Sunday, February 28, 2016

Art Journal entry: Transformations...

Art Journal entry. Collage, acrylic and water soluble crayon. 
Art Journals can be a weird thing... the point is to work intuitively, and what comes out is supposed to tell you something about yourself, right? Like art therapy. Years ago, I took a class at a local college called "Experiential Art", and the instructor was a certified art therapist. It was an interesting experience, even if I couldn't quite let myself just create. My brian stepped in and put a halt to whatever might have been trying to come out... or maybe it was the 3 years of having the "rules" drilled into me I just couldn't create without thinking composition, or focal point. As I was told... a few times... I just needed to relinquish control. But I couldn't do it.

One of the masks at
the McMichael exhibit.
Fast forward 15 years, and here I am again... trying to just let things happen. It's better than it used to be. My collage is random, my colour choices are intuitive, my drawing without any kind of plan. I pick a subject out of thin air, and get to work.

This journal started life as a children's book. It was called "Where's Spot?", and each page had an illustration of a puppy hiding somewhere in a room. This page said "Is he in the piano?" You can still see the copy showing through a bit in the top left. The collage was bits of newspaper text, and some headline copy reading DON'T HIDE. When I went back to the page a week or so later, I drew the mask on the page without any real attention to what was already there. I just got to work.

I was recently at an exhibit of First Nations art at a local gallery. I was completely captivated by the masks. Lucky for me, I was allowed to take photos. I'm sure I'll be using them as inspiration for years. Anyway... there was a docent at the gallery with whom I had a long conversation about the symbolic significance of the masks to the indigenous people. I have been thinking about masks as a way of hiding oneself from the world, but they saw their masks as something different... a symbol of transformation.

If I look at my page in this light, I see something completely different. I guess it's my subconscious telling me to stop hiding and step into the light... life is changing but it's not bad, it's just different. It's my time for transformation.

I guess I finally managed to relinquish control. Wonder if I'll be able to do it again.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Abstract Painting: Brave Spirit, Standing Strong

"Brave Spirit, Standing Strong", 12x12 mixed media on Canvas. Available.
At the beginning of January, I had an idea of how many pieces I wanted to get done before Arts on the Credit in April. Since it's the only art fair I've committed to this year, I wanted to make sure I had a reasonable number of new paintings to show. I had decided after last year's show not to take the musician pieces with me, no matter how many I still had left in my inventory. I may still show them around here and there, but since my abstract work has been my focus over the past year, I really wanted to have enough of those pieces to fill my booth.

I've managed to complete a fair number of pieces, even though I've had to push myself into the studio. Winter is always tough for me, but this year, even with the mild weather, it has felt monumentally dreary. I suppose having people around me dying in quick succession hasn't helped. I just get to the point where I'm coping with my emotions, and there's another one. I suppose that's the curse of getting older... at some point you get to an age where there are more funerals than weddings. I suppose it beats the alternative (ie: one of those funerals being your own). 

Anyway, painting helps me cope, so I push myself to get started, and before I know it I'm in the zone, feeling the tension leave my body and my mind focus in on what I'm doing. It's better therapy than anything else I've tried, and absolutely a better option for me than medication. I'm still thinking Warrior, and am going to continue working with that idea. That's the wonderful thing about working in a series... one idea will spring from the one before, and you just carry on from piece to piece, trying to make each one better than it's predecessor. I may not have time to get to another piece before spring (I've got a few at the "almost done" point I really want to finish), but I did manage to complete this little series. Three is a good number. Maybe I'll have a chance to finish up another of the ones I've got going, but even if I don't, I feel confident my booth will look pretty good. At least I won't have to panic. 

The Warrior Series. 12x12" each. All available.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Abstract Painting: The Warrior's Dance

"The Warrior's Dance", 12x12" mixed media on canvas. Available. 
My husband was, at one time, really into karate. He kinda still is, but he doesn't do it anymore... he got to a fairly high level, then decided to move on to other things. We still watch martial arts movies on occasion, and when the fight scenes come on, I get to watch them a few times. 

