Time to Plan (your Art Show) for Better Times

As I write this today it seems half of Calgary is shut down to limit the spread of COVID-19 and the shops may as well be for the amount of stock left on their shelves due to panic buying. My daughter’s university practicum is cancelled, putting her educational plan in limbo, and I am worried about the safety of my mother and her husband on her upcoming trip to Calgary from out of province. They are in the high risk category for complications if they were to get sick. So although I think my household could handle the illness, I will be following the suggestions for social distancing and hand-washing. I am doing that so my older family members don’t get sick, and so I don’t have to self-isolate and miss out on my mom’s visit, should she still choose to come out (I would totally understand if they decided to postpone it though, given the circumstances).

For me social distancing is not a huge problem as my children are not little anymore, I don’t regularly commute for work or work around others, and I had no big events lined up for March. I can play it by ear for the smaller gigs I do have coming up. However many of my peers in the arts are seeing their shows, performances and day-jobs go on hiatus while the world implements extraordinary measures to flatten the curve on COVID-19. Many are uncertain of how they are going to pay their bills, as they don’t fit into the standard employment categories. I am hopeful that recently announced government assistance to workers in the form of paid leave and EI benefit waiting period waivers will somehow be adapted to assist the creative workers who have seen their engagements cancelled as well.

They have poured all of their love and effort into their ventures, only to see something completely out of left field wipe those plans away. It is not something that an artist can plan for. Global pandemic is not usually a SWOT Analysis consideration for these ventures. All we can do is make our best laid plans for what is likely and hope that the odds will be in our favour when it comes to opening day.

As frustrating and futile as it may seem at the moment, now is the perfect time to have faith in the future and start making plans for that next big project. If you are at loose ends with all the cancellations going on, now is the time to make some art, and make a plan to show that art. I have already seen one 30 day challenge circulating specific to COVID-19 response, with discussion about having a charitable auction or show of the results. So go ahead, get in on that, make some art and plan that show for better times!

Here is a video I made to help you get started putting your art show plan together:

Subscribe to the channel so you don’t miss the series as episodes are released. Stay healthy, make some art, and get ready to get out there again when the time is right.

Thoughts on Over-painting (oil)

I just didn’t have a passion for the project anymore. The inspiration did not work out and I was not stubborn enough to invest more time in making it work. So wasteful to abandon high quality* canvases in this time of thoughtful consumption, so I repainted them with fresh inspiration.

Of course there are considerations for overpainting canvases: Is the original completely dry? If you’re considering immediately repainting a painting you will have to worry about the dry rates of the underlying layers, oil and solvent contents of those layers and how it will effect the new painting. Is the painting fresh enough that you could just scrape the whole thing back? If not I would strongly suggest waiting until the painting is completely dry so at least you know what you have to deal with. These canvases were about 6 or 7 months dry, with only the initial layers done. I was concerned that since those layers had quite a lot of solvent they might unevenly draw down the oils from the new painting to make sunken patches that didn’t match well, so I started by wiping down and oiling them out with a mixture of oil and an earth colour to simultaneously tone down the existing painting without completely eradicating it. Then I left them to dry another 3 or 4 months before working on them, once I was satisfied that the oil/earth mixture had an even finish.

Why didn’t I just use a solid colour base after oiling to make a clean slate? I can’t give you a good answer to that. Options? Challenge? I wanted to give myself the option of incorporating some of the initial painting into this one if it seemed like an interesting effect once I was into the painting. I liked the challenge of visualizing the new painting while dealing with the interference of the old one. You may want to use a more solid base colour after oiling out so you can visualize your image without interference. In the finished paintings you can barely see evidence of the originals anyway, so while it was challenging to work this way, pushing me to work with thicker more opaque layers, and therefore allowing for fewer new layers – if we are following Fat over Lean and all that – there was no end result aesthetic justification for doing it that way.

Speaking of thickness, these canvases were originally thinly painted as only the initial layers were completed prior to repainting, but you’ll also want to consider the texture of the existing painting. A highly textured surface means you’ll be seeing outlines beneath the new painting, I have not found sanding to be practical in eliminating anything more than the most minor bumps, drips or traces of stray brush hairs, so you will want to think creatively about how those textural elements can be incorporated in the new composition. A portrait may not be a good candidate for repainting as a landscape, as the shape of the head neck and shoulders may still be evident, but on the other hand, it could force some creative acknowledgement of that element into the landscape. I have had some good effects with textured surfaces, but the painting has to pretty much be designed for or respond to the surface in terms not only of composition, but materials used in the original painting; will new paint absorb or adhere unevenly to the old paint, how dry is the existing painting, and is the support stable (*generally speaking, don’t bother trying to rescue a cheap canvas, use it for a craft or experiment but nothing you are serious about)?

