The past few months have been very good to me as I have made some friends and connections that have been inspiring me to explore new things and push the ceiling of my skills and knowledge. Spending time with Heritage Park and Alberta Printmakers has also lead me down some interesting paths. Looking back over the past year and a half, I have come to realize that I was creatively isolated in many ways during my time of recovery and I have been very thankful for this influx of stimulus in my life!
One of my more recent connections has been with the Making Treaty 7 Cultural Society. They support many theater and visual art endeavors in the Mohkinstsis (Calgary) region. The support they bring to the local First Nations, Metis and Inuit arts community is amazing. After attending an event of theirs in June, I was asked to submit work for their upcoming 2nd Annual Touring Exhibition. Imagine my delight when my piece, Reconciling Myself, was accepted!
This work is a little of a departure for me, but this has been brewing for a while. Those bright florescent lines have been steadily gaining ground in my paintings, letterpress and sketchbook for months. It took the inspiration of this piece to explode those hues to the forefront.
Lately my work has begun to explore identity; of particular interest is my Anishinaabe heritage. Like many Canadian families, this is complex and fraught with embedded societal racism, fear of Residential schools and broken ties with our cultural roots. As my father has made his own journey of making peace with these issues, a world has been opening up as he shares the past.
Issues of cultural appropriation have been forefront in my mind, I’ve been wary of taking bits and pieces of a culture I wasn’t raised in to forge my artistic identity. Approaching this painting, I thought about how to best represent the place that I am coming from. Basing my source imagery on European settler representations of First Nations peoples was a way to not only share a lot of my early understanding of my family history, but also an act of re-appropriation.
In my piece, Reconciling Myself, the source is from a 1910 postcard entitled “Indian Woman with Owl, Blind River”, which is the town where my father was born. This woman looks familiar to me, the slope of her nose and cheeks are the same that greet me in the mirror. In the photo, she seems unhappy and the owl looks to be a piece of taxidermy. I took liberties in my painting; she is serious, not sad. The owl is spreading it’s wings. In the background is a riot of colour and dynamic lines, a sign of life and the future.
I hope you will have a chance to take in this show in the coming months!
cSpace: Opening Wednesday September 18th until September 29th, 2019
Art Commons: Opening Wednesday October 1st until November 29th, 2019
New Central Library: Opening Monday December 2nd 2019 until January 18th, 2020
Recently, I've taken up writing in my journal regularly again. After all my health issues last year, it dropped off my radar. In order to tame my scrawling cursive, I've been using a fountain pen which is far easier on my hands and seems to slow me down in a good way. As my cursive is improving I am noticing that the pleasure centres of my brain light up when I manage to write a long word with no breaks and with correct letter formation. It's the little things, folks.
I am currently working on quite a few pieces, most of which have shows coming up where they will debut. This weekend I will be at Artsplace in Canmore for Pottery Palooza - my first time showing there! I have fresh work coming to Leighton Art Centre for the Clothesline Festival as well the fabulous Bluerock Gallery. I also have pieces that will be shown on the Mini Masterpiece wall at the Calgary Stampede. This is the first time I've participated in a Stampede art event, so I am very excited.
This is also a very busy time for instructing - once the snow melts, the roads are far more reliable and classes fill up. Right now, I've been doing a Tuesday night Acrylic Class for beginner and intermediate students at Inglewood Art Supplies and I have quite a few workshops approaching there and at Leighton Art Centre. I keep getting questions about outdoor sketching classes and lino carving - there are a bunch posted here.
As if this wasn't enough busyness... I decided it was time to move from "recovery and rebuilding" mode and back into "learning and exploring" mode (a place that I am far happier to dwell in). I've been feeling so restless the past few months, needing to push my own boundaries and get out of my house. After skipping the 2018 season, I'm returning to Heritage Park part time as a Trades Interpreter at the Strathmore Standard. This is a wealth of letterpress knowledge that I'm looking forward to tapping into. Already this has opened some unexpected and interesting doors for me that I'll be sharing more about in the coming weeks.
