Painting #20 of my 100 Square Project. “Eternal Sunshine”, 10×10″ mixed media on wood panel.
I live in Canada. I love Canada… there are a lot of wonderful things about living here that I wouldn’t trade for anything. But there is one thing that I can’t say I love. Winter.
I don’t mind the cold so much. Like many Canadians, I own two winter coats. One for days where the temp hovers around the 0 mark, and another that has special insulated lining and a hood made to keep me warm(ish) when it’s -20° outside. And a brisk winter day when the sun is shining on fresh snow and ice is magical. Everything sparkles. But the time when the sun is actually out is brief, and as we head toward Christmas, actual daylight hours get progressively shorter.
There is a stretch in December when the days seem practically non-existent. It’s dark when I get to work. It’s dark when I leave. It starts getting dark at 4 in the afternoon, and once I’m home the last thing I want to do is go out again. I force myself to go outside on my lunch breaks, because no matter how cold it is, I need to see the sun for at least a few minutes a day. If only to reassure myself it still exists.
A few years ago I bought myself a sunlamp. They are made for treating people with Seasonal Affective Disorder, a condition where the lack of light makes you depressed. Yes, that is a real thing. My doctor recommended it, and I figured even if it didn’t help with my mood, I needed a good light in my studio anyway. Turns out it does help. I use it year round, though in the summer I tend to work on larger pieces on my easel at the window. I have it on my work table, and it’s on whenever I’m working at the table. Sometimes I’ll even go in there to read, because I need a dose of light.
I’m planning on moving my studio into a larger room in my home at some point in the future. The bigger paintings I have been working on take up so much space in my small room that I can hardly move in there. Since we have the space, I might as well make use of it. My only issue is the room is in the basement, and the lighting is pretty crappy. Once we fix that, it’s a go. Right now I’m wondering if they make those sunlamps so they can be mounted on the ceiling. I could have a sunny studio all year round, even though it’s underground. Lighting has come a long way with the invention of LED lights. I’ll sort it out eventually. In the meantime, I will dream of eternal sunshine.
“Rough Patch”, 10×10″ mixed media on wood panel. Private Collection.
This is my latest addition to my 100 Squares Project. This one started with a color combination, that teal and orange I like so much, and an idea to create some texture by scraping back areas of paint as it is drying. I did manage to get some really interesting bits… as usual, the result of layer upon layer, with parts of the underneath showing through.
It surprised me last weekend when this piece was one of the first to sell at my studio sale. It’s not that I don’t like it, I do. I guess I have my favorites, but it’s hard to know if it’s because they were a “breakthrough” painting, or because they are particularly beautiful. This one didn’t work quite the way I wanted it to and I struggled a bit with the composition. It’s one of my few pieces that don’t touch every side… a thing a professor in university told me I need to do, and I’ve been doing ever since. It’s not easy to break a habit of 20 years.
I work in groupings. For these, I’ve been going in groups of 5 or so, and when I finish up one I will add a new one into the rotation. It’s mainly because that’s how much space I have to lay them flat on the floor to dry. Any more and they are in my way. One of these days I’ll put up shelves… but then I might never finish anything. I really love the beginning part where I’m just instinctively putting paint on the board. The finishing is more difficult. That’s when I evaluate the composition and fix the things that aren’t working. Sometimes it’s not so easy to tell what it is that isn’t working. But the more I do it, the better I seem to get at it. Like anything, practice helps.
The ones where I finally stumbled upon that elusive element that takes a painting to another level are ones I am particularly attached to. “From Here to There” is one like that. That one didn’t sell. But I’m attached to it, and so I will hang it on my wall until it finds that person that loves it like I do.
Thanks to everyone who came out to my Studio Sale last weekend. It was more successful than I had dared hope for. In many ways, it validated that I am on the right track. I now have motivation to keep going. I’m not sure what shows I’ll be doing in 2018, but there will likely be at least one art fair in the mix. Hope to see you there.
“Like a Moth to a Flame”, 10×10″ mixed media on wood panel.
This panel was one of my first forays into collage with this series. I’ve used collage before as part of a painting, but for the most part, it adds texture and is completely covered with paint by the end. This little moth was added near the end of the process when I realized I needed something dark in that area. I like that it isn’t blended in and you can still see the edges of the torn paper. It’s evidence of the process.
I’ve got printouts of bugs on my work table. All different sorts… bees, dragonflies, beetles, spiders. I’ve had a fascination with various types of bugs since I was a kid. I don’t like them so much when they’re alive… they kind of creep me out actually. But they are interesting.
The ancient Egyptians used a scarab beetle to represent Khepri, or Ra the sun-god. It symbolized self-creation or rebirth. (As the story goes, Khepri renewed the sun every day before rolling it above the horizon, then carried it through the other world after sunset, only to renew it, again, the next day). They viewed these bugs as good luck and buried them with their dead. Ick. But still, interesting. I often use this imagery in my visual journals. This is the first time I’ve used any kind of insect on a painting where you can still see it when I’m finished.
I see the moth and butterfly as much the same… a symbol of renewal or rebirth. It’s the stages… the caterpillar, chrysalis, and ultimately, a rebirth into an entirely new being. It’s symbolic and adds some layer of meaning to an image that is otherwise just colour and shape.
This painting is number 18 in my 100 Square Project. I’m a long way from the end. I’ve started a few more that should be finished for my Studio Sale next weekend. My goal is to sell enough to set up an e-commerce store so I can step up to the next level. I know art sells online, I’m just not set up to do it yet. I’m hopeful an online store and selling prints alongside original works will allow me to make enough income to cut back my hours at my day job. I know I’ve learned a lot in my work life that is serving me well now. I can do things on my own that other artists have to pay people to do for them. My technical skill is useful. But it’s not everything. The time has come for me to become the artist I was meant to be.
