Happy Birthday, 2020. 12″ x 16″, Oil & acrylic on canvas
A Memento Mori is an object or image which serves to remind the viewer of the inevitability of death. Historically speaking the intent of the Memento Mori was to advise the viewer to forsake temporal pleasures and attend to the spiritual life which theoretically transcended death.
For myself, the Memento Mori reminds me to appreciate the gifts of life, as life is fleeting and an after-life is far from certain.
The bee in this painting is a stand in for me. My name, Debbie.lee, means bee, according to some interpretations. I painted this memento mori to celebrate my birthday and the completion of another cycle around the sun. The incorporation of the Covid-19 virus in the floral decoration on the plate commemorates the specific year, it’s most significant event, and is a reminder not to take for granted the pleasures of life life and good health, for who knows what lies ahead.
This painting is not currently for sale, however if you are interested in limited edition prints contact me and I will add you to a pre-order information list.Yes, add me to the list!
As social (physical) distancing drags on people are dreaming of getting their lives back. I have three more drawings in the Covid-19 series, this first is inspired by a study which surveyed how the pandemic was manifesting in peoples dreams.
The second is about the realities of parents, grandparents and volunteer caregivers who are now juggling the responsibilities of full time child care and full time remote work. It is a blessing of communications technology that many are able to do this and maintain income security. Some telecommuters are able to help family members who are considered front line essential services, but without child care, to maintain their income security by pulling double duty. However it needs to be recognized that of necessity neither job is going to get the undivided care and attention it normally receives.
The third drawing is about Mother’s day, and the circumstance that will keep many parents in care from visiting with their loved ones anytime soon.
I anticipate another 4 in the series for 38, and then we will see where we go from there with the Covid-19 artwork. Currently I am wrapping up my first ever online print pre-sale and I am happy with all that I have learned from this venture, the new people I have had the opportunity to connect with and with the encouragement and support I have received. I will be sending the images to the printer in the next couple days as well as ordering related shipping supplies. Once I know what all of the actual (not projected) costs of this venture have been I will be able to re-introduce the online shop to the Covid-19 page and apply that knowledge forward.
Also this week, I was happy to welcome Florence and Yilu to the Sunflower Project with #6 (Sunflower Seed #60) & #7 (Sunflower Seed #61) of the 12 days of Christmas series of sunflower seed paintings. May their paintings encourage them to share their 1000 gifts with the world! If you would like to participate in the Sunflower Project, go here to learn more and sign up!
So I feel like we have settled into a little routine or a new normal, as they are saying now, although we are all looking forward to (if not quite certain about) plans to ease restrictions and re-open businesses.
There was a lot of questions about herd immunity, and whether this can be relied upon to protect us as we start going out in public again. How many would need to be immune and how long does immunity last? My thoughts are that if you are in a high risk category you should probably play it safe for a while yet, while if you are healthy you can probably have a little more faith in the ability of the medical system to take care of you should your case be more severe. However even a young healthy person should still avoid contact with those in high risk categories to keep them safe.
Last weekend we had the opportunity to go out to Elbow Falls for a walk when the province re-opened the parking lots and staging areas at provincial parks. It was absolutely wonderful. We weren’t driving a convertible, but I think the feeling was the same.
In Sunflower Project news, Lorraine Appleby joined the project this week, and Sunflower Seed # 5 went out to her. Georgina K contacted me about her project inspired by the sunflower project. She has been leaving gifts of hand crafted fabric trees about for passers by, and left one for me on Friday too! Watch for those around your area if you are in Calgary!
We finally started getting some projections on the severity and length of the pandemic this week and have had to think about the idea that this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. With that in mind, I moved to a schedule of doing the Covid-19 Sketchbook drawings three days per week and posting them on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings.
I was interviewed on the CBC Homestretch April 2nd about the drawings however I don’t see any links on their website for the segment so unfortunately I can’t share that with you.
However CBC Calgary shared 8 more images on their instagram account.
And Ellie McIntosh also featured one of the images in her latest Vlog post on the importance of creativity in times like these.
Speaking of videos, I got the Covid-19 Sketchbook Tour video uploaded on Saturday (only a day late, thanks to working non-stop until 3 am).
We are almost there with getting reproductions of the Covid-19 drawings up for sale. I have suppliers who can do the job, a list of the top images people would like to have, and price points. I just need to figure out how to set up a pre-sale ordering process on my website now and we should be good to go, so keep an eye out for that on the Covid-19 Chronicles page.
This week we welcomed one more Sunflower Project participant, with #58 (4 of the 12 days of Christmas series) going out to her. Another participant wrote to me about the project that she is starting as her way to share her 1000 gifts. I am going to be really excited to share that with you if she sends me updates or pictures of what she does!
