Affirmation

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At the beginning of this year I joined the Art Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.  For me it has been a significant step in defining myself as having a place among the people in this province who seek to express themselves in artistic ways.  It has been a very positive experience, with opportunities to take workshops and socialize with artists who love what they do, and are willing to share their expertise and experience.  I was afraid, as a self-taught artist, I would not be taken seriously but I have not run into any form of disregard.  Everyone has just been helpful.

This fall I decided to take part in the Fall Art Exhibit, so with the help of a neighbour and friend, who is a long time member, we selected some of my work that she thought would fit well into the exhibition.  My husband framed them for me.  As they are not gallery wraps, but are painted right around the edge of the back stapled canvases, I didn’t want to lose the details.

FramedThe three pieces are, from left to right:

Frozen Ghost, Dragon’s Teeth at Madrocks, and A Year in a Gaudy Hamlet

Filled with excitement and trepidation, I dropped off my pieces on Wednesday, and walked in to the opening on Friday evening.  Would my work measure up?   There they hung, among some of the other beautiful pieces!  And they didn’t look out of place at all!  Can you find the Dragon’s Teeth in this picture?  It was so lovely to see so many people there, sharing a love of art and appreciating everyone’s work.  And stunning work was on every wall!  Gorgeous subjects: horses, boats, boots, waves, flowers;  Unique techniques:  glasswork, scratchboard, rope frames, multimedia flowers;  All sizes:  from tiny 6×6 to huge 36 x 48 and more.

Exhibit

As a member of the Association we were invited to take part in a collage project.  One large photo was cut into 60 small 3 inch x 2 inch pieces and each person taking part was given one to reproduce in acrylic on an 8 x 10 canvas board.  No one knew the overall picture, and we were admonished not to go looking – just to paint what we saw.  Toward the end a couple of people were unable to complete their pieces, so a few of us did an extra board.  The completed collage was unveiled at the Exhibition Opening, and while you can see it above, there is a clearer picture below.  I think it is absolutely marvelous to see the photo, taken from the St. John’s waterfront, done in this way.  And it fascinates me how differently the colours were interpreted, particularly the blues.

Collage

I’ve titled this post “Affirmation” because of the acceptance and the positive comments I received on my work.  Visitors could have walked right by my pieces, but they didn’t, and they spoke to me about them without knowing they were mine.  None of the pieces were up for sale, as I’m not ready to let my art babies out into the world yet, but there were queries, and some offers and I promised that the next exhibit I take part in, I will paint pieces for sale.  That’s exciting.

So if there is a moral to this story, it is to put yourself, and your work, out there.  It’s one thing to know how you feel about it.  It is quite another to get the opinions of others.  And yes, I know that sometimes people won’t like my work, but that’s ok too.  They may well have some interesting perspectives that I can learn something from.

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“Be Prepared”

As I mentioned in my spring blog post, we were planning a holiday, and it was wonderful.  Summer, as a whole has been marvelous.  Though the good weather was late in coming, once it hit in late June it decided to take up residence.  Now we are about to enter September and we still are having predominantly sunshine and warm days.  That’s not always the case after Regatta Day in St. John’s.

Planning a holiday also meant planning what art supplies I wanted to take along.  I knew I wouldn’t be making “serious art”, but I did want to take materials for sketching, and for maintaining my travel journal.  You also know, from previous posts, that I am a bit of a supply and diy geek, so the first thing I considered was a small watercolour palette.  cotmanI have W&N Cotman travel set, which I was planning to take, but I had seen the Pocket Palette business card size kit on Pinterest, and elsewhere, and thought I might be crafty enough to make something similar.  So let the games begin.

Small Metal Notepad

Many years ago, my husband gave me a tiny metal notepad with a pen that kept it closed.  While I loved it, I hadn’t used it often, so it was ready for a reincarnation.

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I found little metal pans online at a cosmetic supply firm (TKB Trading) and I had an old sheet magnet from a calendar, and some small magnet dots from the Dollarama.  I glued the magnet to the inside of the notepad base with E6000, and as the metal pans stuck nicely to the magnet I didn’t need to use the magnet dots.  I used white adhesive contact paper to make the mixing space under the cover.

I had purchased some lovely Shinhan Watercolours from Amazon, so my next task was to fill the pans I wanted.

