First page of this journal. My handwriting looks like the messy side of normal. I've finally gotten up, gone into the studio and brought the sketchbook to my chair. To be completely honest, I have not looked forward to this at all. I'm not in the mood. Oh and this picture is grainy and I meant to retake it and I've forgotten so many times, I'm just leaving it.
I have had so many sweet and heartfelt well wishes in the past week since I went public about my brain tumor (I am Canadian, I am aware that the correct spelling is "tumour" I have given up on the American-centric auto correct and decided it is too much effort to change it every single time on every single platform I use). One thing I really want to talk about though is the idea that I'm particularly brave or inspirational about all this. I'm not. I'm just good at explaining things and I have a particular need to make sense of all this to myself and blogging seems to work with my current mood as an outlet. That's it. Not brave - just trying to make sense of this. I am processing.
Now, I can picture the "oh, but that isn't true!" types protesting as well as people who have seen me lose my temper in the last week nodding their heads vigorously saying "uh huh, she is no saint!" (I am looking at you, my family,) The fact of the matter is, presented with the same situation, the overwhelming majority of you would go through this in a very similar yet completely different way. Hospitals are FILLED with people currently having the worst week of their life. Plus people having the best week of their life. As well as people who THINK they are having the worst week of their life but are really just being whiners, I'm sure if you ask a nurse friend about the last category they will have some very funny stories to share.
Honestly, if you REALLY want to split hairs on this (and I will fight you on this, I'm in a punchy mood today) the brave and inspirational people are the ones who decide to devote their life to picking up the pieces for people who are currently having a really bad week and whose lives are currently very broken and messy (in either a physical or emotional sense). The people who instead of spending their life drawing pictures and blogging decided to put their nose to the grindstone and learn a tangible skill, often at great personal and financial expense. Skills that the merits don't depend on what jury you got but actually have rigorous licensing processes that take years to obtain.
Seriously, think about this. It blows my mind that people spend YEARS of their lives doing math and science related schooling (which was never my favorite although I love watching NOVA or leafing through a National Geographic in a waiting room) in order to figure out how to not only to see what is literally going on in someone's head but to fix it. Not to mention keep them alive afterwards. Seriously. There are people who are totally prepared to sign up to be a first responder. Risk their life? No problem. Some of these people even do it as a volunteer. (As an aside, to the firefighter who irritated me so deeply by asking me what the date was and what my birthday is right after I had my seizure, I forgive you. I realize now, you actually probably didn't even care about those specifics, you were just doing your job. I also apologize, I am pretty sure in my haze, I managed to roll my eyes at you in exasperation, but I digress) Let's not even get started on people who have to deal with all the gross and yucky parts of being human and needing help AND THEY CHOOSE THIS.
I am so thankful people choose to spend their life thinking about how to make a better MRI machine or the best way to open someone's head and remove benign brain tumors. I spent my formative years at ART SCHOOL. Don't get me wrong, art school is a wonderful place and art is healing etc, However, in an emergency situation such as mine, the healing powers of art takes a back seat to people who know how do poke an IV into your vein properly. I would suck at that. (Fun fact, my post-seizure brain loves it when I type "IV" but instead of my inner voice saying "eye vee" my brain literally says "FOUR" in all caps. Every. Single. Time. It is the funniest party trick that I perform for myself alone. Who knew Roman numerals were so deeply embedded in my subconscious)
Me choosing to blog about all this is not noble at all. For gaining deeper understanding, sure. Also, I would like it to be helpful to others (especially any other brain tumor people. As we find each other in this, I'm finding out we are instantly good friends and part of a very exclusive club) but that is not my reason for doing it. I'm doing this to shut my inner dialogue off. Just like writing a grocery list helps helps you gather all the things you need at the store, this allows me to offload all the random weirdness rattling around my head and puts it neatly into one place.
"But you are handling this so well!" Again, no, not really particularly well. I'm not handling it particularly badly either. I'll bet I'm handling somethings better than one friend would and other things way worse that some other friend would. Just like all things human. Like I said above, I'm just good at explaining stuff. I'm funny. I think of words and edit and rearrange them and then put them in a blog or a journal. I am also good at self editing my inner dialogue. I leave out lots of selfish thoughts and internal comments that would make me sound terrible. I leave out lots of audible comments I've made that weren't helpful to everyday situations because sometimes stress doesn't filter stuff so good. These posts don't give the full spectrum picture.
