Sunday, December 29, 2013

Winter Wonderland

Ice on the evergreen in my backyard
The last two weeks have been a bit overwhelming. Apart from the usual pre-Christmas craziness, work has been incredibly busy, I've been sick as a dog, I had an allergic reaction to something and was covered in hives, and two days of freezing rain left a good chunk of Ontario covered in ice and without power. Luckily the area I live in wasn't that hard hit... we got lots of freezing rain but the damage was limited and power was restored fairly quickly. Many of my neighbours are still making repairs from the floods in July, so more damage would have been devastating. Personally, I slept through most of it.... like I said, sick as a dog.

I can't remember the last time I caught something that hit me this hard. I suspect it's because I've let myself get run down and haven't been taking care of myself the way I should have. Perhaps this is my body's way of forcing me to slow down. When I finally emerged from my neo-citron and cough syrup induced haze, the streets had been transformed into some kind of winter fantasyland. It was truly beautiful... the sun reflecting through the ice on the trees made everything sparkle. It was amazing. It was a couple days before everyone was able to get out and about... it actually took me 20 mins to get the door of my car open so I could warm it up and scrape off the rest of the ice, which took the better part of an hour. If I didn't really need to go see a doctor, I would have just given up.

The ice was everywhere. This was 4 days after the storm, when it was starting to melt.
I am still coughing but seem to be on the mend... at least I've been able to sleep for more than a couple hours for the last few nights. I'm hopeful today will be a productive painting day. It's been almost two weeks since I've done anything and I'm getting a little antsy. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Finding Inspiration

The year is almost over, and I've been looking over my work from the last couple years, trying to figure out where to go next. There are so many choices... I know I'm not quite done working with music as my base subject, but I feel like I need to branch out a little too. The last few weeks doing projects outside of painting have shown me how I'm settling into a comfort zone with my work that will, eventually, make it look stale. If I want to keep growing, I have to keep trying new things. So... where do I start?

The view outside my studio one evening a
couple weeks ago.
Some things just take your breath away. That's always a good starting point. For me, it's things like the colours in a sunset, reflections on water, intricate shadows, frost patterns, an image created in a poem or story. Can I work these things into my painting somehow? Maybe I should try working on something other than canvas... maybe yupo or terraskin paper or wood panels could inspire me to do something new and exciting.

When doing creative exercises lots of things pop up... but I have to admit I haven't been doing these kinds of exercises nearly often enough. A gallery owner told me a few years ago that I really needed to produce a significant number of new pieces a year to be considered a "serious" artist. I think the number he threw at me was 52 (one a week... and this was on the low end of the scale). Even at my most productive, I haven't been able to pull that off. I have a full time job, a necessity if I want to own a house and eat on a regular basis. Add to that my responsibilities outside of work... well, even painting pretty much every day, that seems like an impossible target.

hand-painted book cover inspired
from colours of that sunset. This is the same
design I used on my glass etching.
And so, with my time limited, I neglect other things that would undoubtably help me to be more creative, more inventive. This year I will not neglect these things. Surely I can find the time somewhere... my lunch break at work, whenever I have to wait for something or someone, maybe instead of lying in bed and not sleeping (insomnia seems to be a permanent part of my life these days... if you know a cure, please leave me a comment...). It's kinda like exercising. It's for my own good, and I have to make time for it. I fear this is easier said than done.....

Creative Exercise: found poetry
I used some of the things I learned in my non-objective painting class... large shapes, balance of dark
and light, texture and pattern repetition. Visually, this works for me pretty well. Even without using a
whole lot of colour, which is my normal.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Outside projects

One of the things I do around this time every year is get elbow deep in some kind of creative project outside my usual comfort zone. Usually the finished product ends up being a Christmas gift for someone. I rarely give away my paintings as gifts... mostly because when you are close to people, you can never really be sure if they are saying they love your work because they do, or because they don't want to hurt your feelings. There are a few exceptions, of course... just this year I gave a mid-size piece to my niece as a wedding present, mainly because she knew exactly which one she wanted and I was pretty confident it would end up on a wall, and not stashed away in her storage locker. But for the most part, art is so subjective and everyone has such different taste, I just can't assume that my style or subject matter works for someone, just because they are part of my life.