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It was just a matter of filling the pan, and then spreading the paint out with a toothpick.  I included Mission Gold Crimson Lake, and W&N Cotman Payne’s Gray, because they are favourites.  You can see the rest of my palette selections on the sample card above.  Once the pans had dried (2 days) I just slipped them into the case and now I have a lovely little kit that I can slip in my pocket with a waterbrush and a pencil.

My Pocket Palette

But for journaling on the trip I wanted a little more.  I like a selection of pens, and prefer normal brushes to waterbrushes.  The ephemera one collects on a trip needs to be taped or glued in and scissors and rulers are helpful.  When I was growing up I had pencil cases for school that held all sorts of art supplies, so while I was in the Thrift Store, I came across a more modern version of this with an inner divider and decided it had potential.

I grant you I am a fan of all things Disney, but this was not the vision I had for my art supplies.  Acrylic paint to the rescue.  I think the result is much more appropriate.

The kit holds pencils, art eraser, ruler, fountain pens, a white pen and glue pens, along with an assortment of waterbrushes and travel brushes alongside my Cotman paints.  There is a plastic card cut from packaging wrapped with washi tape, and there are watercolour paper pieces, binderclips and elastics; water container, colour wheel, spray bottle, paper towel and cloth cuff.

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And of course, one must have a matching sketchbook.  This was a book of quite sturdy watercolour paper (no weight given) that I picked up at a yard sale.  The cover is heavy chipboard.

 

The truth of the trip was that it was so busy there was little time to sketch anything, and I will leave the details of our travels to a future post.  But here is a little tidbit to whet your appetite.

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Roman (Romin’) Holiday

If you have read my (much) older posts, you will know that we enjoy travel and with that, photography to record our traveling.  In the spring of 2016 our family had a truly awesome Vacay, visiting Wales, London, Germany, and Rome.  Where countries are listed, we visited different towns and cities.  It was a glorious time to trundle around together, and the weather in Europe is so much more inviting in March than it is in Newfoundland, where we are still shrouded in snow and cold at that time of the year.

Rome was the one place on the itinerary that we had never seen, and so was an amazing experience.  We stayed at a wonderful bed and breakfast that was very close to everything, Gialel Bed & Breakfast.  I would recommend it to anyone!  And contact them through their website.  They say they will beat the booking website prices.  Our second piece of advice is use the Hop on Hop off Bus Tours.  We suggest the red bus, there are all sorts of them (we took one from a different company).  With a 48 hour pass we were able to spend 2 days visiting all the major sights without concern about how we were going to get around.  We only had to be aware of when the last bus for the day left the stop we were at.  It was great.

A few shots from the Vacay in Roma.

Everywhere you looked there were ruins, either preserved, built into new buildings or standing sentinel on their own.  And of course, there were people everywhere!  And we weren’t there in tourist high season.

Art StoreWe came across this marvelous art store.  This only shows you one side of it, but the other half of the building was full of papers and pigment powders and brushes!!  Oh so beautiful.

DaVinci museumThe Da Vinci Museum was full of reproductions of his inventions, and his journals and notebooks.

Fascinating to see his ingenuity.

 

 

 

ParkingAlso ingenious was the parking.  This isn’t the only example we saw of creative parking.  Creative driving was also very much in evidence.

 

Below are just a few more shots of this amazingly picturesque city.

And what led me to tell you about last year’s holiday?  Well, this did.  This is Vicolo Della Torre, Trastevere.  This laneway in the old quarter of Rome, across the river, arrested me as I passed.  Laundry hung in the alley, sun beamed in, and even this early in the season shutters and windows were open and plants were beginning to leaf.  I wonder which tower the Torre references?

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I loved the strong perspective and sharp contrasts, and hope I was able to do it justice.

Memor-y-ial

It’s the end of March, and it came in like a lamb, so you know how it is going out.  The next 4 days promise high winds, rain, freezing rain, snow and sleet.  I don’t think I’ll leave the house if I can avoid it. Storm chips I’ve laid in a stock of “storm chips” for hubby.   That’s become a new tradition in Newfoundland.  For some reason we’ve forgotten that we get snow regularly into mid May and sometimes into June.  Urbanization has made us soft.

