Yes, Hello! I’m Still Here!


I’ve been feeling immense guilt at having not posted in over a month. I was in the midst of a move, and blogging about creativity was far from my mind. That’s not to say that I haven’t been creative. I’m lucky to have a job that requires creativity on a daily basis, so that even if I am not creating at home, I am creative at work. I have some great “Keep It Simple Genius” recipes I will be posting soon. Right now, I thought I’d share some photos.

Photography is something I’ve been away from for quite some time. I’ve been meaning to get back in the saddle but have not been inspired to take the ol’ camera out of the saddle bag as it were. Then I was asked to photograph a fundraising event at my local art center. The event is called the Soup-er Bowl ( get it? ) which leads to no end of confusion when said verbally without the benefit of seeing the pun. It’s my favourite event because it involves ceramic bowls and soup – LOTS of soup. My sister would approve as she is a soup junky. Basically, you pay $45 and you get to choose a bowl that’s been hand-made by one of the students ( my mother-in-law makes amazing bowls!) and then you taste up to 14 different soups from local restaurants and vote on the best one. I treat it like an Olympic sport. Have you ever tried to eat 14 different soups at a sitting? It is tres difficile. But I’m usually up to the challenge – it’s called a muumuu and no food all day leading up.

This time around I was simply the photographer. As sad as it was to not participate in the yumminess, I was freed to just focus on getting the shots.

The lighting was tough – mixed lighting (mostly halogen)  in a dim, cavernous room at night. My flash unit wasn’t working because I had an accident with a leaking battery that killed it. Aargh! So, I had to rely on a steady hand, highest ISO I could use without too much noise and a wide open aperture at f 5.6

Sorry if a bit of photography speak snuck out and made you blank out momentarily (the photographer in me).

I was nervous about doing documentary photography. So much happens at the same time it’s hard to know where to be and how to choose the shot. If you lose the moment it’s gone. Not to mention that I’m shy about being all up in peoples’ grill. It’s not really my forte, but I tried to relax and just have fun with it. I even got up on a stool in the middle of the crowd to get  better perspective. I was surprised to discover that people just forget that you’re there (so much so I had to make sure they didn’t knock me from my stool). I can’t say that I had a break-out, spectacular, Henri Cartier Bresson-esque photographic moment, but I was pleased. Here are the results:

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At the Farmer’s Market


Forward momentum. That’s what I’m all about these days. After an inspiring visit to Canada to see my sister doing her Farmer’s Market and other shows, I wanted to get started in my neck of the woods. I enquired about the local Farmer’s Market but didn’t hear back, didn’t hear back…and then suddenly an email on Friday asking if I could set up on Saturday!!

Well, I couldn’t say no, but I was also nervous about “yes” because I wasn’t prepared. But, I went for it. Luckily I could borrow a tent last-minute from my husband’s place of work, and a few tables from my mother in-law. It was hasty, but it worked out in the end:

My rushed set-up. Not spectacular, but it did the job

I’ve now committed to the market every Saturday until the end of the season. That’s 12 shows total. I’m not sure it makes the most sense monetarily, but I am looking at it as excellent promotion. How is anyone supposed to know I exist if I don’t get out there? The wonderful thing is that, after only being here for a few years, I already know quite a few people in the community and they are quite supportive. It seems I have a lot of interest from tourists and locals alike with my pet portraits.

I’m selling pet portrait commissions along with small items such as prints, cards, small hand made ceramic charms and hand drawn magnets such as these:

Hand made, one of kind magnets

As well as cards, which I’ve posted before, either here on this blog or at my sister blog: www.vieveandlynsker.wordpress.com where my sister and I share all things creative.

Yesterday I showed up at Costco, ready to buy a tent with walls, only to discover that “summer is over”, at least, according to retail land. So, I was a bit flustered having no back-up plan. But after a quick consult with my very capable and steady sister-in-law, and the help of her smart phone ( I need one of those BAD!) we were able to locate a shade canopy, not exactly the style I wanted, but available at Friedman’s. At that point, I would have bought anything at any cost because I just wanted to get a damn tent for this upcoming Farmer’s Market. Luckily I was in luck, because though the tent didn’t have walls, it happened to be on sale, so instead of $100 it was $89. Sold! What a relief.

