Since last July I've been working, incrementally, on a 3D art piece. The final bits are now coming together.
Last week in the studio I made rocks out of air-drying clay and then painted them.
Making the rocks was a very meditative process. In fact, all the parts of this project have been meditative, I suppose naturally so since there is a great deal of repetition in the individual parts.
The best thing has been how my brain has been going off in various directions as I create this 3D thing.
Above: my working table.
Below: a thing made with some of the leftover bits.
Looks kind of tribal, doesn't it? I don't know what it is, but I like how it moves in the breeze when the window is open.
Next month I'll be installing the finished work in the Western GM Gallery in Drumheller. I'm feeling excited and also a bit nervous, hoping the effect of the work will be interesting in the gallery space.
"The Persistence of Vision"... it's about the persistence of human beings to be part of the connected thread of human creativity that runs under everything, regardless of the pressures of the world, and also because of those pressures.
It's also about my own life as an artist: knowing I am on the right track, knowing it from the inside out, knowing that I can find and exercise my voice if I stay the path. I have discovered that in order to be an artist, I need a lot of sheer dogged stubborn refusal to succumb to all the noise that I myself generate simply by being in this world. Sometimes it amazes me that I manage it at all.
But then, look: I was invited to join a group of very diverse artists, all of whom know about persistence. And now we are having an exhibition of our work.
"The Persistence of Vision"... it does pay off, sooner or later.
Back when I was in art school, we were given an assignment to make "an artist's toolbox". After some consideration, I decided there was no definitive artist's toolbox outside the artist's own mind, so I made "The Creative Brain".
It is made of coloured wires, xmas lights, a small container filled with water and an aquarium aerator. Back then I called it The Creative Brain, and I still do... but in my growing maturity as an artist, I realize there's some heart and soul in the thing as well.
A brain hums, a heart pumps, and a soul casts light, n'est pas?
The art store where I work part-time has a paper sale this month. I love decorative papers, and there are some really gorgeous new ones so of course I had to buy a few sheets yesterday.
Paper is like fabric, to me: beautiful + tactile = irresistible!
There are often pockets of time for creative pursuits at the store, so some days I bring a sketchbook and do portraits. Yesterday I began with paper collage and then made portraits on top with paint markers.
Above: I like the combined patterns and colours of the papers, but not sure how I like the drawing on top. Well, I'll call that one a "study" *laughs*
Below: The drawing is more to my liking, and integrated better with the collaged paper too.
Above: Portrait of CP which I made today. I like this one a lot. CP's face has a very interesting pattern. Can you see how the shape of her eyebrows relate to the shape of her mouth and hairline, how the fall of her hair is echoed in her nose and chin shapes?
While I drew, we were talking about patterns, and how pattern recognition can help you to draw basicallyanything. In order to recognize patterns, you must continually observe them in the world. Forget what you think things look like - your mind's paradigms are just that - and observe the actual patterns before you. It does not take long to realize that everything you see is made up of patterns; that the whole world is composed of observable and inter-connected relationships.
Pattern observation in the visual world has become a joyful exercise for me. It makes my eyes happy, and then I am never bored no matter where I am or how long I must wait there.
Above: photo I took out the window of the city bus this morning.
Patterns on paper, patterns in faces, patterns on the street... they are everywhere.
In mid-January I had the great pleasure of teaching an art class with Grade One students who were learning about and discussing ideas of "community". It was a Campus Calgary session, and I had three mornings with them.
First we briefly talked about what community means, discussing concepts like Sharing, Mastery, Generosity and Belonging.
Then we made a body project. It was a really big project!
Working with a partner, the students took turns laying on large sheets of cardboard and traced one another's body shapes with crayons. Their teacher, parent volunteers and I cut out the body outlines.
Then the students painted one side of their body cut-out, and used collage techniques to glue coloured papers, fabrics, yarn and beads on the other side.
On the last day we hung them from the ceiling, with their feet just above the floor, to create an art installation. The body shapes could move and twirl on their strings, creating a kind of dance. It was a whole community of colourful dancing figures!
