Join me for an evening of art at University of Guelph-Humber Art Gallery in Toronto.
Just a quick mid-week post to make sure all my subscribers get the official invitation to my show opening next Thursday evening. On display will be paintings inspired by my trip to Portugal last January. The university has a lovely gallery and the Event Planning students have been working hard to make this a special opening reception. Parking at the school is free after 5. Hope to see you there!
“Impressions of Home”, 10×10″ mixed media on wood panel.
This piece was totally experimental, as most of these small ones have been. Finding out what I can do on wood has been fun. The thing I haven’t tried is using my carving tools, and that is mainly because I haven’t had time. I’m sure I’ll give it a go once I have some time and space to get back to work.
I made good use of sandpaper in this painting. I’ve got many layers of paint here, so gentle sanding with fine paper or steel wool gets me down one layer, but wet some of the course stuff and I’m right back to the wood. The main thing is that I pay attention as I’m working. I have to be totally in the moment, and stop when it gets somewhere that works.
There are a few things that have happened during these experiments that I really wish I could repeat… but of course each element depends on everything that has come before. I’ve taken notes, but even from one painting to the next I can’t seem to repeat myself. I’ve managed to get some beautiful textures. Even on the pieces I don’t think are my best, I have areas that I just can’t bear to cover up.
With only a few weeks to go, I’m getting on with doing my finishing. I can’t leave it until the last minute, in case I run into a problem. I’ve set up a make-shift varnishing station in my bedroom because the space I usually work in is full of kitchen stuff. I’ve attached the hardware on my large pieces with them laid flat on my bed. And I’ve been going through my supplemental materials and updating things.
I still have to write my artist statement for this particular body of work. Probably my least favourite thing to do (and that’s likely why I’m procrastinating). I really don’t know if this gallery is going to use it in some way, but I know I’ll need it eventually, so I suppose I might as well do it now.
It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve stopped the constant painting. I certainly feel better… much less stressed that I won’t be able to pull it off… but the urge to create is there again. I look at the few half-finished paintings that have been so recently abandoned and suddenly see what is needed. I figure as soon as I’ve got my kitchen unpacked in the new cabinets I’ll be back right back in my studio, working away.
“Requiem”, 36×48″ mixed media on canvas.
I’m reading a novel, “Requiem” by Francis Itani. It popped up on my Library’s “you should read…” section, and as I was uninspired by other offerings, I took them up on their advice. It’s about the internment of Japanese Canadians during WW2, and the toll it took on one family in particular. It’s taking forever to get through it… not because it’s boring or not well written, but because I’m often already exhausted when I start reading and I doze off after a few pages.
The story is engrossing. The protagonist is an artist, and the act of creation is what saves him from being consumed by bitterness. He works his way through his grief by creating. His emotions are all left there, on his canvas. This sounds remarkably familiar. I think as artists, that is what we do, to a certain extent. At least this is what is true for me.
The definition of Requiem is an act or token of remembrance. I thought this was a perfect title for this piece because I can see evidence of every layer of paint, every mark… even if I covered it eventually, the texture is still there because of the thickness of the paint. The colour from the underpainting shows through in spots. I can see a hint of green from the first layer, some of the pinks still show from when I first decided it should be red instead. There are large quiet areas, evoking the feeling of calm I needed at that moment. The linework is covered in spots, but not completely. In some places, it is enhanced.
This piece is like a map of my psyche at the time of creation. I suppose that is why it feels authentic to me. I’m not doing anything new or revolutionary, I’m not the innovative, “turn the art world upside down” kind of artist. I’m just working through the emotions that would otherwise be bottled up and giving me an ulcer. Art therapy, indeed.
“Resting Place”, 10×10″ mixed media on wood.
It’s been a strange couple of weeks, weather wise. North America is in rough shape. The west coast is burning… still. Both Canada and the US. Hurricane Harvey made a mess of Texas, and this past week Irma crushed the Caribbean like it was nothing. We have yet to see what destruction José is going add to the mix. Add to that a devastating earthquake in Mexico. How can anyone possibly still deny that climate change is real? I think what’s going on right now is hard-core visual proof that what scientists have been predicting for the past decade is coming to pass. it’s a very scary situation.
