We have had a few weeks of unseasonably warm weather here in Calgary. I've been looking forward to a sketching trip with my friend and a few of her former classmates. Imagine my surprise and dismay to wake up to cold temperatures and grey skies today! However, since we are Canadians we stuck with our original plan of drawing buildings in the Mission District in the heart of Calgary.
Three of us braved the cold and set out with our folding stools and drawing supplies. My friend, Cindy, took the leap today and brought only digital sketching implements (which was so cool to see what she could do on her Ipad Pro with an Apple pencil!) Belinda and I chose to play with watercolour and pen.
We settled in on a side street and picked some houses to draw. Starting with a 20 minute drawing might have been ambitious because not only were we not warmed up to drawing or doing fine architecture... we weren't warm, period. The weather changed quite abruptly and we sat through a very chilly picture. Once the sporadic rain started to become a little more persistent we decided to break camp and head to Starbucks.
Once we had hot drinks in hand and settled in at our table, things started to loosen up quite a bit. We decided to not do timed drawings and instead focused on details and subjects as they inspired us. I have been finding a real sweet spot with 5 minute drawings lately. I've been loving how loose and gestural they've been ending up. Once I had set that parameter I became quite engrossed in searching out the customers in the store to see what I could capture.
Despite the crummy weather, we really enjoyed comparing our travel sketch kits and chatting about all things drawing related. It was a real treat to spend the afternoon with these ladies. I came home so inspired to be in my sketchbook more frequently.
I had some spare time today so I went through all my paperwork and planned out the coming weeks in my day timer. What struck me afterwards was how busy I've been with creative endeavors without actually having created much stuff lately. It's that time of the year where you plan out things for the coming months, meet with people and work on proposals but studio time doesn't happen in the quantity it does at other times of the year. That is the funny thing about being an artist. There is a some truth to the idea of feast or famine. You can be busy all the time but the paychecks and studio time wax and wane with the seasons..
After looking at my hours spent doing business the past month or so, I wondered why I didn't feel creatively pent up or jumpy. I find I need a regular release of painting, making or learning in order to not get cranky. I feel good. Then it hit me - I've been back into my sketchbook a lot lately.
These small hits of creativity used to sustain me those busy years when my kids were small and I had a job outside the home. I remember carrying my sketchbook in my car and as I waited for kids to be done school or sports, I would draw. Then I stopped living in my vehicle as my kids got older and started being more independent. The sketching dried up.
Recently, I've found that my little escape from working at home all day is to go out to a coffee shop, dream and draw. Sometimes from life, sometimes just imaginary stuff. Taking the time to be risky because, after all, it is only paper (it can be hard for me to push boundaries, paper makes that easier). Then the Glenbow Museum sketching trip with the girls last week was another big reawakening. Now I'm excited because this weekend, a dear friend of mine (who is a brilliant sketcher) invited me to join her group for a drawing trip in Calgary. These moments of art and adventure puts wind in my sails for sketching again!
Live painting is a strange animal. Part performance, part fine art... yet not fully one or the other. I've learned a few things about it over the past couple of years - here are some takeaways:.
1) It can be a centerpiece on the stage with a solo artist or an event between other artists. Both have their unique strengths. When you paint solo, the audience can watch your entire piece unfold over the course of minutes or hours. Things like Art Battle while billed as "competitive painting" are not very cut throat. At the end of the day, I think we all just want to paint at our best and hope it pays off, but knowing that there are so many variables that are out of our hands.. The audience gets to watch many pieces come together and compare and contrast different artist's interpretations.
2) People respond very differently to paintings they have seen created live than to ones hanging on a wall. They pick up more of the layers and underlying order. There is usually a more emotional reaction to a live piece, almost as if by watching it unfold they have participated in the creation on a deeper level.
3) Live does not always mean 100% spontaneous. If you know that you have only 20 minutes to complete a piece, it can be wise to practice a little on what to expect in 20 minutes or to have a few sketches ingrained in your memory to go from. In the case of painting along to a speech or a choreographed event, having timing cues worked out in advance can go a long way to finishing a piece at the right moment.
