Sunday, December 27, 2009

wants and needs

There's almost nothing I like better than a good idea, especially if it involves art-making. At this time of year, when consumerism blurs the lines between 'want' and 'need', it's refreshing to see a couple of artists who've put it all into perspective ~ and I'm not talking about anything to do with vanishing points and straight lines.

Wants for Sale is a way for Christine and Justin to help support themselves ... or at least their desires. Needs for Sale is a way for Christine and Justin to help support charities they like. Have they been successful? Just check this out. And to take it one step further, Justin also sells garbage. No. Really.

Thanks again, Rudy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

christmas pictures

Just a quick seasonal check-in to wish everyone a peaceful and fun-filled holiday. Painting suddenly stalled in the very early stages of this first oil painting. It wants to be monochromatic so, as you can see, I have a lot to do


after Christmas.

Among the seasonal activities was Carl's (and therefore our) last Christmas band concert, since he graduates this year. It's the end of an era though, as a committed musician who now plays four instruments, it's certainly not the end of us listening to Carl playing music. Here he is in the jazz band, performing a short solo in that Christmas classic, Van Morrison's 'Moondance'. (How I wish it was a Christmas classic instead of that accursed earworm classic, 'Sleigh Ride'.)

One of my seasonal projects was to photograph my sons, brothers, and Greg and myself to frame for the oldsters in my family. Here's one of my favourites:

All this recording-for-posterity stuff spurred me on to tackling a project that I've been meaning to get to since Ellen gave me a scanner that has a film scanning attachment. A couple of years ago my dad gave me a box of slides from my childhood (and earlier) that I'd never really looked at before. It's amazing what forgotten memories a little visual reminder can trigger. I especially like this Christmas photo of my brothers and me with our then globe-trotting uncle. He's one of the 'oldsters' who's getting photos from me this year!

Ho ho ho, friends! Enjoy the season and take care.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

more real than real

Take this, Madame Tussaud:

These sculptures are almost more realistic than people, so why not take Picasso's famous flattened space and make it 'more realistic', too:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

art as a social activity

Over the past few years I've idly wondered why three-quarters of the people in art workshops, on arts councils, who teach art, etc., are women, whereas three-quarters of artists represented in galleries are men. I lamely concluded that changes in gender politics on an economic/business level were simply lagging behind what was happening socially. The glass ceiling and all that. That may be true, but it never occurred to me that because men and women are different animals socially, how we approach art making and art networking might also be different. This Robert Genn letter and the clickbacks explore the question at length.

One reason I've had trouble figuring this out is my own (unique) experience as an artist. When I was a kid (back in the dark ages of no electricity and walking uphill ten miles both to and from school), my mother would pick up four thick pads of writing paper every month at $1.49 Day. This paper would usually last my brothers and me until the next $1.49 Day. We would spend hours sitting companionably at the kitchen table, drawing lengthy, meticulous comic strips of our favourite fantasy worlds, and discussing what we were doing. Actually, it was more like three running monologues. It baffled our mother but also delighted her, as it kept us out of her hair for hours at a time. (I think she wished we could bring such dedication to our studies, sports or earning potential. Hell, a little attention to personal hygiene would even have gone farther than filling drawers, tables and waste baskets with our scribbles.) In any case, my first experiences with art were definitely social -- and with boys.

I didn't end up like most women, though, in more ways than one. I was a Girl Politics dropout in high school and still am. Just ask my neighbours. It doesn't mean that I'm not friendly, it's just that I do my best learning in private and am terrible at event organizing. It's almost like I lack the female gene for that sort of thing. I don't take workshops and I don't teach them. It's certainly not that I don't believe in them -- I do! -- it's just that I, personally, get more meaning and pleasure out of solitary exploration. (I also love maps and hate asking for directions.) I find the presence of others highly distracting and get either overstimulated or bored very easily. All these traits, from the lack of understanding of female social rituals to the need to "do it myself!" are more prevalent in the male of the species.

Strong, aggressive, independent women artists like Hazel Dooney have made the male/solitary aspects of their characters work for them and their careers in spades, but I have that overpowering feminine need to nurture (i.e. kids, family, etc.) as well, and find myself in a constant state of priority conflict. For my entire life I have been dealing with square-peg-in-round-hole syndrome and that has extended to my current life as an artist, though many people think that being an artist means ignoring social conventions. I wish! As an artist who operates very much like a man in the social sphere I have two strikes against me: the so-called social historical disadvantages of being a woman and, paradoxically,
a disinterest in social networking with my 'own kind'. I hate thinking I'm a victim, though, so continuing to work silently in my studio, hoping that perspiration and inspiration will win the day, seems to be my best option. I guess there's a kind of purity of purpose to it, but it can be lonely. (God bless the interwebs for helping fill that void!)

16-12-09 Thanks to Melody and Facebook, I just discovered this.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

december views

I took these photos last weekend and am posting them after reading this idea, which I love. (Thanks, Albina.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

the self-taught artist

Interwebs recess over! It was a sad excuse for a break, actually; I did a lot of lurking. In any case, I did start Christmas shopping and going to the gym again and did everything on my To Do list except finish my book. The best thing was finally, with some trepidation, uncapping my new tubes of oil paint last week. Oil paints are a very yin-yang thing. They are very sensuous to use and I was thrilled once again by their luscious texture, amazing coverage, luminous colours, etc. They're just plain fun to paint with. But then there's the lingering odour (which I quite like -- it's the idea of their toxicity that bothers me), messy cleanup, stained fingers, etc. For some reason I can paint very cleanly with acrylics but I get oil paints all over me! It's almost like I revisit childhood finger painting.

That said, I was very careful at first. I wanted to get a feel for it without wasting too much time and paint, so I started with an acrylic underpainting on an 8" x 8" panel to illustrate the RH Blyth quote, "Art is frozen zen". I then proceeded as if I were still painting in acrylic so I could test the differences from a place of familiarity. As you can see, the result is similar but it sure felt different! Next, I did a Stories painting on panel the same way. As I was working it occurred to me that eight years of using only acrylic paint was a useful education. Acrylic is surprisingly different from oil, and because of the fast drying time, lack of body and other properties, I learned techniques that create a sort of freshness that I hope to also be able to achieve with oil paint, though in a medium with a more luminous surface. Real experiments to come!

Speaking of experimenting, I also started thinking about the whole 'self-taught artist' thing. I'm one of those people who think all artists are self taught, unless they go to a technical school that focuses on commercial and design techniques. As a recipient of a university BFA, I learned very little of practical value beyond how to build/stretch my own canvases. I had one amazing teacher who was able to guide me in such a way that I orchestrated my own creative breakthrough, but most of my studio classes consisted of following vague directions and working out the technical aspects for myself. The real learning came many, many years later when I decided to quit my job, paint the walls of my basement, set up an easel and start noodling away in solitude. And like any self-respecting self-taught artist, the more I learn the less I know.