This morning when I went to set foot outdoors to go and do some errands, I found a skating rink right outside my back door. The errands could wait until tomorrow so I made a hasty retreat back inside where I stayed put for the rest of the day. I lit a fire, baked some cookies, wrote some emails that required some thought, contemplated the state of the world on this, the week that will see Donald Trump inaugurated as president of the United States and played around with carving some new printing blocks. Here’s part of the glorious mess I made while playing. Fun!
Hope everyone’s Christmas was as good as mine. But, to be honest, I’m glad it’s over. I had three small (6″ x 6″) commissions to finish before the Big Day, all of them animals, strangely. Here’s one of them, a cat named Willow.
Another September, another studio tour. As always, there was a ton of work to prepare for this show but it was all worth it in the end. Had over 200 visitors, made great sales (including many of my new block prints) and the spin-off continues as a few more orders trickle in. It’s always interesting for me to meet new people, touch base with regulars and engage in some inspiring conversations. Thanks to all who attended! Here’s a picture of the gallery walls all ready to go. Please ignore the stuff on the pedestals – not quite tidied up yet.
Every so often, I need to take a big step away from the familiar practice of applying paint to canvas and enter a completely different creative world. One time a few years ago, I decided to explore miniature book making, an enormously satisfying diversion partly because of the precision required but also because I discovered the delicious, tactile joys of playing with beautifully delicate but surprisingly strong hand made rice paper. This was the antithesis to how I was wanting to paint, flinging the stuff around as freely as possible. For some reason, moving in the opposite direction for awhile enabled me to focus in on painting in a whole new way once I found my way back to it, multiple books later. Plus the “diversion” was really freeing and fun.
This past winter, I have painted a bit less than usual, for a variety of reasons, but I recently felt the pull to step once again out of my comfort zone to see what lay beyond. This time, it is block printing. I headed off to the art supply store and armed myself with the necessary tools – pieces of rubbery softoleum for the plates, a variety of carving implements, a big pot of thick black ink, substantial thick sheets of printing paper, a 4″ roller, plexiglass on which to spread the ink before applying it to the lino and a tool for pressing the paper into the plate. As soon as I returned home, I set to work and made the first of my black and white prints. I have to tell you that peeling the paper off the plate is a marvelous thing. Not only does the plate “hold onto” the paper more than you might have thought but the thrill of seeing what each piece looks like is once peeled back is quite exciting. Was there enough ink? Too much? Do the details show up well enough? Are the black areas as black as I’d hoped? Are the edges as crisp as I’d wanted? The whole thing was a blast and I found myself inspired and excited to get back at it each day.
It didn’t take long for me to want to add colour to my experiments and that is a whole different kettle of fish. One of the processes requires a fair amount of forethought and is finite. Once you’ve gone from one step to the next, you can’t go back so there are only so many prints of that image that can be made. To be honest, I find this a bit intimating but it was also SO fun. Each time I peeled back the paper, a surprise was revealed and I became very taken by the unique imperfections on each print. Eventually, I found a way to add colour to some of my prints which was not finite and the image here is a case in point. This one is 12″ x 12″ and looks amazing in either a black or white frame. Drop me a note to arrange to come and see the real thing. And if you’re interested, I can show you the tools of this new trade.
I get a kick out of sky watching and this 24″ x 24″ painting, just finished today, is the result of one of my creative forays into the study of clouds and the atmosphere. It begs the question…what the heck is out there anyway? We truly are but tiny specks in the big scheme of things and I, for one, find that to be enormously liberating.
Making an architectural portrait requires that I paint quite differently than I usually try to do. A different part of my brain is needed, probably a part that is leaning more left than my right leaning tendency that enables me to let the paint fly a bit. Truthfully, it is a nice combination of left and right brain activity but it is challenging and time consuming. Every time someone commissions me to do a painting of their house, it takes me awhile to search out the exact place in my brain from which I must paint. Recently, I was asked to paint a very beautiful home which is surrounded by an equally stunning garden. There’s a magnificent butternut tree (an endangered species) which dominates the landscape in the most regal manner, its arms stretched wide and she needed to hold a place of honour in the painting as much as the house did. One of the challenges was to find a way to adequately represent the gorgeous garden when I was not able to take helpful reference photos as we were long past gardening season. The home owner kindly provided me with a number of pictures from which I could work but I felt somewhat cast adrift and had to imagine what the garden would look like at the height of the green season from the angle I’d chosen for the painting. In any case, the project was a pleasure to do for a number of reasons…the subject matter was beautiful to begin with – no artistic license required, it was a larger format (24” x 36”) than is usually the case for an architectural painting so that was fun, there was no deadline which freed me up to work without pressure and the home owner was a complete joy to work with. Plus…(drum roll)…the owners were delighted with the results. Here’s what it looks like. If you look carefully, you can find the dog lying in the shade of the butternut and the Buddha head nestled in the foliage of a flower garden. Let me know what you think. And let me know if you’d like me to do a painting of YOUR house.
Our local annual fall studio tour took place in September and was, for me, a huge success this year. For those of you who don’t know, a studio tour typically takes place on a Saturday and Sunday and offers an opportunity for folks to drop by artists’ studios to see what they’ve been up to and to have a wee chat. Brochures with maps and a list of the participating artists are available in various locations ahead of time and it costs nothing to attend. These tours are interesting things…sometimes I don’t sell much and go to bed on Sunday night questioning, not for the first time, what the heck I think I’m doing trying to be an artist. Two years ago was a case in point. Sales during the weekend event were meager but the following two weeks saw the sale of five more paintings, all as a direct result of the tour. Whew! Crisis averted; no need to decide on a career change just yet. Other times, like this year, the weekend itself brings rich rewards. It was the best year ever in terms of number of visitors and sales alike. Bonus. As is always the case, there were conversations during the course of the weekend which remained with me long after the gallery signs were brought in and the lights turned off. We get into the whys and wherefores of the creative process which is always fun and sometimes even venture into more philosophical discussions which is even better. These chats can veer into uncharted territory that reaches deep into the inner world of the psyche as it relates to art making or skitters sideways to places that leave us laughing with our heads thrown back. I relish both equally and find this yearly tour to be a great catalyst to making a new body of art, deadlines being what they are, as well as an opportunity to examine myself more deeply, something which I thrive on, hard as it can sometimes be. Here’s a pic of the tour ready gallery. Yeah, some of those paintings have gone to new homes now.
Whew! It took awhile but I finally finished the wedding gift painting for my daughter and son-in-law. I warned them long before their nuptials that it would be a tad late and I take pride in the fact that, for once, I was right! This was a true, sometimes agonizing labour of love. I delivered it recently to their home and they immediately hung it on the designated wall. I hope they think it was worth the wait. I’ll include two images, one which shows the colours more accurately and the other to show just how darn happy my (pregnant!) daughter was to get it. (Her husband had gone off to a Blue Jays game rather than have his picture taken. Priorities…)