Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Introducing a New Love


 This summer, as I struggled with painting, I decided it was high time to take a breather from that frustration and redirect my creative energy. I signed up for a local stained glass class to learn some of the basics of cutting glass, grinding, copper foiling and soldering. I had dabbled in stained glass with friends when I was in college, but I never took it beyond cobbling together scraps into little ornaments.

 It takes me a long time to work up the courage to commit to trying something this different and out of my league. Once the day arrived though, I was pretty excited. A special shout out goes to the fine people at Muk Luk Magpies Stained Glass Emporium - these are people who are invested in helping people discover the enjoyment of working with glass.

 After spending the day working on a simple sunrise pattern, I was pretty hooked. The part I was most nervous about, cutting glass with out taking my fingers off, turned out to be my favourite thing. Grinding and fitting the pattern was also a exciting thing to learn. I need to work on my soldering quite a bit, but that will come in time.

 Part of the reason it took me so long to resume my interest that started in college was the fact that I had small children and stained glass (lead in the solder, chemicals for patinas etc) do not mix that well. I figured that now that my kids are a bit older, it would be less of an issue. After everything went so well, I proceeded to do some research on what tools are best to get new, what I could get away with used and built up a little collection. I also had a friend, Cheryl Bakke Martin, who is quite gifted in glass pass along 3 bins of glass remnants that she had been toting around for a while.

 Once I started to set up my studio space, I ran into a number of issues. The main one is that I don't have a studio anymore and playing with glass in a space where children roam is not good a idea. My son had moved into that former studio space and we gave both our girls their own rooms. With this challenge, we decided that we needed to carve out workspace in our unfinished basement/shop area. This has been an interesting cohabitation with my husband's tools. Some reorganizations have happened and we are at a pretty good spot now.

 I have decided though, that for now, I will work in glass with mosaics, rather than stained glass. The main problem is the soldering/patina issues (I know I can get studio time at Muk Luk Magpies, but it isn't practical right now, I know I can use lead free solder, but for fiddling and learning that will get expensive) We don't have a laundry tub or separate sink that I can use for cleaning and I am really weirded out by the lead and other crazy chemicals. I don't want to risk my kids. The way our house is laid out, installing another sink is not an easy solution.

 Anyways, I'm okay with this arrangement, mosaic is a deep love of mine and I've been content cutting basic tesserae and getting a feel for all the different types of glass in my little scrap bins. I want to start from the bottom and get a deep understanding of this beautiful and unpredictable (to me) medium. I want to get to the point where I can work without heavily focusing on each tiny step of the process.

 I have such an appreciation for people who pick up the arts as a hobby later on in life - doing this brand new stuff is not easy! I am not used to struggling with simple things or figuring out how stuff is going to turn out. It has given me a whole lot of respect for this medium as well. I do want to get to the point where it looks easy. For now, not all of it is easy.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Change Is As Good As A Rest

I've monkeyed around with the template on this dusty old blog and decided to suck it up and post something. I've been working and thinking and having difficulty putting my thoughts down for others. I have really missed blogging. I will also tell you, I have had a terrible year of creative frustration and painter's block. I've been painting and those paintings have been turned against the wall or painted over with another marginal offering, thus starting the cycle over again.

Anyways, after months and months of questioning my motives and pondering why I paint, how essential is the creative process to me as a person and also why I blog, I've come to the conclusion on a few things:

a) I'm tired of selling you things. Even beyond selling paintings and prints on my online sites, I'm tired of selling the "artist's life". There is so much more beyond the blog - so much more good, but so much more bad and even more boring, routine and mundane.

On the images though, I will say honestly that there are paintings that I regret posting and saying "oh I just love how this and that looks" and while I'm glad if it sold and it is enjoyed by it's owner, there is a part of me that dislikes that I did not write more candidly. I know that we can all be our harshest critics and all that, but I think what I'm talking about here is a little different.

I think this bland approach wrecks things in the end anyways, there are some pieces where you finish and you think "Man, I rocked that." and then it doesn't sell. Then you question yourself on why it didn't get the reception you felt it deserved. This watering down oversimplification of "I just love something about my painting" in order to sell it makes it harder to have the pieces that should sell get found in the crowd and keeps viewers in the dark on what makes special pieces so special.

