Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Year in Review

Landscape Diptych
96"x 60" (total combined)
Acrylic on Canvas

This past year has been full of life, but not as much art as in years past. I have repeatedly fought the temptation to admit defeat and delete this blog, but there is something that won't let me do that. I figure as an artist, I make things with the end purpose of communicating something, an image, a feeling an idea... since I'm not actively looking for sales or shows, I need somewhere to put my stuff if and when the mood strikes me. I think that here on this blog is as good as any other place.

Plus, I understand how many small things can accumulate over the years into something that seems more substantial. Therefore, I'm letting myself feel okay about only posting once and a while. Perhaps it is better this way than when I would get stuck on the hamster wheel a few years ago and post every day, or every three days or whatever. Hopefully Quality will triumph over Quantity.

I am someone who loves lists (to the point that I troll around the t.v. channels at the end of December hoping to stumble across some "Top 100 Speed Metal Songs/Celebrity Misfortunes/Natural Disasters of the 20th Century" type shows to consume like all the other confections that are sitting around this time of year) I figure I should channel that energy into a list to finish up my year.

5 Paintings That I Was Too Busy To Post:


Do Not Worry
Acrylic on Canvas

This was a gift to the daughter of some dear friends of ours. I had a time crunch to paint this (and still missed my deadline!) The paint was barely dry as I boxed it up to ship.


Airdrie Alliance Kids ♥ Airdrie - Main Street Art Project
4' x 12' (approximately - I can't remember but it was huge) 
Latex on Board

We have this great organization in the town I live in called Creative Airdrie and they have been making all sorts of public art projects. I was so privileged to be able to work with a group of Grade 1 - 6 students on painting this large mural. It is hanging out doors on Main Street to this day!


Landscape Diptych
96"x 60" (total combined)
Acrylic on Canvas

I wanted to paint BIG and I wanted to paint BIG sky. This gift allowed me to accomplish both. They seem pretty simple with the composition and detail but something about doing a painting on that scale makes it seem that much bigger. Better in real life. 


Grade 3B Classroom Mural - Bulembu Christian Academy
10' x 20' Approximately
Acrylic on Concrete covered in white Milk Paint

Oh my word. Looking at this picture just brings back the most exausting/exhilarating day I had on my trip to Bulembu. Somehow it was arranged that I would do some murals for a few classrooms. This was on my last full day in Swaziland. It ended up being 6 classrooms with as many paintings I could fit on the barren walls in each. I got to talk to the teachers and ask them what they wanted (usually I could help them with some learning visuals by giving them things like a tree to stick apples on or a "rabbit" on the right side of the board and a "lion" on the left... that sort of thing.) 

This class was particularly fun because the class was in session while I was painting. They asked me to paint a lion (on the right behind some kids) I choose some flowers and birds to fill space fast and conserve paint and at the end of my painting time, one kid asked for a star (you can see a bit at the top of the photo - oh my goodness. Scariest. Request. Ever.) 

Then afterwards we had a photo session where we all goofed around taking pictures. The kids wanted to take pictures of their friends in front of the paintings and we let them go for it. Such a fun day.


Portrait of Three Children
24" x 30"
Acrylic on Canvas

This was a Christmas commission that I loved, loved, loved having the chance to paint! The source photo came from a good friend and talented photographer of mine, Vanessa Day. I am NOT a professional photographer and this is okay for paintings that I conceptualize. 

However, this painting as well as this one  and this one have convinced me that photos for commissioned portrait work that come from someone who has the equipment and know how to shoot some decent images is far better than some pictures I've worked from in the past that are shot casually. What a treat - thank you Vanessa for giving me permission to work from them! 

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Painting: Something fun!

9" x 12"
Acrylic on Canvas

A fun summertime exercise in colour blending, composition and line work. I always get a kick out of laying thick colours over top of each other in order to create really glossy looking hair. I did use the practice that I got from this painting to solve a hair issue that I was working through in the commission from my last post.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Painting: Portrait of two children

Portrait of Two Children
24" x 36" 
Acrylic on Canvas
(Original source photo by Vanessa Day, photographer extraordinaire and a good friend of mine)

This painting has been such a challenge and a reward, and I'll be honest, some of the best portraiture I've done in a while. (Not being said in a self satisfied way, more of a half surprised tone of voice considering that I haven't been as prolific as years past)

I started this painting off really strongly, got the base painting layers down in one wonderful day of loud music and alone time. Had most major issues figure out at that point. Now normally, I just keep going, fueling myself on the little victories and the build up of progress until I complete the entire piece. I have no problem painting for hours on end, listening to the same album to keep the progress going.

