Sunday, September 28, 2014

Creativity from the Subconcious

I've been playing in my journal again.
I have in my possession a Golden Medium sample set. It contains some cool stuff... different kinds of pastes and gels in small jars so you can try them out and see if you like them without laying out over $10 for the only other size jar available. I've had it for a while, and I haven't used any of it. I've been busy, sure, but how am I going to know what awesome things I can make with them if I don't actually open the jar and try it?

First project, I get out the Tar Gel. I've never actually heard of this before but I'm curious. I look online first... just to see how to apply it. First suggestion I read is... with a spoon? Ok... lets give it a go. It has the consistency of... i don't know... caramel maybe? After it's dry I put some paint to it. Interesting. Looks kind of bone like. Let's go with that....

The thing about art... when you work intuitively, ideas will come out when you're otherwise occupied with things like colour and composition. I had a bit of a shock last week when I looked at my self portraits over the years and realized that by looking at the image I knew exactly what was going on in my life at the time. I may not have been able to remember the date, but I remembered the events. A couple months ago I had a little accident that has left me in pain for what has seemed like eternity. I had some resulting inflammation in my joints that just doesn't want to go away. I'm on the mend now... finally... but obviously my subconscious is still very much concerned with the state of my bones. Can't really get much clearer than this.

I'm almost at the end of this particular book, but I think I shall try to keep an art journal going now as part of my practice. It's tough to find time, what with the job, the family, shows and other work that I've committed to. But I am seeing the value in doing it. It keeps things fresh and new, a place to create and experiment without judgement. Maybe this is what will lead me to my next thing...

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Artist and the Self-Portrait

My 2014 version of myself, completed during a painting
class on abstraction taught by Steve Rose.
To the artists out there: Have you ever painted a self-portrait?

I take classes now and again, for various reasons. Sometimes I want to try out a new medium, but have no idea where to start. Sometimes I'm feeling bored with what I'm doing and need an injection of something new. Sometimes I just need a kick in the butt to get me back on track. Over the years I've been given a lot of assignments, and creating a self portrait seems to be a favourite of instructors everywhere.

I did a week long retreat in August that focused on abstraction. One of the first exercises we did was a self-portrait. We had looked at a few abstract expressionist painters and were to do one in an "expressionist style". I think it turned out decently, and very different from ones I've done in the past. I thought I would dig out a few of the older ones and compare... just to get the sense of how I've changed over the years.

This one was painted, I think, in the late 80s/
early 90s. It wasn't dated so it's hard to know.  I am much
better at documenting my work these days.
When I was in school... many, MANY years ago, this was a regular assignment. I can't tell you how many times I was up late, mirror propped in front of me, trying to get something vaguely resembling a likeness. I had quite a few in charcoal on paper... smudged,  shadowed, line only, close up, far away... depending on what that particular teacher was trying to drill into our heads. Unfortunately I don't have any of those. They were in a portfolio in my basement, and destroyed during last year's flood. I did, however, find a painting that I had done around the same time.

When I look at this I see the dreaded "one brush painting". Ugh. Why didn't anyone tell me not to do this? Well... I suppose I couldn't have been much older than 20 and had only been painting for a couple years, so I shouldn't judge it too harshly. I did notice this though... the artist that painted this was timid. The colour is blah, the expression is unsure. There's a hint of something... in the brushwork maybe, perhaps in the bit of red and blue peeking out from the background. The recent one has me boldly looking out at the viewer. There is nothing timid about that one. At all.

A collage and charcoal self-portrait from sometime in the mid-90s.
This one I did a few years after I was out in the working world. I had given it to a friend shortly after it was finished, and she had recently given it back to me. Since all my other drawings were destroyed, I was happy to have it back, fully intact. Stuff was going on in my life at this time... I had a job that was really demanding and I was working stupidly long hours for little reward. I hated my job, I thought my boss was more than a little bit insane, and felt like my life was going nowhere. I know when I was working on this I was taking a class on mixed media, and playing with collage and transparency, but not really thinking that much about the subject matter. When I look at it now, I see someone drowning. No wonder my friend didn't want that hanging in her living room. I've put it away myself.... it's not really something I want looking at me every day.

A self-portrait done in an art journal. I was playing with carving stamps... the turtle was one of mine, but as a stamp
it didn't work all that well so I went over it with white paint pen. This was the first paint pen I'd ever purchased, and
I used it a few times, put it away and forgot about it. I pulled them out again a few months ago, and have been
using them constantly ever since.
This one I did in my very first art journal... maybe about 3 years ago. I had discovered art journals online, and after a bit of hunting around, found a video by Teesha Moore on how to make your own book out of watercolour paper. I couldn't paint in a traditional sketchbook (the paper just seemed to disintegrate) so this seemed a great format for trying out painting techniques. Can't remember exactly how I did this... I think I gessoed the paper first with black, then with white and used plastic wrap in the wet paint to get the texture. I find it interesting that I chose a turtle image for the opposite page. Again I hadn't really thought about symbolic significance, but looking at it now... well... I can see how relevant that was. Like a turtle, I was keeping most of myself well hidden. I was shortly after that I decided to put myself out there, create some sort of online presence, and try to turn my "hobby" into something more in line with my authentic self. It's amazing the difference a few years can make.

