Screamers

Between night time feedings tonight, I got to thinking about my first forays into art. Oh, how to describe Screamers to someone who has never seen it… I’ll try by starting from my introduction.

When I was 12 or 13 I started going to the mall as a social excursion. It was the beginning of any sort of independent narrative. I had never cut my hair before in any way other than my mother approved little girl trim. My older brother had started dating a girl who to my adolescent mind was the epitome of cool. She was 18, with long stylish hair, sexy clothes and a flirtatious attitude. What’s more, I never had any sisters and she was the first older girl who had ever taken the time to get to know me and to take me out in public. She must have been a mall regular, or maybe worked there at some point because she seemed to know all the young people. When we went to the mall, she’d stop at different stores to chat with attendants – all of whom were young and hip. It’s funny, I don’t remember buying anything at any of those stores. We just hung out.

One such place where we stopped was Screamers. It was run by a tall, handsome guy by the name of Leo. He had long hair, beautiful oak skin and tattoos. I had never seen someone with tattoos – far less the the more elegant tribal designs that he had. My memory is fuzzy on that point, but I remember that he was striking and memorable, though many years older than I.

Time and again we visited. She chatted and I walked around the kiosk, looking at the work in the display and the easels around the centre structure. You see, Screamers was an airbrushing studio. It was also a tattoo parlour but I don’t remember if it was or wasn’t at the time that I met it. Foremost to my eager eyes was the airbrushing. In retrospect what was most unique about this small San Fernando airbrushing studio, was that it was a showcase for Leo’s artwork. Airbrushing was truly his medium and he was so good at it, he had made a living selling t-shirts and posters, that were sometimes recreations of images, but often times unique pieces of his own that had come out of his dreamy imagination. When I look back, I know that that was the first time I had ever seen real art in action or an authentic artist in action.

It was this more than anything that kept me coming back to Screamers. I loved looking at the work happen, so every time I was in the mall, I’d be sure to stop by, say hello and gaze, wide eyed at the work. Sometimes someone was just cutting out a stencil (where i learned doing it on glass was better than cardboard) but sometimes Leo was painting and I could see how he built up a piece. Eventually we started talking more and more as I asked about the work. It was my first look at process and execution.

Leo was neither shy or modest in his choice of subject matter. Though in an extremely visible place, Leo was not detracted from painting nude ladies against dreamlike landscapes. Another first, he was utterly unapologetic about what he did. Perhaps it was his sly smile that let him get away with it.

He was the first person to actually help me with my artwork. At school, when my work had nudes in them, people shied away or made fun of me. My art teacher taught me but she wasn’t of my era. Leo helped me and talked to me about colour and composition in a more visceral way. I remember him telling me that I was afraid to use white in paintings but that I needed it for reflections and then he’d show me on one of his pieces how he used white. He was right too for some reason to that point I had only used yellow for light. He did amazing work with water and underwater scenes. I never really learned how to get there myself, but I remember images of things he’d done over the years.

One time he vastly improved a drawing I did for that same girl who had taken me to the mall (brother’s girlfriend who was now his ex, though current girlfriend of a different brother). He looked at it with me and asked if he could tweak a couple of things. My drawing was ink on sepia paper. It was a depiction of a crescent moon with a woman sleeping on the moon’s curvature. He added highlights of colour to her dress and to the moon and background. His additions didn’t overshadow my work, it simply enhanced the scene. At that point I had never painted. I did extremely detailed pen and ink drawings, but had never thought of adding colour. I think after that I tried out some coloured pencil with the pen and ink but it really wasn’t the same. I didn’t start painting until I was 16 or 17.

I hung out at Screamers throughout my teenage years, until I moved to Canada. The store had changed locations  in the mall from being a kiosk to an actual store. It had also by this time gathered a following of teenage, misfit gawkers who invariably were rockers with no place else to congregate. Tattoos had become The thing and I equally loved seeing the prep work for the tattoos. By this time my best friend was also involved in the Screamers world and sometimes worked there – an additional reason to visit the shop.

I think Leo and I were also friends, though it’s hard to say in retrospect because we never talked about anything too personal. I was extremely comfortable around him, and though there was never any intent there, flirted shamelessly with him. He was and still is, I imagine, an extremely decent man who never took advantage of my naiveté. Instead he was always supportive and teasing. He was interested in my work and helped me in whatever way he could. When I went the way of gallery exhibits he was proud of me and still looked over my work when I brought it in.

We lost touch after I moved to Canada and the shop opened a second location in another mall and so Leo wasn’t in one place anymore. Gradually since I moved, I stopped visiting. I had heard over the years that he married someone from my high school graduating class and that they have a small brood of beautiful children. I haven’t seen him, maybe in a decade or more.

In the silent moments of this morning I remembered the girl on the crescent moon and the care Leo took of a young artist finding her way. I think about how unpretentious he was and how the big thing was the Work. His work was his livelihood and he was happy doing it. I have no idea about his life outside of the studio – but there I saw someone living fully. His work wasn’t in a gallery somewhere – but it remains some of the most beautiful stuff I’ve seen anywhere and it resides happily in my memory.

There are a lot more Screamers stories, but this is what came to me this morning as I waited for my daughter to fall back asleep. I wish I had said Thank you. Maybe I will one day.

And so we continue…

I started this piece in the last week of my pregnancy and I finished it off in the past coupe days. Maya will be 2 months next week! I cant say that pregnancy was particularly fruitful for me in the art department – my lack of blog posts are testament to that. I suppose my body was busy working on my greatest creation.
In the period since Maya’s birth, I’ve felt a resurgence of creative power. Everyday I imagine sketches and have ideas for pieces – of course none of which I manage to do because – hey i have a newborn. But while others fly away, some of them have stayed, patiently waiting to be drawn. I wonder how much of this new found fount results from no longer being pregnant vs no longer being mentally oppressed by work tedium. Both I’d wager.

