I’ve got many layers on this image… ink, charcoal, a few layers of paint…
This one is the most interesting one I’ve done… I’ve got the textures coming through the smoother areas of paint, like concrete in the process of being restored.
Last week I asked for suggestions, and I got a good one from Toronto artist Kevin Ghiglione (whose encaustic paintings I think are pretty amazing. I even own one). Here’s what he said:
Hi Marianne – abstraction will be a great way to present your new bodywork. Why don’t you gather up all of the inspiring photographs from your trip and put together and maybe something will come of that. There will be shapes. There will be colours. Patina. And I’m sure there will be feelings too – both passive and experienced. Try talking it through with a friend or an associate – because when you take all those dreamlike thoughts from your brain and talk about them and explain them – the simple fact of putting these thoughts into concrete words will make it much more concrete for you. I’m really excited what you going to produce!
Always one to try a suggestion, particularly if I’ve asked for it, I gave it a go. I looked through my photos and flipped through my sketchbook. I wrote some stream of consciousness about what I was looking at. I talked, to myself mostly, about what I found interesting and the visual cues that excited me. Then I set about painting.
The blue page I had started already, but had lost the thread of it part way thorough, and put it away. I had it finished within 20 minutes. While I’m not thrilled with the shapes, I do like the way you get the feeling there is something going on behind the surface. The charcoal marks and the spattering of ink peek through what could be a window or a passageway. I’m satisfied enough that I know I want to pursue the idea of covering up and scraping back… kind of like uncovering the old and decrepit under the new and the smooth.
The pink page I started with an idea of how I wanted to approach it, and I think it is my most successful of these experiments. The shapes work, the textures are lovely, and I like the way the linework doesn’t get obliterated by the paint.
I think I’ve got a path now. I’ve prepped some smaller canvases to start… a bunch of 12×12″ and a few 24×24″. I have a few large ones waiting as well, but I want to have a good idea of what I’m doing before I start those. We shall see how it goes.
My intent here was to create a background that I could draw on with ink and white pastel. But I got a bit carried away with the paint.
Somehow I’ve become a carrier of a sketchbook. It’s not something that I’ve done regularly over the years… I’ve always had a sketchbook, and I’ve worked in it now and then, but it’s never been something I always had with me. It would usually take me a year or more to fill one up. I think it’s because I paint more than I draw, and instead of going out and drawing the world around me, I would take a more “visual journal” approach with a book that could stand up to a bit of abuse.
I’ve been carrying this book around with me for the past two months. It’s almost full. All the practice has been good… I’m most definitely seeing improvement. But I have a show in October, and I need to figure out what I’m going to paint. So I went back to my tried and true, and made myself a little book out of watercolour paper, and started to paint.
Since I’ve been drawing in ink, my first thought was that I could do some mixed media kind of thing, using paint and india ink. I got out my paints and started, thinking I’d do a background, then add in some kind of abstract drawing, and take it from there. It didn’t quite work the way I had planned. I got totally absorbed in the way the paint flowed. I was mesmerized. I had painted something very much resembling work I’ve done before.
Back to the drawing board… this time I started with the drawing. I tried to draw one of the many stone archways I have in my sketchbook, only this time using a stick so I would have very little control over the resulting marks. I just ended up making a mess. The ink spattered and caught, but the shapes were interesting. Once it dried I used paint to try to pull the random marks into some kind of composition. It’s not bad, but a bit too chopped up. I did manage to capture the feel of a passageway though, so that’s encouraging.
I still have a bit of work to do. If somehow I could manage to combine the two approaches into something cohesive, I may have a something I can work with.
Again, I thought I’d do a background and draw over top. Again, it didn’t quite work out that way.
A page from my art journal. Layers of angry writing underneath all that paint. I suppose that squawking crow is me… yelling at the swirling mess that is life.
What a week it’s been. A surprise win in the US election for the guy nobody expected could pull it off. Outrage and shock for half the population. The whole campaign was like a three-ring circus, and up here in Canada we got out the popcorn and got engrossed in the show. I tried not to get too tied up in it, but it was difficult. My American friends were emotional about their candidate, and some of the stuff we heard was very disturbing. Mostly I just tried to understand what people saw in their chosen one. That was more difficult than I expected. There’s something about the algorithms used by Google and Facebook that limit your exposure to differing opinions. Already established as fairly left-leaning, pretty much anything I saw about Trump was truly awful. It wasn’t until near the end when I saw a couple of his ads on YouTube that I understood how people could ever find him appealing. Of course there was a lot of negative to overlook, but in the two-party system, folks were limited in their choices.
The thing about continuing to complain about something that you are powerless to change is that it just makes you feel worse. I know this from recent experience. At work we have moved into a new space that no one likes, that is loud and overly bright. We had a new dress code forced upon us. We now have photo ID security passes we have to wear. And in the interest of “rebranding”, I have lost the only part of my job I really enjoyed. It is going to be done at our other facility. It feels like every day there is some new thing we have to adjust to. It’s a bit draining. The thing is, we have no power to change any of it. I can either adjust, or get a new job and leave.
This week I’ve decided that it is time to just stop complaining. I have to start going with the flow, for the sake of my mental health. I went out and bought some new clothes, which felt unexpectedly good (even though I really hate shopping. That part was torture. But it was nice to have something new to wear). I took my good headphones to work so I could block out the noise. And I found an app on my phone that will help when I’m getting angry about it all (calm… 10 minute meditations). When I feel the urge to bitch about something, I will force myself to STFU. It’s the best thing I can do for myself right now.
I’ve been neglecting my art journal for most of the last year. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve been procrastinating by doing pretty much anything else. Last week I had planned to head to my studio, and actually caught myself thinking “but the bathroom needs cleaning…”. The day I put scrubbing a toilet over painting is the day I have to reexamine how I’m spending my life. So I got out my journal and my pens and started in. It took me most of the week to finish it, but I’m glad I did it. Maybe now that I’ve got one done I can use that momentum to do the next. And maybe I should stop listening to the news for a couple of days until I can regain some equilibrium.
I’m soon to become an empty nester. The thought scares me. I only actually gave birth to one child, but over the years our house has become the place where his friends come to hang out and practice. Especially this past year, when his high school friends have gone away to school and the new ones come from elsewhere. Coming home to a bunch of kids making music in my basement has become a regular, and not unwelcome thing. I’ve enjoyed it.
The thought of the house being empty makes me a little lonely. As much as I enjoy the quiet, (especially given my new “open concept” working environment… I don’t even turn on the radio in the car on the way home), I’m not sure a 24/7 kind of quiet is all that appealing either. But whatever… I’ll just have to get used to it. I’m sure he’ll come home now and then to visit his mom. And get food.
I have read a load of books on ancient cultures and their ceremonial masks, and the the concept of transformation comes up again and again. Actually, that seems to be one of the themes I’m drawn to… all my favourite books, movies, and even tv shows have to do with transformations of some kind. Right now, I am watching my baby boy transform into the an adult. He’s emerging from that protective cocoon of his childhood and setting off into the world. I remember fondly how exciting everything seemed then… this is a wonderful time for him, and no matter how sad it makes me, I have to suck it up and let him go. Hopefully, I’ve done my job well.