Monday, August 26, 2019


"Aesthetic Bachelor Under Construction", 9x12" mixed media on canvas board. Available.

I haven't posted here in a month. There are a few reasons... people are on vacation and don't read much over the summer, and I haven't felt much like writing. I haven't actually felt much like doing anything, so for once in my life I decided to go with it and not guilt myself into working when I just didn't want to. I seem to do a lot of that.

I went to a cottage with my sister for a few days early in the month. I hadn't intended on sitting around doing nothing, but a little spill down the stairs my first day there ensured there wouldn't be much of anything going on for the duration. My foot swelled up so much I couldn't get my shoe on. I limped around for over a week until I could get to my physiotherapist, who did something incredibly painful to my back/leg but seemed to have set me back on the road to normal. (seriously... she made me cry, it was that painful. Like wtf? If it hadn't seemed to have fixed the problem I doubt I would be going back. Now I'm more convinced than ever that this woman is some kind of magician). I'm fine now, but can't quite manage the enthusiasm to resume my normal activities. She gave me the ok to get back to the gym this week, but it's not on my agenda today. Or probably tomorrow. It's been weeks, and i just don't feel like it. I know once I get there and get moving it will make me feel better, but that doesn't seem to matter to me right now. I'm going to have to force myself.

I've been working on a few small paintings on my downtime. I bought a pile of 9x12" canvas boards to do some plein air studies while up north, but then didn't touch them. So I'm using them for some small abstracts I'm going to put on my website at bargain prices. I've heard from so many people that the price of originals is totally out of reach, which I think is really unfortunate. If I can offer a selection of pieces that are more affordable, then that is what I will do. I'm going to be doing these anyway because I already bought the boards... they'll just stack up otherwise.

I'm doing the Arts on the Credit Tour again this year, on Sept 14 and 15th. I'm in the same spot as last year, but with different people. My sister will be joining me this time, with her collection of watercolour and acrylic landscape and wildlife paintings. Should be a fun weekend. I love that people in Port Credit get to visit businesses they might not otherwise get to, and see what's in the neighbourhood. And Revive Pilates is a really beautiful spot, in this great, old renovated house. I hope the weather is nice.

I'm also going to be teaching at Kaleidoscope Studios on October 5th, working up a small abstract for this one day workshop. It should be messy and fun, and everyone will go home with something completely different. A good starter for anyone interested in intuitive painting.

If you are interested in participating in any of these things, there is more info and links on my website. Hope you all had a great summer. Labour day is next weekend, so I guess that's it. Sigh. It seems to get shorter every year.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Finding Hidden Treasure

"Hidden Treasure", 30x30" mixed media on canvas. 
I lead a very simple life. I don't need much... something to do that can hold my attention, decent healthy food, enough space that I'm not tripping over other people.

I travel from time to time, but I'm not really one for luxury vacations. I took a cruise once but I was bored. Those days at sea were REALLY long, and the times we stopped, while fun, I was always checking the clock to make sure we got back in time. I did a resort vacation once too, and ditto. My best trips have been the ones where I was with someone whose company I enjoyed and we just did whatever we wanted... be that hiking in a park or traipsing through a new city. Nothing special... no 5 star resort or tour, just getting out a map and getting out there.

My day to day is also pretty simple. I drive an old car... it's paid for and has yet to give me any reason to not feel safe, so why replace it? Our house is small, but its not like we are an enormous family. We don't need more space, so why move? I don't have to dress up for work, so I have only a couple nice outfits, which I wear repeatedly for show openings or family events. If I need something new, my first stop is the thrift store. Most of that stuff has only been worn a handful of times... I'll wash it and give it a new life. Seems so wasteful not to.

Lately I've been looking through my enormous pile of finished paintings, and deciding what stays and what goes. It's tempting to just go buy more canvases and keep everything, but I know in my heart that some of those pieces just aren't good enough to sell, so why keep them? If I don't want to hang them in my house, why would anyone else? If I'm being brutally honest, I was never really satisfied with them anyway. There was that elusive something that I just couldn't achieve... it was what kept me working. When I look at my new abstracts next to some of those older pieces, I can see how much I've improved. It's time to let the old go and move on.

What I'm doing, technically, is "reworking". I'm not getting out the gesso and painting over everything. I'm trying to let some aspects of the old paintings show through and not completely obliterate them. Why? Well... because when I painted those pieces, it reflected who I was at that moment. That person doesn't entirely exist anymore. Parts of me are the same, but things evolve and change over time. If I just obliterate the old piece, it feels like denying it ever existed, but in fact it was a completely necessary stage to go through to get where I am now. I think I need to honour that.

This piece began life in 2015. I know that because of this blog. Here is where the original piece was featured. I've been documenting my work since I decided I really wanted to get serious about this whole painting thing. It's hard to imagine it's taken me 7 years to get this far, but it has. Some artists pick up a brush and instinctively know how to make a good painting that reflects their soul. I am not that artist. It's taken me a long time to be able to honour who I am and not try to paint like someone else. Even now, I need to watch how much time I spend online looking at other people's work. As much as I enjoy it, I don't want it to influence me. And if I'm consuming continually, how can it not?

Anyway, if you take a look at the older piece, you can see that I kept the same basic colour, but lightened it up considerably. The composition has changed, but the old one wasn't that great anyway. I kept all the texture, because that was the part I loved. There are a couple areas where I sanded back the new paint to let the old show through a bit. I guess I will have to change the title, as "Vein of Gold" doesn't really fit any more. I'll keep that in my back pocket and see if I can use it another time.
What do you think? Do you think this piece is better?

For my painter friends... I am going to be teaching a one day workshop on Acrylic Abstracts on August 17th at Kaleidoscope Art Studio in Mississauga. We'll be working on a small piece. In the morning I will show you how I start my paintings intuitively, utilizing a variety of mark-making techniques. After lunch I'll go over what I look for and how I turn that mess of marks into a composition. This is NOT A STEP BY STEP CLASS. Every person will go home with their own unique creation. If you are interested, you can sign up on the Kaleidoscope website. 

Monday, June 3, 2019

Dealing with discouragement

"See the Light". #53 of my 100 Square Project. 10x10" mixed media on wood panel. Available. 