4) Live sometimes means 100% spontaneous... that can be very interesting to participate in. Having group feedback to guide the artist, a surprise theme... it can really push an artist to take all their imagination and skills and just create in a flash of inspiration. Going blind into a painting event can be a real test of an artist's mettle.
5) Painting live can be one of the most terrifying or exhilarating things a painter can do. Pounding music. The unpredictable response from the crowd. The potential for chaos. Paint moving in ways you didn't plan. Time limits. Being completely vulnerable in your art.
6) You don't always know what you will end up with. Oftentimes live paintings look very different or unpolished from an artist's usual body of work. That can take some time for the artist to get used to. Once you can accept that a 20 minute live painting is a very different animal than a 4 week studio piece, you can see them as apples to oranges. There is also a loose quality that you are almost forced to have that is beautiful in its own right.
It isn't for the faint of heart Not every painter is suited to it either. Just because someone is amazing in the studio, doesn't mean it will translate into live work the first go around. Live painting takes work, experience and practice to not only produce beautiful pieces but to be fun and interesting for the audience to watch. (and all painters do that differently)
My biggest takaway for me in all this is that I love painting live. I'm glad I can do it on occasion. I'm always reminded of a quote some might remember from the movie "Chariots of Fire"...
“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast!
And when I run I feel His pleasure.”
- Eric Liddell
Painting live might not be my chief aim in life or as an artist, but I relish the chances that I get to do it because during those moments I feel so alive.
Anyways, long post to say that I'll be painting live at an upcoming Art Battle 370 in Olds, AB. If you'd like to see this for yourself, I'd love it if you could join us! Information and tickets can be found by clicking this link. I also get inquiries from time to time about painting at events. I'm happy to put together a quote based on some variables (travel, painting time, canvas size, material costs etc) feel free to drop me an email if you would like to see if we'd be a good fit.
Today was a long awaited treat come true. A little while ago, I was telling my art student about how in the olden days, the way people learned about drawing and painting was to visit galleries and copy from the great masters. She was quite intrigued by this so on a whim, I asked her if this would be something she might want to try sometime. She very enthusiastically agreed we should do this one day.
As a reward for working in her sketchbook so diligently lately, we set up our trip for today. I decided to take her and my youngest (another avid sketcher) to the Glenbow Museum in Calgary. I was way less busy than other times I've been there so it was the perfect environment to settle down and draw uninterrupted.
When I was a girl at Langley Fine Arts School, a huge highlight was the regular class sketching trips we took to downtown Vancouver. Architecture, Vancouver Art Gallery shows and the busyness of downtown were all captured during these jaunts. Today brought back a lot of great memories for me and hopefully made some great memories for the girls.
We started on the top floor and visited the West African Gallery as well as the Warrior Exhibit. I had the girls warm up to sketching in public by getting them to pick an object in each exhibit to draw for 5 minutes. This got them focused right away as well as kept things moving fast and loose. We all enjoyed doing these quick pictures. We then went down a floor into the New Sun Gallery and the Mavericks exhibit where we chose some some more favorites to draw for 5 minute sketches. We enjoyed looking at all the Albertan and Native artifacts as well.
Finally we ended our trip doing some longer copies of paintings on the lowest floor. To sweeten the deal, we even broke out the watercolour boxes to add even more interest to their sketches. We spent around 15 minutes on each these pictures. We enjoyed the new acquisitions as well as an exhibit called Kaleidoscopic Animalia that featured interesting vignettes that were really fun to draw from. Caught a sneak peek of the Group of Seven show that is opening tomorrow too. Bonus!
The thing that makes trips like this really great is that you have to slow down and appreciate one piece for many minutes. Drawing forces you to slow down and see the details. It was neat to see what the girls zeroed in on in each of their drawings. Instead of racing from one object to the next, they probably saw less objects overall but absorbed far more information.
