I have been in the mood for something technically challenging and this painting was just what I needed. Elliptical lines, highly detailed patterns and inky blacks were all things I wrestled to solve within this piece.
I will admit, I cheated a little on my limited palette. I have also decided that it is okay within this series to have one additional colour per painting if needed. I was fighting to blend some deeper shades using cobalt blue, cadmium red and burnt umber but they were not taking me where I wanted to go. I was resorting to thin washes to build up a black colour and I wanted to apply paint quicker and thicker. I fell back on a small smudge of phthalo blue to push everything darker. I was trying to avoid such a dominant blue (my over reliance on phthalo blue was one of the reasons why I stripped my palette black – it is too easy for it to take over once you start tinting it).
This works and I still feel like this painting is feeling balanced. The phthalo blue is like the occasional treat on a diet – one colour in a painting won’t ruin all your hard work everywhere else. Besides - it’s something to maintain sanity, like a nice piece of chocolate!
It feels good to post something different. This is the first completed piece using my limited palette. It is bright and fresh and blue, but not too bright, too fresh, too blue. It feels balanced.
I've been really inspired by the trail system by our new house. In a matter of minutes one can get swallowed into the trees and loose track of civilization. Every day I walk these paths with my dog and lately I've looked forward to the soft stillness. The light has been lasting a little longer late in the afternoon. That magic hour in January has grand, long stretched out shadows because the sun is so low in the sky. I hope this painting reflects that. I want people to feel that cold crunch of snow underfoot and feel the silence. .
Things have been busy lately. One of the things I am working on is a series of paintings on my newly minted Wall of Shame. For those of you unfamiliar with my strangely titled work space, I like to display a row of blank canvasses on a wall that I can see frequently. The sight of those empty canvasses is enough to shame me into finishing them... hence the name.
Over the holidays, I was dragging my feet to get started on a series of work that are solely drafted by me. I realized I needed something compelling to get me going. After taking stock of what was lacking and I realized I needed some boundaries. Taking my cue from how people typically feel in the beginning of January, I decided to put myself on a bit of a diet. Over the years, flashy tubes of paints have been making their home more and more in my studio. While I love colour, I feel like I’ve been seduced with vibrant rainbows, living in a place where the hue saturation is always set to the loudest volume. This is where my diet from colour comes in – my palette cleanse.
When I first learned to paint, we were restricted to a limited palette for years and years, mixing everything as close as we could with only a small choice of colour. I am very thankful for those years because I am pretty accurate when forced into it. My latest studio work will be a return to my roots, executed with a 5 tube palette of yellow, red, blue, umber and white. I’m still tweaking the exact hues and I may experiment with an even more limited palette later on, but for now this works.
As I’ve been working like this for the past couple weeks, already I’m feeling refreshed. Having to pay closer attention to the values, stretching myself to mix greys that aren’t too muddy and spending more time composing the layout are all benefitting my work. I just booked a show at the Cochrane Ranchehouse in March where I plan to debut some of these pieces.
My work outside the studio is not necessarily going to follow those rules. This weekend, I am honoured to be painting live at the Airdrie Mayor’s Night of the Arts (tickets available here) and I might be sneaking some tubes of green and violet with me!
This painting marks the end of a wonderful journey – I have completed the Intersection Art Project! I am very grateful to Encompass Partnerships and all the partners I got to work with this past year for opening the door on their organizations and allowing me to visually share on their behalf the work that they do that makes a difference in Calgary and the surrounding area. I’m thankful for your efforts and my eyes have been opened not only to the challenges that many people in our city face but to the sacrificial work done by many in order to lend a hand to those who need it.
I think it is apt that the feature of this painting is two friends sharing about their lives, this is a great note to end on. The organization this piece is for is Cooperative ESL Ministries which ironically, does not teach ESL directly to newcomers to Canada. I learned that they focus their time on equipping a variety of organizations with the skills and resources to welcome immigrants and refugees into their communities, primarily by offering ESL classes and building relationships through that. Language is a huge factor in acclimatizing to a new country or culture. The most basic things like shopping or navigating paperwork can be enormously complicated if you do not understand the local language. For someone who is new to the area and might not know anyone who can help them overcome these challenges, a new culture can be an enormous shift. This organization aims to help people navigate through this time with the end result being that these people have been fully welcomed into the community.
In this painting, I started off with a hearth (traditionally the centre of the home) and then added two people in conversation. This is on a surface level to show the welcoming nature of the hearth, but on a deeper level to show that these two people are sharing about themselves with a common language - which speaks to CESLM’s mission. By being able to share in a common language, the bond of friendship strengthens. It is a painting about the desired outcome - the stranger is welcomed in and becomes familiar.
This past year has been a great journey, I am so glad that I have had the chance to be welcomed in at Encompass and for all the new friends I have made along the way!