Seriously though, at the moment, I am walking through each day making choices. We all do that everyday, but right now I have a few huge choices and not a lot of options. If you were placed in the same situation, you would do the same thing. Make choices. You can't really put a lot of those choices off any longer since in a situation like this, time is a wonderful sweet luxury. Some of your choices might be similar to mine, some might be very different. Lots of choices you would find out are presented to you because of many other choices you've made over the years too.
Anyone who is driving on the highway and their car runs out of gas is faced with similar choices. You have a big choice: sit in the car and wait for rescue or try to flag someone down? Were you prepared? Did you bring a cell phone? Do you have a gas can that you can fill up? Do you have CAA to come and give you a tow because you pay for that service every year? Those are ideal choices in an ideal world. Sometimes you run out of gas and there is no cell service and the road is deserted. Sometimes it is better to get out and walk. Sometimes it is safer to stay in the car where it is warm. All choices. All time sensitive. All yours to make. Some people are given similar yet totally different choices for the same situation. There is nothing brave about it. Its just making choices. Some choices are better than others, sometimes we make poor choices, sometimes we have only awesome choices to make (or the flip side, only hard choices)
I realize, attitude definitely plays a part in all this for sure. I'm choosing at the moment to have a good attitude on my blog. But choosing your attitude is a daily choice, kind of like breakfast. I realize a lifetime of choosing 2 sausage McMuffins are going to yield a different outcome in someways that choosing organic granola and fruit, but I don't know where I was going with this rabbit trail. I will say though that this morning, I definitely chose bad attitude for about 4 hours. Full on sullen, self absorbed and grumpy it tasted like the bestest, greasiest Sausage McMuffin on the planet too. So there.
Back to big choices though.
Right now I didn't choose a brain tumor or to have a seizure. I didn't choose to call 911 or have a CT Scan (I could've theoretically refused those services but post-seizure is not the time to really think deeply about stuff) I do choose to take my meds. I have chosen to ask for some well wishes and practical assistance, I've chosen to be upfront with my kids and friends etc. Those are important choices, but they aren't the biggest choice.
The medical system has a door that you choose to either walk through or bypass. (at least in Canada is straightforward like that) Once you walk through it you get one of those cool automated sidewalks and you show up where and when they tell you to. You ask questions and self advocate as needed, you make choices based on their advice and knowledge with the idea that at the end of it you are better or have your life extended or improved somehow.
That wonderful sidewalk is made up of people who are the brave and inspirational ones who deal with all the weird garbage growing on my brain and me making endless jokes about "needing ____ like I need a hole in my head" because at the end of the day, they are really good at giving me the hole in my head that I really need at the moment. They made that choice to specialize in whatever moving sidewalk I have to get on at the moment that whisks me away one step closer to being healthy. Not a perfect analogy and everyone has had that one bitter professional that sucked the life out of their day, but overall this is how I see things at the moment.
Now onto other things - Practical life update:
I have a to do list that is written by someone with a brain tumor. It is long and time is short before surgery and I keep dropping threads. Again - please extend grace and friendship if I was supposed to get back to you about something. My orbit is like a comet that has been knocked a little off course. I'll get back to you presently but I'm not as reliable as some of those other comets. I've been having headaches and no energy which puts a damper on this party life too.
For those of you who have offered to help. My sweet husband combed through my phone and my messages and emails and cobbled all the "I'd love to help" messages into a spreadsheet. Offers of cleaning, rides and post-surgery help: we will get back to you onces we have a better idea of what we need. My dad is coming out for a little while once I am out of the hospital to make me snacks and keep the drool from puddling too much on my pajama collar as well.
If you said "I'll bring a meal" or "I'd love to help" in an undefined way, you will be most likely sent an email from a thing called "Meal Train". This is merely an online schedule that has days one can sign up for to bring a meal. (thank you Carol for setting that up) The reason for this is it is impractical and a waste of everyone's time and effort for 5 people to show up on the same Tuesday with a lasagna, although my youngest daughter would feast like a king. This website spaces things out and people can take a peek at other days different people have signed up for and make a choice such as "ah, I see they have lots of chicken dishes, I'll do lasagna" or if you are kind of devilish, you look at it and say "looks like they could use more chicken, heh. heh. heh." Whatever works.
Please do not feel obligated to sign up just because you got that email. It might not work for your availability. We get that. Please also don't feel like because there are _____ amount of spots on there that you need to handle a bunch of them. In past experience of other friends who have used this, it will fill up as needed and that might take a few days. We have 6 weeks open with 3 spots a week open and plans on how to fill the gaps in between. We are flexible in days and times as well as the idea that we might need this shorter or longer than 6 weeks. We also have a chest freezer and 3 teenagers who are ace at reading heating instructions for food.