Any creative process spanning several days is an opportunity for more in-depth reflection of ideas and processes. And if you think of creativity as a problem-solving tool, well then "sleeping on it" is an important element, n'est ce pas?
Many thanks as always to the supportive people at Arts Commons, to Mrs. G, the parent volunteers, and to the kids who are invariably eager and expansive thinkers and doers. Working together, we create what I hope are memorable learning experiences, and that is a type of community worth being involved in.
What happens in the kitchen is not so different from what happens in the studio. Sometimes in fact, it is pretty much exactly the same thing.
In the kitchen: This morning I made a few "blind" drawings in a new 6x8" hardbound sketchbook.
It was a nice morning mediation kind of exercise, which I did while sitting at the kitchen table enjoying a cup of hot black tea.
Because I haven't done these in awhile, they feel different again. I used more colour, and spent more time working on them, than in the previous sketchbook.
In the studio:
During the last few weeks, I've been taking the idea of the blind drawings...
(which in this case means making the lines and shapes entirely with my eyes closed, and then working them up a little bit more with eyes open)
...and exploring how I might translate them into paintings. These four studies are still in progress. Oil on wood panels, 12x16 inches each.
The feeling of a brush laden with oil paint and moving over a wood panel is quite different from the feeling of a pen or marker moving over the surface of paper.
In between all this, I made a large oil painting. It's about 72 inches wide, and I think it's finished... though it'll have to sit for a bit before I'm sure.
I've heard that the studies are supposed to come before the large work, but in this case they are all happening together.
It's so good to be working with oils again, in a studio that is really separate from the house. A couple of weeks ago my husband helped to install an exhaust fan, and together with the air exchange and wearing a mask and gloves, I am confident to use the various oil mediums again without compromising my health.
And there is one corner of my still-new garage studio, showing a few of the "Sound" paintings and my bookshelf which also contains plastic storage tubs filled with printmaking tools and supplies, including the various parts of an almost-finished installation project which I've been working on for almost 7 months now.
Also on the bookshelf, lit-up, is my Creative Brain, my much-loved studio mascot.
Yesterday I worked in the studio, mainly just prepping some grounds. It is a low-energy time of year for me, so prepping grounds is the perfect activity: not too much energy required, just a slow repetition of colour and texture without any pressure to create "something good" because most of it will be covered up and transformed anyway.
At the end of the evening I had some leftover paint and so I touched on a couple of the small oil paintings which have been in progress for about 15 months now.
You know that thing that can happen when you're tired and you've been working all day and then, at the end, you do something almost in a dream state and it jumps over into another path of perception. And then you love the work you did just there, not because the work itself is great (it usually isn't) but because some part of it contains a record of a discovery.
And then, exhausted, I slept and dreamt poems where it didn't matter whether or not I knew in which direction the stream was flowing.
Here in Calgary today will be 12 seconds longer than yesterday. By December 31st the day will be just over a minute longer than today.
Every image has a story. Here are some images containing stories about my life after I returned from Malaysia back to Canada.
I got my first real artist studio! What a fine feeling, to have "a room of my own". Although still a shared space, this studio was a big step up from painting in the tiny galley-style kitchen of my (also shared) apartment. First thing I did was to stretch and gesso a few canvases.
I got back into "real" life drawing - in Malaysia, officially a Muslim country, art models were clothed. The frustration of the interrupted line when drawing may have been a factor in spurring me to get more serious in my figure drawing/painting explorations over the next few years.
One day on leaving my apartment I found a plant upside-down under its pot on the walkway. How could I not rescue it? After a bit of attention it began to thrive again, and I made a painting of it. This plant lives with me still; it is commonly known as a fig tree.
Life has got very busy these last few weeks, and I continue along with the blind line drawings. They have become a sort of meditation for me, an activity for which there is no hoped-for end result and therefore no pressure.
The drawings have morphed a bit over time, as my hand develops a memory for the shapes and lines. Some of the coloured-in bits I can also now do without looking, an interesting development.
Where will this practice take me? For the time being I just keep drawing and watching and waiting.