We recently watched the Netflix series "Marco Polo". Seen it? Its a pretty good story, actually, so I didn't mind watching... and the sets, costumes, landscapes, etc. were visually very interesting. Of course, what caught hubby's attention was the choreography. There is one character in the story that is a blind monk. And a total badass. He is the kung-fu warrior. Pretty amazing to watch, even on my TV. Can't imagine watching someone who can move like that up close and in person (it would probably freak me out actually... I remember when hubs went for his black belt exam I sat through most of the grading with my hands over my eyes, cringing every time there was contact. And with this there was maybe just a wee bit of computer enhancement. Maybe). Since I had access to a big screen TV, I put on the scene I wanted to follow, got out my canvas and water-soluble crayon, and proceeded to draw the Warrior's Dance. 

Finding inspiration from a Netflix series is probably something I shouldn't admit to. In fine art circles, there is a bit of a high brow attitude toward the meanings and themes in an artist's works. But I really do believe you can find inspiration in anything. Even if you have the most boring life in the world, there will always be something... the way the afternoon light hits a leaf in your garden, the way your mother laughs, your dog's dirty paw print on the kitchen floor... Anything can be the spark that sends you off in a new direction. 

I'm not done with this... I really like the scenes of the army with their shields and swords, and the way their robes fly when they fight. I will probably work that into a couple paintings... and I've still got the books I picked up at the ROM's exhibit of the Chinese terracotta army from a few years back that might inspire something. It will evolve and change as I go along. As it always does. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The SideKick

Another Mask... Acrylic paint, paint pen, collage and water soluble crayon in a recycled children's board book.
A couple months ago I came across a new term in one of the art journaling groups I belong to on Facebook. Someone posted something from their "sidekick" journal. I had never heard this before... but since then it has come up again and again.

I have never taken a class on the "proper" way to make an art journal. I got a book out of the library, I watched a couple videos online, I was lucky enough to win one of Orly Avineri's books in an online contest. I figured hell, it's a journal... how can I do it wrong? The thing with that kind of approach is that you sometimes miss enough you feel like everyone else is in on some secret that has completely eluded you. That's how it was with this whole sidekick thing... though it didn't take me long to figure it out. It's pretty much just what you think it would be: another journal, used as a kind of assistant to the main one.

How I usually work is like this: I have a canvas on my easel. Sometimes two, depending on the size. That is what I am working on at the moment. I usually have another painting or two on the go, so when I get stuck I just move on to something else. My art journal and a few sheets of primed paper are on my work table, along with my drawing tools, my sketchbook, and my brushes. I usually work on something small as a warm-up or if I don't have a lot of time. If I need to work in my journal (to help my mood or state of mind), that usually happens before I get into the bigger stuff. That's something I seem to have been subconsciously avoiding since my father died. I'm trying to make more of an effort because I know it's helpful. I have a shelf full of little books that I work in... one pile has completed books, one pile books I intend to use but haven't, and usually a few that are in progress. I have my "found poetry" book, which has maybe 3 blank spreads, a book made of watercolour paper that has only one spread done but which I had no particular theme in mind, my bird book which is full but needs a cover, and this one that I started and abandoned last year. I have no idea which is my main journal and which is my sidekick.

Maybe my journaling process as a whole is a sidekick. An assistant to my painting in general. That's kind of how I go about it, actually. I go to the journals when I don't know what to paint, or when I don't feel I'm in the right state of mind to work on what I've got going. When I'm in between projects my books get a lot of attention... I work intuitively until I stumble on something I want to pursue. Last year I did an entire book on the theme of grids, just because I wanted to work in a compositional format I didn't really understand. I don't know if that is supposed to be the purpose of an art journal... so maybe what I do isn't really art journaling. I use text, but not the way most people do. I don't write out quotes, or inspirational thoughts... or even leave the text as readable. I scrawl out my thoughts about the subject over my background, then cover it up with my imagery. I don't want to reread it... and I most certainly don't want anyone else reading it. I just put it there so it's clear in my mind what I'm thinking.

Whatever it is I am doing, I intend to keep doing it. It's good for me to have a place to work on stuff that is just for me... work I have no intention of showing or selling. Maybe I will have an open studio at some point, and I'll put my completed books out for people to peruse, just so those interested can have an idea of how I get to my finished paintings. Or maybe not. That's one decision I can avoid making... at least for now.