I had a high school art teacher who laughed at me when I told him I wanted to go on to a university fine art program. Apparently, I had no talent. Yeah, whatever... if there's one phrase that describes me, it's stubborn as hell. Nobody was going to tell me what I could and couldn't do. Screw that.

Art school was another thing altogether (pretty sure I've written about this before, but I can't find the post). This was discouragement on a whole other level.

The first year was awesome... I was focused on building a portfolio that would get me into the 2nd year, so I approached each project with an enthusiasm I didn't know I had. Drawing was great, painting was cool, even art history was enlightening (except for the section on medieval architecture.  I totally blew that. I still can't remember the difference between buttresses. And I still don't care).

One thing about the program I was in... the whole focus seemed to be more on how to think about art than on the actual execution. I didn't have many of the skills my classmates had, since I didn't go to an art-focused high school. I didn't know painting techniques. I knew squat about sculpture. Printmaking basically required me having the instructor beside me the entire time, telling me what to do. I wasn't really what one would call a self-motivated learner.... I realize now I could have gone to the library and gotten out books on technique, taken outside workshops, sought out extra help and help from classmates (this being the days before the internet and YouTube). But I didn't think of it.  I kinda figured it should be part of the program and it'd happen eventually. I guess I eventually figured it out, but it was slow and painful.

I worked hard. I tried to understand all the stuff covered in the classes. I diligently did all the assignments and attempted to learn something form them and not just get frustrated. I was in the studio late into the evenings, every weekend, I hauled stuff home to work on when I didn't think i could take another weekend inside the concrete walls. My grades were reasonable enough, but my critiques? OMG... brutal.

There was one guy in particular that would always find a hundred things wrong with everything i did. It wasn't "finished" enough. It was too slick. My paint was too thin. My paint was too thick. My colour choices didn't work together. I didn't actually fulfill the assignment requirements, or it was too much within the assignment requirements.  I grew to really hate that guy. I grew to really hate critiques. Add to that my brain didn't quite work the way everyone else's seemed to... I didn't like doing thumbnails and often strayed really far from my original sketch. I liked to work things out as I go, which, according to the 80s way of doing things, was totally wrong. I had to hand in a sketchbook, which I liked to doodle and take notes in rather than doing finished drawings (wrong). And my work got rejected from every single juried show I submitted to.

Was it any wonder I pretty much stopped creating as soon as I graduated?

My first series after a very long hiatus was
all figures, weaving in and out of fragmented
backgrounds. I've thought about revisiting this... 
I didn't get back to doing anything until 5 or 6 years later. I had gone through a couple graphics jobs, learned a ton about the computer, had tried and given up on creating album art for some local bands (I love music, but the musicians I worked with were a bunch of flakes who were stoned most of the time. Not my scene). I just needed to do something, so I bought some newsprint and charcoal and found a life drawing drop in. It wasn't much but it was enough to fill the need, and I kept doing it for years.

My first real series was based on the reams of figure drawings from these drop in sessions. These pieces got me into my first outdoor art shows, and I got a few pieces into a group show at a local gallery. I submitted to a load of juried shows and I still got rejected from most of them. But I actually sold a few. Those first sales... a couple to coworkers, and a few to complete strangers... made SUCH a difference to how I felt about my work. It was encouragement to keep going.

Those first few art fairs were interesting. I had no idea that people actually haggled with artists at these things. Or that everyone was willing to share an opinion, even if it was not complimentary nor asked for. I had people ask me odd questions. Why did I choose to paint this and not some other thing? Why did I use so much blue? Why did I never use pink? Why did I choose that kind of frame? Why did I not frame this other one? Or they would offer opinions on my art career... I would sell more if I painted something else or did it differently was usually what it boiled down to. So discouraging. Add to that the non-stop pan flute (ok that was one show, but 3 days worth of Simon and Garfunkel covers on a pan flute? OMG, I was ready to kill myself), the kids knocking stuff over or getting ice cream all over my display, having to wait to go to the bathroom until someone I knew came by and could watch my booth, the difficulty setting up and tearing down, my aching feet, the heat, the rain, the gale force winds... outdoor shows soon lost their glamour. Ugh.

One of my music series paintings. This one sold right away.
The music series I did in 2014-2015... that series got me a bit of recognition, especially in my home city. Keep in mind I went to University in the late 80s... that's a long stretch without really getting anywhere except filling my house with my own art. My kid was just starting high school and I suddenly had time on my hands. That year I said yes to every opportunity that presented itself... and as a result my work was everywhere (and I was exhausted). I still submitted to juried shows.... and I still got rejected. But I was starting to figure things out. The entirety of these shows hinged on the opinion of a few people, and they are not just judging the work. They are putting together a show. The pieces have to work together, they are trying to create some kind of flow, and more often than not, they have a huge pile of good work that they have to go through and find the 30 or so pieces that will work. Not a job I envy.

Once I had this figured out I was able to stop taking things personally. Letting go of other people's  judgement enabled me to just go about doing the work I wanted to do, and showing it when I could. I don't really submit to juried shows anymore (art fairs are different... those are often also juried and those are the best kind to submit to).  When I finally got into one of the more prestigious shows that had been eluding me for years, it was a meh moment. Didn't have any impact on my career whatsoever. So at $50 a pop for the entry fee, was there any point in continuing? Sure I got to meet a lot of other local artists (they were the only ones that seemed to go to the openings), but I was managing that anyway. So I stopped entering. And I'm fine with that.

Today I understand that I paint for ME. I love it. I love the way time slips away and I am totally in the moment. I am calmer and more relaxed. I have more patience. My work connects me to people in ways I never realized it would. My life has an artist has been long, somewhat frustrating, and filled with starts and stops. But it's who I am, and I can't change it.

If you're interested in seeing more of my recent work, check out my website.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Facing your Fears

I am afraid of heights.

Maybe not any more than most people... I look down and feel nauseous, my knees a little weak. It's definitely fear I'm feeling, though maybe not quite having thoughts of plunging to a painful, messy death. I'm not that bad. Any more.

The view from the bridge.
In my youth I missed out on a couple cool experiences because being up really high up was quite literally paralyzing. First (and only) time I went up the glass elevator in the CN Tower I was glued to the back wall, hyperventilating, and had to be pulled off when we reached the top. It was terrifying. I didn't think a fear like that was anything I could get over, and yet I did. Every time I was faced with a height that scared me, I took a deep breath and went anyway, focusing on what was directly in front of me instead of that potential disaster. Little by little the fear dissipated, and the next time I could go a little bit higher.

