November is winding down – I hope I can finish this painting before the end of the month. I added some espresso grinds to the ground in some acrylic medium, as well as some of my Rousillon pigments.
For the past three weeks I haven’t touched my in-progress painting. But today I woke up with a three-day weekend and nowhere to go on a rainy stormy sort of day. Being Remembrance Day I thought perhaps I should take a stab at painting poppies. Don’t get too excited, because what I ended up with were two more paintings of soybean fields in the works. But I have a plan on one of them to get slightly more realistic than usual and to include actual structures in the field – the well house and ruins of a corn crib.
But to my dismay, I ran out of gesso. I haven’t had to worry about art supplies for quite awhile, having stockpiled acrylic media and canvases when I had a student discount at Opus and cycling proximity to Granville Island. I don’t find the prices at the local art store very good, so I might just have to plan a visit to Vancouver to restock some things.
I also had time to dress up as a queen upon the demand of my four-year-old, and restore a vintage step stool I found discarded along the street near my workplace. It’s been in the garage for several months, and today my two children and I attacked it with disinfectant and the wondrous thing called steel wool. I think I knew steel wool had magical powers since I had a chrome-fendered bicycle as a child. But I could not believe the transformation to the legs of this stool. I am quite satisfied with the result so it is now in our kitchen – hopefully providing a safer roost for our two-year-old at the island. It is the same type of stool we had at my parents’ house that I was nostalgically online-shopping for, and luckily found for free.
I love long weekends.
I hosted my birthday party this weekend. A girls’ night. I wanted to polish the decor a little bit by setting out some of my “adult” things out that are normally out of the reach of little hands. Nothing too scandalous…candles, wine, and my two Andy Goldsworthy art books.
I was thrilled this afternoon when my two-year-old started leafing through “A collaboration with nature” and exclaimed “These are leaves! These things are all rocks!” Both kids snuggled up with me and looked at the whole book, interested in the captions of how the artwork was made. I loved that they could grasp this art and enjoy it. I would recommend it to any parents reading this as a great introduction to art and seeing the beauty in nature to your own kids.
Each installation is so incredible, made of simple leaves, thorns, ice, even holes. Here are a few examples to get you started. When I look at his work, I just want to move into the wilderness and do stuff like this every day.
All images copyright Andy Goldsworthy.
Somewhat spontaneously, I pulled together my first artist submission last month to exhibit my work, and I just found out that I was selected. It is a small two-month show at a local museum, and will be the first line on my cv.
Really the first step on my artistic journey was pushing myself through the Artist’s Way twice. For those of you who haven’t read it, it’s 12-week creativity workshop. The first time, I went through most of the book but did not make any concrete moves.
I picked the book up a couple years later, and this time had my breakthrough – I established a concrete goal – to sign up for one art class at Emily Carr, since I lived in Vancouver within biking distance of the school.
After the first class, I loved it and managed to work through a certificate program in art and one in Marketing & Professional Writing (SFU) while working full time. By the time I finished the programs, I was having my first baby, then working full time in communications and having another baby.
Now that I sleep through the night again, most of the time, and have settled back into work (a year and a half full time), I am ready to move forward again on the art career. It’s exciting, and I’m curious to know what direction my path will take.
I finally finished this painting that I started in 2007. I had started by painting the whole wooden panel yellow, and doing a photo transfer of the old barns that used to stand on our family farm. I also tried some different technique samples such as using a product that creates rust (bottom left) and doing some other photo transfers that turned out very dark (horse in centre bottom right). I collaged scraps of my great grandfather’s farm notebooks – lists of numbers and sums. But the overall painting was just too yellow.
I decided to just put a gesso wash over most of the piece and start again. I added a lot more colour and some feminine themes: a woman riding in a buggy, a brooch found on the farm, a home remedy for rheumatism (transfer in the sky), and some receipts from egg sales – because the women in my ancestry did a lot of egg-selling and butter-making. I also finally got to use the old fuse I’ve been saving for this type of occasion, and some fencing wire. Overall, I’m a lot happier with it than the old version. I feel it is complete.
I now have almost 5 mixed media paintings completed in this farm series. I’m thinking of doing a few more watercolours as well – I have one already of my grandfather. Between the mixed media paintings, watercolours, and photographs of the farm, I think it would be a great series for an exhibit.
Perhaps inspired by my daughter’s field trip to the recycling depot last week, I’ve been more conscious than usual about things we reuse. The depot itself reminded me of the film Manufactured Landscapes, and the related photography of Edward Burtynsky. I was in art school when I got to see Burtynsky’s exhibit and watch Manufactured Landscapes, and I was awestruck by the beautiful images created from man-made materials and waste. If you haven’t had a chance to see Burtynsky’s photos, you have to check them out!
Reuse #1 – Reclaimed wood shelves
We’ve had a crafty sort of autumn around our place. My husband made these lovely shelves out of reclaimed wood, which we have been thinking about doing for a couple of years since we bought our house. I love that he figured out a way to put them up without the shelving support being visible. And I love that we were able to reuse wood that had been discarded when Fort Langley’s walls were replaced last year.
