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 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.
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.
We watched the U.S. election closely from Canada. In the wake of the outcome, I have felt fear and sadness. Yesterday, I headed off to the Art Gallery of Ontario to be amongst art works that helped me feel calmer.
Today I thought of posting two oil paintings I did in 2008. The first is called Closeup, the second, Sight. At the time, they expressed feelings of being a witness to hard times. The women in the paintings are wounded, that is obvious. But they are also piercing witnesses, very present and connected to the life force of nature. The works seem no less appropriate today.
Here’s 2 photos I took today at the Art Gallery of Ontario of David Milne’s Black Waterfall. This is the painting I love that I wrote about in 2014 and included in my last post, A Poem for an Old Woodcut. David Milne lived from 1882 to 1953 and as far as I can tell it appears that 50 years after an artist’s death, his or her work goes into the public domain. Hopefully this is so.
The first is the whole painting and the second is a detail showing him blending into the scene.
The growth and colours of Spring got me thinking about this oil painting I made a few years before 2010 (I neglected to put the date on it). It’s a fantasy of abundant life that I recently brought out of hiding and onto a living room wall. I hadn’t thought of making strings of flowers before looking at the work of the great Japanese woodcut artist, Shiko Munakata. Though this painting is nothing like his prints, the idea to have cascading flowers and fruit came from some of his joyous work.
I have loved this autumn. Last week, I was on the grounds of Todmorden Mills Heritage Site to see an art exhibit and enjoy the still colourful day before the more muted part of autumn arrived. A few years ago, I started experimenting with black and white photography in the fall just to see what would arise in a season that is so much about intense colour. I did this again last week and came up with this photo that looks, to me, a lot like a painting although I didn’t plan it that way. It’s not edited, except to decrease the size for the blog post.