When I first saw the pictures of the bridge going over the Coaticook gorge my first thought was sure, no problem. I can do that. When we drove past it on the way into the park, I was having second thoughts. Holy shit that was high up (according to the website, it's 50m). When I paid my park admission I still wasn't sure I could do it. When we got to the bridge I hesitated again... wtf was I doing? A few deep breaths... and out I stepped. When I got to the middle I stopped... the view was breathtaking. The rocky gorge, the rushing water, the trees growing out of the rock. It was so worth it.

I've done a lot of things over the years that have scared the crap out of me. I've gotten through them all, and most have proven to be a great experience. I took classes in France. I've travelled to many places on my own. I bought a house (believe it or not, signing the mortgage papers caused me a huge amount of anxiety). I changed jobs after almost 20 years at the same company. I flew across the country to take a week long art workshop on my own. All were challenging, but ultimately good for me. I try to keep this in mind when faced with something new and a little scary. New experiences make life more interesting, and I've always had a low boredom threshold.

I found a few of these along the path.
When we were in Quebec for my uncle's funeral, we spent some time exploring the area and checking out the little towns around the Eastern townships. What a beautiful spot. When my husband first threw out the idea that maybe we could move there after we retire, my first thought was of course not... how could I manage in french? I can order a coffee, but I can't carry on a conversation. How could I continue my art business? What about my network of art people? How would I manage? But after thinking about it.... why couldn't we? It's in the same country, with means there is no immigration crap to deal with. I can learn french. Much of my art business is done online. Video chat can keep me in touch with my friends. I can make new friends. And Montreal has a vibrant art community. It could be a lot of fun, and really good for me.

While this is not a thing that is definitely in my future, I have not ruled it out. It's actually kinda fun to think about... I have visions of plein air painting at a lake with a mountain view. Sharing wine and cheese with a bunch of Quebec artists, planning an event. Spending time with family I haven't seem more than once a year in my entire life. It could be good.

I know one thing... I can't let fear stop me.

The beautiful Cherry River... part of a protected wetland.

Monday, May 6, 2019

A Long Winter

"The Long Winter" 20x20" mixed media on wood panel. Available. 

It's been raining for what feels like weeks. The temperatures are a bit warmer, but the endless rain and dreary days make those occasional sunny days feel a vacation. I am on my way to Quebec... the Eastern Townships... and from what I see online, I half-expect to spend some of my vacation time filling sandbags.

So many areas are flooding. It's bad in Quebec, but it's happening even here in Ontario. It's been a bad year for it... even the water levels in lake Ontario seem particularly high. It didn't really seem like there was more snow than usual, or even that there's been more rain this spring. All seemed pretty much par for the course. Even though it feels like this winter has been endless, it really hasn't. January wasn't really even cold until the last week, we didn't get much snow here until February. It was gone by early April. Same as usual. So what's going on?

I hope I can get out and experience a few things we had to pass on last time we were on vacation in Quebec. We have a family event to attend on one day, but the rest of the time we will be able to do what we please. It is such a lovely area, even just walking about and taking some photos will be inspiring. I just really hope the rain lets up. I'm tired of the grey.

I've managed to get my house back in order after Arts on the Credit. What a great show this year. The quality of the work seems to improve every year. Unfortunately, attendance seemed to be a bit light... I suspect it has to do with all the construction in the area, and that the front entrance to the hotel is hidden behind construction fencing. Not exactly inviting. The people that did navigate their way through seemed to enjoy it. I had some really lovely conversations with people I hope to see again. It was exhausting, but I hope I am able to do it again next year. With all juried shows it's hit and miss... sometimes you get in, sometimes you don't. I'll just have to wait and see.

I don't have much else planned at this point. I'm going to do the art tour in Port Credit (September), and will likely have my open studio again in November. I plan to do more shows in 2020, but for this year I'm just going to go to shows as a spectator and see what seems like it might work for me. I'd like to expand a bit outside of Mississauga. Know of anything that might work for me? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

"Quiet Solitude", 30x40" mixed media on wood panel. Available. 

With the news of the fire at Notre Dame this week, i’ve been thinking about time that I spent in Paris while I was in University. I’ll get back to that in another post, because it was really pretty incredible. But what I want to focus on this week, is what happened when I started feeling nostalgic and looking up the people from my past.

I have a Bachelors of Fine Art. I went to school with some incredibly creative people, but because this was in the time pre-social media, I have lost track of most of them. A few that I forged a bond with I have since re-connected with, and there were even a couple I never lost track of. Most of these people were those I lived with or worked with, and only a couple from my actual classes. 

While I was chatting online with a friend I had made during my classes in France, other names started making an appearance…. And because it is now something easily done, I looked them up.

One of the guys who was in that same group is now quite an accomplished artist. He has work in the National gallery. He has had some very impressive exhibitions. He has a list of grants longer than I cared to read. He makes work that I don’t necessarily understand… at least from what I could see online…. But then he was always a bit beyond the rest of us, even at the tender age of 20. He was a nice guy… I’m happy he has been able to do what he loves and be recognized for it. 

Another former classmate went from fine art into fashion, and now has his own design studio in Hong Kong. He specializes in wedding dresses and his website is very impressive. From the massive amounts of information available about him online, I can only conclude that he has done extremely well for himself. Again, good for him. 

Another of my recent paintings. I'll have this with
me at Arts on the Credit next weekend
It would seem I am one of the underachievers of the group. 

I had never really thought of myself this way before. Here I am in my 50s, still slogging away, working a day job to pay the bills and fitting in painting when I can. I have to admit, it brought me down for a couple days.

I’ve done fine in my life. I’ve had a decent lifestyle… I am not poor by any stretch. I have a good job, I own a house in one of the most expensive cities in the country and I am not in debt. I’ve managed to sock away some money for retirement and pay for my son’s education. My husband and I are firmly in the middle class. We can go on vacation from time to time without worrying about money. I have absolutely nothing to complain about, and on an average day, I’m pretty content.

Why was this bugging me so much?