It has been really busy in the studio these past few weeks! Here is a snapshot of all sorts of fun things coming up from me:
Final Weekend for Leighton Art Centre's Christmas in the Country: If you fancy the above paintings, they are available till Sunday afternoon at the Leighton Centre. There other fresh pieces of mine available as well! I hope you check it out, it is an amazing event!
Free parking, free admission & complimentary festive treats throughout both weekends. Spectacular Rocky Mountain views included! Click here for more information.
Upcoming Acrylic Painting 5 Week Class and 1 Day Lino Workshop at Inglewood Art Supplies: I am so excited to be back next week at the great new studio space adjoining Inglewood's store. There is still room in both the painting class as well as the Linocut workshop.
November 13th - December 11th, 2018
Tuesday Evenings, 6:30 - 8:00 pm
In this adult beginner course you will learn the basics of painting and start working on your masterpiece! Students will learn how choose their subject, prepare their canvas, apply paint with a variety of techniques, as well as troubleshoot problem areas. Students will take home a completed painting and the knowledge to develop their skills further on their own.
5 classes | 1.5 hour class
$175.00 + GST (supplies not included - click here for list)
Save 10% by registering before November 7th
Register here or contact Inglewood Art Supplies at firstname.lastname@example.org or 403-265-8961
November 17th, 2018
Saturday 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Learn the basics of linocut printmaking. The instructor will teach students about composition, safe cutting techniques and how to pull prints. Participants will leave with a variety of hand printed projects, their own carved blocks as well as the skill to practice at home using basic art materials.
$100.00 +GST Supplies not included (supply list here)
$135.00 +GST Supplies provided
Save 10% by registering before November 12th, 2018
Register here or contact Inglewood Art Supplies at email@example.com or 403-265-8961
Northern Reflections Painted Window Exhibition:
November 13th - December 31st
Downtown Calgary (see link)
Michelle Wiebe/Michael Kohlweg Window:
East Village Experience Centre
I'm excited to be participating again in this event. This year's theme is "Electric Winter" and my animation partner and I have a treat in store for everyone who loves Santa!
Download the Augle App and bring the kids down to the East Village Experience Centre to see the magic that happens when you use Augmented Reality (AR) to view original art. There is free onsite parking during open hours and helpful East Village Ambassadors to answer any questions!
Don't forget to vote for your favorite window! They are located around East Village and Stephen Ave. Click here for more info.
I always try to keep my main page current with upcoming events and shows - check there for even more things coming in the next few months! I hope to see you at some of these events!
Summer has passed through Alberta in it's usual whirlwind fashion and I noticed this morning some yellow leaves dropping from the trees. It has been really busy in our household. Kids coming and going from jobs to camp to friends places. Wonderful visits from friends and family. Short day trips and treks into the surrounding foothills. I've been puttering away steadily in my studio any moment I can, but it is mostly prepping for projects that I'll undertake when I can focus for longer stretches of time (a.k.a. back to school). While I'm mourning the passing of hot summer days, I am also yearning for routine and structure. A turning of the seasons.
One exciting thing I am looking forward to is a new partnership with Inglewood Art Supplies. They have been renovating the neighbouring space in their Bridgeland building so that they can begin to offer art classes, demonstrations and workshops. The results of their space transformation is amazing. You can really tell people who make art were behind the planning and execution of this endeavor. Tall ceilings, well equipped work stations and great lighting will make this an amazing place to teach and learn.
I will be offering a 5 week class for beginner acrylic painting that will happen on Tuesday nights from 6:30 - 8:00 pm going from September 18th to October 16th. I will also offer two different 1 day workshops at Inglewood this fall. Beginner Linocut Printmaking in September and then a Creative Art Journaling workshop in October.