I whine about my home being a mess right now. First world problems, right? At least I’ve got somewhere to go. Somewhere warm and dry, food in my belly, a healthy family all making our way without much to complain about. I can earn a living doing something that keeps me somewhat engaged, I have enough money left over to pursue something I love. I’ve got it good. I am reminded of my luck every time I check the news and see what’s happening elsewhere.
My friends in Texas are safe. They haven’t been online much (not that I expected them to be), but they did check in to say that they made it through ok. Seems everyone I know in Florida has checked in as well. For that I am thankful. I hope the people who have been displaced can manage to find shelter and someone able to help them, and those who have lost loved ones can find comfort. I hope everyone will find their resting place.
“Urban Forestry”, 24×24 mixed media on canvas
I have this tube of green paint. It’s a lovely rich, deep emerald… not a colour I would normally use, but it is a colour I like and would wear. Someone gave it to me, and I want to use it, but it just never seemed to fit with the mood I was going for, so the tube sat on my work table, waiting.
I actually have more than a couple of tubes of paint in colours I don’t usually use. They all came in the same box from the same person. I’m making a point of trying all of them out. I’ve found a use for some of the light pink tones (they make a lovely soft grey mixed with certain greens… but the naming is just stupid. Light portrait pink? In my almost 50 yrs on earth I have yet to meet anyone with skin this colour), I’ve decided I love the violet, orange and the turquoise and I will purchase more when I run out, but there are a couple of greens that I just can’t get a handle on.
I wanted this piece to feel like walking through the woods on a summer morning. I didn’t get there. It’s more the quick dash through a city park on your way somewhere else. To me anyway (hence the title). Even though I got the emerald green to work here, it totally changes the feeling of the piece. I’m ok with that… it’s good to know that even the saturation of a colour can change its impact. Every painting teaches me something.
This is the first mid-size piece of this group that I’ve posted. I have done a few more, but I did 20 of the small ones first, and I feel like they were more interesting. While doing these larger pieces on canvas I kept trying to repeat some of the things that worked so well on wood, but since the substrates are so different the techniques didn’t work at all. Once I’ve used up my inventory of canvas I may switch over to wood completely. It’s more expensive, but wood panels can take way more abuse. Or perhaps I’ll try unstretched canvas like I see artist’s online using…. they can work on a hard surface like a floor or wall, then roll it up to ship or store. Anyway, that is in the future, and I have to focus on the immediate. Like the show that opens on October 2. I have a month to get it together. Better get moving.
“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.
“Borrowed View”, 10×10″ mixed media on wood panel.
“Echoes of an Ancient Time”, 10×10″ Mixed Media on Wood Panel
I’ve written before about how I’ve taped up photos from my Portugal trip around my studio for inspiration while I’m working. For the most part, you can’t really tell what I was looking at from my finished pieces. It’s vague… a colour here, a shape there… things picked from an image and put in an entirely different context.
I wanted to incorporate all the arches I saw there into my work somehow. If you look closely, you’ll see them appear here and there. The craggy rock cliffs appear more in the textured areas than in the shapes, but they are there. The way the concrete goes from smooth to eroded inspired many an edge. These two pieces are a much more literal interpretation, although still very abstract.
In “Borrowed View”, what I see (which is probably not at all what someone else will see), is a representation of my view from the villa balcony. The church is at the highest point in the city, the grove of green between where I was and the town, the cliffs are there, and a vague reference to the city emerging from the rock.
“Echoes of an Ancient Time” reminds me of Lisbon, and how coming around a corner suddenly revealed the amazing aqueduct rising from the city. Not literal of course. The aqueduct is enormous. I tried to get the feeling of awe I had when it came into view.
I’ve been working at breakneck speed the last few months. I imagine when I arrive at the gallery once the show is hung, I will be able to see things I haven’t noticed so far (and will possibly want to change once I see it). How much will it feel like me? I know that so far my pieces have primarily been light. As in a feeling of light as opposed to the deep, heavy colour of my previous work. I should probably try to complete a couple darker pieces for balance. It’s difficult for me to think of these paintings as a group because I’m so focused on each individual piece as I’m working on them. But as I’m nearing the end of my time limit (hubby has already started ripping stuff out of my kitchen), it’s something I can’ t put off any longer.