It is funny how things sometimes turn out differently from what you thought they would, isn't it? But after looking at the diptych that I posted a few weeks ago - without really thinking specifically about it - I knew that something was niggling at the back of my brain, telling me that something wasn't quite right; and suddenly I realized what it was: I discovered that I liked it better as two individual paintings instead of one! Both sides were quite strong and seemed to fight each other a bit - and I really liked the first one (pictured above) on its own! The other side of the diptych doesn't work quite as well by itself, but with only a few changes still to come it will also be happier alone - I think that the two of them were just too different to work really well as one painting. I presented the problem to my two best artist-friends and fiercest critics at our meeting last night and they tended to agree with me: that although they could work together, they were actually better apart, as this one especially tended to loose out to the stronger side.
I'm no computer "techie" and have spent hours lately trying to get used to Apple's way of doing things, and that is not easy! When you have used Windows for at least 20 years or maybe more, as I have, it has been a steep learning curve - and I have only scratched the surface of what my new iPad can do. I had thought of getting one for a while so that I could take photos of my work with me to show around, and also so I wouldn't be so tied down to my desk top PC. The decision to get one was made when I read about the benefit of having my work on Instagram - and how many great artists use it to show and promote their work - and how easy it would be to discover and follow other artists from around the globe who I might find interesting. But I couldn't use my PC for that, it had to be a mobile device.
I was facing a problem though in that I really wanted to be able to still use my PC and Photoshop to adjust the photos and get them as close to the original as possible - and to continue to use my good camera and photo set-up to have better control of exposure, lighting and so on. But everyone I asked said, that I couldn't do that!
Now, I wasn't going to just accept that, and I also really thought that surely there had to be a way - in this day and age it didn't seem reasonable that it would be impossible. So after many hours and much frustration I found a solution (thank you Google): send the photos to DropBox and from there you can get them onto your iPad - and I managed to do the DropBox part of it. But the iPad part totally defeated me so I signed up for a workshop at the Apple store; and I was very lucky in that I was the only one who showed up - it was pouring rain - so I got one hour of personal tuition and help from a very sweet and helpful young girl, who by the way also started by saying that she didn't think it could be done! But when I mentioned the DropBox solution, she quickly realized how that would work and helped set me up for that - I took notes or would never have been able to remember all the different steps! She showed me all kinds of other things - most of which I can't remember. So I will have to go back and I am extremely glad that these free workshops are available - and I also realize what a good method of promoting their products it is. So now I am a fan!
And I am happy to say that I am now on Instagram! It works like a charm and I love it!
Stormy indeed - October has been the wettest on record with 28 of the 31 days with measurable rain; fortunately there were breaks in all the wetness, though not in the gloom and dreariness. So I'm glad that it is over and one can always hope for a nicer November - but the weather forecast doesn't promise much in that direction.
The painting you see above is a very loose and abstract recording of my trip through Manning Park recently with no photos or drawings as guide and that is the way I like to work; but with quite some preparation time thinking about how to go about it, especially what colors to use and generally how the nature spoke to me. But I had no fixed ideas of composition and I was getting all upset and depressed about not quite knowing what to do.
I had these two canvasses sitting in the studio and one day I brought them out and looked at them wondering if they would do, and whether they would be better as one painting or as two individual pieces? I gessoed them, covered them with a layer of Titanium White mixed with gel and left this as a mildly textured ground. Then I looked at them again for a few days without deciding anything, slept on it and then one day I thought: let me just try a little of this very dark transparent blue that I could just pour on and then spread around with a squeegee without thinking much about it. And from there on it took off rapidly in a completely intuitive way, with me not thinking of a landscape at all, just following what the colors, shapes and my subconscious demanded - and what do you know? A landscape appeared and I decided to accept this - even though I didn't really want that initially.
This is a pretty typical account of the way most of my paintings start and it seems rather haphazard and vague, but I have finally learnt not to force it and that any time spent early on agonizing over it and feeling that it will never work out, is crucial to the final result. It is as if I have to wait for an internal pressure to build up to the point where it demands release and as soon as the first mark is down, my subconscious takes over and it has already put plans in place that I have no conscious knowledge of. I just have to follow it's lead and I know, that the resulting piece will be far better than I could otherwise achieve. The title is simply Manning Park, it is a diptych, and it is 24 x 36" total. It may be the beginning of a new series - I have just today started on another canvas, so we will see.
