A Valentine for the World

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.

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?

Medium of Exchange:Process HUB@302: March/April 2021

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.

A Better Butter Tart (painting).

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 Subject: Just Keep Making Stuff

Butter Tart

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.

  • Cowboy Coffee by Debbie.lee Miszaniec
Security oil on canvas 20″ x 40″ Debbie.lee Miszaniec

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.

Back to 2018: New/Old Video

2020 Revisits 2018

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.

10 Places To Look For Arts Opportunities in Calgary.

This piece was commissioned for one Call I responded to, and was also used for another later unrelated Call I responded to!

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.

If you want to learn about the original project you can read about it on my blog by clicking here.

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:

Email Lists to Subscribe to:

Website Classified Listings:

Other Places to Watch:

  • Facebook & Twitter – like and follow organization pages, and ask your friends to forward you interesting opportunities.

And there you go!

If you are not located in my area, there are other networks and organizations local to you. Share who you consult in your area and I will make a specific post for those areas.

If you have any other suggestions for places to watch for opportunities, let me know and I will update the list.

And if you know of a gallery that would just love to represent the type of work I do, let me know!

One Life Fine Art Studio Channel UP NOW:

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:

The One Life Fine Art Studio Youtube Channel is Finally a Thing!

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.

Happy New Year! Looking Back and Forward:

I have been setting up my shiny new bullet journal for the new year. Taking time to reflect on the last year and what one would like to do more of in the new year is something everyone should do, regardless of their stance on resolutions. So before setting up calendars and collections pages for the new journal I flipped through the pages of last year’s journal looking at what worked and didn’t, what I would like to do more of or do differently. Below is a summary of my progress and my art goals for 2020.

Transitioning journals for the new year is a perfect time to revisit my art goals.

100 rejections: 2018 was such a busy year that I just needed a bit of a slowdown in 2019, and so I resolved that based on a historical 16 – 17% acceptance rate, I would apply for 42 opportunities, estimating 6 acceptances. I actually only got 38 applications submitted however my acceptance rate improved to 21% in 2019. Based on those numbers and a goal of 12 projects for 2020, I’ll be aiming for 58 proposals this year.

Studio Work: 26 paintings in 2019. The majority of my work this year revolved around showing the Canada West and Currency paintings, as well as the creation and distribution of the Sunflower Project paintings. For 2020 I will be working on building a community and supports for the Sunflower Project, as well as 24 new Sunflower Seed paintings. I will also be continuing with the creation of five new Canada West paintings which explore some of Canada’s early immigrant experience. In the past few years, perhaps as a result of my weight loss journey, I have developed an affinity for painting food! So I will be working on 10 new Canadiana food paintings in the first months of this new year. Finally, I love the energy of Rumble House’s live art events, and the challenge of thinking (painting) on my feet as it were, so I have resolved to attend more Rumble House this year.

Shows: In 2019 I was honoured to have my work shown at both the Women’s Art Museum of Canada and in CARFAC’s Shaping Alberta. For over a year now Medium of Exchange has been working on collaborative and individual works for our 2020 reunion show. So this year the focus will be on finding a venue for this exhibition. Additionally I will be working on developing a show exploring Calgary’s past, present and future with fellow artist Scott Clark.

Digital Presence: My goal this year is to reintroduce a regular Blogging schedule by posting once per week. I am also going to be working on starting a VLOG this year.

Travel: In 2019 I saw more opportunities to show across Alberta, so for 2020 I will be looking at opportunities to show outside Alberta.

So that sums up most of what I will be working on this year, how about you, what will your professional goals be for the next year, and how do you decide them?