So how about you, what are your experiences and concerns with over-painting canvases?

Sunflower Project: Community Collaborations

So last week I told you about the new painted utility box I contributed to the Marlborough community. I also mentioned the references to the sunflower project that I included in the design. Here would now be a good place to include some images of a couple of the other boxes from the project. These artists agreed to let me contribute a sunflower seed to the designs of their boxes, symbolically taking part in the project and growing it further to take root in the Marlborough community. Thanks Sharon Fortowsky and Ashley Oshiro for hosting the Sunflower Project in your projects. Hopefully we can collaborate again soon!

City of Calgary Painted Utility Box
Ashley Oshiro
(Detail with Sunflower seed by Debbie.lee Miszaniec)

City of Calgary Painted Utility Box
Ashley Oshiro

City of Calgary Painted Utility Box
Sharon Fortowsky
(Detail with Sunflower seed by Debbie.lee Miszaniec)

City of Calgary Painted Utility Box
Sharon Fortowsky

Art In Transit: Installed! (plus bonus Inglewood art)

You may recall I posted last spring that the City of Calgary was interested in reproducing my little painting,  Pancake Breakfast, in the large, on glass for the 17th Avenue BRT project. Well here is the finished project!

Pancake Breakfast, Reproduction of glass, Installed

I really like where it was situated, close to the Blackfoot Diner in Inglewood. When the former owner, Edna, was alive, she was known to give free meals to the homeless on occasion, so the placement of this symbol of Calgary hospitality seems appropriate. What do you think?

Speaking of Inglewood and the Blackfoot Diner, (two, or rather one in another, places which meant a lot to me growing up in Calgary,) here are a couple paintings I did a few years ago expressing my love of Inglewood:

Blackfoot Diner
10″ x 11″
Acrylic on canvas and repurposed candy box.
Debbie.lee Miszaniec

Inglewood Food Mart
10″ x 11″
Acrylic on canvas and repurposed candy box
Debbie.lee Miszaniec

Both of these paintings were shown at the Edge Gallery YYC in the I Love Inglewood show.

The Motion of Shopping : Opening Tomorrow!

Opening April 25th 6 – 9 PM

Women’s Art Museum of Canada, AB Chapter, Edmonton

My painting, Security ( 20″ x 24″ oil on canvas), will be on view for the first time to the public for the duration of this show. If you are in Edmonton don’t miss this opportunity to see the real deal up close and personal.

oil on canvas
20″ x 40″
Debbie.lee Miszaniec

Art in Transit: Pancake Breakfast

Pancake Breakfast

9 x 12 O/C

by Debbie.lee Miszaniec

Last week I was contacted by the City of Calgary, regarding the selection of one of my paintings to be enlarged and reproduced permanently on one of the transit shelters for the 17th Ave SE BRT public transit development. I am super excited to be working with the City on this and can’t wait to see what Pancake Breakfast looks like enlarged and in the public space! I will make sure to take and post pictures when this goes ahead.


Okay, I know I have been away since March 13th, and if you have posted a legit comment on a post since then, I am genuinely sorry that it will not be read or posted, however 2800 pieces of spam are a little much to expect someone to sift through in order to find the one nugget of authentic human contact in my inbox. I skimmed the posts as I marked them spam, but for the most part they were neither specific nor relevant to this blog.

So, if you would like to have your post actually read and responded to, PLEASE make sure that it is specific and relevant, and is very obviously so. There are so many generic spam posts that are clearly copy and pastes, saying how wonderful this site or post is,  or asking general questions related to the technical side of blogging… well you see what I am saying, praise is only meaningful if its authentic right?

Anyhow, I am still here, still checking in, and I do hope that one day I will be skimming my inbox and actually see a legit post from one of you out there. So lets talk!

Your Greatest Masterpiece

YOLO. It’s a contemporary cliche, but it’s true.

Today my uncle passed away. He was only 54, but hadn’t been truly living in years. He was fixated by demons of passed emotional hurts and locked in a battle between the reality of morbid obesity and the ideal of universal body acceptance. Eventually this struggle came to be his personal identity, until it imprisoned and conquered him.

There was so much more to him than his size. He was outspoken, a true big personality, who wasn’t afraid of being contrarian or ruffling feathers. He loved cooking, technology, vehicles and movies. When he was young he loved to draw. He had an intense need to be close to family. He took in relatives for years at a time, and made nearly daily phone calls to his brothers and sisters.

Any one of theses things could have become his identity, and carried him through life, giving him the encouragement he needed to make healthy changes so he could enjoy those activities longer.