Apart from this I am now very relieved that my cataract surgery one week ago went well - it was quite stressful not knowing what to expect and even if complications are rare, they do happen; and I couldn't help thinking about a friend's mother, who lost her sight in that eye due to a very rare infection. Anyway, this eye is now much better and everything is indeed much brighter seen just with this one. The only colors that have changed are light ones, especially blue, purple and white - the stronger colors are much the same, as they were not as affected by the light yellowish/brownish film that the cataract caused, but they do appear cleaner. And I'm very grateful that my paintings have not changed dramatically and that I don't have to start changing any of them. And in mid-December when my other eye has to go through the same thing, it won't be as frightening now I know what I'm in for.
So things are looking good and I can relax and spend my time in my favourite place, my studio, wondering how this new canvas will turn out.
September was a wonderful month of family events with my two lots of visitors from Denmark; we had a great time and I thoroughly enjoyed having my brother and sister-in-law staying with me and being able to show them around - it was their fourth visit here in eight years, so we could take the sightseeing a little easy without the pressure to see as much as possible in the two week span. But having said that, we still managed quite a lot: re-visiting Stanley Park and Granville Island as well as Downtown Vancouver, where they noticed that a lot of new high rises had popped up just in the three years since they were here last; and not to forget all our lovely walks along the dykes and parks around here with my dog, Bella, who was delighted to see them again and enjoyed all the extra excitement!
I took them to the Okanagan for the second time for a few days of wine tasting and general exploring, and were lucky enough to be able to admire the early fall colors through Manning Park - both ways in beautiful sunlight! We did the northern part of the valley six years ago - this time we stayed in Osoyoos and concentrated on the wineries around there, where I was delighted to find one (Silver Sage) that does NOT add sulphites to any of their products! This has always been a problem for me and the reason I have had to stay away from alcohol for most of my life - that won't change a lot as the grapes have some in them naturally, but it might give me a little more leeway, I hope! I did buy a bottle of their lovely white wine and will try it out at some point in the near future - when the time is right and I am brave enough.
Now I'm back to normal and even if it was very sad to say good-bye, I was glad to be able to get into the studio again - after almost six weeks of no painting the withdrawal symptoms were getting severe and it was a relief to work with colors and paint again; you seem to build up a head of steam that needs to be let loose and these four little 12" squares on my studio wall are the first results.
A lot of other tasks had also been put on the back burner and they needed to be looked at and brought up to date, so the last few weeks have been busy with those as well - and wouldn't you know it: my computer has been acting up and that ate up quite a bit of time - but it now seems to be sorted.
Work never hurt anyone or so the saying goes, but I am starting to suspect that after a certain point it just might kill you! At least I'm starting to feel that way: not that I have done a lot of really heavy work lately, but the last few months have been filled with a lot of things that needed doing, so it has been a constant "have to get this and this and this done", and it appears that a lot of projects piled together on an almost daily basis eventually add up to major exhaustion! And that's where I am right now and a change is needed: the lawn will have to look after itself and when it turns brown I won't feel guilty! I really did try to prevent my new lawn from drying out - here in Tsawwassen we have hardly had any rain since early April, only sprinkles, while surrounding areas have been wetter and everybody talks about the cold and wet summer - certainly cold, but here in my little micro climate, not wet. Water restrictions dictate that you can only water your lawn three days a week, between 4am and 9am and as I don't have an irrigation system it has been a pain: trying to turn the sprinkler on and move it repeatedly in the middle of the night meant very little sleep; I tried a timer, but for some reason it made the old pipes so noisy that the whole house vibrated and little sleep was possible. So no more lawn watering - I know the grass will only go dormant, but then the weeds tend to take over. A few other things will also fall by the wayside and I will just have to try and rest up for a bit.
But I did manage to finish this painting as well as preparations for a new larger canvas (36 x 36"); and I will simply play around with it without expecting to finish anything until after my visitors in September have left, and things return to normal again - just maybe a bit of exploring different textures and colours in order to have something waiting for me to help me recover from the inevitable emotional downer saying Good Bye will bring.
And I feel better already!!
It sure feels good to be back to the kind of work that I love and am better at - with the one on the wall finished and the other one well on its way in a clean and newly re-organized studio - though I still have a bit to do! Thanks to my crazy back I have to pace myself and just do a bit at a time, but even then it became clear that a cleaning pause was required and who am I to argue? Anyway, I was glad enough to be able to start this new painting on a larger canvas that I had sitting waiting for me; it has progressed a lot since this photo was taken and is now starting to find its final form though a lot of details and adjustments are still to come.
Otherwise it has been a busy time and my quest to tidy up and update everything has spread to both inside and outside with the gardening maintenance taking more time that I would like - what with weeding, watering, de-mossing and so on which I don't enjoy at all. My roses are looking amazing and flowering profusely so dead heading is needed as well as tidying them up - a job I don't mind and the payback is wonderful.
