witness the grieving process from a couple of differing viewpoints. While still dealing with the loss of my father less than two weeks ago, my uncle passed away from colon cancer. Two family members in two weeks. I feel like curling up in a ball in front of the TV and staying there for a while. It's a little bit overwhelming. 

My dad didn't want a funeral. He was adamant. He thought it was too hard on the family, and he didn't want everyone standing around feeling sorry for him. That's how he was. We honoured that. My uncle's family took the traditional approach, with a visitation and a service (which is tomorrow). An opportunity to connect with my extended family and support my cousins who are experiencing very much the same thing I am. It will be sad, but good at the same time.

I have always been the type of person who had a lot of things on the go. Throughout my life it wasn't unusual for me to be working full time and taking classes at night, or volunteering at my kid's school and working nights and weekends, or (like the past couple years) having two careers going at the same time and spending what feels like full time hours on both. I stay connected with my immediate family and have always been there for my husband and child, but my connections with my extended family have suffered. I don't know my cousins as well as I should. I haven't spent a lot of time with my aunts and uncles over the years. I don't know my cousin's kids at all. Until the age of social media, I didn't even realize what I was missing. I think it's time for me to change this. With my son being in University (and let's face it, not wanting me around...), I don't have hockey games or band practices to fill up my weekend afternoons. I could fit in a visit here and there, maybe trek out to Quebec for a couple days to visit family out there. They won't be around forever. This has been made painfully clear.

For now though, I think I'll go paint.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Art as Therapy: New Abstract Painting

"A Pensive Spring", 9x9" Mixed media on paper. Available. 
I've had a hellish couple of weeks. Without going into too much detail, my dad was diagnosed with a serious illness, and passed away shortly thereafter. It was fast and suffering appeared to be short-lived, as he seemed reasonably well up until quite recently. I don't think everything has totally sunk in yet... I still feel a bit disoriented and... well... off.

I'm not much of a talker. Never have been. I process things differently than other people. I can't be one of those folks who talk endlessly about their feelings and seem to just sort themselves out in the process. Oh, I do have a couple friends that I can explain my spinny, disjointed thoughts to, that actually seem to understand what I'm saying. Or they pretend to. I am visual, and I like to work out my issues in a visual way. It's just how I'm built. But this one... well, it's going to take me a bit before I can even start to process how I'm feeling. Until I'm ready, the best thing I can do for my mental state, is to go into my studio and get to work.

Luckily I have a pile of work that I have already started. I have 5 or 6 of these little abstracts that I've begun, a commission piece that is about 3/4 finished, and a large abstract that is in that I-don't-know-where-its-going stage. I've got a pile of art journals in various states of preparation... some board books that have had a few pages sanded and gessoed, a couple with backgrounds started, and a handmade book of watercolour paper that has been assembled, gessoed and ready to go. If I had to start something from scratch right now I think I would probably just close the door and walk away. I feel like I've got nothing in there to give at the moment... but pushing around some colour I can do.

This piece was at the top of the pile. It took about 2 hours to finish it... just enough time to get in the zone and really sink into what I was doing. I felt so much better by the time I washed out my brushes and put my paints away. The green was calming. It reminded me of days spent outside, in touch with nature and away from the noise of the city. It was good.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Art Quartet: Live Collaborative Painting Event

One of two paintings created during the event last weekend. We were only planning on doing one, but it wasn't
big enough for us all to work at the same time. And a bunch of artists are not going to sit around and watch....
Artist Christine Newman starting off
the first of the two paintings.
Last weekend I did something new and different for me. I worked on a collaborative painting with 3 other artists from the area, and since we were working in a gallery, we opened it up to the public to come and watch. I actually don't really know how many people came by to see what we were doing.... I get very focused when I'm working and someone could stand beside me and I wouldn't know they're there. But I'm told it was a pretty successful event and we had a good turn out.

Working with other artists is interesting. Everyone sees different things when they look at a painting in progress. There were a few times when we stopped to discuss what was working and what wasn't, and then between us quickly figured out a direction. When I'm working alone it can take me weeks to figure out what the problem is and how to fix it. To complete two pieces in a 4 hour time span seemed pretty amazing to me. And the fact that I thought they were both good even more amazing.