I understand the defiance that would lead him to build his identity around his opposition to western culture’s body ideals. In my own weight loss journey I had to make choices to embrace a larger vision of myself than just my right to be big in our culture. I had to separate myself from that dialog in order to pursue what was best for me. I was not responding to cultural perceptions of my value as a woman. I was not thinking about attractiveness or career competitiveness, I just wanted to be at a healthy weight so that I could get the most out of my life, as an artist as well as a wife, mother and living being on this planet.

Art is a long haul occupation. Skill and reputation are developed over many years. Every artist has to forge his or her own path, discovering as she goes along what works and what works for her. Success is rare before middle age, and history is littered with artists who die just as they are hitting their stride. As an artist I encourage every one who is dedicated to the journey to work on the masterpiece of their life at the same time. Even if artistic success as you define it never does call, take pleasure in the best expression of your entire life.

I call my studio One Life Fine Art partially as a reminder that we do only live once (that we know of for certain). That means, not only doing what I love now, but also making the choices that will prolong my life and keep me in the best possible shape so I can enjoy it. It means forgiving myself for not always measuring up to outside ideals, and thus not defining myself in opposition to them. Neither carrying the weight of success or failure, instead embracing every moment of this one life, living it at my pace and making time for the important things that bring me joy. One Life Fine Art is bigger than my studio or my art practice, it is an expression of the wholeness of my life.

There is never certainty, and we are always free to choose how we will identify ourselves and how we want to be identified, but let’s not choose ways which will leave us miserable and suffering, which will limit our futures. Life is too short for suffering. I encourage you all to make your life your ultimate masterpiece.

Goodbye Alvin. Love you.

Art Under Trump

I was hesitant to write this article, as it does not fit with my previously stated intentions for this blog, or my current general desire to stay out of political commentary. It is an involvement that has never benefitted me in the past.

However, I felt at the same time it was nearly impossible not to think about what effect the election of Donald Trump may have on the visual arts. It is Remembrance day, and a mere 3 days after an American election that so clearly seems reactionary and supportive of extremist views. On this day we remember the lives lost fighting, among too many other conflicts, a world war that featured another election of an outsider politician. He too espoused extremist views and offered shortcuts to salvation to a demonized population exhausted from the hard slog of recovery.

As a western Canadian I am removed from the heat of the election, as well as the heat of the contemporary art world. I am not sure you could get a lot more ‘outsider’ than me. However, outsiders do make good observers, so I can speculate generally about how this political development might impact the art coming out of the USA, and maybe the world.

A number of artists have already voiced their shock and dismay over the results of Tuesdays election. Those who support Trump seem few and far between. With this (not undeserved) animosity, I fear that the arts in America may fare poorly under a Trump presidency.

Between Trump’s proclivity for threatening law-suits on detractors, and his supporters’ demonstrated willingness to bare knuckles against critical artists, artists may choose not to tackle ‘sensitive’ topics for both personal and economic safety. Those who do may find it safer to criticize from a geographic remove.

While artists’ efforts to hold up a mirror to society are crucial to keeping the public thinking critically, it can be a dangerous road to follow. Many avant-garde European artists during World War II could attest to their work, critical or not, earning them the label of ‘degenerate’, getting them imprisoned, getting them forbidden from working, and being destroyed by the Nazi government. Even Nazi supporters such as Emile Nolde wound up on the wrong side of the party over his painting style.

This persecution of artists in Europe spawned a massive influx of avant-garde artists and intellectuals to North America, contributing significantly to the flowering of the American visual arts scene and its consequent acknowledgement as the centre of the art world for at least half a century afterward.

With the Americans’ long history of free speech, freedom of assembly and civil rights activism, I doubt that artists would ever be subject to such dramatic persecutions as under Nazism. However, lets not forget McCarthyism. I would not be surprised to hear that under the threat of litigations or harassment some artists might choose to either second guess their creative output or criticize from a distance. Should this be the case, American art may move in a more conservative, traditionalist direction, where the most interesting art is produced outside of its borders.

Should anyone think this be an argument for an expansion of the arts in Canada (as a few artists have voiced intentions of moving to Canada), I am not sure our minuscule Canadian art market could satisfy. Ironically, a return to European destinations such as Germany might be more the order for the avant-garde.

Of course, this is likely worst-case scenario speculation, and perhaps all we will see under Trump’s polarizing influence is a larger divide between the camps of art for art’s sake, and social art reinvigorated by having something to fight against.

What do you think? What influence will Trump’s presidency have over the direction of American art?

Here is one possible scenario from the Washington Post. What is yours?