But I digress.  The impending arrival of April makes me think of spring, and milder weather, and days when going out and about is fun and you don’t have to wear 4 layers of clothing and boots so heavy you’ll drown in a pothole.  If you go back in my blog posts you’ll find I leave my cocoon in April, take my camera and explore.  Look What the Sun Brought Out! was one such, and you’ll see a photo of a statue on a huge granite boulder, spreading it’s wings and reaching to the sky.  In January I decided it was a good subject for a painting, and Icarus of Bay Bulls appeared under my brush.  Icarus of Bay Bulls

As one does these days, I posted the finished painting on a social media site.  Imagine my surprise when one of my Book Club friends asked, “Did you know that this memorial was erected to my father-in-law?”  I was floored.  We forget how small this province really is.

The memorial was cast by sculptor, Luben Boykov , in memory of Captain Patrick J. Coady and his crew, who were lost at sea in 1994.  The sculpture sits on one of a grouping of 5 large rocks that family and friends brought, by boat, from Captain Coady’s place of birth (Bar Haven), and then dug into ground to stand their guard.

My friend and her family had been very much moved by the painting, and so I was happy to be able to gift it to her.  (But I did have it professionally scanned, should I want a copy.  Or I may paint it again some day.)

Imperative

Sometimes a story demands to be told, a photo begs to be taken, a painting insists on being created.

About a year ago I painted a few decorative items, just gifts, of a colourful village – my Gaudy Hamlet.

They were pretty and colourful, the flip side depicting a different season of the year.  So I thought why not paint a progression on a canvas, through the seasons of the year.  And so was born, A Year in a Gaudy Hamlet.

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But you would need to know a little about this place I live…The Rock…The Easternmost Province of Canada…This Island in the Atlantic.  We are known for our colourful houses, and most famously for Jellybean Row in St. John’s.  Check out the link for some lovely photos and explanations.

Many of the houses in the small towns outside the city (the smallest, clinging to the shores of the island, called Outports) are made up of Higglety-Pigglety houses that sprung up as sons and daughters built by their parents over the 600 years of our existence.  (Yes we are the oldest inhabited place in North America.)  Usually not as colourful as “Sin Jawn’s”, there were more white houses with green or blue or black trim, or brick red houses with yellow ochre, or yellow houses with white.

I loved my whimsical work, with it’s bright colours and comical fir trees.  The apple tree was one of the few fruit trees traditionally planted here.  Occasionally someone had luck with pear.  And my friends and family loved it too.  I don’t paint to sell, but people wanted prints of this one!  However it talked to me.  “There’s more to the story,” it whispered.  I told my husband, who said, “Why would you want to paint something that isn’t happy?”  And so I left it alone for about 8 months.  But it wouldn’t leave me alone.

You see, Newfoundland and Labrador has seen a constant move from rural to urban.  Outports were isolated, often with no roadway to reach them and transport by boat alone.  This made services and supplies difficult to access.  There was a natural drive to move to where these things were available, but in the 1950’s the government began to initiate moves, because health care and municipal services were so difficult to provide.  People were paid to move.  Some floated their homes across the bays.  Hearts were torn out of families as communities were abandoned.  There are many internet sites that deal with resettlement but here is one to give you a taste.  Resettlement

Shortly before Christmas the whispering got too loud and I started on Resettlement in a Gaudy Hamlet.  The first houses are still inhabited, but soon there is no one to mow the lawns, or rake the leaves, or clear the rocks off the road.  The houses are shocked and surprised.  Why is it quiet?  Where are the lives that once filled them?  Why is there no one to close the doors?  To fix the shingles?  To paint their greying clapboard?  It is sad, as glass breaks and timbers rot.  But it is not ugly, nor without hope.  The trees that were once cut for firewood grow up.  The flowers, wild and gone wild colour the fields.

resettlement These are hidden places, and I have come upon them myself over the years.  Coves where the only indications that someone once lived there, are the square mounds of rocks that were the foundation of homes.  Where the furrows on the hill denote a garden that once held drills of potato and carrot.

“This is the land of dreamings, a land of wide horizons and secret places.  The first people, our ancestors, created this country in the culture that binds us to it.”

~Hetti Perkins

Stories or Statements

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Waiting to Launch – one of the first pieces I painted from a photo I took.