I’m not totally where I want to be in terms of the perfect, most simple and light market set-up, but I’m getting there. Wish me luck!

S

Creativity with Kid Assist


My day-time job is teaching art to kids at the local Boys and Girls Club. I’m blessed that my working life still involves creativity. It has surprised me over the years how inhibited some kids can be, I had assumed that the joy of childom was to be very uninhibited. Instead, I find the majority are worried about things turning out just right or perfect. So, I approach art in as non-judgmental a way as possible and encourage them to “not do as I do and think outside the box”. Naturally, however,  they want to copy me. I used to make an example piece before class to show the kids, but things always ended in disappointment because the kids couldn’t exactly replicate it which was frustrating and it stunted their imagination. At one point I tried to dumb down my art, but that didn’t work for me and I felt like I wasn’t setting a good example. I’ve arrived at the point where I say to the kids “I am A LOT OLDER than you- I’m 31, imagine how good you’ll be in 20+ years!” That seems to appease them a little bit. Also describing the project and then doing it alongside them, effectively creating and discovering together seems to be the trick.

Each week this summer we have a theme and I ended up with some pretty neat artwork by the end of it. I thought I’d share. This is not anything I would usually think to do, but because it was with the kids, I discovered I was less inhibited and in trying to teach the kids open-mindedness and a “let’s see what happens” attitude, I ended up opening up a lot myself.  I’ll show you some things I made during Pirate Week and then Super Hero Week:

This was a project where I showed the kids pictures of pirates and encouraged them to come up with a character all their own. I demonstrated by drawing along-side them. They liked this guy so much that they asked my not to color him but photocopy him instead so that they could have a coloring page. I obliged.

We worked with acrylic paint. I initially started painting this guy to demonstrate how a painting looks finished once all the white of the page is filled in (kids have a resistance to “taking their time” and “filling the page”. I ended up really liking this guy. The kids encouraged me to add a parrot.

The next week was Hero Week. The theme was essentially about local heroes like firemen, policewomen etc., but what was much more inspiring were super heroes with super powers, so we stretched the theme for the sake of art!

I kind of drew a blank on what to do. I often encourage the kids to draw what they like and know (rather than something so outlandishly difficult that they don’t know how to draw it and end up begging me to do it instead), so that’s what I ended up telling myself to do and came up with: Super Artist!

I taught the kids about cartoons and the various cells they could draw. We went over a few conventions and then we went at it. I encouraged everyone to come up with their own hero they could be proud of. The kids as a group agreed that a hero is someone (or thing) that helps and protects others. So I came up with an octopus that saves the little fishies. I also turned this into a coloring page because the kids begged me. I was impressed by the kids’ creativity on this one ( wish I’d had the foresight to bring my camera to work and take pics of their amazing work!).

This was a watercolor class dealing with wax resist, sharpie outline and then salt for added visual texture. This was my demo piece and I really like how it came out!

 

So, though I’ve considered the art I do in the studio and the art I do with the kids very different things, I realized after those two weeks that the separation is beginning to blur. The more I bring what I do to the table, the more the kids seem to be into it and respond to the lessons and the more fun I have!

I appreciate all my kid colleagues who helped me with this break-through moment!

 

 

S

Epic Art Fails


I know, probably the first rule of marketing is to present your work in the best possible light; don’t expose your weaknesses. But this is a blog about process, and art is definitely a process fraught with stumbles, errors and epic fails. Art is human.

I am most definitely human; subject to all sorts of weaknesses…brought nicely home to me this weekend by a whammy of a cold. I thought I could nip it in the bud with a good dose of oregano oil and rest, but oh ho no, this bugger needs to run it’s full and brutal course. Lying on my couch, wearing the same grubby outfit I’ve had on all weekend, a sea of spent tissues around me, my hair on end like a scrap of furry road-kill, I started to think about my art. More specifically, the failed art.

Wait. Wait, you say. How can you fail at art? It’s self-expression, it’s a piece of you, it can’t be an entire failure. Well, I beg to differ. Just as I can fail at health, I can fail at art. The stuff on canvas, those epic fails can be taken care of with a few layers of gesso. A lovely under-painting that hopefully no one will every discover (though in my wild imaginings, it’s a hundred years later and they’re examining my work with those x-ray things and they discover the fail beneath the win and they are all greatly disappointed).

