Return to Colour

After doing black ink line drawings daily since last summer I felt drawn to working in colour again. I wanted to try using acryl gouache paints which I’ve never used before. I usually don’t buy prepackaged sets of paints, but I did this time so that I could experiment with small amounts of a range of colours to see if I liked the medium.

I’ve had a lot of fun working on this piece for days and watching it change dramatically. The only clearly representational part is the key that I’ve been thinking about since working on plans for a dystopian card deck. Other than that, the piece is abstract. I’m going to continue working with these paints and see where this leads me.

Below is a close up of part of the painting.


Dystopia and a Key

Years ago in 1991, someone I knew told me an arresting dream they’d had. I don’t totally remember it, but it was about terrible suffering and catastrophe. Most of the people in the dream were in trance like states with one or two raising the alarm. The dream impressed me as apocalyptic and I made an acrylic painting taking off from the dream. The painting now reminds me of the huge number of migrants fleeing war and persecution and it reminds me of the effects of climate change we’re already seeing and that some are having trouble acknowledging.

For a while now I’ve wanted to make the painting into a card deck, since I love card decks. It’s the opposite of Mirrors of the Heart favourable deck that I made in 1994. Recently, I’ve had the courage to move forward with the idea. I say courage because for a while I told myself that I shouldn’t put out images of the dark parts of life. But I’ve decided otherwise because I believe we can’t deal with trouble unless we first of all face it. So, I’m calling the deck Wake Up–The House is on Fire and the Water’s Rising!

To create the deck, I’ve taken many photos of the work, zeroing in on different groups and faces and cropping the images. The deck will have 25 small square cards, including one title card and all, except one, are scenes of extreme suffering. I also wanted to create one card not in the original painting that could symbolize what it would take to wake up. But since it’s beyond me to know what might allow that in different people, the idea of a key came to mind–a key to awakening that could mean different things to different people. The key image is one of the cards and I’m also putting it on the back of each card. I’ll be sending it off to Moo for printing and will let you know how it turns out.

Here’s the whole painting plus two of the cards, including the key.

 

 


Learning 2

Here’s what I’m working on now–a variation of the piece I showed in Learning. This time, I’ve used only the watercolour crayons, both wet and dry. I’m slowly building up colour and texture and paying attention to shapes. I believe the piece is a work in progress–the more I contemplate it, the more aspects I see to work on.


Hansel and Gretel

This week, I happily received the copy of Clive Hicks-Jenkins’ book, Hansel and Gretel. In it, he has brilliantly reimagined the fairy tale.  I ordered it last week from the U.K. and it arrived faster than some packages from other parts of Canada!

Clive Hicks-Jenkins is one of my favourite artists. He shows a wide array of his artwork on his blog and talks about the process that went into making the pieces.  His artwork in this book is tremendously engaging with both terrifying and beautiful renditions of the characters and the settings. I’ve been pouring over the book and love the layers of paint, drawing and collage.

On the artist’s blog are many posts about the complex process he went through in making the book. The link above is to just one of those posts and also talks about the Hansel and Gretel toy theatre kit he designed. Below are the front and back covers of the book.


Learning

Last week, while I was home with a cold, I began experimenting with an old water soluble crayon set I have. I find painting/drawing on an easel a lot easier physically than printmaking with the pain of repetitive strain I’ve acquired from lino and woodcutting. So, I’ll return to the latest print after a break.

For the drawing below, all I started with was a desire to draw a human profile. The rest developed from there. I mostly used the crayons dry and combined some pigment markers with them. The drawing has a controlled feeling to me because of the outlines throughout. I was interested in experimenting with layers of colour and texture. At times when I was unhappy with the results and redid them, I managed not to destroy the image in an attack of self-criticism. I find making artwork is a dance between creation and destruction. There’s a line between honestly facing mistakes and shredding myself for making them. Now that the piece is finished, I think I’ll try making further works using this drawing as a starting point. I want to practice a looser look, perhaps bringing out the watercolour properties of the crayons. As for the content, for me it reflects some of the different voices or faces within a person, coupled with strange sci-fi or unconscious looking elements.

The next experiment I did pretty quickly, as a reaction to the first one. I cut up part of an earlier crayon watercolour and adhered it to a sheet that I loosely marked in black. I like the feel of this one. There’s the contrast between black, white and colour. And there’s the contrast of the controlled edges of the cut outs with the loose scribbles of both the black crayon and the colours within the shapes themselves. Perhaps this collage technique is one I can develop. It could stand alone or be part of larger works.

 

You can also see my work at artsofmay.etsy.com


In the Pink

In honour of summer and the Pride Parades here in Toronto and around the world, here’s a hot pink and rainbow coloured gouache painting I made several years ago. It’s called The Swimmer.

 


The Nature of Making Art

I have kept journals–diaries–on and off for the past 40 or more years. In the 1990s and early 00s, I hand wrote a huge amount in dozens and dozens of lined notebooks–mostly recording my dreams and feelings but also world events and my activities. I’ve been working on a big project, going through my journals from those years and massively editing them. By that I mean, I’ve been tearing out and shredding large portions of them while noting what I was going through at the time. Now, this may seem ghastly to some people, but it is extremely liberating to me. I am creating more room for myself at my current age, while remembering, but not holding onto, what my younger self experienced.

In the course of editing a journal this week, I saw an entry I wanted to record here. I wrote it in April of 1991 after attending an excellent painting workshop with the artist and teacher Sam Feinstein. I have always remembered the powerful nature of that workshop, but had forgotten his teachings about the nature of making art. This was my understanding of what he told us, as I wrote it in 1991:

About art making–you needn’t even believe in your creativity–do it as a way of expressing the life form that is particular to you, that is of nature and larger than you, that goes through you.  As a way of being authentic. Dreams and art are of the unconscious life force, bigger than us. Dreams are fleeting, art remains. Once a piece of art work is done, it is its own thing. It never was yours anyway. As its own thing, it is judged on its merits, apart from you.

Art is the spirit made visible through human beings reaching out from themselves, beyond themselves. Art is beyond our own feelings as we create.

Words to make art by!

 

The gouache painting above is one I made in the 1990s. I did it like a form of free association, attempting to allow whatever came to consciousness to find its way onto the page without censoring it.