Success has a different definition for everyone. When I was in my 30s I really thought about what would make me happy and how I could go about achieving it. I’ve always known myself well enough to know that living in poverty while I struggled to get my art recognized would not work for me. I would have so much anxiety about money that I wouldn’t be able to focus on the work. Kinda made it inevitable that I would have to have a day job. I thought a "career" would be enough for me, but it wasn’t. I needed something else. Getting back into creating filled that void. 

I’m not the kind of person that needs awards and accolades to define my success. I don’t even bother to apply for juried shows anymore, because when I get accepted, it doesn’t seem to mean anything to me. I apply for art fairs because it’s an opportunity to sell, and I find sales much more satisfying than awards. In fact, when I have won an award, my first thought was if the piece was so good, why didn’t it sell?

I’ve written before about why I like to sell. It’s not about the money… never has been. It’s about connection. So while I will pop open the wine when I sell a large piece, selling a small painting is just as important. When it’s purchased by someone I like and respect it means even more. If I was able to quit the day job and just focus on painting, I would be happy as a clam.

And I’d probably still feel a pang of envy when someone I know achieves something notable. Is it wired in our DNA? Is it just one of the many drawbacks of being constantly connected at all times? Is the blame laid firmly at the feet of social media, or is it human nature?

I’m sure seeing the perfectly curated versions of other people’s lives does nothing to help us feel content in the here and now. But the thing is, we can’t see how they struggled. I can only imagine how many rejection letters my old classmate received while on his way to that long list of accolades. How many times did he feel like giving up? How many times did he have to convince himself the struggle would be worth it? For that matter, how long did he live with his parents after university in order to pursue his dream? That was something I was not willing to do… I loved my parents and all, but I needed to be out on my own and live my own life. Not everyone sees this as a necessity.

We are all different, with different dreams, goals and affections. I urge you to examine your own life, and decide for yourself what success looks like. Constantly comparing yourself to people you see online will get you nowhere, and only make you miserable. I’m back to my usual self now, being grateful for what I have and looking at the future. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being “ordinary”, and I do ordinary quite well, thank you very much. 


Monday, April 8, 2019

Waste Not, Want Not

"Winter Song", 9x12" mixed media on paper.

I paint a lot.

Seems like I’m even more prolific lately, since I’ve decided to stop wasting the sheets of paper I use to lift paint on my wood panels. I’ve been taking these paint covered sheets, and making more art with them. They are my experiments. I feel absolutely no pressure to make them good, since they would have been tossed anyway. I just work away at them until I feel like they’re done, then they go into the pile.

"Winter Song", framed and on display.
The first time I put these out to sell was at my open studio a couple years ago. I priced them according to my usual pricing formula… but then I figured since they all had to be framed before they could be hung I would put them on sale. Make them a bit more affordable.I had quite a few new, young collectors show up that year. They all took home paintings done on watercolour paper. Go figure.

I’m going to be taking my pile of current works on paper to Arts on the Credit in April. Will they sell? I have no idea. I have this vague notion (with absolutely no proof that this is true) that most people want something they can take home and hang up immediately. That’s why I paint on inch and a half deep panels with the sides nicely finished. I like the sleek, contemporary look, and it goes with the style of decor that is in right now. But I have to admit, I like the look of a simply framed piece of art. A white matte, a black or white frame, either on it’s own or in a grouping. They look so elegant… if it wasn’t so expensive for me to frame the 50 or so paintings on paper I have in my pile right now, I’d do them all and have my booth filled with them. But I think most people can visualize how they would look framed… and appreciate that I don’t have to factor the cost of framing into the price. 

April has rolled around again, and the 100 Day Project is making the rounds on social media. I did this project last year… kind of half-assed, I admit, but I was busy and just didn’t have time to create every day. I do think it’s a great project though. I was going to take a pass this year, knowing it would be the same kind of spotty participation (especially with an art fair happening within the first 30 days). How can I possibly carve out the time for something this massive?

"Brush Fire", framed and on display.
So I started seeing the posts going up last Monday… oh they are soooooo wonderful. I love seeing the progress on all my friend’s projects. It makes me want to participate. Makes me want to go paint and try new things. I guess I can do something. It’s not like I don’t already do something 5 of 7 days of the week… some days I’m in my studio for hours working on some little thing or other. Oh what the hell…. I just talked myself into it. I’ll start tagging my daily Instagram posts and see how it adds up. The one thing I love about doing a large project is seeing how things change over time. I’m only half way through my 100 squares, and I’ve seen an enormous change. It’s pretty amazing actually. Now I just have to decide what I want to do…

Anyway…. Back to the paper. When this art show is over I’m going to be posting these pieces up on my website. I’ve been busily photographing, sleeving and pricing… they will be ready to go up as soon as I see what I’ve got left in my inventory. I’ve already started by posting a few of my more recent ones. Since paper is light I’m including shipping in the price to make them a bit more attractive. Now I guess I just wait and see….

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

What kind of vehicle best fits the needs of an artist?

The Winter's Spring", 12x24" mixed media on wood panel.
I will have this with me at Arts on the Credit in April.
See my website for details.
I drive an old truck. It’s been a good truck… but it’s 16 years old and has over 250,000 km on it, and honestly, it’s turning into a bit of a money pit. Every time it goes in for service there’s something new wrong with it, costing us another pile of cash. Such is the way of an old vehicle. 

Before I started driving the truck, I drove a Saturn sedan. I loved my Saturn. Decent gas milage for the time, and a surprising amount of cargo space. I was driving my Saturn when I bought my the display gear I use for shows. Before I bought it I got out my measuring tape and made sure everything would fit in my car without issue. It was a comfortable fit. No problems. 

When my car died I took over driving my husband’s truck. He didn’t need it for work… we live close enough he started riding his bike back and forth. We even invested in one of those fat tire winter bikes so we could share the vehicle. The display racks didn’t fit in the truck bed, but we could open the back cab window and slide them through. Not an ideal solution, but it worked, and I only did a couple shows a year that required me to use them, so we managed. (We also own a small Mazda hatchback that my son drives. I can fit a lot of paintings into that car, but my display gear doesn’t fit. So I really didn’t have many options).

We have now decided it’s time to get a new (to us) vehicle. We did some research on the SUV category, narrowed down the choices to 6, and started shopping.