No, the fails that are most evident are the ceramic ones. No gesso will make that lump of stoneware disappear. When I’m dead and gone, those pieces, even if broken to bits, could still be discovered by some future anthropologist who might extrapolate from their find that people of this time were none to intelligent.

And how do I ultimately know that my work has failed? My hubby gently and inconspicuously sets it aside, either on the floor beside the table I set it on or in a cupboard out of sight. Message received.

Exhibit  A:  A butter dish.

Intelligent Design: small birds on bottom half to help lid stay on.

Fail: Under high kiln temps, birds flex and the end result is this:

New Life as:   Shades rest and plant prop.

Exhibit B:  Two tea pots

Intelligent Design: built in tea leaf strainer in spout

Cute, right?:

  

While I did manage to side-step that age old problem of the all too Phalic spout…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fail: Glaze will ruin those carefully crafted strainer holes:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exhibit C: Square Tissue Box Holder

Intelligent Design: The tissue comes out of the monsters mouth.

Fail: No it doesn’t, because the tissue box doesn’t fit!

I’m not a precision artist, especially where math comes in. There can be a 20% shrinkage rate from wet clay to twice fired clay(depending on many factors). I did use a ruler and calculated approximate shrinkage, I swear!  Mostly I go with my gut instincts on designs and it usually works. This time was no different. My gut instinct said this probably would be a fail. I was right.

While oh so sweet looking, the sides of the box flexed under the heat, just enough so that a square tissue box does not fit in a not so square monster. I don’t have a tissue box to demonstrate it for you, because I’ve used all the available tissue on my bottomless snot producing sinuses.

So there you have it. The epic fails.

But failure is a good thing. Just as failing to remain healthy gave me an awesome excuse to do nothing and just rejuvinate, fails in art inform the process and ensure a win the next time round.

For a look at a true ceramic artist’ work, whose fails always still look like wins to me, please visit my friend Aislinn’s site:  www.aislinncaron.ca

Adios fellow process-ers!

Process: Portrait in the Making


The steps towards a finished pet portrait are rarely the same from piece to piece. Sometimes I envy those artists who have a system, a way of doing things that they rarely waver from. At times, my lack of a set process has made me doubt whether I truly was an artist. I also envy those artists who are so driven by their passion to paint that they would lose sleep or allow themselves to become malnourished all for the sake of their art. Uh, uh, not me. I am well fed at all times, and when the clock strikes the magic hour I am firmly cuddled up in warm blankets ready for a lovely night’s sleep.

So I’ve come to embrace the fact that my erratic process and sporadic fits of inspiration are the hallmarks of my creative style. I’m going to show you two pet portraits, one a commission, one a gift for my parents and the process I went through to create each of them. You can decide whether they’re similar at all.

The first is a commission I did for a friend in my book club. She has a cat named Fiona who has extremely expressive eyes, a tone of attitude and beautiful fur. Because of her personality, it was extremely difficult to get a photograph of her that was satisfactory, even though I did visit on two occasions to photograph her. We finally decided to use the body position in one image and the face in another one:

Above: the body

Below: the head

 

Because the expression had to be just right and the background had to fit very specific requests, I did a couple of quick sketches:

 

 

 

After a few practice runs, I then used pencil to sketch onto the canvas. This is a very loose process, because invariable adjustments are always made as the paint is applied. Then on goes the paint. The under painting is initially grays and blacks:

 

Slowly the details and color are added in:

Then lots of playing by adding colors, deciding against them, painting over and eventually the end product:

 

The Rovi painting was not as much pressure since it wasn’t a commission and as a result was done a little more quickly and freely.  For this one, I had a photograph already but it was extremely yellow from the tungsten lighting when the photo was taken. I had to guess at the color of her fur based on my memories of her:

 

Rather than do a series of sketches I decided to just go directly to the canvas and sketch it with paint:

 

As you can see above, proportions are wrong, but as the painting progresses, those adjustments are made. I loved the shape of Rovi’s body in this position and the negative space around her. I tend to favor a mat background because it highlights the subject and gives it a more contemporary feel. I ended up including a little bit of floor detail but changed the color entirely.  Here is the end result:

 

And that, my friends, is the process of two very different paintings.