After we went for a special lunch I also showed them a great store to buy pens and journals. Paired with beautiful springlike sunshine and lots of laughter, it was a great field trip. I'm already planning the next one!
FYI this Sunday, Feb 21 2016 is a free admission day for the Glenbow. If you want to take your artists on a sketch trip to try it out, this is a painless time to do it (although it will be much busier) Also, the Glenbow is free from 5-9 the first Thursday of every month for all of 2016.
I am so excited to share something that I've been working on for a while with the awesome team at the Leighton Art Centre; over the coming months, I will be leading some printmaking workshops that are open to the public.
The first one is for kids aged 9 - 12 and we will be learning about basic printmaking. To finish the class off then they will have a chance to pull some prints of their masterpieces using my antique bookpress! I absolutely love working with this age group - they are so experimental and creative. This class is unique as well because parents can either drop kids off for the three hour session or hang around and learn... you don't need to sit on a bench playing on your phone - unless you want to!
If you are interested, here are the details:
Printmaking for Kids Ages 9 - 12
March 5th, 2016
10am - 1pm
All Supplies included
Bring a bagged lunch and outdoor wear for our lunch break.
More info and registration can be found here.
The Intersection Art Project is now in full swing and I have already booked non-profit groups linked to Encompass Partnerships all the way into May. By the end of 2016 I will have worked with 10 organizations to create a piece of art that represents each of their voice and vision. Some of these will be created in my studio after meeting with the people who are the heart and soul of these groups and some will be collaborations led by me to give the group a neat experience of creating art together.
For this first painting, I had the pleasure of meeting with the amazing team at the Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre. I was absolutely amazed at the range of assistance they manage to provide to Downtown Calgary, Northeast Calgary and Strathmore. Their team offers one on one consultation, care groups, and resources ranging from books to clothing. This is just to name just a sliver of the needs they cover. Most of their clients are facing an unexpected or crisis pregnancy and it is this organization's job to guide them and educate them about the options they have.
The people who work and volunteer with this organization are deeply committed to loving women of all circumstances and backgrounds. They do this by helping them choose the path that best fits them and then supporting them throughout and after their experience. The painting reflects this through the red loop that starts in the lower left corner that winds upwards, binding the two women's hands together. Growth kept coming up as a key thing to represent Calgary Pregnancy Care so I chose to surround the grasping hands with vibrant lush greens. Energetic lines bring to mind the emotional nature of the path these women will take together.
When working with an organization that addresses women's health issues, it is easy to fall back into cliche pastel colours and maternal themes, but the wonderful team I worked with felt it very important to focus on the relationships and growth rather than pink butterflies or what have you that is often used to depict these subjects. So we departed from that completely.
I absolutely loved working on this painting with this team - this is a group of people who are passionate about supporting others through a very emotional time. The amount of respect, compassion, knowledge and care that this organization brings to the table is I hope I captured the vibrancy that represents Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre. Our city is so lucky to have them!
Last week I had the honour of attending Airdrie's Mayor's Night of the Arts Award ceremony. Now in it's second year, this event highlights local youth, emerging and established artists as well as local arts champions and business who are key supporters in our creative community.
I learned back in November that I had been nominated for the FortisAlberta Professional Artist award at this year's celebration. Fast forward to the past weekend where I won the prize! I'll admit, I was caught a little off guard on that one, so my speech was a little off the cuff. I remember saying some things about how far our local arts community has come in the 10 years we've lived here and I remembered to thank my husband for his support!
One organization I realized later that I forgot to thank was the Airdrie Public Library, specifically my good friend Veronica Funk - they have been a great encouragement over the past few years by having my work hanging in solo and group shows as well as giving me lots of opportunities to instruct - so here is my official thanks to them.
Also, thanks to Creative Airdrie and Mayor Brown for holding this event. It was so well done and so much fun to be a part of - I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a fun night out! Nice touch on the trophies too - beautiful paintings by local artist Erin Brekke Conn mounted on tiny easels with our name and award on the front. Beautiful! What a special award.