Sunday, July 26, 2015

Jazz Legends | Billie Holiday

"Jazz Legends | Billie Holiday", 16x20" Acrylic on Canvas.
GiclĂ©e 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.