Thursday, December 31, 2020

2020: A dumpster fire for society, but it wasn't all bad...

I was watching a YouTube video the other day, made by a comedian, about making plans in 2020. It was actually a series of 4, and I sat down and watched all 4, because holy crap, a lot has happened. So much that I'd actually forgotten some of it. 

When all around you, people are sick and dying, hospitals are overloaded, friends losing their jobs, need for food banks and homeless shelters at record levels, we can't visit with our friends and family, and yet government officials ignore travel directives because the rules apparently don't apply to them, it's easy to feel like this shit-show of a year is best forgotten. But some good will come of this, of that I'm certain.

As an artist, one positive thing I've noticed is that people are starting to realize that it's artists that make all the good stuff we were able to enjoy while being stuck in our homes. Writers, film makers, musicians, actors all have taken new prominence in our lives. What would we do without books, TV and music? And because they are in the spotlight, their financial situation is getting a bit more attention (if you haven't read about the dismal situation for musicians now that streaming is our main form of music consumption, you really should, because once they can't afford to be musicians anymore, there will be considerably less to choose from). 

For many visual artists, this has been a decent year. I think with people being stuck home, they are looking for something they have a bit more of a connection with than a generic, mass produced print. Most of the artists I know have sold enough to stay afloat, even with galleries having to be closed. I've done quite a few large commission pieces this year, which is a totally new thing for me. It's been fun being able to work in a large format without being concerned about where I'm going to put it when I'm finished. I have also sold a couple older, larger pieces (not commissions), so I have a couple empty spots on my walls, giving me space to do more. Yay! I've spent the last few years pretty fixated on smaller works, mainly because they are easier and cheaper to ship.... but maybe that is something I should rethink. If someone is purchasing a large painting online, they understand shipping is a part of that purchase. It's just part of our lives these days. 

I'm hoping with the vaccine now being administered, there is hope that 2021 will look a bit brighter. It may be a year until enough people have had the shot that we can resume world-wide travel and other, riskier situations, but what is a year when measured against people's lives? In my own region we have already started to vaccinate health-care workers, so at least we won't have to worry about having staffing shortages in hospitals and long-term care homes due to illness. I look forward to being able to resume showing my work and talking to art-lovers face-to-face. 

Until then, I'm doing video calls with people interested in have a peek in my studio, and seeing what work I have available. If you're interested in setting up a time, just shoot me an email or message me on social. I've also created a downloadable 2021 calendar, so you can print your own copy and have something nice to look at all year.  

Happy 2021 to you all. Talk soon.  🙂

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Playing with some new ideas

From my sketchbook.

When talking to a group of artists on Zoom recently, we were discussing what kind of art is selling these days. As we are all abstract artists, and abstract can be kind of a tough sell, it's something we all think of from time to time. Maybe, just maybe, I need to do something else for a bit. I can still be a painter, but a little bit of something recognizable may be the thing that moves my work from not selling to selling. 

Last year I thought I'd see if my understanding of abstract composition could make me a half-decent landscape painter. I did a bunch of pieces... not from photos but from the memories of my travels. They are not as abstract as they could have been, and probably should have been. I actually got grilled at a show by a "proper" landscape painter,  because my pieces "didn't make sense". My values were wrong, you couldn't tell what season it was, if that's a rocky shoreline what are those marks supposed to be? Yeah, whatever. Go back to your own booth, buddy. 

Quite obviously (and like everybody else), I've been spending a lot of time at home lately. My workload (for my day job) has been kind of hit and miss... some days I am so busy I don't have time for lunch, and other days I have a couple hours free with nothing to do. I have to stay near my computer in case a rush job comes through, so I figured I'd start a new sketchbook project. I can start and stop on a dime with no cleanup, it's portable, so I can sit in my car and draw if I'm bored (that's still self isolating), and I can work in the evenings when there's not enough time to paint. Its good to keep my drawing skills up, and sometimes just drawing something will trigger an idea. And then I have plenty of space to see if I can get somewhere that might work. 

Also from my sketchbook
One thing I do, which might be a bit out of the ordinary, is take one word and expand on that word until I run out of ideas. I've done it a couple times, and ended up with some small series. The word I chose for this one was "Bloom". Specific enough that it gives me a place to start (flowers, obviously) but vague enough that I can go off on a tangent if I feel like it. And according to at least one of my friends, florals are among the top sellers, worldwide.

I started this project just before Easter, when it was still pretty chilly outside. My first drawing was of an Easter lily, a flower. The magnolias are booming now. Oh how I love magnolias. I've done a half dozen sketches of those. 

When I was around 9 or 10, my mom planted a magnolia tree in our front yard.My parents lived in that house until I was in my late 20s, and that tree was glorious by the time they moved. Every spring there would be this enormous cloud of white and pink, and then came the rain of petals that would last for days. When the windows were open, the smell was heavenly.  To this day, when I see a magnolia tree in bloom, I think of my mother. I imagine I always will.

So now, in my brain, magnolias are connected with motherhood and aging women, and when I think of that I think of the ancient symbols for fertility, then sacred goddess worship and all the symbolism associated with that.... and here I am drawing celtic knots intertwined with magnolias. 

I have no idea where this is going, but that's half the fun.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

on Combining Obsessions...

"Waiting for Persephone", 10x10" mixed media on 1.5" wood cradle panel. 

I'm really into mythology.

It started in grade school when I had to do a project based around a greek myth. The stories were riveting, the characters oh so captivating. It led me down a rabbit hole. Now, in my 50s, I have books on most of the major mythologies that I've collected over the years. Christian, Greek, Roman, Indigenous, Celtic, Norse... similarities in the tales and the characters led me to do some reading on Archetypes and Jungian theory, which in itself is really interesting. Like I said, rabbit hole.

I have never really incorporated any of this knowledge into my work before. It's not that I hadn't thought about it... I've made tons of notes in sketchbooks over the years trying to figure out what kind of imagery I could create that could speak about these myths. Nothing ever jumped out at me as a good idea. In fact, nothing really even made it past the initial concept phase. I didn't want to be pegged as a religious painter, no matter what religion. Many of the stories are far too violent for my aesthetic. Then there was the issue with models and symbolism and cultural appropriation... I just didn't ever get far enough into it to get all the problems worked out and figure out how it would work. 

But... abstract? Hey, that could totally work.

Connecting shapes and colours to an ancient story could be a really interesting exercise. And the feeling is important, because my paintings centre around what feelings I can evoke as much as telling a linear "story".  I started off with one piece, my 'Persistence of Artemis", and that led to this one, and yet another still .... I'm pretty sure I can make this a series with lots of variety. Even if it ends up being short lived, I think I'm going to give it a go and see how far I can take it. If nothing else it will give me an excuse to dig out all my books and reread my favourite tales. 

This painting is based upon the story of Persephone, who is from the Greek mythos. Persephone is the daughter of Zeus and Demeter {everyone knows who Zeus is... Demeter is his wife, goddess of the harvest and agriculture). Homer describes Persephone as the formidable, venerable, majestic queen of the underworld, who "carries into effect the curses of men upon the souls of the dead". I will go into more detail about this particular story in my next newsletter... I think it will be fun sharing these myths with my readers and trying to explain how my painting portrays it. If you're interested and want to read these stories, you can sign up on my website.