This time was different. I got the base layers down and then life kind of exploded into a juggling act of my job, my family, training for a race and preparing for Africa. The painting sat. First on my easel, then relegated to the less visible spot beside my couch (so it wouldn't keep making me feel guilty) I knew that I still had some major questions of "how am I going to visually resolve this" to answer and some of those potential answers were not there yet or I knew would take an investment of a chunk of time I knew I did not possess in a large enough block to keep momentum going. So it sat.

I wasn't forgotten and it wasn't being completely neglected. Often when I'm puzzling through those questions, I'm working on other, smaller pieces and things that happen in those pieces answer the questions in bigger pieces. That was the case with this work. I kept doing painting and overwrites in my head for many weeks.

I had set aside my first weeks of summer to tackle this finally and when the first session came, I was surprised at how easily I fell back into the engagement level I had in the base layers. I hit some frustrations on problem solving that I had not anticipated. In a moment of frustration, I laid down some thin washes of off white to tone the entire piece and unify it somewhat (this is a veeeeeeeeery old style for me to work with, one that I had abandoned for many years) and I was surprised at how that one irritated move unlocked the entire painting. It fueled the fire to keep moving.

Anyways, I'm pleased with this piece. It was a reminder of why I love, love, love portraiture. Thanks also to Vanessa for the source photo - that was such a treat to work from. My source photos are usually terrible.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Painting: African Landscape

36" x 36" 
Acrylic on Canvas

This is the first finished painting from my trip. I went back to the good ol' square format. There are a few things that are new, and a few that are old. 

Some new: 

Red Oxide as my base colour. Yowzers. Not Yellow Ochre? What? But all your other paintings from the beginning of time have a Yellow Ochre base! I know, I know. Africa changed me. 

Look at those unashamed greens. This was a real exercise in bringing the vibrant hues in line with the clouds. I kept bringing up the green, then toning it down in thin layers. 

Some old: 

No texture. As mentioned previously, there are lots of thin layers. This reminds me of how I painted when I was in high school. Thin wash over thin wash. Almost painful in some ways because change takes a long time to become apparent. 

I've been trying to strike a balance between the thin washes with thick daubs of paint in some areas (no texture though) I'm going to keep tinkering with this idea to see how it progresses. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Painting Study: African Woman Cooking

While in Bulembu, we did a few walking tours, taking in the town, the enterprises and the people. We came upon this woman who was cooking lunch for a group of local children who were spending the day at a track meet. I was so pleased to snap a quick picture of her assortment of pots and utensils. Her full skirt was pretty too.

As you can see, the greens and the rusty red earth are more predominant here in this painting. Since it is just a study, it isn't as refined as other paintings. I kind of like the rough brush strokes.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Spring in Review

Hello again!

I'm safe and sound, back from Africa and I've survived my spring.

Things turned super hectic once I came home and while I kept painting, blogging really fell down the priority list.

Some things to note:

Swaziland and South Africa was a lot to take in. Considering that I'm still digesting my trip to Turkey in 2010, this one may take a while to emerge fully. Let it suffice for now that the people were amazing, the landscape was breath taking and all the preconceived notions I took with me were dismantled one by one. I understand Africa less now than I did before I went. It was awesome.

My palette is changing. The colours in Africa were so rich and vivid. I'm noticing stronger greens and oranges. This is unusual. I've also been tinkering with different brands of paints and mediums. For those of you who know me well, you will understand this is a big commitment change.

I've been working on developing some skills again. My two big things right now: portraiture and clouds. I'm trying to express something and I don't have the chops to do it yet. So I will keep plugging away until I figure out the language.

I was bummed that I didn't do an Easter Egg post. So here it is:

This year we had Easter near my daughter's tenth birthday party. Naturally we expanded our production to include a whole lot of creative girls. It was super, super fun.

Here are some pictures:

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Preparing for Bulembu

Original Source Photo by Vanessa Day Photography used with permission.

I'm finally letting myself become excited about my upcoming trip to Africa this March! For those of you just tuning in, I will be joining a team of creative professionals travelling to Bulembu, Swaziland to create work that uncovers the story of the people that call this town home. The organization that is making this trip happen is amazing. Check out their site to get a better idea of the vision they have.

In order to be in fighting shape, I have been practicing portraiture for the past weeks. One day early on, I realized that I needed to practice one thing in particular - darker skin tones. This might seem ignorant and silly to some, but really, it is a whole other palette. My portrait work over the past few years has mainly involved the people who a) live with me (aka the Mennonite people) or b) commission work from me. This happens to be a mainly Caucasian clientele.

Happily, I have a number of friends who have been happy to grant permission to paint some studies of their children. Above is one four year old sweetie I am well acquainted with. What an amazing experience to play with a whole different part of the "skin tone" palette. The days have sure changed from the days that there was only one skin colour in the box of crayons. It brings to mind an exhibit that I saw a long time ago (I think at the Vancouver Art Gallery) where the whole piece was swatches of "skin colour" found in commercial art supplies and the gamut of tone and colour that this ran across the spectrum. If any reader knows what I am talking about, message me the artist's name. I remember that piece vividly.