Reuse #2 – Old furniture
We recently acquired some used furniture from a friend – in fact most of our furniture is reused. I discovered that reupholstering chair cushions is something a regular person like me can do – it just requires math and precision – which are not my forté, but possible if one really tries, and watches a few youtube videos.
In the process, I learned a thing or two about zippers: for one thing, sewing a zipper into a cushion cover is not that difficult. And secondly, I fixed the zipper on my Smoking Lily skirt that I’ve been wearing with safety pins for a couple years (with a slip, just in case). I spontaneously attempted fixing it last night and succeeded.
Reuse #3 – No qualms about used clothes
I have rediscovered the joy of thrift store shopping. Some of my favourite clothing pieces are from thrift stores but I haven’t really had time to shop in them since the children were
born. I’ve picked up eleven items this fall for a fraction of their worth. We also have no qualms about reusing children’s clothes and passing them on to others.
Reuse #5 – Old photos and “stuff” for artwork.
All this to say I love reusing things! Next challenge: reduce acquiring stuff in the first place. One look at Burtynsky’s recycling images in China, and you’ll understand why. A lot of the stuff we recycle ends up in a pile somewhere.
A few pictures of my painting in progress. If it weren’t for this fever and cold, I would probably finish this painting in record time for me. I often spend up to six months working on one painting, hanging it on the wall so I can sit and stare at it, wondering what to do next.
What is so exciting about this piece is that I am finally incorporating some of my beloved old stuff that sits in my studio – the bindings of old books, the historic photos of our ancestors, etc. I also love working with texture and colour, and developing glazes and depth to the different colours.
As I work through this not-to-scale aerial photo theme, I remember little incidents from every corner of the property – the snail shells I used to find under a certain tree, the china from “the old house” that turned up with the plough each spring, the time my sister’s skate fell through the pond’s thin ice. I wish I could capture all of those memories on this painting somehow, but of course it doesn’t work that way. But perhaps looking at the finished piece will inspire me to do some writing about those memories.
Although this is a very abstract painting, I like that I could put that 1915 photo of the barns and horses on the spot on my “aerial map” where those barns were situated.
Painting, painting, painting. I have matte medium all over my hands, black gesso under my finger nails, and a mess in my “studio” – the corner of the kitchen I call my own. I was so engrossed that I missed the 2 deer in the yard outside my window until my two-year old came running from another room shouting “reindeers!”
It has been a few years since I approached a large painting with this much zeal. As you can probably imagine, it is hard to deal with artistic inspiration when you have two toddlers. Not just two toddlers, but two kids with fevers clamoring for their working mom’s weekend attention.
So the first day, I waited eight painful hours before actually working on the painting. I couldn’t imagine being able to paint with the kids awake…visions of permanent paint on the walls and furniture, little fingers reaching onto the canvas, collage materials strewn about…halted me. So at about 9:30 I started the piece, and of course 45 minutes later had to stop to let it dry.
Today, with the bare bones of the composition already laid out, and the kids contentedly painting with their new kids’ paint at the kitchen table, I decided to take a stab at adding some colour to my own painting at the same time…and it worked! Suddenly I was working on my painting for a third and fourth time with the kids in the room. They love watching me work. They are so interested in what I’m doing and why, wanting to contribute their ideas as well.
The theme is “the landscape of my memory” which is a series I am developing. It is something that has already come up in some of my paintings, and I am trying to take it further. The composition loosely follows the aerial view of our farm (it won’t be recognizable as such). But will incorporate some of the old things I have around here – artifacts and plants from the land. If I had more canvases (or even boards) I would work on multiple pieces at once so I have something to do while watching paint dry.
After working on these small canvases for a number of years, I put the finishing touches on them last year. I had been working with that predominant colour since about 2004, as seen in my soybean painting. The colour, as my brother aptly described as “brown” when he visited, is actually glazes of sienna, raw umber, burnt umber, ochre, various yellows, crimson, and red.
It wasn’t until I finished this painting that I realized what the colour symbolized for me. When my grandfather passed away, I returned to Ontario in late fall for the funeral. On the way to the service, I took a photo out the car window of a soybean field (you can see the photograph worked into the soybean painting, as well as an actual plant stalk). Subconsciously, by working with that shade of paint, I was working through my grieving process: my sense of loss of my grandfather, my childhood, my life on the farm.
When I finally finished “Birds take flight,” I was done with my obsession with that colour. I realized I was letting go of perhaps some of the sadness associated with it, so I wanted to give the paintings a lift to communicate the idea of hope and joy. A flock of birds taking flight seemed to be a great way to capture that sense of uplifting, unsuppressed joy, exhilaration.
The way the landscape fades out into the unknown is essentially how I see the future, but with a hint of blue at the top right, where the birds are headed. Originally, the concept of this painting was the view out the window of a moving train (there were 3 canvases but one went so off track that it’s now in the bathroom, telling its own story).
The mirror on the left was found in one of my relatives old stuff. I like the idea of the viewer looking at the landscape and seeing a reflection of herself/himself, but distorted by the age of the mirror, like an allusion to a verse in the Bible, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12).