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Sunday, 30 August 2015

FAT FOOT LEMONADE

Children's feet are things of beauty.  Smooth skin without lumps, bumps, or callouses; underlying bones strong and flexible, arches high.  

Sometimes boys in high school talked about having flat feet.  I thought they were mutants.  If only my mind hadn't gone there...those kinds of thoughts come back to haunt you.  




25 or 30 years ago, my son, as usual, was late for school.

"Hurry up!  You'll miss the bus!" I hollered.

Hot steam rose from my freshly made International almond coffee. Cup in hand, I slowly made my way down from the second floor on plush, gray-carpeted stairs.  

Let it be known that I've disproved the theory that carpeting helps to prevent falls.  While it might decrease the odds of unwanted slips, it does not compensate for weak ankles. 

The left one suddenly twisted on the third to last step.  I heard a loud crack from inside my leg as I tumbled unceremoniously onto the ceramic floor.  A siren-less ambulance drove me to the nearest hospital where upon arrival, I was quickly whisked to the radiology department.  The technician was in a nasty mood.  She ordered me to turn my leg this way and that, but try as I might, I just couldn't.  

Grumpy morphed into Miss Sweetie Pie after viewing my X-rays.  (Too late! I really didn't like her much.) My left tibia and fibula had spiral fractures.  I would have been hard pressed to name these bones prior to the "event", but after 8 weeks in a full leg cast and 4 months in a knee to ankle orthotic device, the nomenclature became part of my medical terminology repertoire.  

Although the left ankle itself was not damaged, it remained swollen in perpetuity and grew as if subjected to a warp function in graphic software.  My legs were no longer symmetrical.  I adjusted to a new, lopsided body.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

My left foot used to sport an arch worthy of any at the Roman Colosseum.  But no longer.  

It is F-L-A-T and my ankle is F-A-T!  Arthritis has kicked in (yes bad pun).  However, in the spirit of artistic creativity and adaptability, I've adhered to my philosophy, "if life hands you lemons, make art." Let's face it, in comparison to other people's lemons, my challenges are minor.

I decided to make footprints of my swollen, flat foot using paint from tube watercolours and had heaps of fun!  I wouldn't recommend doing this on a daily basis because it's probably not a healthy thing to do, especially when using cadmium red.  I assumed, wrongly, that I would have no difficulty washing off the paint. T'was not to be. Magnetically attracted to the crevasses of my foot, it took a week of brushing in the bath to finally get the colour completely out.

Even without an arch, the shapes were interesting.  They resembled groups of black ghosts who sometimes partied, sometimes held children.  

The first print was kind of standard. Two left feet. Ummm...this one looks like two right feet but that's because I accidentally flipped the image in my software. The one below too!  Oops. 










tried different kinds of paper...
















overlapping.


















 Less paint equals more texture.





















This goofing around happened in the privacy of my studio.  I liked the prints but was flabbergasted when I saw my foot.  It had morphed into an exquisite three-dimensional sculpture!


I zoomed in to examine the wondrous interplay of colour and texture...
































...and created interesting abstract compositions.

Possibilities?  Endless.




I integrated some footprints into this digital work.  No title yet, but I'm leaning towards "Fat Foot Lemonade".




Thursday, 13 August 2015

AFTER ALL

The two art happenings that I had squeezed into one week are now over.  Time to rest, revive, and start again.

Funny how events occur within a short timespan, and then there's nothing, nada, kaput, for a long stretch. I've learned over the years to be patient.  Puzzle pieces eventually fall into place.

In the 1980's, I subscribed to a wonderful publication called Parallelogramme.  Printed on cheap paper, it listed "call for entries" for non-profit galleries and disseminated other important information to artists.  I'd curl up on the sofa, slowly peruse this practical resource, and enjoy it like a fine meal.  

Finding opportunities today involves search engines and social media.  At times, I come upon so much material in one sitting that I have to park myself at the computer for an entire day in order to identify where my work might fit.  My left shoulder throbs at the mere thought of staring at my monitor for hours, and hours, and hours.  

Filtering and determining who isn't trying to siphon money out of me also takes a lot of time. Application fees run riot. If I were to pay (usually in U.S. funds) for every interesting possibility, I would be flat broke in a heartbeat. 

I'm one in a million people on the globe applying right?  It's exhausting.

Every once in a while I give it a go, spend hours if not days getting a dossier ready, all the while telling myself that "you never win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket".  In all fairness to the system, I have won on some occasions.  

