Friday, October 30, 2009

Precious Time

My life hijacked my painting time this week. However, I don’t begrudge that as my focus was on my dear Mom who has Alzheimer’s disease. I travelled to Calgary to visit her. She was recently moved into long term care – a transition that takes a lot of adjustment for everyone. When I see her now, as her life slips slowly away and she loses touch with her loved ones, I am refocused on the importance of each precious year and week and day we have.

Back here at home, I managed to fit in my drawing class and I continue to carry my sketchbook with me where ever I go. I use my precious daily hour on the train as I’m travelling to and from work to draw or read about art . Sometimes I draw the other commuters. It can get a bit uncomfortable if one of them notices, but most are reading, snoozing or playing with their BlackBerries or iPods. So my sketch book has pages of figures with heads in that bobbing-for-apples angle of someone dozing while in an upright position. It is my choice, as the artist, whether or not to include any drool.

I’m not always feeling bold enough to face annoyed looks if I get caught, so on other days, I draw from my photographs or from ideas in my head. An interesting exercise is to draw a familiar place from memory. I pick a spot, for example, my kitchen and draw as much as I remember, testing how observant I am. The next time I go to that spot, I notice so much more - great practice for honing my observational skills and my memory.

The more that I do, artistically, the more creative ideas I have about writing, drawing and painting. My mind is overflowing with ideas! More ideas than precious time. Then there is the rest of life to balance: I want to maintain good relationships and perfom well at work and connect with friends and have a clean house (without actually having to clean it) and eat well and exercise. And floss. 

Big breath in. Pause. Big breath out.

Time is so precious.


The book I'm reading this week:  The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
Watch the video of his last lecture on YouTube
Over an hour long but you can do it in bits. It is worth your precious time.

Friday, October 16, 2009

You Can't Hurry Things

Oil on Canvas Board, 8"x10"

I tried to paint faster this week without a marked difference and am reminded that things just take as long as they take. I arranged the yellow paper, unrolled like a photographer would do. My aim was to create smooth background without a break between the back wall and the table top.  It seemed to cause more issues for me than it solved.

The light green jar was a junk store treasure purchased for its beauty and for no other reason. It held seashells on top of the fridge for a couple of years before it made the cut for a still life. The feathers, well, you know I found them.  I have no shame about stooping to pick up a feather from the ground, just like my Ukranian Bobba had no shame for stooping to pick up a penny or a nickel.  The dark green bowl is something left behind when one of my dear daughters moved out.  There is just the suggestion of my own reflection in the centre of that bowl.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look. Painters are invited make suggestions; I accept not only compliments, but input.

PS I've written about three different posts before this one, full of wisdom about finding my voice as an artist and my ruminations about style.  I left them unfnished, on the metaphorical cutting room floor and instead just wrote about the painting.  That is probably best.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Approaching Yachats

Acrylic on Canvas
16" x 20"

Earlier in this century I went on a memorable vacation that included some biking along Highway 101 on the Oregon coast.  Last week, I dug out some photos from that trip - they were taken on film!  How quaint.  This painting is based on one of the photos taken near Yachats, somewhere between Newport and Florence for those of you in the know or those who care to Google it. The road curved and rose and dipped down to the ocean and back up over the peaks. While I painted this, I had great memories of cycling in the moist sea air with that awe inspiring view of beach and ocean.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Growing Pains and FCA Workshop Review

High Tide on the Nicomekl River
Acrylic on Canvas 11" x 14"

The weekend workshop hosted by the Federation of Canadian Artists featuring Robert Genn, with guest artist Alan Wylie, was three days full of information, painting exercises, demonstrations and entertainment.  Ocean Park Hall in Whiterock was just big enough to hold the 25 enthusiastic artists in attendance. We had the double doors flung wide open, sun streaming into the room and Genn's friendly dog, Dorothy, wandering around amongst us. The dog seemed to have radar for detecting when her master stepped out for even a moment; she would immediately start whining pathetically. Several of us women would go Aaaaah. Genn would re-enter the room and say "Pull yourself together!" I am pretty sure he was talking to Dorothy.

We did timed paintings 11' x 14' in 37 minutes - now that is a refreshing exercise that forces you to loosen up. The photo on the right shows class paintings. We brought in our own paintings and had them critiqued; we had individual attention to the pieces we worked on in class. And we painted outdoors on the banks of the Nicomekl River. Most enlightening, we watched Bob paint.  There was nothing missing from the weekend. A lifetime of working as an artist has given Bob Genn a wealth of information to share and his generousity of spirit came across to all of us: he is inciteful, humourous, and a real pro.

But... the weekend was a roller coaster for me. By attending workshops, we sensitive artists, open ourselves up to the growing pains that come with change and improvement. I laughed and I cried (or felt like it). I embraced change and I balked at it. One afternoon, I felt like my paintings were wonderful and another day I was sure that I do not know how to paint at all.  In time, I will digest all the input, decide what is right for me and take a pass the things that don't fit.  Here are my take-aways (I do love a good list).

Ten Eleven Things I Learned or Re-Learned at the Workshop

Acrylic glazing techniques - something I've been curious about for a long time.

Be generous with the amount of paint you use. If you are worried about cost, buy cheap paint, it works too.

Commit with each stroke with the full knowledge that you can change things. With acrylics, no one will know what mistakes are on the paint layers below.

Let the hand of the artist show in the painting.

Paint the foreground first, get it right, then work back through the other layers.

Try for more than two or three layers in the composition, try four or five or more. Foreground, mid foreground, mid-ground, mid/background, background, sky.

Be free to change things you see to make them work, don't be slavishly bound to the source. Let the painting speak to you.

Three sources for content : what you see, your own references, what you create in your mind.

Let go of the details, simplify, simplify, simplify (Shelley)

When deciding on a gallery to handle your paintings, contact some of the artists whose work is there already and get their scoop.

Three Bonus Take-Aways from Other Artists

From Alan Wylie - Use linear strokes when painting water. Find your own voice in this business.

From Amanda Jones - Think warm colours to bring things forward, cool for receding. I knew that, but haven't applied it much.  Getting that tip at just the right moment to solve a problem was invaluable.

From Elsa B. - By her actions, I was reminded to paint what you love. Elsa embodies this.