I have always loved the beautiful sketchbooks of other artists, but they have never been a regular thing for me. Mine are usually decades old and half full of loose composition ideas, shopping lists, reading notes, budgets, business ideas and the odd nice drawing of a landscape or portrait. But a proper visual diary of my thoughts, observations and inspirations? Nope, I’ve never had much luck with those. Maybe it is because my thought process is long, but I usually respond to circumstance through my paintings, rather than in bound books of daily sketches.
However there is something about the need to respond quickly to the realities of the Covid-19 crisis, that has me revisiting the sketchbook as a way to document and think through both the monumental shift in our daily lives, and the weaknesses in our social and economic systems that this crisis has exposed.
To create a painting in response to each question this crisis has raised would leave me behind the curve as each new thought, experience and piece of information displaces the last. A sketchbook seems much more responsive to the circumstance.
Considering a journal as opposed to a sketchbook; in this case, I prefer the ambivalence of images to the specificity of words. If I were arguing a position I would write an essay, or perhaps a manifesto. Words can be interpreted or misinterpreted, but it is difficult to hold two, or more, positions at the same time. I enjoy the plurality of the image, where I can simultaneously hold multiple and conflicting positions, turning them over in my head as I create and contemplate the visual analogies I am making.
Covid-19 has had an effect on my art practice in showing me the value of the sketchbook. I may decide to use a sketchbook format more often in the future when I want to digest a complex and quickly developing situation in a timely manner.
For now I will continue to document my thoughts in my Covid-19 Sketchbook. When this one is full I will do a sketchbook tour video (my very first, as you can guess based on my history with sketchbooks) and upload it to Youtube. Make sure to subscribe to my channel to catch that upload.
I love that Family Day follows Valentine’s Day here in Alberta! Because, as the song says, (insert name here) & (insert name here) sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G; first comes love, then comes marriage (or whatever relationship definition works for your reproductive unit), then comes (insert names here) pushing the baby carriage. So in honour of that special bond that grows between two people and then is shared with the next generation, Happy Family Day from my family to your’s!
I hope you will enjoy watching this Valentine’s day video that I published to my youtube channel for Valentine’s day, and that it inspires you to encourage your next generation to pay the love forward as well!
I’ve made 6 new sunflower seed paintings remind you to share your love with the world! I’ve published a new video to Youtube for Valentine’s day documenting the process of creating all six and I encourage you to subscribe to my Youtube channel so you don’t miss that. Remember to sign up to the sunflower project if you have not already by visiting my website here.
Its a bit early for a SAVE THE DATE announcement, given we are looking over a year down the road, so I am just putting it out there that the show we have been working on putting together for over a year now, Medium of Exchange: Process (a follow up to Medium of Exchange: Debt (2010)), has been invited by the Alberta Society of Artists to show in their gallery! Jesica Campbell, Penny Chase, Jessica Hauser, myself and Koren Scott, will be mounting the exhibition at HUB@302 in March/April of 2021. I will be documenting the development of this show here and on the One Life Fine Art Studio Channel in a series of videos and posts exploring how to mount a collaborative visual art exhibition like the Medium of Exchange shows. I expect the first video will be published later this month. If you are not already subscribed, you should follow the link to my channel and subscribe so you don’t miss that series.
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.
I discovered that I still had some footage from a 30 day vlog project I was recording in 2018, testing if I wanted to do this video thing. It turned out that I had way too much going on at that time to juggle a regular vlog, and so I shelved the footage. In between then and now two thirds of the footage went missing, but what remained was still an interesting look back for me as I reflected on what happened to those projects and involvements, and how they affected 2019. Now that I have decided to work on my Youtube Channel for 2020, I thought it might be fun to do a rewind and update video based on that test project. One thing I realized watching the footage, I love that haircut! It might be time to book a visit with a hairdresser.
I was talking to another artist at a gallery opening one day (ironically an artist who has gallery representation, something I have yet to find) about the 100 Rejections project, its inspiration, and how it has helped me to not take rejection so personally, make my rejections constructive, and look at my response rate analytically.
So this other artist, whom I presume relies on her dealer to direct opportunities her way (oh in a perfect world), asked me where I find the opportunities to apply for.
None of my sources are a secret, they just take a little regular web crawling a couple times a month, subscribing to a few email lists, and letting your network know that you are interested in new opportunities.
If you are interested in embarking on a rejections project of your own, and you happen to reside in my geographic context (Calgary), here are my top picks for sourcing opportunities to apply for:
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 January 17th I will be going live with my first public video uploads on the all new One Life Fine Art Studio Channel. Why do I say finally? Well I actually created the channel several years ago to share videos for another project. That project never went anywhere (after much work and investment) so I let the channel lapse while I focused on new projects. However I have wanted to create and share videos about my work and the work of being an artist for a while now. I just haven’t had time to plan, schedule, record, edit and upload videos on a regular basis; or so I thought. Turns out I already have a fair bit of footage recorded that I would like to get out there. After putting together a video with existing footage and a voice over recorded on my phone I saw that process is far less involved than the art videos I created during my undergrad days. So this is the year I jump in and get started. I want to start slow, with one or two videos a month, at least until I get my sea-legs under me and know I can maintain a schedule. The first videos on the channel will include an introduction to the channel, time lapse videos of painting, and a video from footage of my working life as an artist during a challenging year in my career. I will be posting a link to the channel when it goes live, so stay tuned for that special blog post on January 17th.