So, has anyone else gone through this exercise? Artists all through history have done this... If you haven't, it's certainly worth giving it a go. If you have, leave me a link in the comments... I'd love to see how other artists see themselves and what those images reveal.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Southside Shuffle - 2014 Edition

Saturday's Street Shuffle. Pretty good turnout, as usual. And no rain.
One of the things I love about where I live is the festivals in the summer. There are three that happen just a short bike ride away from my home. The Southside Shuffle is one of the big ones, and one that I make sure to get to every year.

Horn players from the band "The Jive Bombers".
I bought a CD... I can't resist a horn section.
This year I decided I would help out. I haven't volunteered at a music festival for quite a long time. I was beginning to feel like I was jinxing the event. It never seemed to fail: if I volunteered, it would rain like hell. Well... seems that still holds true. I only signed up for Friday night, and at about 8pm a storm rolled through that was blowing over tables and sending performers and spectators alike running for cover. Figures. Saturday morning the sun was shining, and the rest of the weekend was beautiful. Thank goodness I didn't sign up for all three days.

One of the "Stilt Guys" dancing in the street.  They are regulars at
Port Credit events.
Saturday afternoon the crowds come out for the "Street Shuffle". Lakeshore Road is closed to traffic and there are bands set up on both sides of the street. The music goes for 6 solid hours, alternating sides so they don't interfere with each other. One band finishes their set, turn around and the next band is starting up. The last couple years I've taken the opportunity to get a load of working photos for potential paintings... this year I was trying to get photos that were decent as actual photos. It gave me a chance to play with the settings on my camera if nothing else. I'll never learn how to use the thing if I don't get out and actually use it. And some of those shots will undoubtably end up as reference for canvas. I just can't help myself.

Steve Strongman on stage Saturday evening. Big crowd for Steve this year... last year he did an acoustic set and there were maybe 30 people there. Obviously winning the Juno has gotten him a bit of attention.
The evening acts after the sun went down were interesting to shoot. The stage lighting in particular gave some cool effects. Most of my night shots didn't turn out that well... I still need to figure out how to do low light shots of people. If you are interested in seeing the rest of my pictures, I've signed up for a flickr account and have uploaded more there. I still have a load to go through, so I will probably be adding to the library for the next week or so. And maybe I'll upload some of my other shots as well. I seem to have a large collection starting...

My painting in the window of Imagemaker Gallery in Port Credit. Perfect spot along Lakeshore Rd. for my work to be
during the festival.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Art Journals: Round 2

So... I've been trying to get the hang of this art-journaling thing. It's not supposed to be a painting in book form, so while those can be pretty fun to do, I'm trying to stay away form that. I've been doing the actual journaling part, then trying to make the image work around it. Not as easy as you might think.

 This page actually took quite a few sessions to finish... is that normal? It also started out really dark and took a bit of thought to get it lightened up and still work. I really didn't want it dark... It didn't go with how I was feeling. The journaling was done with red paint pen, which smeared all over the place when I went to put acrylic paint over top. I suppose it wasn't quite dry... patience never really was my strong suit. But being determined to live in the land of the happy accident, I just went with it. I think I'm pretty happy with this page.

This page was a complete mess from the get-go. First mistake: I didn't sand and gesso the page. For some reason I thought it wasn't really necessary and by doing it I was just wasting my time. I discovered this wasn't really the case... the varnish that they use on those kid's board books I recycle is remarkably resistant to paint. The first coat peeled off in patchy, uneven pieces, which may have looked interesting, but left me wondering if I'd end up with a mess if I just kept going. Yep... that's exactly what happened. So now I know.  I don't think it will peel off now... there's about 20 layers on there. It's way too dark for my liking, but at some point you just have to let it be what it is. I'm not nearly as happy with this one... it feels a bit sinister, especially since words that still show read almost like words of warning (even though they didn't start out that way... strange how that happens). 

I have started a couple more pages, but I don't know when I'll have time to finish them. I seem to be ridiculously busy all of the sudden, and I have to be sure to keep on schedule with my Jazz Legend portrait series. I'm posting working photos of Duke Ellington over on GV's "Artist at Work" page... if you log in and leave a comment, you could be eligible to win a print of the finished painting. And if you are interested in purchasing a print of the ones already completed, the team at Global Vernissage will be able to help you. Just click on the "Just Ask" button.