I’m not going to get into how I was completely invisible to the mostly male sales force at the dealerships. They just assumed the decision would be made by my husband. It wasn’t until I got out the tape measure and started crawling around in the back that they figured maybe I should be part of the conversation. The first company to figure out that women have some buying power these days and starts treating them like they exist will make a fortune. Just saying. 


I thought I would share my thoughts on fitting display gear into a compact SUV, because when I was searching online for info, there was nothing available. Most websites don’t list dimensions of the cargo bed, it’s listed by volume. How do you know if your gear will fit? I know some people who go the trailer route, and someone who puts a lot of the big stuff on a roof rack. That’s an option… but I want to be able to get everything packed and unpacked on my own, as Mr. M isn’t always around to help.

So… I have display grid walls that are 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide. They make them taller, and shorter, but given the size of the average canopy used in a outdoor art fair, it seemed to make sense when I bought them. Given they could fit in my average sized car, it didn’t occur to me I would ever have an issue. But cars have gotten smaller, and even SUVs are not as big as they used to be. While that might be awesome when trying to park the thing (have parking spots gotten smaller too? It feels like it…), it’s a pain trying to fit in large gear.

Of the 6 models we checked out, we have narrowed it down to 3. I loved driving the Honda CRX, but because of the way the back seats split, there is no way I could fit the racks in. The narrower of the two sides is on the passenger side… only about 18” wide. I'd have to put both sides down, and then if I'm lucky enough to have help, where would they sit? The front seat had to be as far forward as it would go, not leaving any space for someone with... you know... legs. The Hyundai Santa Fe and the Ford Edge felt more like driving a truck than the others we tested, so while they felt ok and were spacious, we struck them both off the list. I’m not a huge fan of driving a truck. I’m not that tall, and it makes me feel like I’m steering a tank.

My top pick: pretty sure it’s the Hyundai Tucson. Nice to drive… it feels like driving a car, not a big vehicle. Gets great milage, the reliability rating is the highest in its class, and I could both back into a tight spot and parallel park easily. The back seats have the wider section of the split on the passenger side, so I can put the front seat all the way up, and the racks easily fit. Bonus, I can fit in a passenger at the same time. 

The Mazda CX5 is also really nice to drive. The gas milage is a bit better than the Tucson, but the reliability rating is not as high. The base model has the backseat split the same as the Honda, so we thought this would eliminate it from our choices, even though I liked it a lot. We discovered that the next level trim package has a centre console in the back seat that gives more flexibility. Given that we were looking for a used car, if we can find one that has that option it will still be a possibility. 

Lastly, the Toyota RAV4 is my final option. My husband didn’t like it as much, as it is a bit bigger than the other two, but there is enough cargo space that I can fit the racks in with still enough room to sit in the front passenger seat. Parking is still easy… the backup camera seems to be a standard feature now, thank goodness. I backed into a very tight spot I wouldn’t have even attempted without the camera. I didn’t try parallel parking it… that would be necessary if we were to buy it, as a lot of downtown galleries use street parking for loading and unloading. As much as I hate doing it, I have to sometimes. 

I considered selling my current display gear and replacing it with 5 foot high racks… this would give us more flexibility and allow us to get whatever we wanted. It’s still an option, but I’d rather not go through the hassle of doing that if I don’t have to. And given what I’ve seen at the art fairs I’ve done, the 6 footers are pretty standard. 

I hope this helps out anyone looking for information. I think putting dimensions on the vehicle websites would make things so much easier… surely it’s not just artists that have specific needs for transport. But I don’t imagine asking for it would change anything… a couple dealers couldn’t even dig up a tape measure when I asked. And they had no clue what the dimensions were. All I can suggest is that if you are going shopping for a car, don’t forget your tape measure. It’ll save you a lot of hassle later on. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

Going Home

"Going Home", 24x24" mixed media on canvas. Available.
I finally photographed a piece where the interference paint shows up. I guess I have to wait for just the right light. 

My husband is in the midst of planning his annual fishing trip with his brother. They're from Newfoundland and he will often tie the trip in with a visit to his parents. They usually go somewhere "near home"... they've been to Labrador, various spots in NF, and Northern Quebec, which is kind of a half-way point between us in Ontario, his brother in Labrador, and his parents in NF.

Many Newfoundlanders refer to their place of birth as "home", and when they go visit they are "going home", even if that is not where they have lived for 30/40/50 years. They leave because they have to... there are no opportunities, no jobs, no way to live. They create a community with friends and family wherever they are, and go back to visit, but that place in their heart they feel as home never changes.

I'm not like that. Of course I've never lived outside of Ontario for any length of time, so I suppose I may if I did. I've moved around a bit... my parents moved from Quebec to Ontario when I was quite young, during a time of political instability. Many of my aunts and uncles also left, being anglophones in a francophone world. We settled in Mississauga, where I live now. I lived in Waterloo for a few years during school, Toronto a few years after, and spent a year out near London where I moved for a job. But that's pretty much it. I've never lived further away from my parents than I can drive. 

The place my husband comes from changes in small increments. It's not a large place, and there isn't a lot of industry, so the changes that do happen are noticeable from visit to visit. If you lived there, I imagine it wouldn't be terribly disruptive when something new gets built or changed. 

Here is a different thing altogether. I'm basically on the west border of Toronto and Mississauga. Toronto is a big, booming city with something changing all the time. Mississauga seems hell bent on making sure there is housing on every available spot, infrastructure be damned. For example, Lakeshore Road is a major thoroughfare, one of 3 ways to get over the Credit River in the south end of the city. Over the past few years there have been a few large condo developments in the adjacent areas, and no changes to the roads. Traffic is an absolute nightmare. I used to love to go through the areas along Lakeshore, now I avoid it like the plague. 

The home of my childhood no longer exists. I know, because I'm still here. I remember the horse farm that was up by the highway, which I don't think has been there for 20 years. It's one of those shopping super-center things now. I remember learning to drive on gravel roads, and going to the drive-in which felt like it was out in the country (it's still there, but now it's a major road with subdivisions all around it). The "city-center" was once a mall out in the middle of nowhere. When they declared it "downtown" we all laughed. Now it's all high-rises and traffic. Not the place I remember as home. 

So home has to be wherever I am. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Why do we turn a hobby into a side hustle?

"Remembering Saint-Siméon", 10x10" mixed media on wood panel. 