As some of you know, I have a super restricted gluten free diet. I absolutely SUCK to cook for. Please don't. Cook for my family and make it as gluten-ey as you want. We already have safe food tucked away for me. Plus I'll be in the hospital. Plus I'll be heavily medicated. Plus I'm used to it. Give them a casserole dish of just flour. They can figure it out. LOL. (please don't do that, but the idea of them looking forward to something and pulling back the foil and its just flour makes me laugh.)
Also, I'm finding internet/Facebook/Instagram time on my iPad (I write my blog on my laptop and its different and awkward but easier but shorter overall) needs to be limited in my interactions. I'm getting headaches. So, please absolve me ahead of time for taking the lazy route and not responding to everything or just doing emojis and "likes". Normally I hate that but its a survival skill for the next while. Which is hard because everyone is so sweet and I am a polite Canadian and it is embedded in my DNA. I have read your comment or your email and thank you. You have no idea how incredibly loved I realize I am and it is super humbling. I know the best people ever. I have AMAZING taste in friends and family.
One last thought that was shamelessly stolen from another blog but I don't remember which one so I won't take or give credit here:
For those of you feeling inspired by this (hahaha see what I did there?) or feeling like you wish you could help but you can't because you are far away or strapped for time or fighting an awful battle of your own... our family has lots of help coming in at the moment and we are just trying to get it organized.
I propose you help in a different way. I'll even give you a choice ("not making a choice" isn't a choice I want you to make, but it is a choice too, it will be an implied #3 on the following list I guess)
1) Affirm or encourage someone else today. I've gotten tons of that and I've needed it. I bet there is someone who isn't getting that in your life that you could shoot an email or text too. Call your parents at the very least. One awesome part of this is I've talked/texted etc with more of my immediate and extended family this past week or so than I have in years. It's in our DNA to not call I think. We are all like that in my family. The thing is, I love picking up the phone and hearing them on the line. Even if the reason has been sad sometimes. If you have a friend who has been going through a long valley (unemployed, getting divorced, kids going through some sort of hard to parent phase... ) send them a "I was just thinking about you today - how ARE you?" text. Those are the best because sometimes you get "AWESOME! Let me tell you why" or you get a chance to walk beside an old friend going through a tough time for a few moments and reconnect. Both are good things.
2) Go give blood. I'm totally serious. I used to give blood and I had to stop because I have anemia issues. I loved giving blood. People are super nice, you get to help in an abstract sense and then you get snacks! Best free date there is in town! My blood type is O- which means they always particularly loved me coming in because you can give my type to anyone. I am the universal donor. The problem with that is, O- can only receive O- and as someone going in for brain surgery next week, I don't want all you A and B types hogging all my blood. Give and get your own this time! Also you get snacks. Even gluten free snacks if you ask... which are sometimes (drumroll please) DOLE FRUIT CUPS. I do not lie.
This quite possibly be the funniest and greatest unintentionally well timed gifts I have ever received. For those of you who are scratching your heads, this is what children in Chinese public schools learn instead of the Recorder. It is a mouth powered piano and it's crazy. Thank you so much, Darcie and Andrew. It came on a day where it was good to have a laugh. I love it.
This past week I've been experiencing some weird things. I firmly believe there is a good side and a bad side to everything. This is a helpful world view to have when you have a week like I've had and it seems like life has given you quite a few "bads" all at once.
The first indication I had anything wrong with my brain came after I went to the gym with my husband. I wasn't enthusiastic about going (I did feel smug that we were going before the New Years Resolutioners showed up) but it was totally uneventful. I ran the track (which I have fallen back in love with as of late because it is one of the few places where I let myself wear headphones and just experience music and check out on autopilot) After we finished. I went to the locker room to grab my stuff, I found my locker and TOTALLY drew a blank on how to open my combination lock. No clue. Couldn't visualize the operating mechanism at all. I knew what it was, I knew it was mine, I remembered opening it effortlessly a hundred times. I just could not for the life of me picture how to do it. I knew it had something to do with numbers though.
This is the cool part. Somehow my brain remembered all the steps to drag my fingers across numbers on my phone to get it unlocked. Totally auto pilot. I was realizing I was baffled with letters, numbers and symbols. I started texting my husband, thinking he would think this was totally reasonable stuff I needed help with because it didn't occur to me that this was super wrong.