Overall everyone seemed to enjoy the whole thing and it was agreed that we would do this again in the future. The gallery has already started to plan the next event in September... I won't be participating due to family obligations, but it is sure to be a good time. If you live in the Toronto area and think you'd like to pop around to watch, you can follow either Imagemaker gallery or myself on Facebook for updates.

I had a drawing of a bird prepared in advance... just in case we needed something. Here Lisa and Christine are holding it in place while I paint around it. 
As we had only planned on doing one piece, we had a charity lined up to take it and give it a home. The second piece came about because having 3 artists sit around while one is working really isn't a reasonable expectation. We were bored in minutes, and rooting around in the basement we found an old canvas we could use for the second. You can tell by looking at the finished piece that this was the one I spent most of my time on. It has something of my "style" showing... though definitely not my usual colour choices. The smaller "Whirlwind" painting was donated to Interm Place, a local women's shelter. We aren't sure yet what we're going to do with the larger one... they don't have space to take both, so we're looking at other charities as options. Or possibly auctioning it off and donating the proceeds. We'll figure out something.

Artist Lisa Jayne Irvine is working on the smaller of the two pieces.
We all switched back and forth all afternoon, working on the piece that was
speaking to us at the moment.  

Graffiti artist Joseph Capobianco adding the lettering to the almost complete piece...
While he was doing that, the rest of us worked on finishing the other one...
And the second piece complete. This one has been donated to Interm Place, a local women's shelter.
Everyone needs a little beauty in their lives. Hopefully this will provide a bit for these residents.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Jazz Legend: Lionel Hampton... or How I learned to paint teeth

"Jazz Legends | Lionel Hampton" 16x20" Acrylic on Canvas. Giclée prints available.
I always notice people's teeth. I think it's because mine are on the large side... seriously, when I smile they take up half my face. You can't help but notice, and if I'd have to guess, I'd say that's why I always notice other people's. I envy those with nice, even, white chicklets... My horse sized chompers are functional and strong, but not an insignificant feature. I also had an accident as a teenager that did a bit of damage to my mouth... broken teeth and a cracked jaw and a fair bit of time spent in the dentist's chair as a result. Things like that change the way you look at things... what you notice.

I've been painting, off and on, for a long time. I love painting people, but I have always avoided painting teeth. I think every artist has something they avoid... I know a few who avoid hands like the plague. While I have no problem with hands (one day I'll do a tutorial to show my technique), I have always managed to make the teeth look like they somehow don't belong in the mouth they've been assigned to. When I started the Jazz Legends portrait project my first thought was how on earth was I going to be able to do it making sure everyone had their mouths closed. I managed with the first few... then I got to Count Basie. I can't paint him not smiling... it wouldn't show his personality. Ok, so I gave him a slight smile. It worked out ok. Next came Cab Calloway. OMG, there's no way I can paint him with a closed mouth... his teeth take up most of his face and he's smiling in every picture. I have to just bite the bullet and go for it. Took a bit of fussing, but in the end, they looked ok. Charlie Christian? No detail in the photo, so no detail in the painting. Problem solved. Billie too... on that angle, didn't seem like much of an issue.

A young Lionel. Even in a suit he looks like he's
about 12....
Next up.... Lionel Hampton. The gap between his front teeth is a defining characteristic. It makes him seem to look young, even in his advanced years. The guy was a serious cutie.... and the disarming smile was a big part of that. But even 4 successful sets of teeth later, I was still a little hesitant. Turns out I had no reason to be concerned. It was easy... and I got it on the first try. When I was in art school and was having trouble with representing something complicated, my instructors would always tell me to just "treat it like everything else". Turns out, that really is the key. I like to paint light on dark, so that's how I approached it. A dab of white paint on a brush the right size and voila! Teeth! And they actually look like they belong in there.

Silly that it took me so long to figure that out. Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is not avoid it... but just tackle it head on. Just treat it like everything else.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

New Abstract Painting : Flightpath, part 2

"Flightpath | 2" 9x9" Mixed Media on paper.
There were two butterflies, a small white one and a monarch. Together they danced among the flowers. It was a beautiful blue sky day, warm, but a large cloud was threatening rain. There was a breeze… the leaves rustled and the birds sang.

Can you see all that in there?

