Sunday, December 16, 2012

Music, Dance and Expression

My recent fascination with jazz, musicians and music in general have led me to discover all kinds of new things. I've been visiting the library regularly and checking out CDs from musicians and bands I had never heard of... looking on the liner notes for names of who is playing on what track and then looking them up... and on and on it goes.

A little while ago I got my hands on a dvd documentary on the history of swing, called "This Joint is Jumpin". What a fun movie. Along with the fantastic old footage of performers from the 20s up to the the present, there is footage and interviews with the swing dancers of the time. The dancing is amazing. There is so much energy and life, and it expresses the joy of the music so perfectly. It got me thinking...

The Dance
9x12" acrylic on paper
I did a couple little pieces on paper first to see if I could get something I was happy with. It helps me to work out issues with the drawing, composition, anatomy... one thing I've noticed is that because I don't put in a lot of detail in the figures, if my anatomy is off at all it stands out like a sore thumb.

There are so many different directions I could take this. I talked to my niece, who has been dancing since she could walk, and happily she agreed to pose for some photos. Until then, I found some old photos, a few pics online, and some video stills I can use for reference. I decided to start with a flamenco dancer, since I've always been somewhat fascinated with it, and the poses can be very dramatic.  Next up? Not sure yet...

The Red Flame
16x20" Acrylic on Canvas

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Twitter, Facebook and Blogs

Mike Ayers' sketchbook project work.
Go check out the whole project!
One of my twitter peeps, Mike Ayers, is doing the "Stranger" theme for his sketchbook project this year... and has chosen to paint his twitter followers. I don't use a full photo for my profile, so when he told me I was next I was curious to see what he would come up with. Very creative solution to the problem...
He took my bird painting from a couple weeks ago, and reworked it, adding in my little cropped photo.

I would never have thought of that.

Mike's sketchbook is shaping up nicely... way better than mine, I must say. Right after I posted about what I intend to do I discovered that my dogs had, once again, wrecked havoc in my studio. My poor little sketchbook sustained some damage, but not enough to make it unusable. As if I weren't having enough problems with this particular undertaking... now I have to figure out how to deal with a bunch of chewed pages and a cover missing the bottom corner. Yipee.

Other artists I follow who are doing some interesting things online are Lisa Myers Bulmash and Emily Cline. Lisa has started a Pinterest board for artists who are moms, and Emily and a friend started up a Facebook group where creative people can share what they are working on and get some feedback. I had the pleasure of meeting both these amazing women at Artfest last spring. A fantastic things about the internet... being able to keep in touch with people from all over, and meeting people online that I would probably never have come in contact with otherwise.

My own work this week:
This is a small study on paper that I intend to work into a larger piece on canvas. I like the pose, though something is looking a bit off around her back... I think I need to redraw it and get that shape right. And maybe make the palette a little less blue. Worth taking to the next step, I think.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Finally Starting my Sketchbook Project

I think I've finally figured out what to do with that Sketchbook Project. I have, in my possession, a photo album belonging to my late grandmother. She was a part of my life until my 30s, but I feel like I didn't really know her. And when I look at these photos, I know I didn't. So I've decided to base my project on her. The two themes I was considering were "memoir" and "strangers". This will be a combination of the two.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


I seem to be fixated on birds lately. Not really sure why... maybe it's the endless dreariness of grey skies and rain getting to me, or maybe it's the tedious nature of my day job that has me dreaming of some kind of flight. Whatever it is, the birds are an ongoing fascination for me.

The Colour of Simplicity
11x14" acrylic on canvas
11x14" acrylic on canvas

As a side note, I recently purchased a tube of Tri-Art acrylics Pyrrole Red. What a gorgeous colour. I've got a bunch of new pieces started... I think this red is going to replace, or at least stand alongside my current staple, Quinacridone Crimson.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Drawing from Life

5 minute pose,
drawn entirely with my left hand.
I took a workshop years ago where my instructor insisted that we draw with our non-dominant hand. At the time I was somewhat less than enthusiastic... I had trouble enough getting the drawing down without a lack of control over what kind of marks I was making. The results were interesting though... everything looked different. As someone whose drawings all looked similar, I was intrigued. So I kept at it, and over the years whenever I went to a life drawing session I made sure to do at least one left handed drawing.