As I started to type, I realized that I couldn't really picture what words were supposed to look like. I knew what letter the word started with and I realized that auto correct suggestions either looked right or wrong, even though I couldn't figure out what made them right or wrong.
I was so stumped on how to type "Help" in my mind I was looking for an auto correct suggestion that resembled "h333lp" and it didn't give it to me, so I guessed on that one. Not going to lie, it still looks a little bit right to me.
I got frustrated at that point and left the change room to find my husband. It was good that I did that, because my seizure hit right after I found him. Of course I don't remember that part. I just remember waking up and having firemen standing over me for some reason asking me really pesky questions about the date that I was not sure the answers on.
<insert long winded story about going to ER in the ambulance and CT scans and sad news about brain tumors that I don't feel like talking about at the moment>
In the past week+ I have good days and bad days (right now my brain is working okay, so I'm taking advantage of that) I've read somewhere that having a seizure can reset your senses. I'm not sure if it was that or starting my anti seizure medication or the fact that my brain tumor (who my niece has named Sally) has made it's presence known, but I have have noticed some neat things.
On my bad days, the word thing is there but not as bad as that pre-seizure episode in the sense that I don't confuse numbers and letters. I do miss words in sentences and I can tell when something is spelled incorrectly - I'm just not totally sure what the issue is (so I'm constantly auto correcting) I find its similar but different with reading. I'm missing words on large chunks of text (so some of those lovely messages you've sent me I've had to puzzle over a bit) I had a discovery last night that if I read it out loud, it makes perfect sense.
This is what I'm leading up to here on why your brain is so cool. Something goes wrong and there are 10 work arounds that your brain is TOTALLY okay with trying out in order to gain understanding. Can't read the letter E? No problem, 3 will do in a pinch. Reading taking you forever? No problem, some innate sense of where buttons exist spatially on your phone swiped in a certain pattern will suffice. Having trouble with handwriting? Try typing on your keyboard because you played Typing Tutor obsessively as a child and Home Row is drilled very, very deeply into your subconscious mind and will not fail you now.
Other cool and random things I've noticed:
- The first few days post seizure, my sense of smell picked up the most amazing and beautiful scents. I suspect this is what your sense of smell will be like in heaven. One of my Christmas gifts was a diffuser for aromatherapy oils (yes, yes, 5 years after everyone else wanted one, LOL) This thing has at times, smelled so beautiful and perfect it has actually brought me to tears. This has faded quite a bit the past few days, but on occasion, it still strikes. I love this. (Weird side note, my husband and kids smell so good. Having friends pop by... they all smell like themselves and that is so great. I promise I won't be awkward when I see you next though)
- I have had a RAGING sweet tooth. I think this one is to be blamed on the meds. My appetite has sucked and for the first few days, the only food I could picture in my head was Dole fruit salad and gluten free donuts. Then we went to Superstore and I found out that Dole makes mango chunks in mango pudding and I pretty much lost my mind. I am not a sweets person generally, but the past week I have gained an appreciation on why people love this kind of stuff. My youngest kid thinks this has been an awesome development.
- Sometimes my feet feel a little farther away than they usually do (I have no idea why) yet my balance and nerve endings are all working perfectly. I suspect this might be what teenagers experience when they grow lots over night.
Anyways, I'm sure there will be new and interesting things to keep me engaged in the coming weeks. One thing I have realized is I can't always remember all the steps I need to take on stuff I take for granted. One of those is replying as me to all the direct comments under a blog post. I've read them, I just don't have the visual steps I need to take. As some of you have noticed, I will answer you right away on Facebook or via email but your comment on this page is unanswered. The blog is stumping me - sorry, LOL.
I'm just cutting and pasting what I've posted on my main page. This took FOREVER to type and now I am tired of thinking. LOL.
At the end of December 2017, I had a seizure and found out that I have a benign brain tumor called a meningioma. In mid January, I will be having it removed and taking a break from all teaching, demonstrating and commercial studio work so that I can focus on my recovery. Naturally, my family and I are stressed out and nervous for the coming months, but we believe I will fully recover and return to prior interests and activities in due time. For those of you who are inclined, your prayers are much appreciated.
As I have grappled with this news in the past week, a lot of thought has centered on what it means to be an artist as it is not only my vocation, it is a key part of my identity. What happens if this surgery changes me? What if parts of this are quite difficult to process or navigate? Google can be your friend and your enemy during times like this. One thing that has brought me comfort has been finding other creative types with similar issues who have shared their journey of recovery on the internet. Hope is not to be trifled with.