While drafting this piece, I started with yellow ochre highlights and phthalo blue/raw umber shadows and then played with a whole range of burnt sienna mixed between. Painting corn rows and beads were tricky (especially the flesh tones in the parted sections) but I think it turned out well.

This was about 3.5 hours from initial drawing to completion. As my friend Vanessa can attest, I take a lot longer to finish a painting when it isn't done all in one sitting (more on that piece in the future, it isn't done yet!)

I leave in little over 2 weeks. I'm hoping to share more about some of the cool projects I am planning on doing while I am over in Swaziland. One involves the kids I work with at the church and the kids at the school in Bulembu. Keep checking back!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Lesson in Obedience

(One of my few surviving paintings from 2010 of my sweet husband)

Well, a lot has gone on since my post where I outed where I am truly at with my artistic journey. A lot.

A disclaimer about the super long blog posts. I think about blogging all the time, but post infrequently. I've discovered that the more important something is to me, the harder it is for me to articulate. Words can be cheap, when they are, it is easy for me to post all over the place and talk a ton. When I get up the nerve to post these days about things that are hidden down deep, I tend to have 2 months of back story to catch up on. Hence the novella. 

Looking back, 2010 was one of my most difficult years as an artist. Despite the fact that very few paintings survived, I would say that my growth as an artist was probably as great, if not more than when I was in school. My technical proficiency did not gain anything. I had moments where I dare say I was actually rusty.

What changed for me was my outlook and attitude. God brought me to a place where I really had to prioritize what I was doing vs. what I was supposed to be doing. Living your whole life as someone who wants to be an artist when they grow up to the point of eating, breathing, living it makes it tough when you get called to something different.

When I got the pastoral call, I will admit that I was a little confounded by that. Not only was it tough for me to accept that job with all of my inadequacies to take that job, it was tough to not call myself "artist" when someone asked me what I did for a living. I rebelled for a long time. People sure warm up to you at social events when they ask you what you do for a living and the answer is "artist". Try going to a corporate Christmas party and throw "pastor" out there as an occupation.... everyone is suddenly on their best behaviour lest you judge and smote them. (PS I'm not out to judge and smote you)

Then a funny thing happened. I began to see how my other job made a difference in a far more tangible way. Doors started to open for more opportunities to help people. That was exciting! Other doors sadly began to shut. All the painting related doors. That kind of depressed me.

I began to try and think of all the ways I could make change with painting and found that it was coming up short. Donating a painting for a charity cause is a good and noble thing to do in theory. When it nets you clients, your name in the paper and is as hands on as writing a cheque... I found it lacking and felt kind of guilty that I was benefiting more than the organization sometimes. (disclaimer - donating things and writing cheques are not bad things. This didn't do anything to satisfy that urge I had deep down to make change).

"Inspiring people" through my work or subject matter was too broad and airy fairy, and I felt really presumptuous that that could be my end goal. "Reflecting God" is too big a job and quite frankly, God did just fine without me messing around with His work. I had already established that painting pretty pictures for the rest of my life wasn't interesting me anymore. I needed a reason and a focus and I couldn't figure it out.

Right before I wrote that post in November, I hit a deep low. When I am inspired with an idea, I can see the finished painting in my head. The skills I had been working on over the years made it easier and faster to make it look super close to what was in my head. When I hit my low, there were no pictures in my head. I would try to paint and it was terrible and ham fisted. It was like trying to speak and not knowing language anymore.

I realized that God wanted to know if I was prepared to never paint again. The price perhaps of seeing change and helping people. I had a choice, but the choice frustrated me. I asked God why He chose to give me these artistic gifts and not let me use them. Then I questioned my motivations on how I was using them. Especially when they were under the guise of church or helping people. Ouch.

So I chose after a lot of painful reflection. I chose to be okay if those doors shut. Honestly, I felt peace. Stopped twitching when people called me "Pastor". I am not exaggerating when I say when I chose that, doors opened. New exciting doors that would not have been possible if I was only "artist" or only "pastor". It really humbles me to think about that. Pictures in my head came. New and very interesting pictures that I never ever thought of before. Relief. Huge, huge relief.

Anyways. One of those doors leads to Africa. This place, Bulembu, Swaziland. I leave in March to join a team of creative professionals who will be there to uncover the stories found in the people and the changes that are taking place. I know those stories are going to be filled with hope for the future. I'm starting to think about it now that the plane tickets are bought. What to pack, what to plan for, how to practice in my painting,  what to leave up to the experience that is waiting for me.