Sharing

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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.

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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Shades of Grey

I’m now four classes in to my oil painting class at OCAD. For starters, my teacher is amazing. I’m more than a little star struck. Not only is his work stellar, but he’s also a really great instructor. His name is Bogdan Luca. His work reminds me of waking from a really intense dream and not being sure of whether I am awake or asleep.

This year, in my own artistic journey, I’ve endeavoured to learn more about color. I feel as if I’ve finally made some real headway in that direction. Learning about colour feels like seeing the world as I’ve never seen it before – in higher resolution. At my painting class we’ve often been challenged to create grey tones that are in a sense colourless. The word grey is really a catch-all for the myriad of tones that cannot be described by any other colour reference. The world of grey can simultaneously be tinted to be brownish or reddish or bluish or yellowish – all depending on how you get to that colour mix. I finally understand why my art teacher forbade the use of black to mix colour all those years ago – because when you learn how to arrive at certain tones without black, there is a depth of colour that becomes discernable. It seems as if your eye can somehow detect the many tones within the single pigment. This world of grey constitutes a great deal of what we actually see.

The mind autofills so much of our interpretation of what we see. A wooden table appears at first to be brown – but when you pay attention to what your eyes actually see, without letting your mind interpret it for you, the truth is that the reflection of light off that table is what describes its form. Therefore what one paints is the reflection of light, married with its shadows. This is the world of grey.

Shades of Grey - no black used

Shades of Grey – no black used

Im not sure as yet how this relates to abstract painting. All of our classes have focused on still life painting.

In terms of oil painting, I’m really enjoying the medium. Unique to oils is a depth of colour rendition that is quite lovely.

I have two more classes in this course. It’s been thoroughly worth the investment of time, money and travel. Working in a studio environment this way is so satisfying. At the end of each class I feel thoroughly spent in an altogether pleasant way.

Thunderous

While walking to work this morning, I witnessed the storm clouds that have been brewing, finally break. It was truly awe inspiring. I walked, loving the sound of the growling, rolling, thunder as it invisibly boomed around the sky. There’s a marvellous spatial quality to thunder. As the rain finally came down in big, fat drops, I ran to the nearest awning, to wait out the downpour. Even that was stunning as the gusts of wind shaped pathways through the raindrops. Eventually it became clear that I was soon going to be late for work, so I ran the rest of the way – getting completely soaked. I kept thinking what a precious and lovely moment it was. There’s nothing like summer rain.
 
As it happens though, this morning, at the very same time as my stormy delight, across town at the University of Waterloo campus, an 18 year old, first year student was struck by lightening. She died, perhaps during one of the very claps of thunder I stood marvelling at.
 
Life is a crazy thing.
 

The Blank Canvas

Creating something new is always daunting.
I’ve been staring at a blank canvas for 2 weeks. In a sense the reason why I haven’t touched it is because of something that’s happening inside of me. Although I’ve completed work since I broke my ankle, those pieces have been continuations of things I began before. Other than a few sketches – I haven’t created anything new since I got hurt.
The event of the injury was significant in my life. Healing has come with an enhanced understanding of my own vulnerability and with that has come a fear or breaking my body through my mundane daily routine. Through the recovery, my closest relationships have changed in a myriad of deep and meaningful ways. I’ve felt a revival of passion that comes with understanding that I won’t always be as vital and capable as I am now. In short – I’ve changed.
So when I stare at the canvas, I’m not sure what I want to say. In ways, I keep trying to find projects that step around that issue – because I just don’t know the answer. I suppose I can explore that very question through painting, but for the moment all I have are words. The brush strokes will come with time.
Thanks for tuning in.