So This is what happens when an initial idea doesn’t pan out on a canvas. Originally I was going to do a series of small paintings with a recipe card for pancakes overlaid with agricultural and ingredient images. It just wasn’t working, so I abandoned the set after the base sketches were done, and decided to re-use the canvas for these lovely little food still life paintings depicting Canadian heritage treats with tea, books and various items. So here is the first of three of these original oil paintings shown being painted directly over the original sketch. Speed-painting and time-lapse painting video’s of the other two paintings will be uploaded to YouTube in March and May, so if you would like to see them as well you should definitely subscribe to my YouTube channel.
Finding your style, your subject, as an artist is something artists are encouraged to do, but most are resistant to, though many hope to arrive at something naturally. Why is that? Branding mainly I suppose. It is easier to be known for something, and to build a market for something, if that something has a consistent look to it. As creative types who are trained to push boundaries and break norms, settling in to one style or subject is like choosing to encase yourself in a plastic suit that looks like you but can’t move, or grow, or express all the interesting weird parts of yourself. I was once told that based on the range of my work (I had brought three paintings to a critique), I came across as three completely distinct personalities! However I think eventually, as an artist follows his/her own interests and learns more about what truly motivates him/her, certain fascinations will emerge and make themselves clear without the need to plasticize.
Right now I believe I see this happening with my food paintings. Certainly the subject matter is not going to win any awards for its revolutionary content, however the fascination is authentic to me and my lived experience as a member of my society. So perhaps this is how finding your authentic voice as an artist happens:
It all started with an innocent request from my husband Uncle. Actually, I think it all started with a 90 pound weight loss. It’s known that when you are depriving your body of sufficient calories, your body has a tendency to suggest solutions to you. Suddenly you can’t get that craving out of your mind. It develops into a fixation on high quality home made versions of your old favourites. I love Christmas fruitcake, and decided if I was going to indulge in the seasonal treat I would make my own brandy drenched home made cake. One cake was all it took and I was hooked. So back to my husband’s Uncles request. My husband suggested I make one for his father and uncle, since as his mother had passed away her custom of making them was gone. The following year I made one for Harry, and offered to make one for Bob. However as the fruitcakes are a weighty cake that cost twice as much to ship as to make, Bob asked if I would please paint him a fruitcake and send that instead. And so I did, for four straight Christmases. Bob now has a set of four fruitcake paintings.
Then I was looking for a novel approach to participate in Calgary’s premier event of every summer since long before I was born, the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede. The Stampede hosts the Western Showcase Artist’s Studios and Art Gallery each year, a themed juried commercial art show which has distinctly shaped the arts in Calgary. I was thinking about what my favourite part of Stampede was growing up in Calgary, and for me it had to be the citywide free pancake breakfasts. Whatever your economic status, political, cultural or social affiliation, you are always welcome to enjoy a free pancake breakfast at any one of the many events hosted across the city during the 10 days of Stampede. So I decided to do a series of paintings combining my love of art history with my love of pancake breakfasts.
And now I am happily working away on a series of still life paintings depicting Canadian heritage treats such as Butter tarts, Saskatoon Jam and Nanaimo Bars.
Here is where the innocent request meets my own natural interest. Significant weight loss is one of those events that permanently changes ones metabolism. There are as yet no numbers on when one returns to ‘normal,’ as though one had never had the extra weight in the first place. I may never lose this interest in good food, as my subconscious seeks to assist me to return to my former size. So as strange as it may seem these coincidentally arrived at paintings of food may be a long term authentic subject matter, one I didn’t realize I had been developing. In fact, the further back I look, the more I find I was engaging with food in my work without realizing it as part of my own personal visual language.
My advice to you if you are struggling against the advice to narrow down your style, your subject and your interests, as I do, is to let it happen naturally. What gives you the most joy? It may not be what you think it should be, or what others think is a worthy subject matter, or a profitable one. However if you let it, your voice will emerge on its own anyhow, without your intention. Just keep making.
My Youtube Channel is up and I have a favour to ask: I have polls on each of my first 3 video’s to ask what you would like to see in future videos? Please go to the channel, watch a video and answer the poll when it pops up. If you don’t have a youtube account that’s Ok, you can leave your comments here for me instead. Thanks a bunch for helping! Here is a “time lapse” from the Sunflower Project:
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!
It appears I am so behind on keeping the blog up to date!
SO last spring I was given the opportunity to participate in a program bringing a suite of new painted utility boxes to the Marlborough Community in Calgary. I jumped at the chance, having spent nearly a decade of my formative years in the neighbourhood. Each artist created a design concept responding to the overall theme of home, and to information gathered during an extensive phase of community engagement.
Here was my contribution to the Curb appeal in the Marlborough Community:
You may notice the retro colour scheme and styling. Marlborough is a 1970’s community and in talking to residents it impressed me how many people had bought when Marlborough was new and still lived there. It was also impressive to me how many people said it was their community and their neighbours that meant the most to them when they thought about their experience of living in Marlborough. So I decided to create a design that was an ode to the 70’s roots of the area, and that focused on the points in our homes where we interact with our neighbours. The theme of community was also a natural fit for the sunflower project, and you will see that I included copious references to it in the design.
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!
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:
Both of these paintings were shown at the Edge Gallery YYC in the I Love Inglewood show.