I read an interesting article this week, about the trend of monetizing hobbies. It was an interesting read, and got me thinking about why I have been trying for years to get a business going from my painting.

It wasn't at all about money.  I've had a full time job since I was 20 years old, doing something I enjoyed and was good at. I got paid well enough to be comfortable, so it's not like I needed extra for things like food (for someone entering the work force today it would be an entirely different story. Even those working in the same field as me don't get paid enough to cover rent in Toronto, let alone eat).

As the years rolled along though, I found that money wasn't the same as job satisfaction, and as I got more experience doing what I was doing, I hit a point where I got bored. The challenge was gone.

Boredom is a tough one for me... I love to learn and have never been good at being content with the status quo. When the company I worked for wouldn't let me move to a different area to learn something new, I thought about going elsewhere, but it is the biggest player in the game with the most complex work there was to be done. Changing jobs didn't seem like the way to go. Instead I threw myself into my "hobby", and decided to put in the hours it took to get good at it.

I've always loved painting. I have a degree in fine art and I've made stuff off and on since I was in high school. I never seriously considered it a career... I didn't have any money during school, so I lived on a shoe string, and though I wouldn't say it was awful, it wasn't exactly how I would choose to live. Poverty isn't fun. And as I didn't know any artist that actually made a living from their art (except those that taught), I didn't think it was a realistic possibility.

Hard to know when you're good enough at something to be considered "good", isn't it? At first, my goal was just to paint something I liked. Then I thought I'd be good enough when I could consistently paint something I liked. Then when I could get into an outdoor show. Then a juried show. Then win some sort of award. I've accomplished all these things, but I still feel like I have a lot to learn. My work could be better. But still, when someone loves one of my pieces enough to part with their hard earned money... that gives me a kind of satisfaction I don't get from getting into a show. I feel like I've made a connection with someone. Selling my paintings became a kind of validation for me.

These days I paint like someone obsessed. I think about the painting I'm working on when I'm at work, or driving, or in the shower, or out on a walk. I see the world as a painter, looking for the colour in the shadows on the snow, or framing what I'm looking at as a compositional problem to solve. I note colour combinations that speak to me, I look for interesting textures. I've always got 3 or more pieces on the go. And my house is becoming cluttered. I've got paintings stuffed in closets and under beds, but I still keep making more. I can't stop. I've started painting over some of my less successful, older pieces, but I've still got too many.

I enjoy doing the art fairs. I'd probably enjoy it more if I sold more, because the packing stuff up to move is my least favourite part. I like going to galleries and chatting with people about the work. I love getting feedback about my own work. I love seeing photos of my paintings in my collector's homes. I feel joy when one of my friends, who have been following my work for years, call to say they want one particular piece because it speaks to them. It makes me feel like I'm bringing joy into someone else's life, and that makes me happy.

So while I wouldn't recommend everyone turn their hobby into a side gig, but I do see value in pursuing what you love, and becoming the best you can at it. Do what you want and don't worry about if it will sell. Lots of great work is not very marketable, but that doesn't make it any less valuable. Have a day job if you have to, but don't give up the thing that makes your heart sing. There is value in You being You.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Do you like this?

"Meandering Muse", 9x12" mixed media on paper. Available. 

I've been considering abandoning this blog. Not just migrating to my proper website, like I did a couple years ago, but not posting altogether.

There are a few reasons for this. My readership numbers are way down. There was a time I'd get a few hundred views per post, and usually a few comments. Not a lot, if you consider what some bloggers get, but I felt like I had a dedicated audience that came back every week to see what I had to say. These days it seems like if I get 30 views its a really good week. It's not that I don't think those 30 people are valuable (of course I do), but some weeks I feel like i'm stretched pretty thin, and spending an hour or two writing about art doesn't seem to be a great use of my time.

I'm spending more and more time on social media. It's not like I have to... if I just went on, posted and logged off I could shave it down to a few minutes a day. But I do enjoy the interaction. I get comments there, I see the same names liking and commenting on my posts, and I feel more like I'm building connections than I do here. And when those people come out to a show, they don't hesitate to introduce themselves because we've already been interacting. It's really pretty fun. But it does take time.

Then there's the pressure I put on myself to have a new painting to post every single week. That's actually why I started... I knew in order to get anywhere I had to have a decent sized inventory, but I was having motivational problems. I know I work well under a deadline... it's part of what makes me good at my day job. So I figured having a goal of one painting per week would make it more likely that I would get my ass in the studio and work. It worked. But now I find that I am ALWAYS working. If I'm not at work, I'm working at home. I'm painting, or editing my videos, updating my website, working on my marketing.... I have very little downtime. I went to an event a couple weeks ago and had a hard time carrying on a conversation with normal people (by "normal" I mean people not involved in the art or packaging worlds). I know I don't do a lot of social stuff, but I didn't realize I was that out of practice.

The one point in favour of me keeping this going is that it is a record of my progress. I've been posting pretty much once a week since 2012. That's a pretty thorough record. I've got photos of the shows I've done, a record of each painting and what was happening at the time it was created, trips and life events distilled down to the essentials. It's kinda fun going back and reading these posts. And I can see how far I've come, both in skill and creativity.

I'm not sure yet what conclusion I will come to. I do know that writing my weekly post is a habit now that I may continue, just because. I guess I'll just play it by ear for a bit, and see how things go. If you have an opinion on the subject, drop a comment here and let me know.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Beyond Winter

"Beyond Winter", 10x10" mixed media on wood panel. #51 in my 100 Square Project.
I've got a bunch of panels prepped for a Facebook live painting session. It will be in a couple weeks. Stay tuned.

Canada has been in the deep freeze. This past week has been colder than I remember ever being... I think we hit some kind of record low one day with the windchill a nasty minus forty something. It was worse in other areas. My brother-in-law is in Labrador. A balmy -50° out there. Yikes. On the positive side, the sun has been shining. It's been blindingly bright out there. That was something we all needed after months and months of grey.

A couple days I just couldn't warm up. I'd sit at my desk at work wearing a sweater with a t-shirt underneath, and a blanket shawl wrapped around me. The woman who sits one desk over had on gloves and a hat. Inside. Even in my own home it felt like the furnace was working overtime.