But what tends to work best to grow a career is networking, making connections and building relationships within artistic communities.  

This is not easy terrain for introverts.  
It's comfy on the sofa.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

PREPARATIONS

Two events are coming up in early August.  They are off the beaten track in terms of artistic opportunities making them doubly interesting.  

1
The first is an exhibition of large works, which will be shown sequentially in two different senior's homes off the island of Montreal.  I will also be giving workshops to the residents, one in September and one in October.  The event is part of a project that aims to provide the elderly with "live" cultural experiences including music and art.  Quality of life and continuous learning is important at any age.  

Tags and my list of works are almost done (I keep changing my mind as to what I want to bring) and I'm planning how to load my trusty hatchback to ensure the schlepp, unloading and installation unfold as efficiently as possible.





Chaos reigns in my abode. Paintings rest against walls, some wrapped, some not.  There is still so much to do, edges to paint, labelling, and throughout all this, continued creation.  You have to admire people who live with artists. Their level of patience is superior to most.




The workshops are still at the embryonic stage but my subconscious noodle is hard at work, aiming to come up with something that will stimulate and entertain.


2
The other event takes place in a magnificent vineyard.  I went for a preliminary visit and was astonished to discover this elegant operation twenty minutes from my abode.  The owners are obviously interested in art and have partnered with an association of sculptors to show large works on their property year round. The number of exhibited sculptures grows annually in concert with the grapes.

The event takes place every weekend from August 8th until September 20th. I will be there the weekend of August 8th and 9th.

2-D artists will be showing their work within the confines of a large white tent.  I'm not usually a fan of art fairs, (they feel a bit like flea markets to me), but previous participants have told me the experience is unusual and convivial.   There's a great deal of camaraderie among the artists, and let's not forget that this is after all, a winery...nectar of the gods and goddesses will surely flow.  

The event is in its fourth year and growing exponentially from a tourism standpoint.  Good for the winery, good for the artists.

Besides showing and selling available paintings, artists create a work onsite. Tables are provided but I will bring an extra one.  Smaller rather than larger paintings are recommended.  

I've been in full production and I'm starting to pack.



 
Yikes!  My mind is in frantic list mode.

DIANE BRING:
  • Bricks and rope (yeah I know, sounds odd but things have to be weighed down and anchored otherwise they do a Wizard of Oz thing).
  • White tablecloths (I was told neutral white is best, hello Walmart).
  • Business cards
  • Canvas, paints, water container
  • Works (preferably transportable in boxes).
  • Easels
  • CV
  • Scissors
  • Lunch
  • Identifying sign saying who I am (in case I forget).
  • Bill book 
  • Extra folding table
  • Chair 






The list is far from complete.  I have yet to wire new paintings so they can be hung on a metallic grid. I've been slipping my limited edition digital prints into elegant presentation envelopes.  Lookin' good.

Getting ready for two events that will be happening a couple of days apart is a tad nerve wracking but I'm looking forward to both. 

I just hope the weather cooperates during the vineyard event.  It would be a bummer having to spend the entire weekend in an anorak and rubber boots pondering the effects of climate change.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

LILLIPUTIAN CHARMS

Scale:
A single plate of many that covers a reptile;
A frustrating metallic-type buildup on kettles and bathroom tiles;
A weighing device to avoid at all costs when depressed;
To climb something high, like a mountain;
...and 
a system of measurement that artists wrestle with.

BIG:

Many works in museums tend to be large-scale.  In 2011, I went to see a Fernando Botero exhibit at the delightful Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio. I had always enjoyed Botero's work via reproductions in books but viewing the originals was another experience entirely.  Many of his corpulent figures were bigger than life size and created a dynamic, overpowering and other-worldly ambiance in the allotted space.  It was phenomenal.  

That's the power of large-scale artwork.  It becomes the room and is seldom "underwhelming".   

Finding brio in small work is the bigger challenge.

At university, we generally used large sheets of paper and canvas for drawing and painting.  My model sketches tended to be expressive as I poured out years of suppressed adolescent angst.  
When I started out as an artist, I took a lot of room and used my entire arm to make lines. The paper never seemed big enough.  


small:

I felt muzzled when I drew small, and it showed.

Things became increasingly exciting when I discovered pens with tiny nibs. They were known as rapidographs and were used primarily by architects and designers. They clogged up easily unless they were meticulously cleaned after each use (not my forte). I wrecked a few but eventually managed to keep them flowing. The limitations of these pens became obvious as I tried to obtain variations within each line. It was near impossible, but nonetheless, using them gave me confidence.