It will probably be my last painting in a while as there are many more chores waiting for me and I have a deadline of sorts, which is just as well or they might not be done. All of September will be occupied with visits from family members from Denmark and I am aiming for having as much as possible done in time to be able to enjoy spending time with them; I haven't seen my nephew and his family for about 12 years while my brother and sister-in-law were here three years ago - and with the world the way it is, who knows if and when I will see them again.
Such is the price of leaving your home country.
- - - and what a struggle it was!
I must surely be looking for punishment and I knew very well, that this straight frontal view would be really difficult without interesting lighting or other elements to create relief - but that was the challenge I set myself.
I can't say that I'm happy with it - and the photo doesn't really show it at its best, especially colour wise - but I realize that it has reached a point where I better leave it alone as the study it was meant to be; and I hope that I'm a little closer to understanding how to approach a self portrait where you do not have a living model to look at in order to be able to judge the real dimensions, the colours and the play of light and shadows in real life - for the fact is, that the camera doesn't help much. It flattens everything, doesn't pick up subtle details at all and does NOT reproduce colours accurately at all - and neither does the mirror that distorts and reverses everything on top of that. The main problems for me are as always the colours, specifically the skin tones, and how to make the skin look alive and not like even coloured plastic, as well as how to get the painting to work overall with colour and form blending as a unified whole that I can accept. Painting is as different from drawing as night is from day, because you only have to cope with line and value and that has always been fairly easy for me; below are two examples both drawn from life years ago: the first is from 1988, the other from 2003.
And I think that self portraits are doubly difficult because none of us really know how other people see us - and how we see ourselves may not be the image we project at all; especially as one grows older there can be quite a discrepancy between the person inside and the outer reality - and how brutally honest do you have to be? Are you trying to just describe the outer shell in detail or catch the soul of the real person inside - or probably a little of both? And of course there is also the requirements of the painting itself that should not be denied.
The artist creating the work I suppose can do what ever he/she choses - but I have had a lot of trouble trying to weigh the different options - and at this point I just need a break and the chance to get back to my regular work!
I'm sure that I will try again in a while - it remains a challenge, like a thorn in my side that cannot be ignored - and there are so many different ways that can be explored.
I have a sort of love/hate relationship with showing my work. On the one hand I know that it is important for exposure and for the possibility of a few sales, and it lets me know how my work stands up among others so that I can see it with fresh eyes in a different setting and thereby judge whether I am really happy with what I'm doing. But on the other hand I would much rather stay in the studio and concentrate on developing my newer projects - because the fact is, that when I am in shows I am mostly too distracted and restless to paint successfully and I really miss my quiet times in the studio with just me, the canvas, the colours and the music playing softly in the background; there I'm in a totally different world where nothing else matters and all other worries and concerns disappear completely, at least for a while.
The two photos above is from the annual "Oil and Water" juried show at Gallery 1710 in Tsawwassen, where I was pleased to have all my three submissions accepted and hung really well - the two red ones are on the "best" wall facing the entrance door to the main gallery and are very visible when you first come in, while the smaller blue one also has a good spot. It is an excellent show with entrants from a large area and is well worth a visit; it continues till June 25.
And personally I certainly can't complain: I have had a lot of positive feedback about my work from this local show as well as from the one at the Fort Gallery in March; my self portrait in the collaborative project in May was also very well received. But juried shows are really tricky in that you do not know what the jurors are looking for, what their personal taste is and how on earth they decide on who to include, who not - and who gets the awards. So it is a bit like a lottery where sometimes you win and sometimes you don't - and one must remember that it doesn't really say anything about the quality of your work; it actually says more about the particular jurors - but having said that it must be a very difficult job and I admire them for taking it on.
So to all the jurors out there: Thank You!
I have often wondered why artists paint themselves and I used to think: how self centered can you get?? It is a time honoured tradition going way back to the old masters; but at some point - thanks an instructor in a course I took about twenty years ago - I started to realize that there are many practical reasons for doing so. You don't have to worry about finding and paying for a model and you can experiment and explore skin tones, backgrounds, anatomical structure, and composition as many times as you like, learning an awful lot as you go along.
A little while ago I was invited to take part in a collaborative project by a local group of artists - Artists in the Village. For some time I had been thinking of trying my hand at it anyway, so I accepted the challenge it would be for me as an abstract painter. An extra challenge was that it had to be on a small canvas - just 10 x 10" - and I am much happier on larger sizes. I found the project intriguing: twenty small self portraits by twenty artists, done in whatever way, to be combined into one work by either gluing or screwing them together and then exhibited at the Municipal Hall and one other location I think, with the idea of promoting the arts.
