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Saturday, 1 November 2014

BEIGE



I kick them, kick them hard, then harder still, over and over, and all they do is rustle with laughter as they fly through the air. The imps lie in piles, inviting me to fall on their beds of prickly beige, a colour I hate for its blandness. What would happen if I let them seduce me?  They might lull me to sleep, to those beige dreams that inevitably end up as nightmares. 






Their dried up skins enthral. "Come lie on us.  We will wrap you in dryness and caress you with the sweet smell of death." 


November is "le mois des morts", the month of the dead, a gray month with spots of beige.


















A neutral colour ceases to be neutral when it ends up looking like this.


"One never tires of beige," my mom alway said. (I've got news for you mom!) 
"He is beige (meaning boring)," a friend often repeated.




Soon there will be frozen leaves. 
Maybe beige isn't so bad after all.


Sunday, 5 October 2014

THINGS END THEN START AGAIN

  • McIntyre Gallery located in Regina, Saskatchewan closed its doors at the end of December 2012.  They represented me for over 20 years.
  • Claridge sold much of its collection last year including one of my works.
  • Galerie Harwood in Hudson, Québec ceased to exist last week.
So many years have gone by. People are tired, closing up shop, retiring. This must mean that I have been making art for quite a long time... 


...but I'm not done yet.  I still have lots to say!

When I first became part of McIntyre Gallery's stable, their direction seemed wild and funky, quite unlike the fare I saw at the time in Quebec. Then slowly, after ten years or so, the artwork shown began to change, became more traditional, most likely adjusting to a changing clientele or global political sensibilities.

As the owners prepared to return the paintings I had on consignment, they informed me that they were interested in purchasing one last work. "Camouflage" stayed behind in Saskatchewan. 


Camouflage

Early in my career, parting with what I had created was difficult. My works weren't just a commodity to sell, they were akin to babies that had grown within me. It was necessary to change the message that was on replay in my head. I made a conscious decision to view those who purchased my work as adoptive parents who cared deeply for the images they chose to live with. The passionate connections buyers made with the work were fuelled by their own history, which was often unfathomable to me

What originated in my psyche went through a strange metamorphosis at the receiving end, somehow transforming into universal archetypes. 


Now how cool is that?

Last week, I picked up most of the drawings I had at Galerie Harwood. Like a reunion with old friends, I embraced the experience with joy and let waves of the past wash over me. It's a revelation to see my work again after it having been on consignment for long periods of time. The images are loaded with secretly coded memories that stir up old emotions.  

The drawing below reminded me of fun times I had with fellow artists during a model drawing workshop. We always liked to add interesting props and on one particular occasion, had the model pose in rubber inner tubes.

  
This drawing led to a painting, which is presently on consignment at the Artothèque de Montréal

The environment surrounding the figure has changed. She now sports a blue tinge and bobs within an equally blue ocean on a yellow inner tube as two rubber duckies float by. Pollution is not always ugly on the surface.



I have yet to put the work I picked up in storage. It rests in my studio amidst new paintings and sketches. I imagine the pieces conversing, exchanging stories about what was said by those who viewed them.  Ah to be a fly on the wall.


Sunday, 21 September 2014

CLIMBING THE DIGITAL ROPES

My "inbox" is full of email messages citing the benefits of keeping brain cells active throughout middle and old age. I have trouble getting excited about computerized exercises that are designed to combat impending dementia but yield no artwork. I only enjoy a very basic version of Tetris on my phone, which I occasionally use as a meditative tool or as an activity to kill time when I have to wait too long to see a medical professional. For some strange reason, placing little boxes in rows clears my head before I undertake something new. That said, I'm sure this game leads nowhere fast and I am merely rationalizing its benefits.

What puffed up my neurons in recent years was a return to university for a Masters degree and starting a new, stimulating job. Like all muscles in my body, my brain objected to the unaccustomed exercise. Higher education in particular, initially convinced me that the size of my skull was too small and prevented my brain muscle from stretching. Luckily that perception was proved wrong after a few weeks.

My present challenge is to find a new propellant that will keep my grey matter agile. As things become increasingly routine, the "jello" phenomenon often kicks in. The brain jiggles, turns to mush, and dexterous thinking becomes trapped in boxes of convention. Not a good thing for an artist. To achieve a level of continuous personal growth, one must continue to learn new things.

I downloaded a few art apps on my iPad, have Photoshop on an old dying PC laptop, and Gimp on my new iMac. Maybe I'm spreading myself too thin but I don't think so. Fundamentally, one app resembles the other. Some tools are easier to use than others but learning each one invariably helps me make precious connections. I often flip an image through different software to get what I want.

