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

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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.

Inspired by a Visitor

I didn’t expect to post today.crabsi

 
This is a surprise but I was inspired by nature, and by a visitor to my blog.  Yesterday, when I was coming home from the grocery store, an unusual guest was inspecting my peony.  SHE is a Goldenrod Crab Spider and has a fascinating life history.  Most particularly, she doesn’t spin webs, but is a hunter.  She sits in wait and grabs her insect prey with those large forelegs.  And as if that’s not badass enough; she can CHANGE COLOUR.

 

 

 

Today, when I went out to check on her:  Voila!

crabspiderNow she’s white, and she has prey!!  Not exactly small fry either.

I apologize to the arachnophobes

but you have to admit she is cool!

 

 

“But what does this have to do with creativity,” you say?  Well, one of the nice people to come and visit my recent incarnation of this blog is Laura, Create Art Every Day.  You have to drop by and see her daily explorations.  This month it is particularly watercolour art.  I am so trepidatious over watercolour as it appears to be so unforgiving.  But it is also extremely tempting because of its portability and the applications for journaling.  Laura encouraged me to check out Cathy Johnson as further inspiration.  Great lady who is so good at instruction and is a fabulous art journalist.  The end result was that I pulled out my limited watercolour equipment and sat on my front step to “play.”

The result is an ATC of my Insect Interloper.  20160720_185302 Certainly not the detail I would expect of myself with acrylics (because you can paint over stuff), but she’s captured.  The petals were done with a red, a purple and a black watercolour pencil.  The spider is yellow and red, toned with a little orange and black.  These are my materials.

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Yes, those are really Crayola watercolour pencils.  (I told you I don’t do watercolour. )  The water brushes were purchased from Curry’s, on a whim.  The black handled brush I’ve had for 37 years.  I bought it to clean my contact lenses and used it for that for 10 years.  The water cup is from the Dollar Store.  As long as you make sure you’ve opened it all the way, it doesn’t leak.

I had fun today.  Thank you Laura.

And the rest of you, get out there and enjoy.

 

Fibre One – Weigh in, Your Opinion Counts

I loved the textures and scrolls in this rotting stump, but I don’t know which version is more evocative.  I’d love to know what you think.  So I’ve added a little poll at the bottom.  Your opinions will always be appreciated.