I just handed over my contribution - see above - and let me tell you: it didn't come easily but required a lot more work than I had anticipated, partly because I got totally caught up in it. And I wanted to somehow merge the two opposites: portraiture and abstraction in a way that worked both as a recognizable portrait and as a painting that would relate to my other abstract work. A tall order for someone who have never painted a self portrait except as an art student way back when! I have done lots of lifedrawing, including faces, but few attempts at paintings, as I have never been happy with skintones - especially in acrylics because they dry darker, so that what you apply is not what you get! But not for the last twenty years - and I still don't like pink!!!
I think that I'm quite happy with it as a study, and it was a wonderful way of making myself do something that was an intimidating challenge! I don't know when it will be ready and I have no idea who the other artists are, so it will be very interesting - as well as a complete surprise to see the finished project!!
And I think that I will continue to pursue (self)portraits at times in the future - mainly when I need a change of pace from my other work.
This new painting is just finished, but as usual it may still need a few adjustments. That always seems to be the case with most of my work - but it has now reached the point where I have to stop staring at it critically while just finding faults! I need to put it away for a bit, forget about it and then come back with fresh eyes in order to view it as a whole without getting stuck with all the little details.
Its creation has been a bit disjointed due to a number of other events that also needed my attention such as getting ready for the show at the Fort Gallery as well as the work generated by promoting and hanging the show, planning and arranging the Opening Reception, being available to be present in the gallery as needed and just last Monday taking it all down. Not to mention the time consuming driving back and forth - a two hour roundtrip that at times seems endless.
The Opening was very well attended as was the show as a whole with much positive feedback and I must admit, that it really was an excellent show with some 20 paintings in different sizes, about 9 small fused glass/wax combinations (lovely), and several sculptures large and small. A show to be proud of!
Unfortunately not a single painting sold, though one large and at least four small bronze sculptures did; this points towards a tendency that I have noticed before: paintings are very hard to sell, partly due to the fact that there is a lot of paintings on the market of very different quality, including the sheer number of mass produced reproductions, prints and so on - and many people do not seem to appreciate the difference between an original, one of a kind painting and a less expensive, mass produced reproduction. This was brought home to me loud and clear at the opening when a very friendly man was admiring one of my paintings, but then went on to say: "I can really see this on a big brick wall in Downtown Vancouver - it would look amazing"! All well and good, but then he continued with: "you could sell hundreds of them"!!!! I know that he meant well and thought that he gave me encouraging advice - but at the same time he showed no understanding of the value of a unique work of art versus say, a print without texture and depth. Another thing is that with the enormous amount of very popular art classes being offered, many people think that painting is easy, anyone can do it, so why pay for one? But as one of the masters famously said: "Painting is easy when you don't know how, but extremely difficult when you do" - Edgar Degas!
But no one would think that anyone can go home and make a bronze sculpture!!!!
I find it sad and discouraging and at times wonder, why I keep on with it - and maybe I should just give it up? Only thing is, that I never last very long before starting again; or I would go crazy!
,It was with great relief that I sometime ago saw several posts on FB as well as a few other places stating that creativity seems to thrive among clutter and general mess! Ahhh--- I thought: I'm not alone and that's why I don't clean my studio very often! If I did, I wouldn't be able to work as well in there - and it is very true, that if I had to keep everything in there tidy, clean and presentable and as I don't like cleaning but much prefer to paint, I would be afraid to mess it all up again - and I don't really have to let anybody in without warning, right? Best excuse ever!
Anyway, these two paintings have kept me busy lately and the tall skinny one is almost finished, but not quite: an element is still missing but I have to consider carefully how to proceed or I might ruin what so far looks promising. The smaller square one has gone through it's last revision and I think that I better leave it alone now - any further changes may just make it different, not necessarily any better. With some paintings it is hard to know when to stop - with others it is much easier and obvious, that when they reach the point where they rest in themselves no further work is needed.
It is now two years since I last showed my work and I'm starting to think that I should get my work out there again. I felt that I needed time away from the pressure of having to put together a show or even participate in one, and it has been a tremendous opportunity to review and change my way of working as well as experiment with new directions and to try and find out why I paint, and what it is that I want to say? I have always had difficulty with the "what to say" bit, as I don't think that a painting necessary should carry a message apart from the delight of colour and form as well as the process itself. I still don't, but since there usually is an idea or experience behind all my paintings, including the abstracts, I am now starting to combine true abstraction with a hint of figuration without using too much realism - something I have always had difficulty with, the figure/object tended to limit my free expression and choice of colours. This I may or may not continue with, but it will be interesting to see where it'll take me.
And in the meantime I am included in a group show in my old stomping ground The Fort Gallery in Fort Langley - it is their yearly Alumni Show for previous members and it should be really nice to see who shows up and to catch up on what has been going on.
The show is on from about mid March to early April - I will post it soon.