The computer screen tends to smooth out my technique. I can't feel the stylus or my finger dig into the texture of the paper or canvas. A continuing struggle is to recreate the illusion of traditional media on the computer screen. 


"Blue Character" done with Sketches on the iPad
Feels like watercolour and colour pencil but is still decidedly digital.

"Pink" done with Inspire Pro on the iPad.
Feels like pastel and ink

I have a long way to go. The terminology in Photoshop and Gimp is particularly mind boggling. What pray tell is a Gaussian blur (sounds like an alien culture locked in an accelerated time warp), or where will an Alpha Channel take me...will it turn me into a brassy wolf woman? I wish software designers would simplify their technobabble. 

Oh well, one must adapt! Time to sand the inside of my cranium to make room for some new savvy. 

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

SHADOWS

The sun creates cimmerian worlds of shadows. A six foot avocado plant in the corner of a sunroom can cast a sombre forest of gargantuan leaves on surrounding walls. I imagine myself penetrating this momentary universe. Would I find an ephemeral, floating, colourless mirage or a nightmare in black and white? I guess it would depend on my frame of mind.

The most dramatic distortions revolve around the angle of the sun in relation to the horizon. Early mornings and late afternoons provide the longest shadows. Clear skies yield high-contrast shapes, but sunlight diffused by light cloud cover delivers soft, wispy silhouettes.

















These shadow compositions materialized during a leisurely walk on a beach in British Columbia. I was hunting for interesting things to photograph when I suddenly noticed my shadow and that of my walking buddy. We couldn't help but play light games. As usual, I ended up with a pair of archetypal horns on my head. 

Seashells provided interesting textures, as did traces of unusually large footprints in the sand.




I decided to experiment with one of the photographs and doodled a gray, devilish-looking couple on my iPad.  Why not "run with" the horns so to speak? The process was not unlike the one I used for my "Tea Stain Mama" paintings. Transient shapes make fine catalysts for ideas. 

More shadow photographs clog my computer's memory; some of gentle moths dying on the windows, others of abstract shapes that appear from nowhere to land on fiercely etched stones.  

Parallel worlds deserve our sighs of wonder. 


Friday, 1 August 2014

OTHERWORLDLY

Ultrasounds of unborn babies are intriguing, a peek into what was previously unseen and only imagined. Technology allows us to view amazingly accurate images of tiny individuals who are soon to be among us, entities that exist in another world.

Emotions of peace and security overwhelm, but then again, am I merely projecting? Could it be that I, at a cellular level, evoke a time when I was floating in an egg shaped bag? Did I feel more protected then? Warmer? Snug?  Were sounds muffled and soft?  

I must have had some trouble moving around in there because I came out folded up like an accordion. Mom said it took months for my head to stop flopping backwards. It had settled early into an awkward position. You'd think that a head stretched back for so long might yield an Audrey Hepburn neck, but nope!  The prolonged extension of a body part does not automatically trigger its growth or contribute to elegance.  

I recently had access to ultrasound images of a growing baby that were taken at different times during the pregnancy. The most recent one, at barely 8 months, was incredibly well-defined.


Fetus, I feel like a spy 
 as watching waves probe.
Enjoy your moment of quietude  
for blazing lights await, 
and soon you will hear yourself cry.


I reproduced the image on a laser printer to use as a starting point for these paintings. One can't work with ultrasounds without having a deluge of emotions cascading through the psyche. The world is a scary place with no sacred womb to shield humanity from nasties who want power over others or everyone to think like them. Life isn't gentle. 

The low relief piece above was created by applying modelling paste, thick gel and paint to a wooden board. After the surface was dry, I glued an acrylic skin of the image over the prepared surface and applied more colour.

In the one below, I spread glass bead gel all over the board to create an interesting ground and transferred the image directly over the medium once it had dried. As I was using a cheap "dollar store" brush to apply colour, some hairs dislodged and became stuck in the paint. I liked the effect, so rather than remove the hairs, I left them where they were to complement the vein-like lines I had planned to include anyway. 

Art like life, tends to weave in the unexpected.




Thursday, 10 July 2014

ART-OOLOGY


ART:  Everyone knows what that is.
OOLOGY: According to Wikipedia, the study of bird's eggs, nests, and breeding behaviour.

Lying On Fried Eggs

I love eggs...primarily chicken ones, free range is good. I eat 'em, draw 'em, and paint 'em. 

After completing the funky digital sketch above, I was inspired to paint a fried one and in so doing, discovered a few things.

