Sunday, January 31, 2016

New Abstract Painting: Enter the Warrior

"Enter the Warrior", 12x12" mixed media on canvas. Available.
Abstract work is interesting. I usually start with some kind of idea... these pieces I've generally gotten my basic shapes down by drawing a person (or animal) in motion. Occasionally, while I'm working, I see something emerge from the shapes. Its a recognizable thing... I've seen landscapes, people, trees, fruit... usually I turn the piece and add something so whatever it is is obliterated. I don't want that "thing" there. It's supposed to be non-objective... an object throws me off.

I was almost done this piece when I saw the bird. I really don't know how I missed it... I guess I was in some kind of altered state as I was working. I get like that... just kind of in the zone. I've had my son come into my studio to ask me a question, and had to ask me 3 times just to get me to acknowledge he's there. It doesn't always go like that, but when it does the result is usually much better than when it doesn't. Anyway, I decided the bird was going to stay, and I'd hang the piece in a direction where the bird was obvious. I like it there, even if it does look like it is encased in some kind of metallic copper armour.

And I was happy that my metallic copper actually looks like metallic copper. Note to self: take photos of metallic pieces outside in the sun.

I've been working in grey for what seems like months. Piece after piece... grey, grey and more grey. Not a bad thing, but when I look at my last few months of work lined up, it's seeming a little dreary. I deliberately tried to steer away with this one, thinking maybe brightening up my palette may brighten up my mood. Not sure it worked, but I like the earthy feel of this piece. I have another two started using the same palette. I'm working on them in between a much larger diptych that is... well... grey. Maybe by the time I'm done all five my life be looking a little brighter.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Art Journal: The Mask We Hide Behind

My latest art journal: an 8 page book, hand made from cold-press watercolour paper. Acrylic paint, paint pen, collage,
and water soluble crayons.
Last week a friend and co-worker died suddenly. The news was greeted with complete disbelief. Everyone at work walked around in a daze. He was here, and then he was not. Just like that. I had known this man for about 12 years. Maybe longer... hard to remember exactly after so long. But at the moment, with the events surrounding his death, I'm pretty sure I didn't know him well at all.

All this got me thinking about how we hide parts of ourselves from the people around us. I remember someone once telling me they loved working with me because I was so easy going. Uh... what??? Easy going is one thing I am not. Just ask my husband. Or my mom. But in that environment, with those people, it made more sense to be the easy going worker bee that did whatever was asked. I didn't even think about it. I just did it. Now there is the whole social media thing... who posts stuff about how much they hate their job, or the bad hair cut, or the $50 they wasted on something that didn't turn out to be quite as advertised? No one, that's who. It's all a performance aimed at making us look good in the eyes of others. It's a mask. One that only comes off in private.

Masks have always held some kind of strange fascination for me. I love going to the museum and looking at old, carved wooden masks from all over the world. I even have a couple in my home bought from a local carver. I have a pinterest board devoted to them. I've read books about native folklore and the reasons for the various ceremonial masks. It's fascinating.  I was thinking of starting a series of small portraits of my various coworkers (I work at a large company... I wouldn't run out of subjects for a very long time), but now I'm wondering if I can somehow combine that with my love of masks? Don't know, but I may do a few more of these in my journal... just to see.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

New Painting: She Who Danced Us Into Being

"She Who Danced Us Into Being", 16x20" mixed media on canvas. Available.

I've been talking to my mom a lot lately. She lives pretty far away in rural, isolated area, and I have to admit I get a bit concerned about her out there on her own, especially since winter seems to have finally set in. So I call often, just to check in and see how she's doing.

On the other end, my son was off school so has been home a lot lately... we've had an never-ending stream of creative, talented kids through the house in the last few weeks... mainly because we have a somewhat soundproofed room in the basement where they can play their instruments without driving the entire neighbourhood nuts.

From time to time I think about my son and how my creative pursuits have influenced how he sees his own. He knows things don't just happen... you have to work at something to be good at it, and you have to get out there and share what you do if you want to have any kind of creative based career. I've been working my side job for most of his life. It's something that is important to me, so I guard my time in the studio. I have to work to be happy. Or even resemble pleasant. This has obviously influenced his attitude toward his own creativity. During the time he was studying for his exams, I heard him playing his guitar. When something unpleasant happens, he heads for the drum kit and works out his frustrations there. In turn he influences me to get into the studio and work out my own issues. It works. For both of us.

The mother-child relationship seems to be a kind of dance... I need to be protective but I don't want to smother, I want to know what he's doing but don't want to pry, I want to help, but recognize he needs to learn on his own. I have a new appreciation of my own mother these days. She did it, not just with one child but with four. How could anyone balance 4 kid's needs and still deal with their own? It must have been incredibly difficult. She sacrificed, she did the dance. And we all turned out to be decent human beings, so she must have done a pretty good job.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Life Lesson: Dealing with a Crazy Maker

First entry in my art journal in a long time.... I have a new, larger book for 2016, but I thought I'd finish the
one I had going already before I start it. 
A lot has happened in the last year. Enough that I'm doing the annual look-back-at-my-life thing and questioning what I'm doing. One big thing for me right now is my job... I have to have some kind of employment, mainly because I think turning art into my main source of income might suck the joy out of it for me, making me focus more on what sells than on self-expression. There are things about my job that I really dislike, a big one being a coworker who takes out her unhappiness on whoever happens to be on hand, and that person is often me. It's rough bearing the brunt of someone else's discontent... I have enough of my own to deal with, thank you very much. Her very presence stresses me out, not just when she's pitching a fit about something, but even when she's calm... I know it can't last and it's the proverbial calm before the storm. So, I walk on eggshells around her, waiting for the next attack, and I'm tired of it.