Inspiration can be a tricky thing. And "explaining" a piece of art even trickier. I am, at the moment, trying to write an artist statement for this new body of work I'm starting... and yes, I'm pretty sure this is going to turn into a body of work. I'm 6 pieces in and I've got 4 or 5 more started.... I've got so many ideas for potential subject matter flying around in my head that I feel compelled to keep going. And that's how it always starts. It's a good place to be. But I digress...

Hilarious, right? You can
these "statements of the Old Masters" at this link. 
So, an artist statement. Have you ever read those things? Usually I get about one paragraph in and my eyes glaze over. Everyone tells me I have to have one... I have to explain what I'm trying to achieve or the curator/collector won't even consider my work.  I will fail to qualify as a "serious" artist. But honestly, I never got the hang of artspeak, even in University. Most of the time it just sounds like a bunch of pretentious drivel that no one really understands. My hat goes off to those artists who can write an honest, decipherable artist statement that still fulfills enough academic standards to qualify. I've tried... really I have. With every body of work I've done, I've tried to distill it down to one idea, and present it in some kind of academic sounding blah, blah, blah. Some are more successful than others. I'm not sure how I'm going to approach this one. I'm thinking of tossing the whole academic approach out the window and going with something that is a bit more authentic to who I am. Yes, I may be a thoughtful artist, but I speak plainly and directly (as you know, if you've read even one post on this blog) and don't go in for big, convoluted expressions. Let's see how that works out for me. At this point, I'm not seeing that I have a whole lot to lose.

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If you happen to live in the GTA (Toronto/Mississauga and area), I will be participating in a live painting event next Saturday afternoon during the Port Credit Buskerfest. It's always a really fun event... this is the first time I'll be anything but a spectator. Myself and 3 other artists, (Lisa Irvine, Christine Newman ( a newbie... straight outta school) and one other yet to be announced) will be working on a collaborative piece at imagemaker gallery on Lakeshore. I haven't done any collaborative work before, so this is a totally new, exciting adventure for me. If you're around for Buskerfest, pop in a see what we're up to. Hopefully it will turn into something fabulous, but even if it's a flop I'm sure it will be fun.
We start at 4 pm, and continue into the evening until about 8.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

New Abstract Painting : Flightpath

"Flightpath 2", 9x9" mixed media on paper. Flightpath 1 still needs a bit of work, so I'll post that next week. 
Working with the birds these last few weeks has gotten me thinking about what I'm really looking at and trying to portray with these little pieces. It's not so much the birds as it is the way they move about... trying to draw something while it's in motion has alway been interesting to me, but this is the first time I've actually gone about trying to do it.

There are other things that move in interesting ways... as was very evident while watching the coverage of the recent Pan-Am games that were held in Toronto over the past few weeks. What sparked my interest most... the divers. I always love watching the divers. Every Olympics, no matter how busy, that's the event I make time to watch. Well, summer olympics anyway. In the winter it's the ski jumpers. I like other events, but those ones really grab my attention. I know that I'm going to have to do something related to the athletes at some point, but at the moment, my attention is drawn back to my garden....

Not exactly beautiful....
We've been doing some maintenance back there over the last few weeks. I have a couple large flower beds, but they don't really get much sun. So while I have quite a few large, healthy peony plants, I don't get a whole lot of flowers. This year I had two. Last year there was only one. When my husband told me he wanted to put a shed right where the peonies are, I figured I would just move them to a sunnier spot. They might not live, but you never know. So while trying to figure out the best location, I discovered that the weird looking, greyish mauve flowers I have in my sunny spot is milkweed. I was originally thinking I would pull it out, because it doesn't seem to fit where it is. But when I saw that I had monarch butterflies back there...  repeatedly... I made a point of looking up the plant. OK, so that has to stay. But I can put in more, or a different type, and intersperse it with the peonies, and that should work ok. And the butterflies... oh my. During the couple hours I was back there I saw 4. So beautiful. While I thought about getting a photo, what I actually went to fetch was my sketchbook.