Painting small was way more difficult.  It suddenly seemed as though my work was done by someone else.  I finally figured out that while small drawings benefitted from using minuscule tools, painting with tiny brushes didn't work for me.  Everything became painfully precious.  My arm muscles longed to swing in flamboyant arcs. 

I had to find a way.

After much experimentation, I tried larger brushes.  Strokes became more dynamic as I freed my inner critic. I devised a method of sorts:
  • Start with big brushes (get sloppy);
  • Develop shapes with medium-sized brushes;
  • Fine-tune with small brushes (add lines if required and target areas of colour).
While it may not be a method that works for everyone, it did for me.  I obtained the effects and spiritedness that had previously only happened on a large scale.  

Tiny paintings are like jewels that shine against a long bare neck.  
Sometimes a little goes a long way.







Monday, 22 June 2015

OLD NEWSPAPERS REVISITED


Gray Face

Increasingly, news is delivered to us via smart, shiny, electronic gadgetry.  Papers will soon follow the way of the dodo.


No more...
  • ink stained fingers after flipping pages,
  • stretching of arms and fighting with oversized sheets to read small articles in distant corners,
  • chemical smell
  • rips, holes, or missing portions of interesting articles,
  • rain-soaked, heavy, dripping masses requiring four hours of drying before they can be perused,
  • waiting for a paper that never arrives,
  • news seen 3 days prior on the Internet.

But this is what I will miss as my tablet replaces the newspaper...

  • a morning gift via home delivery,
  • the chemical smell,
  • newspaper stands fresh with high contrast headlines,
  • photographs of passionate people created with tiny dots (frequently walloped by the goddess of printing accidents),
  • the touch and sound of unfolding pages,
  • something to start a wood stove fire with,
  • scissored bits of history that yellow, fade and deteriorate (I've found many in old recipe books),
  • collage material and action poses.

The above list could be expanded ad infinitum depending on who's preparing it.  In a previous blog post, I wrote of finding old English and French newspapers dated 1942-44 in my attic.


Echo
What will we find years from now?  Will our old iPads still work after we try and charge them?  Will they become more toxic landfill?  

I think of my Spectra Polaroid Camera and slide projector that I can't bring myself to give away.  I found film for the Spectra online but the cost was way beyond my budget.  Too bad because beautiful things happen with polaroid cameras...

...but I digress.

The old newspapers were an unintended gift from someone who wanted to insulate our house.  New modern "stuffing" is now up there but a few 70 year-old papers lay forgotten after renovations were done.

I photographed numerous pages and have been creating a series that merges or juxtaposes drawings with decaying images and punchy headlines in serif fonts.  Ironically, I am integrating historical events in my digital work.  

It's territory fraught with emotion.  


Pillars

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

THESE SHOES ARE MINE

When I visit my mom at the seniors' residence, I am gobsmacked.  While a large percentage of the residents are quite a bit older than I am, quite a few are younger or around my age.  Whoa!

What has life whacked them with?   

One lady has Parkinson's and severe asthma, others appear to have speech or motor problems perhaps due to illness or an accident. They need help to function everyday.  Walkers and wheelchairs abound; the community is frail but some still manage to walk without too much difficulty.  

I constantly remind myself not to take what I have for granted and not to worry unnecessarily about matters that are beyond my control.  Things can change at the drop of a hat.  I'm thankful that I can still cook my own meals (there are no Thai curries, hot Mazatlan dips, or sushi in this publicly run residence), do my own laundry, paint and draw, go out with friends, learn new software and take care of my plants. 

I long to become an independent, eccentric crone who takes close up pictures of bugs and who paints sarcastic canvases about life's absurdities.  So...in the spirit of offbeat and whimsical aging, I would like to emphasize the importance of funky footwear.


These are my shoes.  




They make me happy.  

Warning:  The older I get, the more colourful and alive my feet will become.  




It also doesn't hurt that shoes happen to be a great source of inspiration.

Monday, 1 June 2015

DREAMING IN CLUTTER

One cramped messy corner
Before undertaking any type of project, I clean and clear to make room for what will inevitably happen. 

My studio has a life of its own. An invasion of paper, tools, binders and books appears out of nowhere to nourish an image in the making. The workspace becomes a temporary, if somewhat perilous work of art in itself.

