Sunday, May 31, 2015

Found Poetry: Taking Risks

It's amazing what you can find out when you take a chance and do something completely out of your realm.
Life has been incredibly busy lately. It's my own fault. I know this time of year is busy with my son and his school stuff, performances and the like, but still I signed myself up for not one, but two night school classes. Well, technically, only one is school, as the other one is held outside. On the water. In a kayak.

I'm not what one would call athletic. But my husband is. His current obsession is training for a
triathlon. Every morning he gets up before dawn and spends a couple hours either running or cycling or both. Every week he's out to the local pool a couple times, and weather permitting, swimming in Lake Ontario (there's actually a group that gets together and swims in the lake. Considering the temperature, and I'm sure that water has only just thawed, I think they're a little bit crazy). The only reason for me to put my butt in a kayak is that I don't want him to go out into the lake alone. I will get into that tippy little boat and paddle around within sight, so he has some kind of help should he run into difficulty. And there is no way in hell I'm swimming in the lake.

My starting point at the canoe club on the Credit River.
I'm 4 weeks into my class and I have discovered something interesting. I like it. Not just a little, I really like it. We go out onto the credit river and head north... it's incredible how quiet it is out there, considering it's in the middle of a fairly large city. The class is small and we are all going at different speeds, so there are moments when I look around and am more or less alone out there. There are birds and other wildlife (saw a groundhog this week, and two weeks ago I was attacked by nesting red-winged blackbirds), and I have gotten to see the sun set every week so far. Wish I had my camera with me so I could get a photo... but every time I get in I'm certain this will be the week I end up in the river, so I make sure I'm electronics free. That in itself is kind of nice.

Being as busy as I've been I haven't had a lot of time to get into my studio. I have to do something or I'll go a little nutty, so I've gotten out my art journals and my sketchbook. My found poetry journal still has a couple empty pages, so that's always a good place to start. This entry just kind of presented itself, the way these things tend to do. I think the message holds for me in my creative life as well as my day to day... I need to try different things and stretch myself, and I can just never tell what I might discover.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Creating a Portrait: Coleman Hawkins

Legends | Coleman Hawkins, 16x20" Acrylic on Canvas
I'm still chugging along on my Jazz Legends Series... I have a few paintings on the go which I hope to finish up sometime in the next couple weeks. I feel that maybe I might be losing a bit of focus with this series, so I'm going to buckle down and finish it, or I might not get all twelve done as planned.

This is really the first time I've worked on a series where I've figured out how many pieces I want to do right up front... usually I figure that out as I go along, and when I get a bit distracted with something else, it's done. While I like the idea of doing a set number, I did learn that I need to focus my attention a bit more to avoid those distractions. I do think, in some way, working on the abstract pieces simultaneously has probably improved these last couple paintings. It's a bit of a different thinking process for me, and I apply what I learn from one painting to the next. Each one I will discover a new way to manipulate the paint, maybe try a new tool, take a different approach to dividing the space. The abstracts are all experimentation. Then with my next portrait, I push it just that little bit more. It seems to work... but if I want to keep the series unified, I should probably try to keep my technique more consistent.

I created a video of my working photos, like I did with Duke Ellington. I like seeing the painting come together this way... I may go back and do the same thing with some of my other Legends paintings. As always, my working photos (with commentary) are on Global Vernissage.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Art Battle: Painting Becomes a Spectator Sport

A shot of the crowd during round one. Quite a nice turn out for an art event... the organizers must be pleased. 
Have you ever heard of "Art Battle"? From everything I've read, it started in Canada in 2013 and has taken off to become a national event. The competitions are now held across the country and thousands of Canadian artists have participated. I don't know if it's been done in other countries... but I've been hearing about these events for the past year and as I've had a few artist friends participate, I thought it was way past time for me to go check it out.

Artists in the first round, ready and waiting for the countdown.
I have no idea why I waited so long. Oh my god, it was so much fun. I was pleasantly surprised at the turn out. I imagine each artist there brought their people, but there had to have been at least a few people there that were in no way connected to the artists. They sold tickets, had a bar set up, had a DJ that played a nice mix of old and new tunes to keep the energy up, and the MC did a great job of keeping people moving around and engaged. The basic premise is this: 12 artists, divided into two rounds, each produce a painting in 20 minutes. The spectators log in online and vote for their favourite piece. Two winners from each round go on to the final, where the same process occurs. From those votes, a winner is declared, and that painter receives a prize... in this case I think it was $100 and a solo show at a local gallery. The winners from various battles in any one city all compete against each other a final event, and that winner then represents their city in the final Art Battle Canada event. I will be following the winner from this round, which was in Brampton (and is a fairly well known artist in the area) to see how he fares in the next competition.

This video is from the beginning of round one. It was pretty interesting to see what could be created in 20 minutes (I have a couple other videos from the event over on my YouTube Channel, if you are interested in checking them out). I'm not sure how I would approach this... I usually paint in layers, and need time for things to dry before going ahead. I would probably end up with a canvas full of mud. It may be an interesting way to challenge myself though... maybe something to consider for next year.