For the most part, I have a decent job. I've been there a long time. It would be a shame to have to leave because of one person. With our upcoming "open concept" workspace (which happens tomorrow... yipee) it's going to be a little tougher to avoid her... my primary method of dealing with the issue for the past couple years.  I'm trying to not anticipate the worst. But I'm really good at anticipating the worst. Really good.

I try my best to have some compassion for this woman... we have been friends at various points over the past 15 years, so I know a bit of her history and understand that she is a very smart person in a job that must be, after so many years, boring as hell. She's not horrible, just unhappy. But its one of those situations where compassion will only get you so far. I know you're miserable, but this is not my fault. The only one who can deal with the situation is you. Saying that out loud has gotten me where I am today... on the shit-list. At least I think that's what did it. She didn't actually say. One day we were ok, the next I was (apparently) too stupid to live. Sigh. I guess I should have know how my observations would be received. Even if it is true, it's not the kind of thing people appreciate hearing, especially when they are fuming about something they deem to be out of their control.

At the moment, I don't have much power to control the situation. I don't want to go the contrite route. I may have pointed out the elephant in the room, but I didn't put it there. I can try to be more careful with my words... which right now is easy because we don't talk unless absolutely necessary. I do my best not to resent that management won't deal with it. I wear my headphones so I can't hear the snarky comments and choose to ignore it when she treats me like I don't exist. Those passive-aggressive notes that get left on my desk get dropped directly into the recycling, and the emails deleted. But I still went into fight-or-flight mode when I saw the most recent seating plan and realized they had put me directly beside her. There is only so much I can handle.

After a few days of intense self-reflection, I understand that my reaction to her attempts to manipulate me have everything to do with me, and not much to do with her. I've taken issue with people trying to control me for as long as I can remember... which has, on occasion, resulted in self-sabotage purely out of spite. I won't do that this time. I have to carefully weigh my options and decide if it's best to wait her out or to cut my losses and move on. I guess I should, at the very least, give this new workspace a try. Sometimes things can surprise you.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Happy 2016... let it be wonderful. Please.

"The Winter of our Discontent", 9x9" mixed media on paper. Available.
That orange is actually copper. Again... can't quite get the metallic to look like metallic.
This time last year I was cleaning out my studio, wondering how the hell I ended up with so much stuff I don't use. Some weird psychological block prevented me from using the "good" stuff...  and that had to be dealt with so I didn't become some dysfunctional hoarder found dead under my mountain of unused handmade paper. I managed to do pretty well with that this year... my trips to the art supply store became few and far between, to the point where the newer staff don't even know me by name. Since I am walking distance from the best art supply store in the city, that is a major feat of discipline. Yay, me.

How lucky am I? My friends totally rock...
I've done a decent job clearing out my stash. I was actually at the point where I was thinking I would have to stock up, when I got a text from artist friends who were clearing out their stash. "Do you have any use for this stuff?" she asks... "We're giving up painting and going digital. If you want it, come and get it".

Hell, yes. I came home with a box of new mediums to play with, colours I never would have bought myself, supports in a variety of sizes. And a tabletop easel for working on small pieces. Awesome. I shall have to do something special for them as a thank you. They have loads of art already... but maybe they can find space for another little piece.

I came across a couple interesting ideas for the new year... actually within a week I saw the same idea posted in a few different places in mildly differing forms. Obviously, the universe is going to smack me in the face with this until I take notice. It's a simple idea that reminds us to savour our accomplishments. You take a jar... I happen to have a large mason jar hanging around that just keeps getting moved from place to place, so I'm going to use that... and turn it into the "Jar of Awesome". Every time something good happens, you write it on a piece of paper and put it in the jar. When life gets you down, you can read through all the positive things in the jar, making everything seem a little better. I could have used that a few times over the course of 2015. Ok, maybe more than a few. I may even put up a new shelf in my studio so I can have a new jar for every year... it will remind me that life has been good. Needed on those days when I wonder how much one person can deal with before they crack. 

I also found an illustration challenge that may be good way to make sure I draw on a regular basis. I hesitate to commit to these online challenges, mainly because I know I am easily distracted and the chances of me seeing it through are pretty slim. I suck at these things. But I've bookmarked the site just the same, and I'll see how long I last. It could be a good thing for those I-have-no-idea-what-to-draw moments. 

I don't know what 2016 is going to bring for me. I'll have some new challenges at work... mainly adjusting to a new "open concept" floorplan that is sure to negatively affect my productivity (see paragraph above... the "easily distracted" part. I will need blinders and noise cancelling headphones to get anything done. Who the hell thought this would be a good idea?). My mom will also be moving at some point... somewhere closer I hope, so it will be easier to check in on her. Who knows what else might happen. I am going to try to take it day to day, and make the best of whatever presents itself. I can't change what I can't change, but maybe I can control how it affects me. Maybe. We'll see.