“Thoughts for a Summer Morning”, 10×10″ mixed media on wood panel.
A bit late for that “summer morning” thing, yeah? Isn’t it November? Well, up until last week it has been feeling like summer… we’ve been out and about with balmy temps that are more seasonable in early September than late October. I was actually thinking this could be the year where the kids were out for Halloween without needing a coat over their costumes. Didn’t happen, but only 2 days before I was out in a t-shirt. Weather-wise, it’s been an odd year. June was chilly, July cool, even August didn’t feel like summer. But September and October have been lovely. Sunny and warm. It wasn’t until last week that I even thought about getting out a winter jacket. I live in Canada. This isn’t normal.
I have a few of these 10×10 panels hanging around my studio that I didn’t get to in time for my show. I started a few but didn’t get them done. And there were a couple I had primed but didn’t start. I figured that was the easiest way to get back to work… picking up where I left off. I enjoy working on these little paintings. I can, quite literally, do anything. I can experiment. Try new things. Any mistake is fast to cover, and even if I end up with 20 layers of paint, it still doesn’t turn into a huge project.
Small pieces have other advantages. They can be sold for a relatively low price, great for the novice collector. And they are easily transported to and from shows, inexpensive to ship, relatively easy to store. So here I am wondering… why don’t I do more?
I had many of these little gems on exhibit in October, including this one. I’ve got them hung in rows now in a hallway… minus the 4 that I’ve already sold. I have a couple other spaces that would look good with an arrangement of these little squares. And I like doing them, which is really the point. I’ve decided I’m going to turn this into a real “project”. They are 10×10″. If I did 10 rows and 10 columns… so 10×10… that’s 100. One hundred squares… it kinda has a nice ring to it.
It may take me a year or more to get these all finished, but it will be interesting to see where this will take me. I should number them as I post them… it’ll be cool to see how my work changes from beginning to end. I sort of remember what order they were done in. Or what groups they were done in any way. I was working in sets of 5, going back and forth between them until they were finished. Well, no time like the present to start I suppose. This one will be 16.
16 of 100. I’ve got a long way to go.
“Flight of the Bumblebee”, 10×10″ mixed media on wood panel. Sold.
When I start a painting, I generally have no clue where it’s going to end up. There was a time when I planned. Oh, how I planned. But kind of like trying to map out a 10-year plan for your life, shit happens and things go off the rails and often you end up somewhere completely different than where you thought you were headed.
The thing with planning… I was always disappointed with the results. That thing that I saw in my head, there was no way I could translate that into something real and concrete. It looked wrong somehow. It lacked the life other artists managed to achieve in their paintings. It wasn’t just the masters that managed this, even my some of my contemporaries could breathe life into their work. And that was why they were showing all over the place, and I was not.
When I finally gave up on planning my paintings, things improved exponentially. Suddenly rather than trying to recreate what I what I was thinking, I was finding the image that just seemed to appear as I worked. This one started with a collaged image of a bee… which inspired the title. That little bee is in there somewhere, under layers of paint and graphite and scraping and sanding. The bee inspired the color palette, the flight path gave me the movement. This one is all about that bee, even though you can’t see it anymore.
This painting was sold as soon as my show came down, along with a couple others. I am still humbled that people love my work enough to want to hang it in their homes, even after the last few years of somewhat consistent sales.
I have a lot of work in my home. Seriously, a lot. There comes a time in every artist’s life where they have to clear out the old to make room for the new. That time has come for me. I am going to be holding an open studio sale, with everything discounted. I’ve got a bunch of prints, and originals of all sizes and price points. Mark November 26th on your calendar if you’ve had your eye on a painting. And sign up for my email newsletter (see sidebar for signup box), for details on how to get an even better deal. Hope to see you then.
“October Wind”, 10×10″ mixed media on wood panel. Private Collection.
What determines the value of something? I’ve been mulling that question over in my mind all week. Something happened at work that had me questioning the value of what I bring to their (the company’s) table. It would seem that we are not on the same page about how necessary the skills are that I have worked hard to attain. What is valuable to me is not necessarily valuable to the guy sitting beside me. It seems to be a fluid thing. I’m not sure I’ve figured it all out just yet.
When I think about the work that I do “on the side”, I know the value it brings me. My art brings me a sense of calm that I don’t get anywhere else. I can retreat into my own mind, be in my own moment, and create this thing that will recreate that feeling for me when I look at it. It’s like meditation made physical. I continue to create because I need to feel like I am contributing to the world in a positive way. I don’t feel that when I’m sitting in front of a computer screen, no matter what I’m working on.
The times that I have sold a painting, I know that the person who bought it sees the value in what I’m doing. Of course they do, they just handed me money that they, no doubt, worked hard for. I’ve connected to something inside of them. It may not be the same thing I feel when I look at the piece, but they feel something. Something that they value.
I’ve brought all my work home from the gallery this week. My show is over, cut a bit short by the Professor strike at the university. I understand where these teachers are coming from. They, too, believe their value is more than what the institutions they are a part of think it is. They are fighting to be treated fairly, to have some stability in their lives. The government sees the new way of temporary and part-time as a way to save money. Hopefully, they can sort things out soon. Come to some kind of agreement and make a reasonable compromise.
The way things are right now, everybody loses.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.