The old studio was bigger than the one I have now, but even there, l managed to trip on litter that mysteriously grew from the floor. Precariously balanced piles of research contributed to the harvest by flying from perches and landing with a bang that I rarely ever heard.  

I suffer from creative deafness.  When I am parked at my easel, I become a frequent source of frustration for those around me.  Family members that approach while I am task-focused are met with high-pitched shrieks and leaps of surprise.  

Startling the startler is nature's revenge.

Temporary loss of hearing is also the plight of the daydreamer.  My grade school report cards attest that my mind was not on my studies but rather in world of ideas, dreams and fantasies that unimaginative elementary school teachers, frozen in bricks of rationality and routine, could never access or be bothered to understand.   

Habits continue. Mundane tasks like blowdrying hair or washing dishes require little brainpower and are equally conducive to daydreaming and part time deafness. 

"Clean up as you go along you silly goose and mop up your mind!" I hear you cry!  

But this interrupts the creative process doncha know. Once a work is done, a thorough cleaning happens. Ebb and flow...

and Leonardo da Dish Mop is born.




Sunday, 17 May 2015

BOLD AND BRAZEN

Sketchbook 
Nature repossesses her environment at the slightest opportunity.  As soon as the weather warms up, plants eagerly stretch towards the sun, nasty red ants (they bite!) build craters of sand near stones and trees, male red-winged black birds squawk and dive to protect their nests, and an army of  other creatures moves into the neighbourhood.

In previous posts, I wrote of the many unexpected visitors that have graced our property since we moved in three years ago. The list includes bullfrogs, groundhogs, foxes, metal-pecking woodpeckers (loud peckers attract more mates), field mice, snails, and of course, legendary racoons. It's rare to have encounters with wild animals because most of them have the sense to avoid humans. 

Our friendly neighbourhood cats also visit regularly and probably keep many wild things at bay around here. Recently they failed us.  

The back door was open and I suddenly noticed an animal peering into the house through the screen. I initially throught it was one of our neighbour's cats, but this one seemed larger than either Arthur or Oreo.  I stood up, edged slowly towards the door, and came face-to-face with nature's version of Zorro.  In spite of its exceptional appearance, I really didn't want it on my stoop.  I  assumed it would scoot away as soon as it saw me but no.  It looked right at me with calm, cool, collected eyes while I felt anxiety knot in my chest. 

I called my roomie and sure enough, he had already spotted Rocky through his office window.  We both dashed for our cameras and started to shoot.  It was a fearless creature who scratched a lot, washed itself repeatedly (I had no idea they were so "up" on hygiene) all the while casting the occasional glance at us.


It was an incredibly sleepy animal who decided to nap in a number of unusual positions at our door.  At one point, its head hung over the step like a tiny sack of potatoes.  We wondered if it might be sick.

Was it male or female?   It soon became apparent that Rocky was a "she" as her belly was alive with nipples. 







  







She snoozed for what seemed to us an interminable time.  We really didn't want Roquette to move in and feared that she might be pregnant because of her uncontrollable  urge to sleep. 

In a moment, everything changed.  She awoke perfectly rested out of a deep slumber, took a few guzzles out of our yet unopened pool, and nonchalantly wandered off never to be seen again.

Lovely as she is, I hope things stay that way. 



Tuesday, 5 May 2015

"SO SAYS - AINSI DIT" - THE PROCESS


Here are the English and French press releases for the exhibition "So Says - Ainsi Dit".  Thanks to Claudine Ascher for organizing such an interesting event.  I invite you to come and view the show which runs until May 24th, 2015.  

Artists were asked to document their process.  Mine follows after the press releases.






“You were doomed to put on a print dress and a rubber girdle and sit in a rocking chair on the porch….”

When I read Margaret Atwood’s quote, I was consumed by waves of memories.  

Sketch

Memory 1:

I come from a small town.  My parents and I would often take short road trips in the surrounding countryside on Sunday afternoons.  Porches played an important role in rural areas.  After church Sunday mornings, dressed to the nines, locals spent their afternoons rocking and watching to get a sense of what was happening in the world.  If strangers drove by, as we did, they were eyeballed as outsiders who’d best not stir up any trouble. I will never forget those looks, a blend of curiosity, wariness, and xenophobia.

Memory 2:

There was a house I used to avoid in my neighbourhood.  A young woman who was obviously suffering, would rock wildly on her parent’s balcony and bellow like a sick donkey every 30 seconds.   I was afraid of her.