In November I will be back at the fabulous Leighton Art Centre to teach a two day intensive workshop on Block Printing on Fabric - this is timed so that those who want to learn an interesting skill can practice by making a whole stack of very cool Christmas gifts if they want.
As usual, I post all my workshops, classes, demonstrations and showings on my main page - there you will find all the links you need to directly register for my classes. I really hope to see you there.
I'm excited to share this "new" painting with you - although it was completed and delivered last month. I wanted to close my health issue chapter on a positive note. A while ago I applied for and was accepted to be part of a group of artists who were selected to create work to raise money for the Branch Out Neurological Foundation's upcoming fundraiser "Your Brain on Art"
Clearly, having just had brain surgery, this felt like a no brainer (see what I did there?)
We were matched up with a Neuroscientist and advised to contact them about the research project we had selected. I had chosen the research project: Vitamin Niacin on Brain Tumor Growth - Dr. Jeffrey Dunn, University of Calgary (I decided I wanted to fund brain tumour research, even though it wasn't directly related to the type of tumour I had) The idea was to call or email with them to learn more and then create a piece based on the conversation.
Imagine my delight when we figured out a time to meet in person at the actual lab! (I had an appointment with my neurosurgeon on the same campus and it all worked out for a face to face meeting) This became even better when I was told they work at the "Experimental Imaging Lab" in the basement, near the parkade. It doesn't get much better than that!
Once I met up with Jeff, he introduced me to the team and showed me the mouse MRI machine. Having had my fair share of "tube rides" in the past few months, I felt a connection to all the work and research that has to happen for technology like that to be useful in bringing people like me back to health (I also found it it kind of ironic that I blogged about people making better MRI equipment way back in the beginning of my brain tumour saga. Turns out, I got to meet some of those people!
Now, about the painting itself - I will admit, I went off on a different visual style than normal. We started our meeting talking about Greek etymology and somehow that stuck. Here is the write up I submitted:
This piece, Messenger, is a reflection of the dual stories found in the research project Vitamin Niacin on Brain Tumor Growth. The title hints at these two stories: delivery via Macrophage and delivery of information via MRI. The winged sandal represents Hermes, the messenger of the gods. He is known for his swift delivery via his winged sandals. I chose to use green to highlight this as a symbol of this messenger bringing healing, hope and growth. The area surrounding the winged sandal represents normal tissue cells; the area within the foot represents tumour cells. Tiny amounts of image contrast agent are being delivered to the core of a tumour via the macrophage, here shown as blue swatches of colour and orange dots
On a personal note, I haven't been blogging much lately, because I've been all blogged out. We have sunshine and the green is peeking out on my lawn. Health-wise, things are going really, really great. In order to consolidate the past few months and move on mentally, I've made a page with all my meningioma related posts with links in chronological order. If you want to start at the beginning and read my entire Meningioma story, click here.
I have two confessions to make. The first is that there is no secret decoder ring to these latest paintings. I figured I should be upfront about that as I've had a few people inquiring about meaning or looking for greater understanding. This is very appreciated - having people looking closely and seeing details means the world to me. Also, while these paintings are not something that gets "unlocked", they definitely do contain meaning and symbols. Its just a little more complicated than "draw item A, add symbol B, unify with meaningful colour C = painting that says this fixed statement about the world we live in/my life and struggles/current political climate" Now all that being said, I could explain what my current work is about, but I'm sure it would sound like a rambling conversation rather than a succinct mission statement.
When I create work, I start with a kernel of an idea and expand on it. Adding personal symbolism is visual shorthand that keeps me moving toward and thinking through that original idea. I'm usually starting out with something that I am trying to process or figure out for myself. These latest pieces are very much about processing - this affects the outcome significantly during the course of the piece. If you want an equation, it looks more like "draw item A, add symbol B, think about why you put those two things together, ask yourself questions about if it is right to hold the preconceived notions of A and B or A plus B, question if that is too obvious. Bury symbol with meaningful colour C, change mind, bring symbol B back to the surface but change the juxtaposed colour to offer insight as to why my position changed on this issue.... and back and forth until the painting you end with looks to be complete" When I paint, I am pretty much talking to myself the whole time. I'm questioning myself. I'm excited by how serendipitous application of paint looks beautiful and I look at ways to replicate that beauty in other parts of the canvas or how to make that little bit of beauty even more beautiful. It's a process in itself.