Lately I've been having some trouble with my hands. My doctor tells me it's carpal tunnel, caused by excessive time on the computer. What can you do when that's how you pay the bills? I put on a brace, and kept going. Unfortunately this kind of thing just gets worse over time. Now I'm glad I kept up with that left handed drawing... I've got much more control than when I started. And now that I have a bit more time to get back to the life drawing, it's going to come in handy.

Enter that sketchbook project that I've been putting off. So many themes.... how to decide? I've narrowed it down to "Strangers" or "Memoir". I thought I'd let it stew for a week before I decide. I need to gesso the pages anyway, and if you don't let them dry between spreads they stick together and make a mess when you pull them apart. In the meantime I went off to a life drawing class and found a stranger to draw. I think I'm going to do the whole book as a lefty. It's different and experimental, and I think that's the whole point of the project.

30 minute pose, drawn with both hands alternating. I think the artist parked beside me thought I was a little nuts.
Final 30 minute pose, also drawn with both hands. After 3 hours I was feeling much more comfortable.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Another Project

Aside from these musician paintings that I've been working on for months now, I have another, much smaller project going. I posted one image already, but I've since done a few more. I'm not sure exactly where the bird imagery came from or what it means just yet, but it keeps showing up when I'm working in my visual journal, so I know there has to be something to it. Here is another from this developing series.

11x14" Acrylic on Canvas

Sunday, October 28, 2012

New Painting, New Gallery

Chasing the Gypsy
Acrylic on Canvas
My little world is expanding. As of next week, my work will also be at the TAG Art Gallery in downtown St. Catherines, Ontario.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A little different

"Quiet Nights"
Acrylic on Canvas
This piece I painted over an old painting that I didn't like. I had used molding paste to give it some texture, and since that was the only part of the original that I liked, I just painted over it without sanding it down or smoothing it out in any way. It's hard to tell in the photo, but there is a lot going on here.

Here's a close up of one area to show the texture. I quite like the way it worked out... I'm thinking there could be lots of ways to use this to emphasize areas or add in some interest without needing much else. It's definitely something I'll be experimenting with in the future.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Getting back to work

So, what now? I've had the "Escaping" show opening and it's still hanging, managed to sell a couple and even had a photo in the paper. I took a bit of time to unwind and clean up... you would not believe the mess my studio was in. I got a cold that knocked me down for a bit, but some sleep and a couple days off took care of that. Then I decided to get back to work. But apparently, I wasn't ready for that. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, was working. I painted a canvas. I painted over it. And I painted over it again. I started another one, and then painted over that one. Everything looked awful. Kinda hard to take, after the last few months of having everything just flow. Well, I suppose that's how it goes... everyone has good and bad days, but too many bad ones in a row can really shake your confidence. I was beginning to wonder if that was it... maybe that was all I had in me, and now that it's done... well, I was done.

I've been down this road before. It's difficult. I usually just stop for a while, thinking it will get better. That hasn't worked for me. Last time I stopped it was nearly 2 years before I got back to it. So i've decided to persevere. Just keep going, and eventually, something will happen. This week I went back to an older photo that is very similar to one I've worked with before. The lines are simple and shapes clear, and I figured even if the painting ended up resembling the last one, I could live with that... as long as I didn't hate it.  Here's what I came up with:

Acrylic on Canvas, 16x20"
While it is similar to the other one, it has a different feel altogether. I make my colour choices intuitively and without any advance planning, depending on my mood. My choice of music also definitely makes a difference. For this one I was listening to James Carter, a recent discovery for me that I absolutely love. I've been listening to "Chasing the Gypsy" continually for the better part of the week.

I've started a couple other musician paintings, but I'm really feeling that this series is coming close to an end. Maybe it's time for me to move on, do some exploration and find the next thing.

And maybe I should start on that Sketchbook Project I signed up for in April. I got my book in the mail and put it on the shelf, and haven't looked at it since. This might be the perfect opportunity.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Escaping: A Group Show at the AGL

My painting made the paper!
The show that I have been working towards for the last couple months has finally opened at the Art Gallery of Lambeth. When I dropped off all my work a couple weeks ago, I have to admit I was just a tiny bit concerned... they were doing renovations and the place was a disaster zone. I shouldn't have worried. They managed to get it all pulled together in time and the place looked fantastic.