I've done two small pieces so far based on my drawings... well, one is not quite finished, so that one will go up next week. They are small, only 9x9", so they go together somewhat quickly. I've been working on a large one based on my bird paintings, but that one will have to go on hold for a couple weeks while I work on a commission piece. These little ones I can fit in between... those times when I'm not quite sure where I want to go on the larger one, but don't want to loose my momentum by stopping altogether. I think this movement work is going in an interesting direction...  hahahahaha.

Yeah, I know... I'm not that funny....

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Bird on a Wire - New abstract painting

"Bird on a Wire", 9x9" Acrylic on paper. 
Sorry guys.... I know I'm late. This week has been crazy. I usually write my post on Friday or Saturday and schedule it to post Sunday morning, but this week I worked late every night, and by Friday I was so tired it was difficult to form full sentences. I'd rather not post the completely incoherent version of my ramblings... I like to think I have somewhat mastered the English language, but when I'm grasping for the name of an object I use daily, I sometimes wonder. Maybe it's just my age.

 I did get a chance to finish up a small piece I started a week or so ago. I had cut up and gessoed a pile of paper, and then working on them here and there when I had a minute. I've got a few that are close to completion. A good thing... with what work has lined up for me for the next few weeks I'm afraid painting is going to have to take a back seat for a bit. Hopefully it won't last longer than that, as it doesn't look like getting more hands in the shop to actually do the work is in the plan (They did manage to find the cash for two more executives though... I guess we all have our priorities).

Patience paid off... I finally got my photo.  
I'm still working on the idea of portraying movement somehow, and still working with the birds in my backyard. It was good to finish something. Gives me some small sense of accomplishment. Last weekend, when I was cleaning up my garden, I discovered a cardinal nest in the tree outside my house. That was pretty cool. I had noticed they had been around a fair bit over the last few weeks, but had no idea where they were coming from. I never seemed to have my camera with me when I saw one, but once I found the nest I knew I if I just sat out there and waited I could get a decent shot.

There are so many birds out here... I've always like watching them but have never really been a "bird-watcher" as such. There are many species I can't identify. The symphony they create in the morning is quite wonderful though.... On the weekends I will just lie in bed with the windows open and listen. If I wake up early enough that is. I think I've finally managed to attach certain sounds to certain birds, which is pretty amazing given my hard-core city girl status. Maybe age is affecting more than just my memory.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Jazz Legends | Billie Holiday

"Jazz Legends | Billie Holiday", 16x20" Acrylic on Canvas.
Giclée prints available from Global Vernissage
I had to make a few copies of my original drawing to use as
masks... I would love to be able to just paint the details
right on the canvas instead of doing all this extra work,
but somehow it never looks quite right.
I'm getting near the end of this project, so I'm going to be posting a piece every few weeks as I add my finishing touches. I was going to do a video for this one, but as I looked through my working pics I realized it wasn't going to work. I had taken a bunch of close up shots rather than full canvas images. Don't know what I was thinking.

When I first heard Billie Holiday sing, what struck me was the emotion she was able to convey with her voice. I was young and just realizing there was more to music than the top 40 played on the radio, or the prog rock loved by my older siblings. This was different... she sounded so sad. Certainly not what you got from your average teeny-bopper pop. I got a bunch of records (yes, records) out of the library and taped it onto a cheap cassette tape, which were listened to over and over when I was a mopy teenager.
Just starting to build up the interior forms...

Starting on this series I knew she had to be included. She was of the right era, sang with Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, performed at the popular night clubs in Harlem. Deciding on a photo to work from posed a bit of a challenge… there are many great photos of her floating around, but very little video footage exists. I didn't want to just copy a photo, although I ended up choosing an iconic image, and altering it to include the signature white gardenias she wore in her hair.

Years ago, for my birthday, my now-husband gave me a box set of her "hits". I don't think until then that I realized her song "Strange Fruit" was about racism. She didn't write it (it was originally a poem written by Abel Meeropol) , but she sings it with such intense emotion, I remember feeling slightly ill the first time I listened carefully to the lyrics. I still can't listen to it without it affecting me... and I don't know of too many singers who can wrench that kind of emotion out of a song. Especially these days.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Ideas taking flight....

