Saturday, October 31, 2009

Where Did My Art Come From? (part four)

Those little lines. Concentric shapes stacked one inside the other like a Matryoshka doll. This element of detail came from my mother.

I can remember sitting in my livingroom on the loveseat with my mother. She was showing me something to draw. I know now that she was trying to buy a moment of peace. Little did she know she was giving me a background fabric to many of my paintings.

She took out a thin piece of paper and drew a heart. Then, inside that, she drew another. Another. Another. Another. Smaller and smaller the hearts neatly bordered by the prior one. Finally ending when the space was too small to draw another. She had my attention there.

She blew my mind when she went back to the original and drew a larger heart encompassing the whole thing. Then another and another and another. This prospect of infinity really attracted me. It reminds me of the Droste effect - I had a colouring book whose cover fascinated me. It featured a duck wearing rain boots. In one hand it held an umbrella, in the other it held a colouring book featuring an identical duck with an umbrella, books and colouring book with an identical duck, and so on, ad infinitum.

Then my mother switched gears and drew a loose organic shape, like a bubble wobbling in the air or an amoeba. She did the same thing as before, filling the interior up with tinier versions. Then she drew another shape beside the orignal, touching and conforming to it on one side. She filled it in as well. She continued, filling the paper with these shapes, all of them neatly fitting together like a puzzle.

She handed the pencil over to me and indicated that it was my job to complete this important task of covering all the blank areas with these undulating shapes. I took to the task with pleasure.

I think the peace I get from doing these shapes must be similar to knitting or other repetitive activities. I use that time to think and relax. I like how you can fill a space with these shapes and it reads as a grey, but is really black and white that the eye fuzzes together.

From that point onward, I have used this detail in many sketches and paintings - a simple gift from my mother.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Where Did My Art Come From? (part three)

When I was around 7 years old, I discovered something that absolutely rocked my world. Having recently mastered reading, I was starting to feel a little more confident with navigating out of the board books in the local library.

I didn't understand the Dewey Decimal system, so when I found this treasure I had to remember the row and rack from where they came. To this day, I am haunted by one of these books in particular because I don't remember the title or author, just that it had a tattered deep royal blue cover.

The thing that took my art to the next level were "How to Draw" and "How to Cartoon" books. I would wind my way through the library (worried the whole time that they would have re-organized the racks and my treasures would be lost) and find another book. I would take it home and literally devour the contents in a couple of days.

Need to draw an owl? No problem. Reindeer? I got it covered. (in fact, I remember kids in grade 3 coming by my desk during a Christmas art project asking me to help them draw Rudolph) The only thing I didn't care to draw were male figures (I'm still not really into that). My absolute favorite were drawing ladies in fancy ballroom gowns. (that princess thing again) Any book that had something along those lines had me hook, line and sinker. Over and over and over.

The limited supply at the library soon was exhausted so I would re check out those books. When my parents clued into that, little Scholastic "How to Cartoon" books were under the tree at Christmas.

From that age onward, I knew I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. More specifically, a cartoonist.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Where Did My Art Come From? (part two)

My first crush. When I found him, I fell head over heels in love. I can remember my sister telling me to not fixate just on him, but to keep my options open. Nope. Not for me.

Richard Scarry was (and still is to a certain extent) a huge revelation to me. I was learning to read and loved how he tied meaning between mundane visual objects and the letters right beside them. The Times New Roman font spelling out "fly, flies, few, flown, flying Baron von Crow flew into the railroad tunnel." Replete with a picture of a plane barreling into the dark cavern.

Humour between words and pictures - it woke something up in me. Taking the concept of a simple word "fly" and making it memorable with a simple drawing. He could have taken the simple way out, the way most children's storybooks take. He could have drawn the plane in the air, he could have drawn some nondescript birds. Instead he chose to be memorable.

Nonsensical things like Lowly Worm or a Banana Car with no explanation provided gave invitation to a whole new quirky world where one didn't always need to have an explanation to enjoy.

Anyways, I remember checking out only his books from the library (I don't recall actually owning any) and returning them and hoping desperately that there would be different ones the next time. This lasted quite some time.

My most vivid Richard Scarry image is one of the cross section of a ship with mice engaged in various aspects of ship life. There was a jumble of cars in the auto deck, a mail room, a kitchen, a swimming pool.... all the things that would not be obvious to a little girl growing up in the Canadian prairies. I would sit and study that picture for ages.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Where Did My Art Come From? (part one)

I guess to begin the story about where I am going, I must revisit the place that I have come from. So. Lets start at the beginning.