I'm lucky enough to have a gas fireplace in my studio. When I turn it on the whole floor warms up. I spent a lot of time down there this past week. I filmed most of it, and have been posting the videos to my social media channels. (If I had realized video got such a great reaction, I would have done it ages ago.)

 This video is the final session I filmed... I was working on the painting I've posted at the top of the post. I did work on it a bit more... mainly to fix up any compositional problems. I removed the dark clump on the left side and changed the spacing between the trees. I think it works now.

The initial motivation for this painting was to get a few colours I rarely use to play nicely together. But this cold has me dreaming of spring, and finding the beautiful greens and lavenders while mixing my paints made me think of meadows of blooming wild flowers. The form really came about all on it's own. If you've watched the snippits I've posted online, you can see how I turn the panel until I see something that wants to be brought forward. This is how all my paintings come together.

Intuitive painting has made somewhat of a comeback in recent years. When I was in school we had to plan everything. We had to have an idea to start with (usually where I blocked... my ideas never really seemed good enough to put in the effort to make it real), then do a series of thumbnails, block out the composition, then refine everything until it worked. I learned a lot about composition and whatever, surely necessary things to a visual artist, but my paintings were always a bit of a disappointment. It wasn't until I learned to let go of expectation that I could really enjoy the process and create something truly unique.

I really don't know why intuitive painting gets such a bad rap from educational institutions. Some of the greats did it. Joan Mitchell comes to mind. The trick is to not give up on the painting too soon. Keep going, keep changing things, until you reach a place where it speaks to you. It's not always easy, and you can go through a lot of paint, but the results will be truly your own.

And for a little while maybe we can forget about how cold it is.

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Value of Art

"In the Stillness", 9x12" mixed media on paper. Available on my website.  

I did all the art-related paperwork for my taxes this week. 2018 was my best year ever, and I still made less than your average student, working part-time in a minimum wage job. And people ask why I still work full-time. Sheesh.

To me, art and culture is something that is inherently valuable. I can't imagine a world without it. Can you? Picture going through your life without music. Or with only utilitarian clothes, all the same. Imagine a world without any kind of man-made visual stimulation at all... no paintings, no photography, no illustrations.

Fun, right?

So why is it that as a society, we don't value the work that artists do?

Wonder why the cost of concert tickets has gotten so high? It's because musicians can't make a living with recorded music any more. People don't buy it. They stream on YouTube, where most of the artists get nothing, or Spotify, where they get a fraction of a cent per play. Performing live is the only way they make any money, and they need money to live (and I live with a musician, this is not me making assumptions, this is a reality). Lots of smaller venues that "feature" live music don't actually pay the musicians anymore either... the bands need to set someone up by the door to charge admission (if that's permitted... otherwise they play for "exposure"), and it helps if they have merchandise to sell. When you're splitting that few hundred bucks between the 5 band members, it doesn't go very far.

Visual art isn't any better... big companies raking in millions in profits per year steal designs from artists that dare to post their work online. They don't think anything of it. If it's online, it must be free for anyone to use, right? But try doing that with a design owned by someone with enough money to sue you (think Disney). It wouldn't go well.

A thing that has emerged in the visual art world is the pay-to-play model. In the traditional art world, you found an art gallery that liked your work, they had a client list, held events, handled the sales, and took a commission. Usually, its around 50%.. does that surprise you? I know many people who where shocked when i told them the average commission for a gallery was half of what the purchaser pays. I get it and don't begrudge them their commission... they are paying rent, hydro, wages for their staff, advertising, etc. It's a business. In this new model, the artist coughs up a "hanging fee"; sometimes its a nominal $30-$50 per piece, sometimes it's considerably more. Some venues charge a commission on top of that, should the piece sell. Many venues offer the ability to have a "solo show", which amounts to renting the gallery for a certain time period. In a city like Toronto it can be quite expensive. I get it... the rents are insanely high so in order to stay open the gallery has to have some guaranteed income. It's a model that has developed out of need. But for the artists that are trying to do this for a living, it can put the entire gallery thing out of reach.

I often wonder how visual artists that make work that may be difficult to sell (like installation or film) manage to make a living. I know there are grants available, but I also am aware that often artists that don't have a saleable product have a hard time "qualifying" as a professional artist to Revenue Canada. I read an article this week that explains how the different branches of government actually work against each other, making the situation for artists even worse. I was angry by the time I got to the end. It makes no sense, and I now understand now that not valuing the arts is built right into the system we live within.

What's the solution for this? I have no idea. But I think it starts with transparency, and letting people in on the industry's secrets.  Only when the system of funding is fixed can the arts really thrive in Canada. At the moment, it seems to be totally out of whack. 

I understand that if I want to live off my art, I have to think like an entrepreneur, think of it like a business, and that means doing the work that sells, and abandoning the stuff that doesn't. Since art is such a personal thing, that can be a difficult decision to make. I use painting as a kind of stress/anxiety management tool, and I know I would continue to paint even if I never sold another piece. I would just have to reevaluate how long I kept something around and I would paint over things a lot more regularly. at the moment I'm managing to sell enough to cover my expenses and give myself a bit to try some new things, and that will have to do for now.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Walking Into the Light

"Walk Into the Light", 18x24" mixed media on canvas. Available. 
Canadian Winter. One of those things you just have to learn to deal with, should you choose to live in Canada. It doesn't get light until 8 or 8:30, it's starting to get dark by 4:00 (depending on where you live and what month it is). And when it is "light", it isn't really... its dim and dreary. The only time you get that wonderful, bright winter sun is when it's minus-hell-has-frozen-over cold.

We had two wonderfully sunny days this week. Only one of them was -15°C. I miss the sun. No matter how many winters I live through, I can't seem to really adjust to it. 

I go through this stretch of time every year, from early January until late February, where I feel like crap and can't seem to motivate myself to do much of anything. It's actually a thing... It's called Season Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), and apparently effects a pretty decent sized chunk of the population. I have a sun lamp that I use in my studio when I'm working  and that helps a bit, but it's one of those things that you have to use every day to see a difference. I have not been painting every day... somehow I've got a billion other things to do and can't seem to plan my time very well. Just the same I've gotten a few pieces finished that I had hanging around, so I'm marking them up as "the first of 2019". It helps me feel like I'm actually accomplishing something instead of just going around in circles. 