Here's the three finished paintings lined up together. I definitely get the idea of movement and flight... but that might just be wishful thinking....
"Birds Flying High | 3", 5x5" Mixed Media on Paper. I
posted this one mid-week on social media... I was so
happy to actually get it finished I couldn't wait to share. 
I've been working a bit here and there this week, expanding on the idea of flight and motion. I knew eventually I wanted to work birds into a series of some sort, but until now I've been at a loss as to how. I think the idea of portraying movement is something I can work with... and even expand to include more than just birds. But at the moment I shall limit myself to the idea of flight and flying, and see where I go with it.

I managed to finish up the remaining two small pieces I started last week, and started something else a bit larger. I've preped a few sheets of paper so I can continue on when I have a couple hours to work, and a 30x30" canvas is all set to start a large piece in the same vein. I'm not sure I'm ready to actually start yet... I've been working in blues and greys but I think I will need to add some hits of bright colour to really get across the feeling of summer days. I suppose that's what studies are for... figuring out how to get yourself from idea to image and be somewhat satisfied with the result.

"Birds Flying High | 2", 5x5" Mixed Media on Paper

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Birds Flying High

"Birds Flying High | 1", 5x5" Mixed Media on Paper
A few weeks ago I did a week long, intensive retreat with artist V. Jane Gordon. We were working with the figure, but on the whole we were figuring out how to take an experience and record it... not just visually, but using everything as inspiraiton; the sounds, the environment, the movement, the moment. We did a lot of work with the model in motion... it was unlike any figure drawing session I had ever participated in. And the drawings/paintings that came out of that week were really interesting and completely different, even if not completely successful as works of art. 

With this experience still fresh in my mind, I was thinking about what I'd like to do next and how to incorporate what I had learned into the couple pieces I have going at the moment. I was sitting out in my backyard with my sketchbook and my coffee, enjoying the morning sun and watching the birds flit around in the garden, and as I have a thing about birds, I started playing with ideas about how to portray them in motion. My drawings got very abstract as I watched them move and dart in and out of the trees. I was inspired enough to get out my paints and try to do something with these interesting lines and shapes. 

I had originally been drawing in charcoal, so I kept that as my drawing tool. I misted it with a mix of medium and water in an attempt to fix it somewhat, so I didn't end up with a muddy mess when i picked up the dust with the paintbrush. I also limited my pallet to black, white and blue, to keep everything from getting too muddled. I was pleasantly pleased with the results, and I actually think this one is good enough to put up for sale. I have a couple other ones started that I will hopefully be able to finish up over the next week. I did one with charcoal, but didn't fix it first (an experiment... but you never know. The results might be interesting!) and a third with the drawing in india ink. Even though I have planned to work on paper for the next little bit (it's so much easier to store), I've been eyeing one of those blank 30x40" canvases I have leaning against the wall. I really do need to use up my stash of stuff, and I really like working large......

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Taking an Art Field Trip

My drawing of the Gatehouse at Adamson's Estate. I was mostly interested in the upper floor balcony and the stairs... I just kind of filled in the gardens with marks to suggest the plants. If I had brought colour I might have taken it a bit further.
Adamson's Estate in Port Credit, Ontario,
the grounds turned into a park along the waterfront. A
lovely spotto go and draw. And very close to my home. 
After bemoaning my sad state last week, I felt like I needed to take a step back and figure out a way to do what I love and make a living without burning out. I've taken on too much, and I need a break... I need to refresh myself and remember why I'm doing this in the first place. I love to draw. I love to paint. I know it's something that I need to do to be happy. It's all the other stuff that seems to be taking the fun out of it. 

I've decided that for the next little while I'm not going to be taking on anything new. No shows, no art fairs, no courses. I have already committed to a show in August, which is really just a simple hanging and take down with a few weeks in between. Easy. I've got an application out for a show in October, but I won't even know if I'm doing that one until the end of July. That's it. Other than that, I'm going to be focusing on doing some work just because I want to, and participating in events that I think are going to be fun, not stressful. Hopefully, this will renew my love of all things arty, and give me back that wonderful sense of anticipation before an evening spent in my studio.