From a very early age, I have loved drawing. I have loved making stories come alive with little situations played out visually. I was a little awkward socially in my early years, not the most or least popular, but definitely an odd duck at times.

I would draw on almost anything. My mother grew tired of buying me fresh paper all the time. She would admonish me to fill up the scenarios with details, little flowers, clouds and birds (smart lady). Both sides of the paper were utilized for these pictures. She would squirrel away a supply of card board panty hose inserts and carefully opened white envelopes to ensure a ready supply of blank surfaces.

One favorite thing for me was when my father would bring home reams of dot matrix printer paper from his work place. The fold out quality was ideal for my running story lines. I kid you not, my favorite thing in the world was to shut myself away in my room and draw out ever evolving stories. The endless folds of minty green striped paper with tear away edges would get my imagination running full speed. I could hardly hold myself back when he would show up with a thick stack of this stuff.

Now, I am not going to pretend that these were masterworks in any way, shape or form. The plot line usually revolved around princess sisters, one older mean one and one long suffering and sweet younger one and how the younger sister would reveal the older sister's errant ways. It kept me drawing and gave me an outlet.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Tabula Rasa of Sorts

I have to admit, my sporadic posting is due to me being incredibly dissatisfied with painting pictures that look pretty. Every once and a while, I have let this dissatisfaction manifest and a different artist pops up. One that doesn’t really care about perspective, one that isn’t interested in making things look realistic, one where the meaning is far more important than the manifestation.

The past few months have been a boiling point for me. I have been reading and reflecting about my priorities, and I have discovered that filling that space above people’s couches is not my priority. Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a place for that and I am not speaking against past pieces or any other artist... it just isn’t super high on my list right now.

It is funny to me, I feel like I am coming full circle in some regards – conceptual things that I used to find so important with creating art that I abandoned in order to hone my technical skills, I can’t ignore any longer. I am thankful that I had time to work on my skills for the past few years – I am able to realize a far greater depth of work because I’m “in shape” with my eyes and hands. I just need to take it further.

Also, you might not hear everything from me – I’m really simmering with a lot of ideas right now but not everything is ready. I think I’ve had too much out there and at times, let the worry that comes with blog hits, sales, public opinion and marketability keep me back from going where I want to go with my art.

I’ll be listing stuff for sale here and there, but I really want to get away from using this blog to sell. The marketing thing has really burnt me out and I’d like to get a little more into the meat of what drives me to pick up a brush and place it to canvas even when I’m overwhelmed with the everyday world and don’t feel like there is enough time to keep up with the mundane, not to mention paint.

Not that I want this to be all about me, but I do want to make the distinction that this blog (and most blogs) are about opinion and perspective. I am not an expert in art history, I am not writing a thesis and defending it through here with a list of citations and footnotes. I just want to offer the perspective behind stuff that I cobble together and translate into daubs of paint on a stretched piece of material.

So. Why post today? Where did I go, especially after so many “hey, I’m back” posts? Why pick up here even though I’m picking up the anchor and heading in a different direction? Why not a tabula rasa, delete the past and start fresh? I think it’s time to write again. I don’t see it as a fresh start but rather a new chapter in a long book that has different rhythms, different characters and different levels of action.

If you are reading this after checking back off and on, wondering when I’ll start posting again. Wow. Thank you for being patient with me. If you are one of the inspirational ones who give me things to think about and keep filling me with ideas, thank you for giving me reasons to grow. If you are one of the ones that comes over and forces me to pick up a brush and play with paint over a cup of coffee, thank you for giving me that boost.

Friday, October 02, 2009


I am very reliant on technology. Around the last time I posted to this blog, my computer decided to go on strike. Now, I can keep in touch via my iPhone but blogging was a bit of a problem for me.

I have used that time to think deeply about what the purpose of this blog should be. Is it to showcase the arts? Is it strictly for selling? Am I trying to carve a niche with my commentary? I haven't totally ironed all that out yet, but now that my set up is almost set up, I think I might be exploring that a little bit.

One thing I have discovered about myself in the past while is that I am very interested in conveying ideas, both in writing and visually. Painting is just one mode of communication for me. I'm not sure if my focus always has a message or story behind it, I'm not sure that that matters either. As I get further along in my artistic journey, however, I do feel like it is less satisfying for me to just paint pretty pictures.

I know that there is a certain interplay of light and shadow, juxtaposition of colour and careful composition that is deeply engrossing and also pleasing to view... I'm just not sure that that is where my art is heading in the next while.

Anyways, I may not have been online, but I have been painting a few things. Again, the technology has limited me, my scanner is yet to be hooked up and my camera phone cannot do artwork much justice. Keep checking back to see what I've been up to.