The second confession is while this style change has been influenced by my current health situation and I prioritize visual decisions a little differently, my brain tumour did not cause me to paint in this style. This change is very deliberate. After reflecting on some conversations I've had in the past few weeks, I want to be clear that I'm not seeing things funny in my brain or with my eyes. This is not like those 50 paintings Bryan Lewis Saunders did while taking a different drug before doing a self portrait. Truth be had, after going through my situation and really taking a hard long look at mortality, I'm ready to paint what I want to paint. Nothing wrong with earlier work, nothing wrong with representational work. I'm in a place right now where I want to change direction. I guess I'm tired of thinking about what other people will like and trying to paint those things. It's an easy trap for artists to fall into.
One thing that has surprised me since returning to painting and trying this new style is how much planning goes into each piece beforehand. This painting was not "intuitive" or a "just go with the flow" piece at all. I thought it through, made a sketch, thought it through some more, made a new sketch and painted from that. This is very heavily revised and edited for clarity and visual presence. This self portrait is a companion piece to It's All Over But the Shouting (That painting incidentally, is on display at cSpace Calgary for the People's Portrait Prize exhibition - you should check it out! More info can be found here). Not totally decided on my next piece but I'm enjoying the journey so far!
To read the whole story of my Meningioma click here.
I am starting to be ready to wrap up my recovery specific posts from my meningioma surgery. Not that I am 100% recovered, more that each gain comes in smaller and smaller doses. Not so many interesting breakthroughs. Lots of slogging in between each win, Truth be had, I am ready to close this strange chapter in my life because I am tired of talking about it. Yesterday marked 6 weeks post surgery, it feels like it is time.
Today, when I went into the studio I decided to paint something in my pre-seizure style just to ensure that those faculties are in working order. It was a fun exercise this morning and I might continue with these tiny 6" x 6" studies once in a while to keep my eyes sharp. I have pinpointed one area where my brain still goes haywire - colour matching. For some reason, when I try to get the right value mixed up, my brain goes into overdrive. When I painted "It's All Over But the Shouting" it was less noticeable because it wasn't so critical I get the colour correct, so I wasn't doing it as much. Today it did matter and I can feel it now in my fuzzy thinking.
My eyes are still a little different as well. Cannot totally pinpoint what it is, but it seems like trying to LOOK at things after painting a while is too hard for my brain so everything feels a little hazier than it did before I started. Almost like doing the job of focusing and paying attention to detail takes too much work. Still, that is improving each day.
This little painting is of some new to me ceramic orbs that I found at a thrift store. It joins another one that was given to me as a gift. They are sitting out at the moment by my reading chair and I study how the light hits them when I'm taking a break from reading. Every few days I move them around to see what that does to the scenario. This is the life of a woman who doesn't get out much I think. At least I am painting. At last it is warming up.
To read the whole story of my Meningioma click here.
I am very excited about this piece. For some of you, this might look like a total stylistic departure, but I don't see that at all. Something has changed and this image has a very unique story of it's evolution. I painted it a few days ago and since then it's been on my wall so I could dissect it and find out what part of my brain all the little pieces were retrieved from.
Returning to the world of painting was not a scheduled event. Truth be had, I've been avoiding painting with a fierce determination. The idea of getting out my brushes and thinking through steps was so overwhelming. Those feelings were starting to lead me down some dark paths too. The thing I've been struggling a lot with lately is that all my normal outlets have been gone. This brain tumour is only one story of many, because life goes on even when you get laid up with your own crisis. Long story short, I am processing far more than what I mention on my blog. Other people's stories are intertwined with my own.
Normally when I am overwhelmed, I drive somewhere and listen to music. I might sing along or I might pull over and have a good cry. Same goes for running or painting. Common thread - be by myself, listen to music and let stuff out. The past two months have had a growing frustration of never being by myself, not being able to drive and feeling too overwhelmed to paint. When I hit my low point the other day, wallowing in my self pity I had a moment of clarity. I asked myself what my next step was - stay here wallowing or aim to get somewhere else taking small steps in a way that I could manage.
This changed everything. Everything. I was in control of my life again.
So, I decided quite suddenly that it was time to paint. Now, I knew that just deciding to paint something was too much, so I decided to recycle or finish an old painting. You see, I have a basement full of unfinished experiments where I started something and then turned the canvas against the wall and moved on. I know better than to let a perceived failure trip me up for too long. Better to paint and learn what you don't like then not paint. At least you learned something. That was my starting point.
Truth be had, I am not totally sure when this was painted. Looking around at similar sized canvasses and the subject I was pursuing I believe this is probably from around 2008 due to the acid green and the illustrative style, I know for sure it is no later than 2012 because the Aesop's fable theme finally made it into a linocut then. I do remember that when I painted this, I was grappling with some ego swelling praise as well as some flattery and I was struggling for a way to articulate it. However, when I got a little ways into this piece it felt too flat.
The crazy bright background with a self portrait and two key symbols laid out front and centre just felt a bit too obvious. Too limiting. I wasn't sure how to bury the meaning and bring more nuance to the piece, so I dropped it. When I went to the basement a few days ago and spied it, I saw new potential and was quite excited to use that simple image as a jumping point for something far more complex.
An aside, typically I am a fairly representational painter for most of my commercial work. I enjoy the challenges of translating the world around us with a good deal of realism. However, a lot of my still life subject matter is highly codified and personally symbolic. I don't like to give away all my secrets so I put my thoughts and feelings down in paint. I also have a very private, personal style (like the painting above, Procession) that comes up when I am grappling with something big and just want to express pure emotion.
I also have a totally different art style that comes up more often when I'm doodling. That side is full of repeating shapes, spirals, flowers and dot patterns. Below is a set that I worked on in 2014 for an Easter service. That was totally fun and crazy and illuminated with black lights. Yes that is an actual VW bug hauled in from a junk yard.
The thing is, I have always had a hard time marrying those two styles even though I regularly try to unite them. I look at that bird in the early version of "It's All Over But the Shouting" and I can see it appearing in sketchbooks from the early 90's. What goes around, comes around I guess.
I was trained to do self portraits on a semi regular basis because it is good to struggle with depicting yourself. Everyone will know if you are lying. Success comes with telling the truth. As we look at some of my old work, you will notice that there are some key features to my illustrative work and some key features of my representational work and it seems I keep trying to marry the two in my self portrait work. As I look at my most recent, post brain surgery painting I think I have finally had a measure of success.
I am not going to lie, I am very pround of 1996 Michelle for painting the above image - she was only nineteen years old. Crazy. This self portrait came from a photo taken in 1994 in Austria, a very formative time in my life. You can see the illustrative attempts emerging in the top left hand side with those interlocking shapes that are also present in the sketchbook image above that. That little bit of drawing/brushwork goes all the way back to my early childhood. I am actually surprised it didn't make a full appearance in "It's All Over But the Shouting" it evolved a little there into line work not dissimilar to the amazing striped socks I'm sporting in "Prodigal". I've known for a while that my personal symbols evolve in meaning, it seems they are also evolving in appearance now too.