So, with that example in mind, I have decided to use the coming months to shift my focus to my path to wellness and to share it on my blog. My hope is that it gives my friends, family, and clients a snapshot of my recovery as well as potentially be a place that google will lead others who are dealing with heavy news and that it will give them hope as well.
Since I can be enormously persistent (stubborn) when I choose to be, I have decided I need to do this on my own terms. I feel like this is a really neat opportunity to share what happens when you take a skilled artist and then operate on their brain. Seriously, you don't get much better blogging material than that. It feels like the ultimate science/art experiment. What works? Will my skills be different? What will I lose? What will I gain? Will my palette change? My subject? Will I still be an artist? I plan to write and share my sketchbook journal, plus whatever art I feel like trying.
It is really important to me that I use this experimental time to be honest about what this has done to my brain and my creative spirit. I'm not going to lie, I already feel quite vulnerable. In the past week, making words fit together (which I love doing) has been stilted and clumsy. I really have to think about spelling and how things fit together in a sentence. Emails and text messages have been slow because I need to read and reread them to make sure they make sense. It takes a little longer to figure out what the problem is. I'm not sure if this is from the seizure, the medication, or the actual brain tumor. I suspect there will be a lot of this frustration in the coming weeks. I also know how cathartic it is to acknowledge that sort of thing, so I think being open will be good for me.
I think it is too easy for artists (myself included) to use platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to present this effortless picture of great art and self promotion. Nobody likes showing the failed experiments or talking about work that you make that is awkward or doesn't sell. No one likes admitting that they are a novice at a new art form until the work is pretty and commercially available. It's easy to throw in words about how privileged and honoured you are to be included in something, or use hashtags like #blessed and #lovinglife. The downside to that approach is it takes hard work and grit out of the picture and makes it look like you won the "art lottery" instead of putting in countless hours being mediocre in order to become skilled. In the coming months, I suspect I am going to work hard and make some bad art. I think it is important to share it with you.
Here are some random things I want to put out there for anyone reading this:
- To everyone who has already sent me a message of encouragement, offer of prayer or practical help. Thank you. I will likely get back to you in the coming week if I haven't already. If I don't, I'm blaming it on my brain issues. They are real and I've dropped a few threads already.
- If you are just learning about this via Social Media and I should have contacted you directly, I deeply apologize - please extend grace and friendship. Having lots of friends and family is a good problem to have, but I know I've missed a few of you! Again, I blame the clumsy brain.
- I work with amazing organizations and I just want to thank everyone who I've had to send the "I need to withdraw from ____" email to in the past few days. You have all responded with such compassion and understanding. Thank you for that. It's been a humbling week and knowing that I can get back in touch and resume our plans when I am better has been a life line.
- For anyone who received a cancellation notice for a class you've signed up for, I am so sorry. I hope you will keep checking here for my courses to be rescheduled so we can do our class at a later date. If you want a recommendation for an alternate, contact me or the organization you booked with for some other classes in the meantime. You need to keep those fires fueled in your own creative journey!
- For any of my collaborators, students or artist friends, it would mean the world to me if you sent me updates of what you are working on. You inspire me and motivate me and I know I will live vicariously through you in the coming weeks. Talking shop absolutely puts wind in my sails.
- If you are in the same boat of needing to recover or you have recovered and somehow you found my blog, contact me. One thing I'm not sure I want to hear is people's horrible experiences. You know what I'm talking about... it starts with sentences like "oh, my cousin Edna's sister-in-law had something like that and it was AWFUL...." You can keep those locked up until after I'm better. I love stuff where we are mutually positive, honest and encouraging though.
A few people have asked how they can help.
- If you know our family personally and you want to pitch in, shoot me or my husband and email or text and we can take it from there. We do have a few offers of day to day help and some meals but lots of people doing a tiny bit shares the load easily. I have the easy part of recovery, I really want to keep my husband and kids from feeling burnt out or overwhelmed. They have heated up enough frozen pizza in the past week already.
- For anyone else, we are not planning to set up a gofundme account or anything like that. However, I will be honest that as an independent artist who makes her living from the fruits of her labors... the next few months are going to be tight. My husband carries the bulk of the finances thank goodness but I will not have the luxury of sick leave. If you have suggestions, advice on Canadian/Alberta/Calgary or Cochrane resources I can access for advice or help at this time, please contact me.
- You can still find my art at Bluerock Gallery, Leighton Centre and Muk Luk Magpies - if you've had your eye on a piece, this would be a helpful time to buy it. I do have a little work available at home but in all this craziness, it might be hard for me to get it shipped. Booking spots in workshops when I return will also be helpful, so keep checking back as well.
- Most importantly, your well wishes and prayers have been treasured and if you could keep me and my family in your thoughts in the coming weeks, that would be the greatest way you could help.
Anyways, I plan to blog and if my brain works correctly, I'll try to remember to file all the posts related to my recovery under "Meningioma" should I have a spell where I can't do it myself, I'll make sure my husband can do it on my behalf. Filling out my contact form means it gets sent directly to my email, which I hope to check often. Thanks!
Normally I spend the early part of December writing this annual post in my head. I enjoy reflecting on the previous year and shaping all my thoughts and projects into one post with a unified theme. Or a Top Ten list - I like those too. I'm going to confess that this year, I haven't had it in me. Alas, I'm a stickler for traditions, so I will write my year in review, but it is more off the cuff this time.
After all the chaos surrounding our family's move in 2016 I've realized that 2017 has been a big search for stability. Stability in my studio, with my calendar and truth be had, with my income as well.
We've now been in our house long enough for it to feel like home, especially my cozy studio. I look forward to getting in there and picking up from the day before. I like refining how it's organized and working in my own space. My extended studio (aka, my garage) is not quite there yet. Life has been busy and that was one thing that has eluded me this season. Now it's cold so it'll have to wait a little longer.
I spent a lot more time at Heritage Park as well as instructing this year; those became the cornerstones to my calendar with more flexible items scheduled around them. This has lead to some growth for me as well. I've realized that as more time gets committed outside the studio, the more deliberate I need to be with my time creating. My day timer has been extraordinarily helpful in this regard, I might talk more about this in a future post, The idea that artists are entirely free flowing and dictated by their inspiration is false. Structure for an artist can lead to enormous creativity - a lot of that comes from planning and goal making (but I digress)
Part of the reason why I've been out of the studio more has been because one of the goals I've set is for more stability in my artist income. By artist income, I mean anything that moves me forward as an artist. A job at Starbucks is not intended to move my art forward. My job at Heritage Park was sought out specifically to increase my knowledge about Letterpress. Hence I include that and teaching as artist income. I am a full time artist (I do not have a non arts job) and I look at all the various income streams as my full time job, broken up into interesting bite sized pieces. A new flavour every week it seems.
At this point in my career, I am not at a place where I can reliably depend on a certain amount of income generated by the sale of my paintings. To address this, I've sought out more places to help me sell my art as well as diversified what I make by adding items like hand pulled prints, flour sack cloths and letterpress goods. When I make art, I put all my time and resources in up front with the idea that I will recoup my costs and gain a profit.
The unstable part of this is that I have no idea when this income will arrive. Some art sells before it is dry. Some art takes years to sell.. Once those items are completed, they then need to be cataloged, photographed and promoted, driven to a gallery or listed online. Then you pay the associated commissions or fees to the venue that assisted you in selling your work. Great venues that sell work regularly absolutely earn those fees because the risk of it getting lost or damaged increases the longer it travels around to various places looking for its' forever home.
A few years ago I looked at my options for what path I wanted to follow for the next while. I could bite the bullet and put all my time and resources into just creating with the end goal of getting my art to the place where I could rely on it for steady income. Or I could look at ways to further diversify my income streams so that I wasn't solely putting my time and resources up front. Previously,I had taken a year off from selling my work in order to try new things and evolve in my work without the pressure of conforming or marketing myself. That Sabbatical year was a huge blessing, but all I could afford was one year off. The decision pretty much was made at that point. Diversification became my goal, and I'm thankful for it in many ways. Especially in this economy... if one income stream dries up, I usually have something different I can put into the mix to keep things stable.
Instructing has been a big part of this for me this year: I book an event, I work, I get paid. For an artist, this formula can feel almost backwards at times! There is still an amount of speculative work involved in these events, however. Organizations need to be approached, proposals written, sometimes meetings, lots of email communication, photos, write ups, promotions... none of this is paid time. It all works out when event is complete and you get paid since the fee should cover the upfront work that was done. However, if a booked event does not run, all that work is for nothing.
Lately it's been a matter of finding balance in how many bookings I take and being more selective with which organizations I work with. This year I've had the pendulum swing both ways - constant bookings so I've worked too many weekends in a row (which wears my family out) as well as too many untested venues with bookings that have fallen through (which wears me out). However, overall it's been going really well and I'm thankful that I have a few core connections that work very hard on my behalf to see classes fill up, I love being a part of their team.
I guess the last thing that has really contributed to stability for me has been something a lot more abstract than income, calendars or studio space. It's this idea of "Compound Time" - time regularly spent pursuing unrelated learning that impacts the growth in your art practice. The past few years spent helping at the museum, expanding my printmaking plus all this letterpress stuff I've been doing is starting to heavily influence my direction in the studio. I've changed. I believe I am a more well rounded person because of all the new connections I've made and things I've learned how to do. I look forward to more in 2018. Perhaps I'll start thinking about a Top Ten list for the New Year.
I was so excited when I was selected to participate in the Northern Reflections Window Exhibition. I submitted a proposal to the Buds of Buds Artist Collective because this project had a special twist. Unlike typical painted windows (and Calgary has a long standing tradition of painted windows for the Stampede) this project was trying something different - Augmented Reality.
The premise was that artists would be paired with animators to work with downtown businesses to develop a winter themed piece based on tradition or memories. The artist would paint the window and the animator would bring it to life through digital animation. I am always very curious about ways to marry old art forms with technology so this was very intriguing to me. Then viewer can tour the downtown core and see the augmented paintings and vote for the ones they love best.
How it works is the painting is designed to have features (called image targets) that can be picked up by the software, similar to face recognition technology. We attended a workshop where we could see this in action and knew what things work better than others (ie, lots of clear outlines and shapes read better than muted pastels that are blended together). Once the painting is completed (on the outside of the window as opposed to the inside so that there is not a lot of glare to confuse the program) a photographer takes a high quality image to give to the animator. The animator then goes to work adding virtual elements to parts of the painting to bring more to the story and add interesting details. The final step is the animation is loaded onto a smart phone app called AUGLE (you can find it your app store for free) and the viewer holds their phone (with the app open) up to the paintings and the app sees the image targets and starts the animation as an overlay to the painting. It is really cool to see in action.
After attending the initial Buds of Buds workshop, there were a few steps before the painting could begin. The first one was to be paired with an animator - it my case it is the super talented Alyssa Koski. True story - I was emailed her name and it seemed so familiar (and I don't know any animators). I kept trying to remember where I had heard it before. Once I got a chance to sit down and have a proper look at her website, it was 2 seconds to realize how I knew her - I bought a piece of hers from the ACAD sale 2 years ago as a Christmas gift for my daughter! What a small world, needless to say my daughter (who loves that piece) thought I was MUCH cooler after I told her who I was working with!
The next step was to meet with Alyssa and go over a document that we were given by the business. In our case, we were so excited when we realized our partner was the Telus Convention Centre! Wow! In the document, they were given some choices of what type of image they wanted, some key concepts that would fit their corporate/business identity and any requests they might have. We looked it over and talked through some ideas that could work collectively. One of the key elements was to bring winter memories and traditions to life, and we both agreed that a special and uniquely Canadian one was outdoor skating. I have very fond memories of family skating trips from when I was a little girl as well as city skating with my own children. It just so happens that right across the street from the Telus Convention Centre is Olympic Plaza - the only refrigerated outdoor ice surface in the City of Calgary!
We started with the ice skaters and then looked to the Telus Convention Centre document for ways to connect it... one phrase that was mentioned to describe the centre was "Heart of Calgary" - the convention centre is a place that connects outsiders to Calgary and is an integral part of the downtown community. As Alyssa and I started planning our storybook style image, the framework of a huge heart to encapsulate the urban skaters came clear. We expanded the image outside of the heart with a snapshot of the Canadian Rockies that are found just outside the heart of Calgary.
The next step in the process was the actual painting. My hat goes off to the organizers at Buds of Buds who helped facilitate all the schedules for painters and businesses. Anyone who lives in Calgary can tell you what crazy winter weather patterns we have. We can change from -20*C to 10*C overnight. I'm sure they were glued to the weather channel the whole time the painters were scheduled!
Not only did they have to be concerned for the health and safety of the painters (remember, we had to paint on the exterior windows in order for the AR technology to work) the paint itself behaves differently as the temperatures drop. I found this out first hand as the day went on and my paint got thicker and stickier by the end of my day when the sun started to dip.
Thankfully, I had a beautiful day to work. My temperatures were hovering near the the 0*C mark the whole day and because everything was planned and prepared well, the entire process to set up, prep the window, paint and clean up took me around 6 hours. I didn't even need to crack open the Hot Paws that Buds of Buds gave me in case I needed them.
I started out by drawing my image with a Molotow Paint Marker then using latex paint and a foam roller, I filled my major blocks of colour for the areas outside of the heart filled in. Once I had the foundation laid, I started on the detail work within the heart, starting with the buildings at the top. and working my way downwards.