A friend of mine was competing at this event, artist Sandra Robson. She also uses layering techniques in her painting, so it will be interesting to get her perspective as a participating artist. Maybe I can get her to do a guest post.... I'll have to ask and see what she says.

Here are some photos from the event... I will identify the artists where I can. I was pleased to see a mix of young painters starting out and older, more experienced artists. Honestly, I thought the room would be filled with kids... especially after I was asked if I was a senior and wanted the senior discount by the 20something taking tickets at the door. Seriously. I'm in my 40s. If I look that old, I desperately need an intervention. Someone please help me.....

A couple of the artists chose to work on the floor instead of the easel. Only 20 minutes, so doable. 

My friend Sandra Robson. You can check out the rest of her work on her Facebook page.
I can't remember this artist's name.... final result was pretty successful.

Artist Ryan C. Thompson. He was the overall winner of the event.

Artist Sumeet Gill. I believe she went on to the next round... but I don't seem to have a photo to confirm that. 

Artist Seanre Bennett. You should have seen those pants by the time
he left. Covered in paint. Hopefully, that was the intention.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Portrait of Duke Ellington, Step by Step

I was looking through my blog stats this week, trying to figure out what my readers like. Since I know now that I do actually have readers (however odd that might seem to me), I figured I should figure out what they want to read about, and do more of that.

One of my most viewed posts is the one featuring my abstract cat painting, "In the Garden", along with all my working photos. I am told my process is unusual... I kind of paint backwards, doing the background as a whole first and bringing out the image using the negative shapes. I started working that way years ago, after noticing my work lacked unity. It solved my problem, and it made everything a bit more interesting. Since I have been documenting my process for my Jazz Legends series, I thought I would try something a bit different.

Here I took all my working photos from my Duke Ellington portrait, and put them together in a video. I need to be more careful to take all my pics on the same angle so everything blends together a bit better... maybe a tripod would help. But still, it worked pretty well.

All the photos for this painting, along with my running commentary, are still up over at Global Vernissage if you want to examine them a bit more closely. Anything else you'd like to see? Leave me suggestions in the comments. And feel free to share.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Handling The Sting of Rejection

I'm going back to basics for a bit... just drawing in my sketchbook.
I've had plenty of time to build up a thick skin. As an artist, you have to. No matter how brilliant your work is, there are going to be people that don't like it, people that think you should do it differently, people who are going to walk by and not even glance at it. You'll have people tell you that their 5 year old did a painting better than that one. Or that their sister paints, and she's really good (implying that you are not). Everybody's got an opinion, and if you put yourself out there, you are going to hear them. You can trust me on this one.

So, why is it that every rejection still stings? Every refusal for entry into an art fair, every juried show I fail to get into, every gallery that turns me down. Ouch. It's not that i'm super sensitive. There are plenty of people out there that don't particularly "get" my work, and I'm ok with that. I've long since accepted that there are loads of artists around whose work is way better than mine, there will be shows my work won't fit into, and that entry into these things hinges on the opinions of one or two people who may or may not like what I do. Not to mention that for the more prestigious juried shows, there are hundreds of entries and space for maybe 40 pieces. No matter how good your work is, the odds are still stacked against you. 

My son is in the process of applying to universities. He worked his butt off getting his grades up, putting together his portfolio, painstakingly answering each question on the way-too-long questionnaires. He's had interviews with admissions committees (yes, committees), and gone on campus tours. Still, in the shadow of a looming high-school teachers strike, he still hasn't heard if he's been accepted. The waiting is killing him. And I worry about the kid's fragile ego if he doesn't get into his top choice. 

As a creative person, how can you build resilience? It's an important quality to cultivate. You can't curl up in a ball and give up the first time you're turned down, or you'll never accomplish anything that really matters to you. Fear of rejection can turn into a prison of your own making… it will never serve you. 

I have found having a strong social network helps. I belong to a local art group, and we get together once a month to catch up on what everyone is doing. We do shows together, go to each others events, help out when we can… everyone is very supportive of each other. I also belong to a few online communities, both on Facebook and G+. And the art community on Twitter is pretty cool, and has led to a few opportunities I wouldn't have otherwise had access to. Creative people know how hard it is to thrive in a world so focused on material wealth. You might run into the occasional person who hoards their knowledge or resources, but they are few and far between. Generally speaking, we like to share. 

Flexibility is also a pretty important trait. Experience can teach you that there can be many paths to get to the same result. It certainly can help you recover after a setback… if you didn't succeed this time, it probably just means you didn't take the right approach. Try going about things a different way… maybe try a smaller group show instead of that big juried deal that everyone else applies to. Or maybe next time submit that abstracted painting you've been working on, instead of that realistic piece your husband loves, but you don't really feel you put your heart into. Or hell, just try again. There will likely be different people choosing next time, and you just never know.

I think the most important thing is that you believe in yourself as an artist. My son loves to make music and experiment with sound, and I'm pretty confident that he'll keep doing that no matter what happens with the school situation. He has watched me keep going year after year, working a job to pay the bills and doing what I love in whatever time I can scrape together. It's important to me, and I wouldn't be who I am without it. He knows the only way to get what you want is to keep working for it. I'm glad I could teach him that. 

And in the face of rejection, we'll wallow for a day, take a deep breath, and try again.