Memory 3:

Women’s issues have always been a concern of mine.  I think of how we have been portrayed over the years, waiting, always waiting; waiting for the men to arrive. 


What I found particularly interesting about the quote was the order in which Atwood listed things:

  1. Doomed
  2. Print dress
  3. Rubber girdle
  4. Rocking chair
  5. Porch
Doomed:  A woman is in an impossible situation that she can’t get out of, fated to wait and rock in perpetuity.

Print dress:  This is the kind of flowered dress I saw women wear on my road trips.

Rubber girdle:  Interestingly, the girdle is mentioned after the dress.  I take Atwood literally and place the girdle over the dress. 

Rocking chair:  I want it a bit warped and lopsided to underscore the mood.  She is forced to sit on a slant.

Porch:  It is old, faded, in disrepair.  Weeds grow through and around things.  They are out of control.

These are the changes the painting went through...  

On the left, the painting is roughed out.  I proceed to paint the girdle pink and to darken, (doom and gloom) the background.  



I outline the limbs and define where I want white trim.  
  


I add a dandelion on the bottom left.  (They are about to sprout on my property and I am dreading having to pull them out forever and ever.)  I vary the colours in each brick. The shoes are brown.  I decide to make them match the dress.  Final refinements include adding more weeds around the bricks and darker shadows in the background, trimming the left post of the rocking chair, and adjusting the arms and hands.


 

I am tempted to create another painting based on the "Doomed Cafe" initial sketch, which would take place in a social setting with lots of savoury (and naturally unsavoury) characters.  Who knows where it will all take me.  A small paper piece is in the works at the present time.  


Saturday, 2 May 2015

LEARNING TO WRITE

The desk had a hole in the upper right hand corner.  A shiny new bottle of navy ink fit snugly inside it.  

I was going to learn how to write.

School decided we should become acquainted with dipping pens, the kind that permanently stained our clothing for the upcoming year. I could barely contain my excitement at the prospect of actually writing with a pen!  (Until then, we'd only been printing in pencil).  

Imagine crusty men of old, writing in the gloom by candlelight, their bushy eyebrows and long beards dematerializing into the shadows.  It was like that but sans darkness, eyebrows, beards, and the candle. I was in another world.  

I smudged and blotched my way through years of practice.  If water happened to drop on the ink, the words would disappear into beautiful blooms of gradient colours.  Writing was definitely an aesthetic experience.  

Our pens evolved over time and eventually sported a little gizmo on the side that pulled out to suction ink into a cartridge. Dipping became obsolete. This was progress at the cost of experiential joy.  

Eventually pens came with cartridges that were already filled. The colour range was lovely, inks came in black, dark blue, and turquoise (I loved turquoise!)

Last week I came across my drawing pens. This triggered a nostalgic fit so vivid that I felt compelled to run right out and buy the old fashioned writing kind.  I initially looked online for fountain pens and was aghast at prices.  I hollered to no one in particular: "Hey people! What's with this???  I had one in Grade 3 and it cost almost nothing!!!"  

Supply and demand I guess.  

I grabbed my coat and told my roomie that I would see him later because I was going to buy a fountain pen. He looked at me as though I had just come back from cavorting with bats in the proverbial belfry.  



The ensuing dialogue went something like this:

HIM:  "What brought that on?"

ME:  "Um, I just want one."

HIM:  "Why?"

ME:  Well, um, I was thinking about what it felt like when I was a kid...writing with a pen, the ink bottle, the blotter, how the ink flowed, how the letters varied in size, how interesting the experience was.  I'm going to get one to write in my journal."

The love of my life still looked totally befuddled.

I rushed out and zoomed to the nearby office supply store. Nothing.  I went to the local art store.  Plenty of art pens but finding a simple fountain pen that wasn't for calligraphy was more of a challenge.  Finally, with help from the clerk, I bought one made by a British company that was way too expensive.  Luckily I happened to have a gift card.  It's easier to impulse buy with a gift card.

Writing with it wasn't as easy as I remembered.  It didn't flow like the one I had in my youth.  I had to shake it every time before writing.  



I tried to remember what they taught us in school.  Cursive writing was fun, full of curvy lines. I think it went something like this!

Letters had to be of even height. I often chewed on my protruding tongue to achieve a passage of visual beauty. 
















I'm still having fun with my new pen although I wish that the ink would flow more smoothly.  I have to write at a certain angle to get the results I want.  

It's a writing pen but I can't seem to stop myself from doodling.  C'est plus fort que moi.