My etched decanter. I have a vine of
flowers winding around the neck, but
couldn't get a decent photo.
One of the reasons I make a point of doing this is for the same reason anyone would want to try something new... to branch out, learn a new skill, stimulate a different area of the brain. In past years I've made jewellery and put together books by hand. This year I gave glass etching a shot. I had tried it before, maybe about 20 years ago, but I was pretty sure things would have changed. So many new products around that it had to be a bit easier now, right? I was completely wrong on that one... I guess it isn't a popular enough hobby for that. The only thing available now that wasn't on the market then was the array of pre-cut stencils. I didn't really want to go that route anyway, as I prefer my gifts to be a bit more personal. I needed to design something specific.

If you know me, you know I have a bit of an obsession with hummingbirds. Don't really know why, except that they are completely captivating. They show up in paintings from time to time... but not that often. For etched glass, they became a perfect subject. I had to simplify dramatically... I have to hand-cut my stencil while the mask is already attached to to the glass. Not an easy task, and simpler is most definitely better in this instance. I looked to Art Nouveau for design inspiration, and eventually came up with something I thought would work... the bird was reduced to two lines, the flower three shapes and the vine a wandering line. Overall, the effect worked pretty well. Sorry about the not so great photo... there must be some special way of photographing glass that I'm not aware of, because for the life of me, I couldn't get a good shot. I didn't even try to shoot the glasses that go with the decanter. Maybe I should have tried filling it with wine...

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Questionable Opportunity

In Harmony
12x12 Acrylic on Canvas
It has been an interesting week.... a few days ago I was contacted by an "international" magazine about the possibility of publishing some of my work. I was flattered, of course. They said some really nice things. But then... well... a few things bothered me. First, it came from a gmail address. Having done a fair bit of magazine work over the years, that didn't sit quite right. And I'd never heard of them... I was in New York fairly recently. You'd think I'd have seen the magazine, at least there if not in my local bookstore. So I did a bit of research.

A quick google search revealed a few interesting blog posts. Reading through the comment sections was eye opening. The follow up email revealed the kicker... they were requesting $1900 for a "publicity campaign". Here's the email:
Dear Marianne,
I am glad to hear from you!  I found your work on and then viewed your personal website as I am very impressed by your work. The colors and textures are captivating and create movement and energy palpable to the viewer. I am especially drawn to Serenity, Solitude, and In Harmony.
My main focus is to work with artists to help gain international publicity and attention.  We offer a three part publicity program with exposure online, in print, plus an optional exhibition in NYC (please see attachment).  Our magazine and websites offer a level of exposure focused on the artist. Other galleries do not offer international publicity with a print magazine and the large web sites and when they do the publicity it's for the gallery and not for the artist.  
I am working with the owner of NY Arts Magazine and we would like to publish a full page of your work in print and online.  This is a strong opportunity to promote and present your art to the world. The fee for a full year of publicity and promotion is $1,900.  This fee includes a year of publicity in our print and web media, a full-page in NY Arts Magazine (sold internationally in major bookstores), and an optional gallery exhibition in our Soho Gallery.
Here is a sample of our work with Lee Claremont (
I have attached the documents, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need any help or have any questions.  Feel free to call me at the gallery (212) 274-8993.
I think your work would make an amazing addition to our publication and benefit greatly from the exposure.
I hope to hear back from you and that we can work together soon.


I understand that magazines have to make their money somehow or they can't exist, but that's why they sell advertising, right? And I'm also totally ok with galleries taking a commission on sales. Hey, if they sell it, they deserve to be compensated for their efforts. And if the galleries promote themselves through advertising and websites, that works for the artists too, doesn't it? It gets eyes on the work, and hey, it won't ever sell if nobody ever sees it. But this... well...

Many of the links and search results I found on these guys were no longer available... I would guess it probably included the word "scam" and it was requested that it be removed.  As much as I think this is perhaps not entirely ethical, I think scam may be a bit harsh... they do clearly state their fee and what you get for it. But I don't think an art magazine should be asking for payment from their content providers. An art magazine can't exist without the content (provided by the artists). So given that, I'm of the belief that charging us for the exposure they provide is kind of unfair, and not something I want to be a part of.

So... what is the prevailing opinion here? I'm sure there are other artists out here who agree with me, but maybe there's some that don't? How do you all feel about paying for this kind of publicity? Is there value in it?