I don't think just posting images without explanation is the right solution, there is often a different intention or something that could be lost for a reader if there wasn't a story included. However, there is an ever present temptation to put forward a magazine style perfection of poetic thought flowing into joyful action. This isn't always true folks, and if I've perpetuated this artistic stereotype I apologize.

b) I'm tired of talking mainly about accomplishments. They sound so pretty. Some are neat, most are very trivial. Blogging has all sorts of ways one can present or word things that sound like great honours are being bestowed. The flip side of this of course is descending into false humility or downright maudlinism.

I'm not sure what the solution is here. I am well aware that I could easily fall into this, or be viewed as doing this, so I recognize that this is a dangerous statement to make. I think just talking about stuff, cool things that I am privileged to be involved in as well as things I am struggling with will probably balance each other out in the end. I guess I should just caution you, reader, that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably has a bad or boring side to it as well.

c)  I'm tired of living a dual life. I have deliberately kept my personal life and beliefs out of my art and out of my blog for professional reasons. Now, when I say professional reasons, it means "so you'll like me no matter what and buy my art!"

So, a confession of sorts. I'm Canadian and I like it when I type a word with a "u" that should be there and the American Blogger template says that it is incorrect. Suck it Blogger. I'm also a Christian. I'm also a children's pastor.This was not a life goal nor was it on my radar until I came into it. As someone raised in a non-Christian home I will be first to say that me ending up in this job is proof that God has a sense of humour.

On thing my "other job" has done for me is provide me with an non artistic outlet for skills and interests that have lain dormant for a number of years. I love working for the church. Frankly, another thing I love about it is that with a regular paycheck, I am released from point a) on this post. I could dismantle my etsy store if I felt I needed to make a statement of some sort (I don't) but I no longer have that desperation I have felt over "I need to make a sale, the car has problems that need to be fixed, must make a sale, must have an auction, must be creative".

Do I want to change this into a "Christian Artist's" blog? Meh. No. I'm not interested in labels and titles. What it does mean is that I have left a large part of my artistic interests and endeavors off this blog because just like the lonely kid at recess, I wanted you to like me (and then buy my art).

A friend of mine recently told me about another blogger who has talked about attracting/repelling people. I know for me, when I find out that an awesome artist displays some serious street cred and is also aligning with things that I believe in/would like to pursue/are in awe of, I am instantly bonded and impressed (attracted). I never thought of the flip side to that - there are scores of others who find that out and disappear (repelled). Not that I think this is a blog that deserves a huge cult following, but I figure in my own modest way, I would rather lose followers for the right reasons.

d) I'm tired of my expectations. I am the worst for setting myself up into a cycle of paint/post/paint/post/paint/post___________dead silence___________paint/post/paint/post etc. Guilt is an ugly thing. Personal expectations + guilt is a killer.

I have no problem if a favourite blogger disappears for a month. I often will check back enough or sign up for a feed to resume when the posts flow again. I don't know why I don't believe that for myself. I'll try. (or I won't! HA! See - that was the first seedlings of guilt creeping up there....)

e) I'm tired of sounding like I know what I'm doing. If I knew what I was doing, I wouldn't bother blogging about it most likely. I read stuff, I think about stuff, I have a blog. BY NO MEANS SHOULD THAT EVER BE TAKEN AS PROFESSIONAL ADVICE. I know that by definition I'm a "professional artist" but seriously, what does that mean? I sell stuff (I've done that though since I was in junior highschool), I've been to art school (I don't hold any degrees), I get the professional discount at the art store... I could list and justify how one could define "professional" and how I fit into that, but again, going back to point a) and point b) I think this is smoke and mirrors and essentially pointless.

Lets just close this off with a "I don't really care". If you are reading because you like what I paint, you like what I read or you like how I think, that is perfect. Absolutely perfect. Even better would be if you like where I'm going with any of that but you want to push back a bit. That would be really cool. I'd like that.

This closes what could be considered my best or worst blog post ever. I thank you for sticking it out. A special shout out to a few who never said it, but I suspect totally understood where I've been in this creative muck and mire yet still kept me in the loop. Your encouragement kept me pushing against the wall. Keeping me in the "art world"  kept me in the art world. I am grateful to you, my friends.