 

Like everything else in my life now, in order to make art, a new rhythm needs to evolve in my process. For the foreseeable future, time to work on my pieces will be minced up into bits. Right now, Maya is napping beside me, so I frantically think and type while I have the opportunity.

 

Making Art remains entirely necessary to my sanity. I had wondered if I’d stop making work when I had a baby. Instead however I find that the challenge of fitting it in to already full days is a challenge of love and tenacity rather than the desperate anxiety to which I had become accustomed.

 

mandala-landscape

 

This piece is an abstracted city scape and landscape. The mandala portion is an abstraction of the inner voice that makes a place special. I may be working in this medium for a while since its the easiest to work with quickly and in short bursts. I enjoy the gouache though. The colours are brilliant and they yield such intense pigments.

 

Thanks for tuning in.

Mid Sea

Inspiration is a funny thing. This blog in a sense is a chronicle of my struggles to understand / cope with the nature of creativity.

The act of creation is an interesting thing as well. Any single person can create a hundred things in a week and not consider any of it to be artful. It is still creation though.

Day to day life management has forced my creativity into different veins that depend on the amount of energy I have. Sewing and crafting is for when I need to make something but I don’t have the grounded mental space or time to paint or write. Writing is a specific vibe that only works if I have an hour or three to myself to focus and channel the words from wherever they come. Painting requires short bursts of work throughout weeks and months with much thinking and meditation over the direction of the material in the time between. All this is to say that lately, I mostly sew.

I started this piece at the beginning of 2016. I’ve worked on it slowly; layering lines upon lines of colour. You don’t see it well in the photos, but the paper has a lovely texture. This is the first time I’ve bought 300lb watercolor paper. My god it makes a difference! I don’t think I can go back to anything lighter.

scene 1

At first I had collected all kinds of photos as source images to create a piece. I had thought, I would paint something that meditated on motherhood. Instead, I abandoned all of the lovely images I had and painted this. I suppose it’s a more personal take on that subject than I originally planned. To me, it’s like an alternately turbulent and calming ocean journey. There are even a few sea creatures involved.

Mid Sea

Moments

As a creative person, I am my father in girl form. I’m not sure if I’ve become more like him, or if I’ve only now noticed. Growing up, I spent a lot of time playing with the gadgets and ornaments I found around my dad’s study. When I had outgrown playing with his glass figurines, I would do my homework at his writing desk while he worked on his computer. His study was the perfect retreat because I was the only one who dared to disturb the peace of his sanctuary. His study was the most productive place to be because he had every article of stationary or tool one could ever need. Many of his tools are even self made for specific purposes.

When I was a little girl, my dad made various creative versions of christmas trees. I loved that. He made one out of chicken wire and toilet paper for a couple of years. It was way prettier than it sounds. It was my favourite tree. I attempted to make an origami something this year as a stand in for a christmas tree. It turned out being quite pretty though not very christmasy.

The process of making it and deciding on the materials to use reminded me so much of my dad. It really made me miss being home this year for Christmas. When I started making it, I realised that I already had all of the materials that I needed to make it. It appears that I’ve begun to create my own ‘study’ that is well stocked with art and craft tools of every variety I can think of.

I don’t know when I started trying to recreate his study, but its a place in my heart that I attempt to recreate wherever I live. It’s my base.

After making the hanging thing and cleaning out an art box, I came across some off-cut squares of watercolour paper I’ve had hanging around in my art storage for over 5 years now. I kept them thinking that they’d make lovely little ‘moments’ one day.

This holiday vacation, I used them all. I got out my stained watercolour brushes from my dad’s old orange tackle-box and got to work with the gouache paints he sent to me for christmas last year.

Today I sat reloading ink into my fountain pens (just like my dad taught me) and I realised that I owe him the biggest thank you. Thank you Da for making me who I am. I see you everyday in many of the things that I do, think and say. I’m older now I guess, so I can see it all much more clearly. You made me who I am and I’m not sure how to say thanks for that. But I’ll try anyway. I love you. Thank You.

mini 4mini 3mini 2mini 1

Mandala

mandala Dec 26 2015

This morning I was out for a walk with Kai and I felt the familiar stirring that I wanted to make something. I sorted through whether it was something written or drawn, coloured or black and white, realistic or abstract, 3 dimensional or 2 dimensional and eventually realised that I wanted to make a mandala. Then, in my mind I went through my paper collection and and decided on a grey page. I got home, dug into my art supply stocks and sat down to make this. A few hours later and here it is. I feel so much more relaxed and centred.

Anew

Awareness bloomed in a wordless rush of sensation and memory. An overwhelming history engulfed this growing consciousness and with it came a cool and steady thrum that was more evocative than words. As one may have once seen the horizon, sensation spread out from center to meet another node of knowing and on and on between one form of life and another. Somehow all that lived in the steady thrum waxed and waned with cool, quick, almost erotic steadiness. Gone was the quiet wisdom of a lifetime of breaths. What replaced it was blue infinity.

Out of the thrum came an eventual current of self knowledge. With the knowledge of self-hood came an awareness of other selves. They all felt cool and close – with silent intimacy that communicated many things. One self swirled close, sharing the sharp image of glowing white fur in the moonlight and the comforting warmth of a soft small body. Another self shared a poignant longing alongside a rush of maternal love.

Perhaps the most baffling thing was that none of this seemed strange.

A maybe excerpt from That Thing I’m Writing.