I like what they've done there. They opened up the entire back section to make room for some new, bigger classes, and they've put in a counter so the desk, computer and big sinks are partially hidden from view. This will double as a bar during openings and private viewings, when they will be serving food and wine.

I think the evening was pretty successful, even though it was held on the Friday of the Thanksgiving long weekend. They maybe would have had a better turnout if it was next weekend, but there were still a fair number of art lovers who showed up to see the new works. And some of the new work is really beautiful. If I could afford it (and if I had the wall space), there were a few things I would have loved to bring home with me.

The wall with my paintings. You can see my two little bird paintings on the side wall.
There was a real photographer there so I'm hoping he got some better shots...
these don't look great, but you get the idea.
The long wall filled with all new work
Enjoying the ambience
A musician adds to the atmosphere

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Two New Musician Paintings

I decided to do a couple small pieces, to round out this collection. Both of these are based on photos I took at the Southside Shuffle festival a couple weeks ago. The change in colour scheme I blame on the influx of new music. I think these will be the last paintings I will have time to complete before the upcoming show at the Art Gallery of Lambeth. The opening is October 5th. I'm curious to see how they hang everything.... better not forget my camera this time!

Acrylic on Canvas
Acrylic on Canvas

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Large Painting = Lots of Time

Acrylic on Canvas
Finally got this large piece finished... it's the largest thing I've done in a long time, even if it's still not huge. It's just big enough to hang over my piano without looking lost. Thought I was done a couple times... then I'd catch a glimpse of it while I was walking past and see something else that bothered me. Two weeks later.... now I remember why I don't usually paint any larger that 16x20. Apart from the fact that it took every second of my painting time for two solid weeks, it also made it difficult to move around in my very tiny studio. I had to clear the easel and the space around it, and I still really couldn't get back far enough to get a good look. I think if I am going to do more large pieces, which I'd like to, I'm going to have to do a little rearranging in there. And maybe keep the door closed, because every time I turned around I was tripping over a dog.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Shuffling Southside...

This weekend was the "Southside Shuffle" in Port Credit, Mississauga's annual Jazz and Blues Festival. They close off Lakeshore Rd. and the bands line the street, just far enough apart so they don't interfere with each other. They also have 4 large stages set up in the park by the Credit River, and the music goes on all weekend. I had to go and take some photos, since this is really my last chance of the summer to get what I need to finish off these musician paintings. Lots of bands with horn sections... I'm really a sucker for this stuff. I guess I just love shiny things. I saw a lot of wonderful musicians, and bought a load of new music. I love picking up CDs from local independent artists.... they all seem to be flogging them and its a good way to support the local music scene. Many of the bands I saw were from the general area. Later in the evening I ventured into the park to see Jack deKeyzer, who I've seen many times before but he never disappoints. Here's a shot of him with his band... it was starting to get dark so it isn't really the best photo, but it's the best of the bunch that I took.

Jack DeKeyzer at the Southside Shuffle

I have been painting like crazy lately, but have no photos of new artwork to post. I had lent my camera to my son (he's 15) so he could take some photos of his friends, and it was returned to me, minus the SD card. We finally found it (in his friend's computer), but when I got it back, it was completely full. I spent about an hour laughing at silly pics of all sorts of stuff... the sky, the park, their shoes, close ups of their teeth, the dog's teeth, the boys with their instruments, the boys on the playground equipment with their instruments (!!!) etc. etc. It was funny. But anyway, I haven't had a chance to get my paintings out and photograph them, but it's definitely on the agenda for this week. I need to get it done before I drop them all off at the gallery, and the deadline for that is quickly approaching!!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Busker Weekend

Piano Keys Crosswalk
in Port Credit
We seem to love the idea of a festival. Why not? It gets people out and off their computers, they interact, there's entertainment, food, music, fun... what's not to love? The last two weeks have been for "Buskerfest"... this past weekend was the one in downtown Toronto, and the weekend before it was held in Port Credit (home of the wonderful piano keys crosswalks). I went to that one, since I had to run an errand in the area and it was a lovely summer day.

 The acts were spread out over a few blocks, and you could pick up a schedule if there was something specific you wanted to catch. There were a few acts that caught my attention. These guys (right) were pretty funny; some juggling, some dancing, some jokes and a few stunts. Hard to tell from the photo... the two guys on the ground were holding a beam of some kind and the other guy was doing flips off it. I'm really glad he didn't miss, because although those mats look like they are under him, they were actually way too far away to be of any help if he fell.

These two were probably my favourite performers of the day. They call themselves "Strings on Fire", and at one point they actually light the ends of the bows on fire and play, while she is standing on his shoulders. In this photo they are each playing a part of the same piece on the same violin. Having played violin for a bit myself, I can't even imagine how difficult this would be. It was quite an impressive show. I hope they'll be back next year.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

In-between Days

I'm having a bit of an off week. I've got a couple paintings that aren't really working for me and I'm feeling a bit out of sorts. I suppose not every painting session can be successful, but more than two in a row and it throws me off (and I'm sure that having a house full of teenagers playing really loud electric guitars had nothing at all to do with it). What to do? I decided to take a couple days off and focus on something else. I'll get back to the musicians when I get back to feeling like myself.

11x14" Acrylic on canvas
I've been working on a couple of other projects... thought since I didn't have any other completed paintings to post I'd share one of those.

I suppose this one goes with my other "bird" pieces, even though it's quite different. I was planning on doing a musician when I started, but instead of my usual upbeat jazz I put on classical guitar (Julian Bream). It still amazes me how much my choice of music influences the feeling of the finished painting. I was pleased with how this turned out, so I've started a couple other small canvases to classical pieces. Haven't finished anything else yet, but I've taken to writing down what i was listening to on the back of the stretcher bar. I know that once I get a bunch going I won't be able to remember, and I don't want to change the outcome by switching the music.

As much as this intrigues me, this isn't the time for me to get sidetracked. I'm taking part in a group show at the Art Gallery of Lambeth in September, and have about 3 weeks to get everything finished up. I've got two paintings left, one of which is much larger that what I usually do.  I can get it finished if I don't get distracted... and maybe if I can get the kids to go practice at someone else's house.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Another Painting Completed

I had to do another pianist... the other one is smaller and on paper, but also has a totally different feel.

Acrylic on canvas

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bass Line

With all the stuff going on lately, I've been posting about local events and not what I'm working on. The painting continues though... I've got a bunch of stuff on the go. This is the latest in my Musician series. I've got two more nearing completion, to be posted (hopefully) in the next couple weeks.

Acrylic on Canvas

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Sketchbook Project Tour 2012 Hits Toronto

The Gladstone Hotel in Toronto
This week, the ArtHouse Co-op's wonderful Sketchbook Project hit Toronto. It was held in the beautiful Gladstone Hotel, a great old building at Dufferin and Queen. Since I have signed up for next year's project, I figured I'd go check it out... maybe get some inspiration. I got my book over a month ago, and haven't touched it. The paper threw me off a bit.... I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I knew that if I put paint on that paper it was just going to wrinkle up on me and look awful. So I put it away until I had some idea of what to do with it.

The "library" set-up. You choose a category at the computer and the ArtHouse person goes finds your books for you. Worked quite efficiently. At times during the afternoon the lineup was long, but I never waited more than a few minutes.
I signed up for my "library card" and started signing out books. You could choose by any number of categories... theme, presentation, profession of the artists (this project is open to anyone), location... or you could search by artist name. The first couple I got somewhat traditional "sketchbook" type of books. But then I started getting some interesting ones.

This one was drawings in the first half, but when I hit the centre I got this. How cool is that? So my next trip up I selected fold out books, and got some interesting selections. I was totally captivated by the ingenuity of some of these artists. I had planned on staying for an hour or so, and was there the entire afternoon. I finally left when I was so hungry I was thinking more about dinner than what I was looking at.

Fold out sketchbook by Sumi Perera

This one I actually needed help assembling. By the time I got it completely open
the whole table was participating. There was a QR code attached to the string... took you to a YouTube
video of an actual carrousel. Artist is Rachael Manley.

My only observation with the event was that the room was clearly too small for the crowds that showed up. I'm assuming the organizers didn't expect such a great turn-out. The couple small tables set out were always full, people were looking at the books while sitting on the floor, leaning on walls, basically anywhere they could find a spot. It was great the way everyone talked to each other and shared what they were looking at. That doesn't always happen in Toronto. If you'd like to take a look at some of the books on display, many of them are online.

So, now I guess I better think about what I'm going to fill my own book with...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Outdoor Art in the GTA

Toronto Outdoor Art Show.
Photo from
There are lots of outdoor art shows in the summer in the Greater Toronto Area. I like to go wander around and see what other artists are up to, even though I don't generally do outdoor shows myself. I did a few many years back and while it could be fun, it could also be pretty awful. It totally depended on the weather. This year the weather has been hot and sunny. Perfect for both the vendors and the patrons. 

Last weekend was the big one, the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition. There is always some new, interesting stuff at this show, and a wide variety of artists. This year the thing that really caught my eye was an encaustic artist named Kevin Ghiglione. His work is really beautiful, and he is a really nice man who obviously loves what he does. He gave me lots of information on how he builds up his layers, what types of materials he uses, and even offered to let me come to his studio to watch if I wanted (I was likely the most enthusiastic person he'd talked to all day... I really do love his work. The photos do not do it justice). Totally made me want to break out the wax when I got home, but with the intense heat we've had here lately... well, not likely. My studio has inadequate ventilation for encaustic so I work outside, and combining high temperatures with molten wax and a heat gun/blow torch means almost certain heat stroke. No, thank you.

Port Credit Marina, with the outdoor art show in the distance.
This weekend was the Port Credit Outdoor Art Show. Not nearly as big, and it really seems to be more of a craft/artesian show than a Capital A Art show.  Lovely location right on the water. I did this show quite a few years ago... but the weather was not nearly so nice. There was a thunder storm with really intense wind, resulting in at least one tent being blown into the lake and quite a bit of broken glass. I remember spending a few hours desperately hanging on to the poles holding up my tent, after having bungee-corded all my hanging racks to concrete cinderblocks. It was so not fun. This year the weather was again hot and sunny, lots of people were out and it seemed that they were actually buying. Nice to see. One of the artists told me there was a big show at the Distillery District the August long weekend. I think I'll try to get out and see that one too.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

It's been a busy week... a couple more paintings

My niece Melissa posed for me while I took a
bunch of photos of her... This one is on paper but I think
I'll do another one on canvas.

Acrylic on canvas

Monday, July 2, 2012

New Paintings

My stretch of insomnia seems to be over (thank goodness). I think the little diversion was just what I needed. After a couple good nights sleep, things seemed to flow much easier. I feel like I've actually made some progress. I've got a pile more that I've started, so hopefully I'll have a few more to post next week.

Acrylic on paper.

Acrylic on paper

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Toronto Jazz Festival

One of the wonderful things about living near Toronto is the abundance of live music about town. Especially in the summer. The past few weeks have been the high point of the season... Luminato, then NXNE, then last weekend the Toronto Jazz Festival started. Had to get myself downtown, and soak up some summer atmosphere.

Before I even got to my destination, I came across these guys. They were having some serious fun. I'm glad I have a camera on my phone, because I forgot to take mine. Not the best photos, but they will do for what I need them for. Didn't think I'd run across a guy with a tuba... I love the lines and intricate shapes. I took a bunch of pics of him, and the trombone player too. 

I met a friend down in the Distillery District,  where we could pop in and out of the galleries, check out the studios upstairs and maybe talk to a few of the artists that work there. There was a couple tents set up outside, and music in both locations all afternoon. I already have a bunch of photos of a standup bass from my son's school concert, but I could get really close to this guy and get a much better angle, so I took a bunch of shots of him too (and he was an amazing musician... that set was fantastic). I think these are going to make some really interesting paintings.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Working Away...

 When I started on my most recent series of musician paintings, I did a few small pieces to start, which i posted a few weeks ago. I also made myself a sketchbook of sorts... not a traditional kind of sketchbook, since I don't really do that, but a small book where I could try out a few different approaches without having to commit a lot of time. I've done this a few times, and it seems to clarify a direction for me, and helps keep things moving when I get stuck. This one I've made from an old kid's board book... in it's past life it was "Winnie the Pooh's Big Book of Opposites". I pick these books up at Goodwill for next to nothing. They are compact and sturdy, and can take a lot of abuse.