Monday mornings

The thing about deciding to empower your creative self, is that once you do, your non-creative exploits start to grind you down. The thing about being a working mom, is that you wake up on Monday mornings, see your sleeping child and quietly grieve that you won’t spend all day with them again for another 5 days.

For me, my creative energy is not purely tied up in any one aesthetic pursuit, but rather, a certain dedication of spirit and current of ingenuity that I try to live with. It’s as much in the things that I make, as in the energy, planning and commitment I give to my loved ones, to my job and even to my diet. I began feeling this way about art and creativity when I was a teenager. I would look at the many Mechanics and IT people in my family and see how heavily invested they are in their work. How ingenious and commanding they are in their knowledge and skill; and I would think – Wow! What art! What soulful dedication! What worth!

In a sense it’s the mental action or inclination toward artfulness and really makes the difference to oneself and the world around you. Where, in our daily lives, the artifacts of our labor are so often disappointing, or not our own, it’s good to remember that the expression of our creative minds has value to ourselves and those around us.

So, as I begin my week, I try to remind myself of this. That, even though the work that I do in my professional life is often unremarkable and repetitive, that there are still parts of it that I can fully commit my creative spirit to. Sure, I really have to work at it sometimes, but really – who doesn’t? That’s just the shape of things. Sure, I miss my daughter, but really – she needs to eat and she needs to live somewhere, so I have to suck it up and work. Pretty much, the only thing that I really have control over is the attitude and spirit with which I approach my life.

So here’s to an awesome Monday. We’re going to make it one.
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JumbieJewels

It’s Art Market time again! I’ve taken part in a couple of art markets. Before now I’ve mostly shown paintings & drawings. This year however, I will be showing jewellery.

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I started working with air-dry polymer clay a couple of months ago, experimenting with thickness, strength and hand painting techniques. I hadn’t worked with clay before, but I did a lot of research along the way. After a few batches of using the air-dry clay, I started using Sculpey oven bake polymer clay as an alternative. It has been an invigorating learning curve. It’s been a while since I’ve really dug my teeth into learning a new medium. Each batch I make is fresh and exciting to work on. I am sure that this is the beginning of a deeply satisfying, clay-filled journey.

This particular process is great for my immediate lifestyle. Polymer clay is easy to work on in small batches, for short bursts of time. It’s easy to get my creative ‘fix’ by working with colour and texture in such an immediate way. I’m reading about more traditional clay techniques as well, however I really don’t have the time/space/resources to make a traditional clay practice tenable.

When i was a kid I LOVED the NeverEnding Story. There was a scene in the movie that has always stuck with me – a huge, powerful stone giant sits and looks at his hands lamenting that and his big, strong hands were not strong enough to save his friends from the Nothing. He says, “They look like big, good, strong hands. Don’t they? I always thought that’s what they were… “ . That idea of your hands being the real agent of your ability has stuck with me. I put similar stock in my own hands. My eyes and hands do my work, and I’ve rediscovered the great great joy of getting my hands dirty.

As part of this new foray into jewellery, I am launching the JumbieJewels Etsy shop. I have a couple of things on there at the moment but really, I plan on populating it when the market is over. I’ll post here as well as on Instagram with updates.

So, in conclusion, if you’re in Toronto this weekend and you want to spend a sunny day in the park, come see the Christie Pits Art Crawl. Sunday 27th May from 9am-4pm.

Look for JumbieJewels and please stop by and say hello.

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When to Stop

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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.

Inner Thirst

It sneaks up on you. Especially when your life is basically in service of another person. It starts with mild irritation at seemingly normal things. Then, that ever present irritation dips and rises throughout the day leading to cycles of negative thought. For me, it also manifests as a hunger for decadent food or shopping- though neither of those things ever fill the void. I think it’s a  sideways desire for richness and energy.

What is this? This is an existential need to center myself as well as a need to create. It’s a recurrent hunger that peaks when my days lack the time and space for grounding myself.

This is perhaps the hardest thing about being a mom so far – the desperate lack of time and means to regenerate my inner reservoir of peace and strength. I’m not unhappy, nor am I unable to care for my little girl. The need for existential grounding though remains a background thirst that grows and grows until I can’t ignore it anymore. I am getting better at acknowledging the signs. I haven’t yet reached a new rhythm that curtails this cycle of want, though I would like to build a better cycle with some built in time for grounding, each day.

The best ways for me to ground myself are through art, writing and yoga. This week I tried something new. I left all my gouache things on the dining table with some pre cut and prepared pieces of watercolour paper. I’m trying to make it as easy as possible to do a small burst of work. That seemed to have worked.

In addition, I have my yoga mat and yoga dvd ready to go as well. That system isn’t working AT ALL. I think I need to memorise the sequence and do it on my own when I have a sliver of time.

Writing has been more elusive. Where painting doesn’t require me to be coherent – writing does. I can paint in a headspace beyond words and be happy. It won’t necessarily be good – but it’ll happen and that’s all I really need sometimes. With writing though, I find that I need to more actively center myself in order to access the stream of words. I can’t satisfactorily sit and write for a 15 minute period unless, like now, I’ve been wanting to do it for a day and a half. So maybe I need to save up my words so that once a week I can commit a solid hour to it and let daddy take the baby.

These are the paintings I did this week. The black and white one I had planned on for a long time and I finally did it. It’s a piece I made for a friend.

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Lost

The last couple canvases I’ve worked on have been hard. In past, even if I started something without any idea of where it was going, there’d be some overarching vibe – like I had some inner focus that drew things out of me in some coherent way. It doesn’t feel that way anymore.

I knew this year, starting after a break of sorts that I was some place new. It’s been harder. I feel like in life I know how I feel about things, but then when I sit in front of the canvas, it’s all more visceral. Like I might have some vague inkling that things aren’t right from day to day, but then I sit to paint and the pain floods me and I can’t ignore it.

Today I had to come face to face with how lost I feel in the topography of my life. I was painting something and trying to feel out where I was going as the unanswerable refrain kept coming back to me  – ‘Where am I? And what am I doing?’

My inability to answer these questions didn’t evoke sadness in me. Instead those questions illicited frustrated, exasperated, raw and undeniable anger.

I pulled out my Phaidon collection of Latin American Art to try to tie myself to something. It’s a great collection of work that makes me feel closer to home. In it is a range of expression more familiar to me than a lot of European Art. There’s an anchor there and within all of the great works of Art that I love, that I feel I lack.

It’s as if my life is cut away from its moorings. Sometimes I try to paint but I feel like there’s nothing inside me worth putting on that canvas. Like all I’m doing is applying daubs of paint to canvas instead of making art.

I suppose this is all part of the process.