Sunday, October 27, 2013

Rainy Day Blues

I went to New York City this past summer. When I was there I was captivated by the buskers around the city, from the classical guitarist in the Brooklyn subway station to the phenomenal singer we saw in Central Park. On the one day it rained, there was a busker in front of the MET, playing sax in the pouring rain. I snapped a couple photos... and then did this, based on my photos and memories of the day.

Rainy Day Blues
24x30"  Acrylic on canvas

Monday, October 21, 2013

Year in Review

5x7 acrylic on paper. One of a new series of
miniature pieces that will be on my website soon.
Yesterday was my birthday. I spent about half the day painting, a few hours cleaning my house, and a bit of time with a friend trying to figure out what kind of camera I need so I can take decent working shots in my studio. Sounds exciting, doesn't it?

My life is not that interesting. I have a day job, I cart my kid around to various activities, and I paint. I try to keep up with what's going on in the art world, but I can't say I'm that good at it. I try to go to show openings and art events.... but I'm not very good at that either. I don't have that much free time, so I try to put it to use wisely. And sometimes, I'm just too tired.

My work has changed pretty dramatically in the last couple years. It was about the time that I decided I had to paint every day that things started happening. I got that ever so elusive "body of work" together, finally following the advice I'd been given countless times... "paint what you love". I developed a recognizable "style" (or at least I think it's pretty recognizable... it is, right?). I got some gallery interest. Sold a few pieces. My first solo show. Sold a few more. It's been a lot of work, and it's been a bit stressful, but it's been an interesting and satisfying journey.

I wonder why it took me so long to realize that I had to show up and do the work to get anywhere.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Looking at Art

Sign outside the gallery. There was a life
sized sculpture of WeiWei inside made out
of cardboard... wish I got a photo but I
forgot my camera. All i had was my phone.
Free time is hard to come by these days... I've had a tough time getting downtown to see the Ai Weiwei show at the Art Gallery of Ontario,  even though it's been on my list of things to do since long before it opened. But, as it closes soon, I had to take a day and just go...  and while there I took in the David Bowie Is exhibit as well. Might as well, since my weekends seem to fill up pretty quickly and who knows if I'll have time to get back. I will if I can... it was a very interesting show that certainly deserves a second look. Both exhibits were great, and the gallery was as full as I've ever seen it. Quite a few time slots were even sold out (timed entry tickets to make sure the people actually get to see the exhibit and aren't just herded through like cattle. A good plan... but even at that the Bowie exhibit was too crowded in spots to take a good look at the items).

It's not the norm to have the gallery host two large exhibits simultaneously like this. Interesting to put a conceptual/activist artist like Weiwei and a performance artist like Bowie on together. I don't know if this was planning or coincidence, but it was interesting to compare and contrast the two shows. Both were about expressing personal vision and pushing boundries, Weiwei's being political and Bowie's being social norms and gender stereotypes. I've thought about it, but couldn't seem to find much else to connect them. I'm probably missing something.

I think my favourite part of either show was looking at David Bowie's creative process. I knew there would be notebooks and such, but there were some of his tools as part of the display. A video on his "verbasizer" shows how he uses it to generate random lyrics, which he then reworks (or not) to fit a mental image. There is also a set of Oblique Strategy cards, which I've seen before, and found intriguing. Definitely techniques to file away, to be used in the event of a creative block.

Outside the gallery I noticed a proliferation of street art that I haven't seen in Toronto in a long time... especially since the current mayor took office. In fact, Rob Ford has declared a war on Street artists. Odd, considering the current popularity of some well known artists like Banksy (who is in New York at the moment, doing a "residency"). I'm hoping to get back downtown in the next couple weeks with my camera, to get some photos before everything has been completely removed. There were a few spots that were really quite beautiful.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Abstract Cat: Step-by-Step

"In the Garden"   8x10" Acrylic on paper
This past weekend was a cultural event held every year called Doors Open. The Gallery in London, where I exhibit, has recently converted some of it's space into a workshop area, so they asked if I would participate in the event by teaching a short beginner class. I've never done anything like this before, but hey, I'm always up for something new. So, to prepare for this, I worked through a small painting, simplifying my "style" to something that would be pretty easy for a beginner to follow.

I took photos as I was going... mostly so I would remember what I did, but also so I could post it here afterwards as a refresher for my students. Unfortunately my plans to video tape didn't quite work out, but I have my working shots, so hopefully that will do. Here you go... "In the Garden", step by step.

Step 1: I always start on black. There are a few reasons for this, but it started as a way to avoid the paralysis that comes from staring at a blank, white surface. I worked in pastel for many years and developed a knack for working dark to light... it's unusual, yes, but it works for me.

Step 2: Add the whites. I don't just use a brush. I have brushes that i love, but I really will use whatever I feel like. You can probably see my hand prints in here (look bottom right), I've scraped some with an old credit card, and I've used my trusty fan brush to make some flower-like marks. I usually go for an equal white/black ratio, or if I'd like it darker overall I'll leave more black.

Step 3: Add some colour. I love the transparency of Tri-art acrylics (check the tube, it will be marked with a T for transparent), so that is what I have on hand. The paints at the gallery were a little more opaque, so things didn't work quite the same way. We added water to thin them out a bit. I add my colour the same way I do the white... with whatever strikes me. I added some white to my blue to lighten it up a bit, then scratched out some swirls with the back of my brush handle (see centre right). I've got a few layers going on here. If you are interested in this process in more detail, I've got a piece in progress that will be posted on my page on the Global Vernissage website. It's not quite ready yet, but will be soon.

Step 4 (not shown): the cat is cut out of paper. It's very simple, just a silhouette. I put the cutout over the most interesting part, the lower right corner, using it as a mask, and painted around it in white. Then I added in a little yellow and green around the head, to blend it into the background. Once you know how it's done it's pretty easy to see it. Go back and look... you'll know exactly what I mean.

That's me in the middle, my class working away.
Me, doing my thing.
My happy class, with their finished cat paintings. Every one was completely different. Awesome.