A sunny side up egg yolk is not entirely yellow. It's a bit rusty brown in places and has whitish light reflections that make it look shiny. The colour of the feed has a bearing on the colour of the yolk. The hen that laid this one ate heaps of corn.

Neither is the white of a fried egg white. I mixed Titanium White (a.k.a. "tit white") with Paynes Gray and Indian Yellow Hue in varying proportions to achieve assorted shades of white. Some areas are gray, others green but when the eye scans the egg as a whole, the shape appears white.  

Van Dyke Brown and Raw Umber helped  create those little air holes that appear on the edges of an egg when it has been cooked a tad too long. The perimeter can become a crispy bronze with over cooking, but I painted a Goldilocks version, fried just right!

After the egg was done (figuratively speaking), I planned on reinterpreting the character in the digital sketch using the egg as a blanket or bedspread. I deferred this idea because the canvas was small and I felt the concept would be more successful painted on a much larger scale. 

In progress, almost done!

The more I looked at the egg, which by now was resting on toast surrounded by lettuce, the more thoughts of "breakfast" swirled around in my head. I stopped working on the piece for a few days to reflect on the very nature of eggs. 

Researching a subject invariably leads to more art making ideas. For instance: unfertilized eggs are also known as wind-eggs. Imagine a painting of wind-eggs! Now why does a whiff of sulphur come to mind? Eggs we fry up are generally unfertilized, but every once in a while, a fertilized one ends up on our plate.  What if a being of sorts actually popped out to say "hi"?

These musings lead to a moment, not quite AHA!, more like "mmmmm". 

In my final image, the bald eagle is a hungry and very intense-looking bird of prey who happens upon a classic morning meal. He stares at it with some apprehension: not a fish, yet it gives off a seductive aroma. Now why is there something disturbingly familiar here?

Contemplating Breakfast

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

STOMACH FOOT

I thought it was dead.

The First Time: (20 or so years ago)

I was about to clean the deck around the above-ground pool when I discovered a tiny bat lying under a toy. Even under close scrutiny, it didn't budge. I headed towards the patio door and called to my kids, "Come and see this!"

I imagined myself giving an impromptu mini science lesson about bats but alas!  T'was not to be. When I turned to admire its exquisite folds it was nowhere to be found. The smart little thing had faked being dead until it could get away. Never underestimate an animal's survival instinct.

The Second Time: (This week)

I came out the front door and on the stoop was a snail, the first "complete" one I have ever seen. Normally I find them curled up within the recessed ovals of a metal plate under garlic butter and melted gruyère cheese.  

The earthy colours of its shell echoed those of the surrounding stones. I watched for a few seconds, waiting for some action, but it wasn't moving. I turned towards the door and called my companion to "Come and see this!"

I was lucky.  Snails don't fly.  




Interestingly, this tiny creature was quite unlike the drawn cartoon versions one usually sees where the shell appears to be attached in an upright fashion onto the body. After a bit of research, I discovered that that there are many varieties of molluscs. Some are more turtle-like than this one who carries its shell on a slant.

We were perplexed. How had it managed to make its way onto the stoop? There was a rather high stair to climb. 

A tentacle suddenly twitched and it began to move, sort of..."at a snail's pace", a term which I now truly understand.

It probably took hours for it to get anywhere (assuming it had any kind of plan).

I didn't have the patience to watch.

According to the Government of Canada, snails are hermaphrodites that have a foot under their stomachs (gastropods). This one may be the first of many that are about to invade my garden. My mind is now in science fiction mode. I have visions of hearing crunch, crunch, crunch as I walk over thousands to get to my car. 

Oh well, not all is lost. "Stomach Foot" did provide creative fodder.  


Beautiful in any colour!

Friday, 27 June 2014

THE DOODLE DYNASTY

Portraits of "Royals" and "Politicians" never cease to fascinate me because they present a distinctive challenge.  Rendered subjects must:

1) be recognizable, 
 2) appear powerful, 
AND 
3) look attractive.

Historically, many paintings have met the first two criteria but failed miserably with the third. I can't help but wonder whether some unfortunate artists ended up in the darkest of damp, rat infested dungeons after presenting their "chef d'oeuvre" to the sitter.

Trouble is, artists are frequently mesmerized by a mountain of wrinkles, a prominent nose, bushy eyebrows or Einstein-like hair. Texture, colour or the inherent design of an element can become all consuming, an area of delightful focus. The sitter may hope for a little "arts plastiques" surgery to enhance their greatness and beauty for generations to come, but the artist may have another repressed agenda.