Near the end, I put my skaters in and then finished by redefining my initial black paint marker lines. Good thing I had time to spare on that part because it was right after I finished my skaters that I noticed the paint acting different due to the lower temperature. It was the right moment to wrap things up.
Lastly, the photographed painting was forwarded to Alyssa who has indeed worked her magic! I was so delighted with her whimsical animation work (I'm hoping she posts it to her website so I can link to it) as of today, you can download the Augle app and come and see it for yourself. If you do, please remember to vote (hopefully for ours) as we are really wanting to see what kind of public engagement comes from this project. It is such a great community building concept from Buds of Buds and I would love to see it grow into a yearly event. Just think - even your teenagers would be interested in this family viewing opportunity since their phones are a key part of the process!
Here are some key links:
Augle App for Android
Augle App for Iphone
Buds of Buds Site for more Exhibition Information
Northern Reflections Window Exhibit
Augmented Reality Display December 2017
My animation partner, Alyssa Koski, and I will be showcasing our piece, "Heart of the City", December 1st - 31st on the Stephen Ave windows of the Telus Convention Centre (right near the Glenbow Museum Entrance).
Calgarians will have the unique opportunity to participate in and engage with an immersive art experience unlike any other. In partnership with Downtown Calgary, we will be debuting the first ever urban art gallery through a series of painted windows, called the Northern Reflections Window Exhibition that will incorporate Augmented Reality (AR) technology. The series will be painted by a variety of local artists and will stretch throughout Calgary’s downtown core, showcasing many participating local businesses and turning the city streets into a grand urban art-walk. See Buds of Buds for more information!
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.
I have finally taken a moment to post *some* of my upcoming classes for sketching, painting, mixed media and printmaking - there are even more in the pipeline! For the ones I haven't posted yet, I'm just awaiting registration links (so keep checking back), I'll put them up as I have everything confirmed.
I was thinking about it today and I thought I would do a blog post to highlight a unique Christmas gift idea: knowledge. If you have a loved one in your life who you struggle to buy "stuff" for, perhaps a class or workshop would be a great fit. Oftentimes those hard to buy for types are more satisfied through experiences and the gift of time.
If you know someone who always talks about wanting to try something new, is looking to start a fresh chapter in their life, has an interest in trying new art forms or wants to revisit something they've tried in the past - may I suggest one of my workshops (1 or 2 day courses) or a weekly class? I would love to see them (or you) there!
This upcoming season I have a really full calendar, a lot of which is happening right here in Cochrane - some of the upcoming classes I've put onto my home page. I will also be doing some workshops at Kensington Art Supplies, Leighton Art Centre, Kelowna Art Gallery to name a few!
Now, that being said, should you be looking for a more traditional gift, I have lots of my paintings, flour sack cloths and prints available at Bluerock Gallery, the Leighton Art Centre and Muk Luk Magpies. Contact me if you are looking for something in particular or to commission a piece!
Okay, confession time. I ate my subject before I finished this piece. It really was as crisp and as sweet as the title suggests. I have so much fruit in my kitchen right now as a result of this little series of acrylic on cradled panel paintings. I am definitely getting my daily quota of fresh fruit this season!
This week has be very productive, might be a few days till I can post another of these little still life paintings. I have an exciting public art project in the next few days that I'll save for another post. In the meantime though, I was happy I got an early start today in the studio so I could finish this piece.
Another little 6" x 6" completed painting. I think I've figured out what has captured my heart with these pieces lately - I'm having so much fun trying to paint these new patterns without actually painting the patterns.
One thing about a small space like this to work on is you are forced to prioritize and simplify. To actually depict these patterns in their entirety would require a 000 brush and infinite patience. The outcome would probably be stiff and stilted as well. Instead, by focusing on the impression of the pattern, it gives the viewer a chance to participate in the experience by letting their imaginations fill in the blanks. It's neat when painter and viewer can engage in this dance.
Half the fun of these little plate paintings if for me to have a chance to really stop and look at what I am painting. I chose this plate because I love hand painted floral patterns an I wanted something with reds and pinks. It wasn't until I started painting that I realized that the little flowers were made up of cute little hearts. Observing what makes up a pattern really makes me appreciate the artisan's hands that drew the plate design.
This was another piece where the name just came to me. It is those sweet little red hearts against the sour lemon - Sweet and Sour. It is another tiny 6" x 6" acrylic on cradled panel piece.