I can remember painting this unfinished piece but I have no idea when. I'm thinking it is late 1990's possibly early 2000's. I'm still doing the light colours, the interlocking shapes and bazillion wash layers. The canvas has staples on the side, not the back. It could be from Halifax times or New Westminster times. Hard to say. Definitely done before the early version of "It's All Over But the Shouting"
Where this derailed was I could tell right away I didn't get my eyes done right. Nose and lips are okay. Face shape is passable. Again, this is just a likeness on a canvas with some illustrated bits and it didn't leave me with a lot of options. There is no core to this painting and I knew it so I stopped rather than trying to retro fit meaning to it after the fact.
This was definitely painted after the early version of "It's All Over But the Shouting", the green is way toned down and representational imagery was higher on the scale for me at this time. This is meant to be a formal self portrait and I even purchased the gladiolas and posed for the source picture. There is a whole lot of subtext going on in this piece. I started it in 2013 and was unhappy with it because it didn't reach into the illustrative/symbolic world as much as I hoped it would. So I revisited it with a Molotow paint marker in 2014 (around the time of the Crazy Love sets - you will see similarities if you look) and put all the line work in. You can see circles (with the same meaning as my plate paintings) emerging on this piece as well. That was a symbolic step that was harder than it looks for me to take.
While I really like this piece, the thing that has kept me from loving it is there is something not quite right with my eyes, they seem a touch too small. I also don't love that the line work is just a screen placed over top of the representational image. They are visually separate. They are working together here, and I think for the framework of this piece it is a successful partnership, but it is not quite a true marriage of the two styles.
So, what exactly happened with "It's All Over But the Shouting" that is different? Long story short, my brain isn't prioritizing things in the same order. I went with what my brain said felt right and it was different than what it would have been a few months ago. This required new strategies and new work arounds and it was very very exciting. So exciting that the day I painted this it was like my head exploded with visual ideas and directions to take and I could barely eat and didn't go to bed until after 2:00 am (which is super late for me) I could barely contain myself trying to sift through the wealth of ideas.
Instead of placing the line work over top, I anticipated it and wove it into the structure of the piece itself. Instead of highlighting the obvious symbols with outlines and bright colours screaming "look at me, I'm a symbol, symbols are super important" I buried them because those symbols are there for me, not for the viewer. If you find them, you can do what you like with them. I am very aware that a painting is a conversation between the artist and the viewer and you will do with them what you will. That will depend on your own history, your cultural context and whatever these things remind you of - this is the wonderful thing about art. When you look at a piece, it is like we are dancing.
I cannot wait to keep painting. I cannot wait for our next dance.
To read the whole story of my Meningioma click here.
sOn Friday, I attended the wrap up event for the Bud's of Bud's Northern Reflections Painted Window Exhibition. It was a great night reconnecting with the organization's team, the other artists as well as my animation partner, Alyssa Koski.
During the evening they awarded three prizes, People's Choice, Celebrity Choice and the Juried Prize. Alyssa and I were thrilled when they announced our name for the Jury's pick.
I'll be honest, since completing this piece my life has had quite a few changes and developments and 2018 has started out kind of rough. To have a night out and to take home the big prize was a great way to end my week. Thank you, Bud's of Bud's, thank you Jury and most of all, thank you Alyssa - you were an amazing partner to work with. Your animation took this piece to a whole other level and it was a treat to collaborate with you.
This is a tough time of year to tackle studio projects. That being said, I'm pleased with this piece - especially knowing how hard I had to fight to get long uninterrupted stretches required to do such a technical piece. I think it was worth the fight.
It felt so good to work larger than my usual 10" x 10" sized canvas. Bigger brushes, larger swaths of colour, forced simplification and room to get into detail if I wanted too. Lots of breathing room on this canvas so I tried to capture that, especially in the background, with loose and airy brushstrokes to help tell that story.
Lately, life has felt complex - I think that has come out in the subject here. It feels like sometimes I am better at articulating visually than with words. An alternate title for this piece was "Hint of Lime" because of the peeks of green you can see throughout. However, I think those types of titles are better suited to fun little painting studies than to big pieces like this. I went with "Spires" because I think it better suits all that is going on here. Hope it translates.