“Where the Light Gets In”, 36×48″ mixed media on canvas.
My life is in chaos. I knew it was coming, but that doesn’t make it easier. I am now in reno hell.
I tried to organize things as we packed up the kitchen. We put the stuff we don’t use often in boxes in the basement. Everything else got stacked up somewhere we could access it. But I can’t remember where I put things, no matter how logical it seemed when I put it there. And having to prepare every meal on my dining room table to be cooked either on the BBQ or in the microwave is challenging. To say the least.
There are things you do once and decide you never want to do them again. I was that way with water-skiing. And team sports of any kind. No thanks. A kitchen renovation is something we did 15 years ago, and I vowed NEVER AGAIN. And yet here I am, doing it again.
It’s not that I was in love with my kitchen. It was adequate. Everything worked. There was some wasted space, and the fronts of the cabinets were peeling off. The upper cabinets, where we put our dishes, were right around the sink area… so putting away dishes while someone was washing them was impossible. I regularly caught a finger or bashed my head by having more than one door open at a time. But still, I didn’t want to do a reno. The last one was still burned into my memory as a completely unpleasant experience.
Eventually, we decided we should get this done while we still planned to live in the house long enough to enjoy it. We figure we’ll be here for a decade or so, give or take, so it makes sense to fix the problems and give ourselves some space. If only I could live elsewhere for the duration, I’d be happy.
We’ve got the room completely gutted at this point… the unwanted wall is knocked down and the electrical work is updated. This week we get new drywall and, if I’m lucky, a floor. It will still be a couple weeks before we’re done with this… hopefully, with enough time to finish up my last couple paintings before I have to drop off my work at the gallery for my October show.
“Deep Roots”, 10×10″ mixed media on wood panel.
I usually listen to music when I work. There is no doubt that what I am listening to influences what shows up in my art. Lately, I haven’t felt much like music. Maybe I’ve hit some kind of musical overload. Is that even possible? I guess with my son constantly working on new stuff, the steady stream of other musicians playing in my house, and I’ve usually got music on at work to drown out the other noise…. I guess it’s not entirely surprising.
Instead, I’ve been streaming podcasts. There are a lot of good ones out there. Stuff that will make you think. I particularly like the stuff on NPR and CBC. Note to Self, Invisibilia, Ideas, Q… all good ones. Also, there are some good art podcasts I like, particularly Artists Helping Artists. Anyway, when I was working on this painting I had on something where they were discussing systemic racism, and how the state of our First Nations population is the legacy of the residential school system. Not exactly light listening, but it was really interesting, and I was completely absorbed.
I think the idea of things being connected and buried deep in our subconscious shows up particularly well in this piece. I actually stopped painting and flipped the board over to write the title on the back when it popped into my head. It related to what I was listening to, and what I was seeing emerge from the chaos I had going on the board. It’s too bad this one is only 10×10″… I think it would make a great impact at a larger size. But not this time around. That one will have to wait.
“Flying into Myself”, 36×48″, mixed media on canvas.
The switch from wood panels to canvas for these large pieces has been interesting. I’ve determined that I really like working on wood… I like the indestructibility of it. I can gouge and sand, scrape and glue, I have a hard surface to draw on. Drawing on canvas is a very different thing. The soft pencil that created a rich, black marks on wood is dull gray on canvas. I tried laying the canvas down and putting hard cover books underneath to give it some support, which would have worked on something small, but the support bars got in the way for something this large. What I ended up doing is drawing over an already dark area, and painting in the light parts. It gives an interesting look, though it feels much less spontaneous than just using line as its own thing.
Scaling up has also been interesting. The 30×40″ piece from a couple weeks back came together with little effort. It didn’t really even seem that big once I got going. This one didn’t quite work the same way. My first effort seemed like a bunch of little paintings in a big space. I knew from my classes with Lila Lewis Irving last year that big shapes make for bigger impact, so I got out the 12″ brush I bought specifically for her class and blocked in some shapes with that. That got me going in the right direction. Of course, it still needed work. But I felt like I made some progress.
Titling my work is starting to become a bit challenging. In my normal state of affairs, I have my nose in a book for at least part of every day. I pick up phrases or ideas that then suggest titles that suit the feeling of the painting I’m working on. I have at least one page in every sketchbook that has numerous possible titles scrawled down. I haven’t had time to read much lately. I’m so exhausted when I fall into bed at night that I will often get through less than a page before I can no longer keep my eyes open (this, of course, doesn’t mean that I will sleep an entire night. 2 a.m. seems to regularly find me staring at the ceiling). And as I’ve almost finished 30 pieces over the last few months, I’m running out of ideas. I’m thinking of asking my songwriter son to help me out with this. He certainly has a way with words that I seem to be lacking these days.
I’m getting near the end of my allotted work time for this show in October. Nothing like a tight deadline… I will hesitate next time I accept a show for works I have yet to create. The stress of the last few months has been more than I want to experience again soon. Now that I have a reasonably large body of work I can relax a bit while I do the finishing… painting edges, varnishing, attaching hardware, etc. Hopefully, I can manage to keep myself sane while my other half rips apart our kitchen.
“Truth and Half Truth”, 10×10″ mixed media on wood panel.
This little 10×10″ painting took weeks to finish. A lot of that time was spent looking… trying to figure out my next move without ruining the bits that I liked. Of course, I did. Ruin bits, that is. I’ve got so many layers of paint on here I couldn’t even tell you how many times it was repainted.
The thing I most wanted to save is that loopy bit of line work at the top. But pencil on a background is so easy to obliterate. I glazed the piece at one point because it was too red and white, and it needed something to give it some interest. But the glazing reduced the contrast too much and then the composition didn’t work as well. So I added more. Then it was too much and I had to paint bits out. It was taking forever.
One thing I didn’t want to do was alter the piece beyond recognition, as I’ve done with others that were giving me a problem. It probably would have been easier. I may even have liked the result more. But I was somehow seeing my progress in this little series of boards. I was finding my voice. There was something in this piece I liked and was determined to make work.
I don’t know if this painting will be part of October’s show or not. I may end up painting over it. I’ve probably got a wall’s worth of these little 10x10s now and may do more when I get my larger pieces done. Only the best will make the cut. I can continue to work small, even in the middle of a reno. I’m at the point where I can now take off an evening here and there to do something else when I’m feeling drained. The panic is subsiding. Thankfully.
And as you can see, I figured out a way to save the bit of loopy line work at the top.