I am not an accomplished artist, nor am I seeking renown.  This will not be a career for me.  This art exploration I am on is following its own meandering path, and a year and a half ago, the path diverged from decorative painting, to exploring subjects in more detail.

You seek, and get a lot of advice when you start this.  Youtube has been a font of tutorials, but I don’t want to slavishly copy them (as they advise you not to) because that is not my work.

The biggest and best advice – “You learn by doing.”  But after that it gets confusing.  Copy old masters; Don’t copy old masters; Paint from reference photos; Don’t paint from reference photos; It’s ok to trace  your reference sketch/photo; It’s not ok to trace  your reference sketch/photo.  You get the picture.

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Frozen Ghost – combines three of my photos to tell a story.

Some of my favourite pieces come from photos I have taken.  Notice I say, “come from”.  I consider it my right to modify as necessary, or not.  And being a new painter, each time I tackle a photo, there is a challenge to present something on the support that I have not done before.  Each time, I am learning something that I can use in future paintings.  But when I showed some of my pieces to an artist and art teacher, who has had a decades long career and whom I respect, I was told that my work, while nice, lacked emotion.  That has niggled in my heart for months now.  There are all kinds of criticisms that I would have expected (on brushwork or perspective, colour or composition), but not that one.  And I have a problem with it.

Each painting I do from my photos evokes a memory for me, and/or tells a story.  Obviously, someone else will lack the frame of reference for the story, but I hope that the viewer can get some sense of it.  Perhaps one day I will evolve to the point of making strong statements with a brush, but at the moment I am giving more of a recitation.  And that is OK.

So if you are struggling with what should be the “right” way to paint – stop struggling.

If it speaks to you, that is the most important thing as you grow.  And try things outside your comfort zone, but not all the time.  Remember, you should be enjoying yourself.

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First Freeze – an ATC I did from my photo of the pond where I live.  The challenge was to learn how to do ice.  But the story is of a particularly beautiful sunset in the place I grew up.  A moment in time that evokes the peace of this place when I was a child.  In this light you don’t see a lot of the changes “progress” has wrought.

 

Another Art Adventure

When we drove to our summer place this weekend, I didn’t expect to begin experimenting with a different medium.  I knew there was a garage sale nearby, of stock from an art shop.  I had never seen the art shop, but had to drop by.  watermarked-cliCC1F

Well the last time I had been to the cabin, I had painted my first Plein Air, of the new house just beyond us in the cove.

Acrylic on 9 x 12 Acrylic Paper.

It was the HOTTEST day, and there was a wind.  (I won’t say breeze – to anyone other than Newfoundlanders it’s a wind.)  The paint was drying before I managed to bring brush to paper.  I was spritzing and on a wet pallette and using blending gel!!!  What a torture!  That was when I decided that I needed to try either different acrylics, or a different medium.

Last week Laura at Create Art Every Day enticed me to try watercolour.  It was not as stress-filled as I expected.  Inspired by a Visitor.  I enjoyed it and will try it again.

20160725_131759This weekend, my random garage sale, netted me some Holbein Duo Aqua water-soluble oil paints.  I didn’t want to come home with a truck-load.  It could have been so.  There were wagon loads of equipment and supplies (literally).  I limited myself to a yellow (Marigold), red (Madder), two blues (Navy and Turquoise), Ivory Black
and a grey (Monochrome 1).  She didn’t have any white, so that grey was as close as I could get. watermarked-SculpinRock Oil.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Voila, my first foray into oils.

This is on a 4 inch square of gessoed cereal box cardboard.  The view from my window.  Didn’t paint outside as it was raining, but it was enough to allow me to experience the texture of the paint.  It is a different process than painting wet into wet acrylic, and you have to remind yourself that it doesn’t dry.  But the rich, buttery texture of the paint is luscious.  And the colours have great depth and intermix beautifully.  And yes, they clean up with soap and water.

I’m quite pleased with it, other than the clouds in my sky.  I realize, looking at the photo, that they are all far too similar.  But in terms of the medium, I’m definitely impressed and will experiment more.

I have to keep reminding myself to “just play.”  I have a failing in that everything I do is looked at as a task with a goal or a product.  I have to let that go.

Enjoy your day, everyone.  And go play.