When I was working on this piece, which has been in progress since late summer, I was trying to capture the feeling of being in a dark forest and walking into the blinding sunshine. I kept putting it away and then going back to it, changing the entire thing every time. It's way darker than I had thought it would be when I started. I had visions of this lovely, cool blue-green only around the edges, but it didn't work. I kept closing it in until I had the feeling I wanted, but then it was so dark that I had to go back in and add some metallic and lighter tones to brighten it up.

The greens also disappeared when it started getting really cold outside. It was the week between Christmas and New Years when I picked it up again and covered the whole thing in a blue glaze. You can see some bits of green poking through here and there if you look really closely, but now it's mostly blue and purple. It's colder, feels more like winter, but I do get the feeling of moving from dark into light. Which is in line with the whole days getting longer and brighter thing that I'm SO looking forward to.

I'm surfing around online and dreaming of warmer weather... found this article about a town in Italy selling homes for 1 euro with a condition that you have to renovate the place. How nice would it be to start a little community for us Canadian artists desperate to escape the dreariness? Of course I don't have the money to actually do it, but it's wonderful to dream.....

Monday, January 14, 2019

Why Original Art Makes Your Life Better

"Summer Breeze", 24x24 mixed media on canvas. Available.

A few months ago, we decided to paint the entire main floor of our house. It was a tan colour, and we wanted to lighten it up with one of the popular light neutrals. We chose a very light warm grey... but when you come in, it just looks white.

Before we started, I packed up all the art and stored it away in various spots... every spare inch of space we had now had art stashed there. My studio was crazy full... but it didn't matter since I wasn't going to do any work until this was done anyway.

After everything was done i was really busy, so we left it for a bit before we hung all the art back up on the walls. Wow. What a difference. It turned our nice looking house into a home with personality. It expressed who we are.

You can't walk into our home and not know we are people that appreciate music, or that we like colour… you can probably even tell more subtle things about us by what hangs in what room. I like to change things up regularly... and I have more than enough work to be able to do that. And as pieces go out to shows and/or sell, things get rearranged. I usually have one of my larger musician paintings hanging over the piano, but recently I put up an abstract landscape. I love the way the iridescent paint glows when the morning sun hits it, so it is likely staying there until my next show. And it serves the purpose of keeping me relaxed when I sit down to try to play, and can't seem to hit any of the right keys.

I've seen lots of articles floating around the internet on why original art is important. While I agree with the sentiment, I think that a print of a piece you really connect with can be an acceptable substitute. Having something on the wall that really expresses your personality will make your space feel more your own.

Being a 50+ woman living in a big city, I want a couple things from the art I hang on my walls. For the most part, I want an image that is calming and creates a feeling of peacefulness in my home. My life is hectic... work is busy, there's the traffic, there's always people around, quiet is elusive... when I'm home I want the opposite of that. I want art I can look at for a good, long time and still see something new in it, every time. Art that gives me a feeling of spontaneity and joy and calm. And because I can paint, that's the kind of art I try to make. It took me a long time to learn how, but I think I'm there now. It was worth the effort it took.

Art can be a great conversation starter. I love to connect with the people who buy my paintings, and learn a bit about their lives. And likewise, they seem to be curious about mine. I've made a few really good friends that started with a conversation about art. When I am invited into someone's home I always note the art on the walls, and ask questions about it. Each piece usually has a story, and those stories are wonderful to share. Just hearing the excitement in a friend's voice as they tell me the story about the painting they bought on that trip a few years back, and how they managed to find themselves in that particular gallery or studio... well, it's always a high point.

I know people who follow the latest decor trends and are constantly redecorating their homes. I don't think art should follow trends or that you should choose your art based on your decor. If you choose works that you connect with, pieces that make you feel something, it will inspire you to find a way to make it work. Fortunately, with neutral everything being the thing these days, pretty much anything goes, art wise. Make your choices based on how you connect to it, and you can't go wrong.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Make Creativity Part of your Daily Life

"Spatial Music", 9x12" mixed media on paper. Available.
First painting of 2019.

Humans are creative beings. Once our daily needs for food and shelter are taken care of, we move on to other things that enrich our lives. Things that feed our souls. Being creative can do that.

Creativity takes on all sorts of different forms. I like to paint. My mom quilts. My son makes music. My husband endlessly comes up with projects to do around our house, be it building a shed to figuring out a better way to store our snow tires.

I know these days everyone is always so busy. But are we, really? My internet was out for a few days last week... I quickly realized how much time I spent surfing, on social media, sucked into binge watching a series on Netflix. While I always feel so busy, I figure I could free up at least another hour a day if I really wanted to. Possibly more. Of course, I don't have little kids anymore. That makes things more challenging, but it can be done if you're really committed.

I follow a lot of visual artists on social media. I hear about these groups and challenges that provide a good starting point for anyone looking to try their hand at being creative. I have even joined a couple groups... they give me a bit of inspiration when I'm looking for a new project. One group has monthly challenges and the members are really supportive of each other. The hosts also put out a podcast specifically aimed at those trying to build a creative habit. There are also lots of online classes available for every conceivable medium and skill level. A class provides a structure that works for a lot of people, with assignments giving them a specific project and deadline.

For me, being creative.... actually ACTING on the creative impulse... is what makes me more creative. Each painting builds on the one before it, taking a little bit of what I learned and using it as a springboard for the next thing. The only time I really hit that "I don't know what to do" roadblock is when I stop working for an extended period of time. A week break is ok, a month is not. It's like I get creative lethargy and can't motivate myself to get back to it. It took me a while to figure this out about myself, but I bet I am not alone here. Once you build a creative habit into your life, it's pretty much self-perpetuating.

I told y'all I was taking a break for the holidays... and while I did take a break from my blog, social media and marketing my work, I didn't actually take much time off from creating. I reworked an old piece that I thought could be better, finished up some half done stuff, did some drawing in my sketchbook, played with my camera and figured out how to use some new software. I got back to the "play" stage that reminds me why I started painting in the first place. It was rejuvenating.

I could have spent my time off watching movies on Netflix. Well, actually I couldn't, because my internet was out, but you know what I mean. It's way too easy to passively sit there and let the hours slip by. But if you really want to watch that new series everyone is talking about, at least do it with a sketchbook and pencil in hand. You just never know what you can do until you try.