You can tell my friend Marion has done this before...
she's got this great set up with a chair, table and bag all
attached with backpack straps to carry it. Everything
portable and in one unit.
I started out this week, planning an outing with a friend to a local spot to draw. It turned out to be a lovely day, and the site she chose was perfectly situated right down by the lake. I've been to this spot before, but never to draw... usually I was with my husband and dogs for our weekly Sunday afternoon long walk. One dog is gone now and the other can't go that far anymore, so its been a while. I had forgotten how lovely it is in the summer. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take photos here, or I would have. It is very popular for weddings, and I think without making it permit only the place would be over-run with wedding parties in the summer months. I got in a couple drawings (and snuck a couple shots with my phone of little things I wanted to remember), before my stomach started grumbling and I lost concentration. A really nice way to spend a couple hours outdoors in the nice weather.

I found this tree that has the
coolest bark ever. It'll make a
great texture in a background.
I've been reading V Jane Gordon's book on the Artist Inquiry method, so the first thing I did was walk around and do a couple quick drawings of interesting things I found... the texture of bark, the cracks in the old stone, that kind of thing. But eventually I just sat down to draw the buildings, because that's what I felt like doing. I haven't really done much of this since I was in Europe, some 25 years ago. I still have that sketchbook, and I treasure it... and when I flip through it I can remember every site, the people I met and how I felt when I was there. There's something about drawing a subject that burns it into your memory... I really should take a new sketchbook with me on every trip and make a point of filling it with memories. It's hard to do when you're travelling with another person (other than another artist who is doing the same thing), but I'm sure if I wanted to do it, Hubs would find something to keep himself occupied with. He's good like that.
The stairway leading up to the side door of the main house. I could have carried on with this one, but
I was hungry. Once my tummy starts grumbling, I lose all concentration. Time to go home. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

It's a Dog's Life

Here is my Cleo, in here usual spot on the sofa (we tried to keep her off it, but eventually just gave up... she is nothing if not persistent). I've been drawing with pencil lately... I tried to do an ink sketch of her but it didn't work that well. I'll try again when I've gotten into the habit of drawing regularly.
Life has been incredibly busy this week. My son, who is graduating from high school (I feel so old all of the sudden), had his prom on Tuesday. There was a bit of running around for that, and work has suddenly gotten so busy it's impossible to keep ahead of the deadlines. I haven't set foot into my studio since last Sunday... and that depresses me. I committed to everyday creativity a couple years ago, as a way to give me something that is uniquely my own. I've been able to stick to it all this time, yet the last week I've felt my motivation drop to an all time low (well, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, seeing as I did spend a few years not even picking up a pencil... I'm not that bad yet).

100 Happy Days project... I'm on week 4. I've been posting mainly
on Instagram and Twitter. If you're interested, you can follow along there.
Could be I'm just tired.... apart from the actual creating, there is all the stuff that goes along with it. First comes finding a place to put the finished pieces. When I started, my walls were empty. Easy. Now... well, every wall is full (some more than what is visually pleasing), I have stacks of canvases in every closet, a few hanging in galleries, and even some at a local business that had some empty wall space. Then I have to do the business part... updating my inventory lists and portfolio, contacting galleries, applying for shows, entering competitions. Social media... just try not to get sucked in. Not as easy as you might think. Soooooo much beautiful work out there. And then there is that albatross that is my website, that I just can't seem to get to (I'm considering just hiring someone. I can't afford it, but at the rate i'm going, it will never get done). AND... apparently, I really do have to get out to social events! It's good for networking, I need to support my friends, and it's probably good for my mental health to talk to someone who is involved with something other than packaging or high school. I feel like a big whiner right now... but sometimes it just feels a little overwheming. All I want to do is sit down with a drink and a book.

My compromise has been to do just that... with my sketchbook. I'm still kind of at a loss as to what to put in it, but as I like to draw, I figured as long as I'm drawing something, it's all good. As my fur-baby always seems to be within my visual line of sight, she was a good place to start. No, I didn't do all of these in the past week... it's been a few weeks, and the first few I did were so bad I can't bring myself to share. I shall call them "exploratory" drawings. I'd like to explore some drawing of her in movement, but in all honesty that is unlikely to happen... it didn't take much for her to realize that if I sat with the book we were going to be there for a bit, and she makes herself comfortable. As you can see.

The advantage of working in book form is that I don't have to find a place to put it. A spot on a shelf is all I need. Maybe focusing on that for a bit will refresh me while I finish up the stack of half-finished canvases taking up space in my studio. And it will give new ideas a chance to percolate.