Some individuals are blessed with near perfection when it comes to their looks (and are often boring to paint). Ideals vary though, and what is considered beautiful to some can be perceived as particularly unattractive to others. An irregular or unusual feature ripens into something charming and bewitching the more you know a person. Quirkiness and personality often give rise to pulchritude.

Years ago, I saw a series of intriguing portraits of the Habsburg family. In an effort to consolidate power, the Habsburgs got a little carried away with inbreeding, The chins and jaws of each generation became more and more prominent. The lower lip of some descendants grew increasingly pouty and droopy. The Habsburgs paid the price for their pursuit of blue blood with mental, emotional and physical problems. Poor Carlos II of Spain suffered the most.

Paintings by Juan Carreño de Miranda of Carlos II manage to glamorize a pathetic figure whose lot was heartbreaking. I recently bought a secondhand book about the Habsburgs and found myself deeply affected by disturbing descriptions of some family members. I'm sure this information will simmer on the back burner of my brain and eventually boil over as "une piéce de résistance".

For the time being, all these generational portraits of important people cursed with wonky features remind me of my doodles. I tend to naturally exaggerate features when drawing on automatic.

This doodle was done on a yellow post-it note and evolved from a phone conversation. The little red character looks somewhat noble.  

I scanned it into my Gimp program and manipulated the image using various filters. 

In the examples below, I placed two manipulated images on one background. Since both originated from the same doodle,  it was interesting to compare the different interpretations. 



I added a simulated canvas surface texture and made more connections. The hair (as usual) was a joy to draw and I further exaggerated some of the features. The nose of the  fictitious important person on the right grew as his chin receded. I widened the head of the more imposing character on the left to achieve a dignified bust.




I eventually separated them again in order to create two cameos.  

Presenting! 

King Doodle I and his son Prince Doodle II.



Ersatz inbreeding,  Perhaps I have too much time on my hands.


Sunday, 8 June 2014

TWO IN THE MORNING

...sitting at the computer. 

Darkness cradles my back and the sides of my body. 
An eerie glow etches deep, contrasting shadows on my face. 
I look like the mirror in Disney's Snow While.  



I SHOULD be sleeping but have an uncontrollable urge to create something.  

That would generally be a good thing IF I didn't also have a day job. Alas, I have to sit on my idea until I have the time or energy to explore it further.  Six in the morning is is only four hours away. I have to shelf it for now.

There is a good side to having a "day job". 
  1. It subsidizes the high costs of art materials, and
  2. Nourishes artistic ideas with unrelated experiences to unwittingly spawn unusual associations. Forcing together unrelated or seemingly incompatible perceptions can lead to original concepts by offering new pathways to research. 
To compensate for lack of time, I write things down or doodle. Later, I reevaluate and decide whether an idea is worth pursuing or not. I may choose to postpone resolving an artistic problem, sometimes for years. Special concepts have to simmer for a long, long time. It's all about patience.

Parallel jobs. Ideas at 2 a.m.

Maybe, after I eventually leave my day job, I will weave another thread into 
Rive's 4 a.m. mystery.


Thursday, 29 May 2014

THE UMBRELLA

There are fundraisers and then, there are fundraisers. I just participated in a unique one.  

Our local Musée Régional de Vaudreuil-Soulanges is in dire need of roof repairs. Madeleine Turgeon, president of a local art group "Autour de Nous", came up with an interesting concept. Why not have artists paint umbrellas and subsequently sell these "one-of-a-kind" creations to help pay for a new museum roof? 

Participating artists were required to purchase a blank, white umbrella for $20.00 and we had about a month to paint our idea with acrylics on an alien nylon surface. The final chef-d'oeuvres would be sold for $75.00 a piece at an upcoming event.

Symbolically, our brollies would protect the roof until its eventual replacement.

Painting the umbrella was a bit of a challenge. We were told to leave some white areas unpainted to create a luminous product. The surface tended to bounce as I applied the paint. I wanted accurate lines so the application had to be sure and smooth.  

We presented our finished pieces Tuesday night. A facsimile of a "red carpet" was set up and each artist had to slowly reveal their umbrella on the proverbial catwalk. MEOW!!! We were not forewarned of this in advanced and I, "Queen of Klutz", managed to trip and ruffle up the red footway. A little comic relief never hurts I guess.

The event was a success and all present seemed to appreciate the arty umbrellas. Christian Gonzalez posted a video of our red carpet stroll on his blog "Je suis ma ville".

Here's mine.  Enjoy the rain!




Update June 3rd, 2014: