Yesterday, on the bus, while I was taking my daughter home from daycare, I had need of my sketchbook. My daughter was fretting and starting a major fuss because our trip was taking a long time due to rain and traffic. I had already read the books that we keep in the stroller for her. I had already given her snacks and water. We had even sang a couple of songs together (to the chagrin of the other passengers, I’m sure). With a few blocks further to go, I was running out of options for entertaining a 1-1/2 year old. I looked into my handbag to see what I could come up with and decided to show her my sketchbook.
My current sketchbook is a light grey Baron Fig notebook
, given to me by my BFF Stacy. I think it’s about 3/4 full of sketches, lists and recipes. My daughter was fascinated. She flipped through the pages and her eyes lit up in absolute joy when she found a sketch of her dad. She pointed at it and began an enthusiastic chorus of ‘Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!’. This lasted until she came to a sketch of our dog, Kai. She then started a chorus of ‘Kai! Kai! Kai! Dog! Dog! Dog!’. Then she went back to Daddy. All in all the sketches were a hit and they got us to our destination without the infant rage.
Funnily, the sketches she loves so much, were sketches that I thought were abject failures. I thought they were wonky and weird and not worth mention, but the Little One saw something in them – picked up on the resemblance that I thought I had totally missed. It felt pretty great. And it made me think more on what art is especially when it comes to portraiture. There’s something to be said about the vibe you can capture, even when you fail at resemblance.
In other news, I’m working on some clay things. I’m experimenting with polymer clay since I have not found any options near me for firing raw clay. I’ve looked up some videos on making a wire armature for figures and I hope to get some more clay to try out some of those. Also I’m working on some painted clay jewelry. I’ve been experimenting with techniques and will post when I have something I’m happy with.
As always, thanks for tuning in.
My Instagram followers would have seen that I’ve been experimenting with portraits (to varying degrees of success). A friend of mine showed me a drawing that she started with pencils. I haven’t used pencils in a while now, so I thought I’d give them a try.
This sketch, I worked on in 15 to 30 minute bursts over a 2 week period. As a source image, I used a photograph that I took of Mauri and Maya a few months ago. It’s a very personal and lovely moment that I’m really happy to have been able to capture. I’m looking forward to doing more pieces like this.
I’m really feeling the pencils, so I’ll probably stick with them for a bit.
Knock Knock Knock.
I hear rumblings and thrashings from big, galumphing creatures behind the door. I try to peak through the curtains, but all I see are the shadows and silhouettes of varied and strange creatures. They’re having the greatest party I’ve ever not been invited to. I’m knocking on the door with hopes that my gate crashing will be accepted. I mean I have no recourse if they don’t let me in – even if it is my own house. What do these creatures care if little old me wants to join in the party? They’re having a fine old time on their own. Still, I’d really like to go in. I am drawn inexplicably to this place. I am drawn time and again. Because, I’ve been to these parties before. I’ve drank the wine, danced on the tables and made-out in the closets. But I keep losing the password. I keep misplacing the directions… even though it’s my own house.
Still, I’m going to keep knocking. Someone’s got to come out for a smoke some time. Anyway, I’m still getting some shades of good stuff, even though I’m on the periphery. I can still hear the beat of the music, muffled though it is. I’m confident that I’ll get in, if I do the leg work.
That’s why I’m going be sketching every day, at least once, for the next month. Here are last night’s and this morning’s offerings.
On May 28th, my friend Tara Keens-Douglas and I are taking part in the Christie Pits Art Crawl.
In light of this, I’ve been thinking a lot about communication and how best to present my Art. In addition it’s made me think more closely about the dilemma of exhibition and sales.
The last time I did an Art Market, I got too focused on the idea of selling my work. I don’t think that’s how Art Markets work. I think the beauty of the art market is in growing connections with fellow artists and introducing your work to a wide range of people as they walk by. Some of my favourite moments from my last art market were being able to discuss my work with strangers and other Makers.
Thinking about selling my work is an immediately stress inducing activity. I have to switch mental gears from Maker to Sales and the shift brings to bear a bigger question of the significance of Visual Art in the lives of the common person. That analysis is fairly bleak, so in recent times, I am trying to shift my perspective from ‘sale’ to ‘sharing’.
Sharing art, as I see it, is what this blog promotes. I share my art and my thoughts and you choose to engage with it at your convenience. Similarly, perhaps a more comfortable way of thinking of exhibiting my work is simply as sharing my work with a different audience.
Don’t get me wrong. Selling work feels great. Like any job, when you work hard, the validation of being paid for it both enables you to continue doing the work as well as incentivizes you to make more work without feeling like it’s pointless. To be frank though, most people don’t buy art. Where art in the home used to be a point of meditation and reflection, now we’re staring at our choice of digital device. People seek the most affordable ways to enliven their living and working spaces, without the price tag of original artwork. Of course this is the case. The value of art is subjective and the value of money is more concrete. I’m not about to whine about something that’s so obvious.
The truth is that making art is intrinsic to who I am, and I love the opportunity to share my work with people. Beyond sales, I exhibit work because it’s empowering and inspiring. So this time around, my focus in showing is going to be centred around fostering community engagement and thoughtful discussion.
Every now and again, if you’re lucky, you experience a rare gush of creativity. It erupts out of the blue and when it does, you drop everything and dive for the brush, pen, or whatever so you can seize the magic. When you’re riding this wave, each tone you pick is the right one, and inspiration flows like an open stream. It is lovely, perfect, sexy magic.
Under the influence of this rare tide, with these pieces, I managed to do something that is usually a hard won victory in my creative process. I put down the brush and walked away at precisely the right moments.
Now gouache and watercolour are particularly tricky in this regard. With acrylic or oil, you always have a second chance should you misstep. With gouache or watercolour however, you can over work it in a heartbeat. One false dot of pigment and you have to watch your mistake bleed through the piece – forever muddying what was once crisp. When you overthink forms your brushstrokes go from bold and pure to wobbly and insipid. In each of these pieces, I felt that moment come – where my urge to blather on was held in check by the voice of experience that said – “no – it’s time to walk away” or “yes – put that brush to paper and trust where it goes”.
I’m going to continue working at this size (5″ x 7″) for a while longer. I feel that there’s a series happening here and I like its vibe. Also, now, after working on 300lb watercolour paper – I am forever spoiled. I can’t go back to 140lb. I am hardcore geeking out about it.