Is that all you do, is paint beautiful paintings?

That question was asked of me by one of my instructors in my last year of classes at the U of A. He’s British, so it came out sounding more like Ricky Gervais with a mouthful of marbles: “Is dat awl yew dew, is pain’ beau’ifow pain’ings?”

At the time I didn’t know how to react to that question, other than a nervous giggle. I still really don’t. On the surface it’s a compliment, an admiration of my work. In context, it’s a challenge. I had often been questioned about my use of brilliant colour, and have been encouraged to step outside my comfort zone and make something “less pretty”.

My best friend and fellow artist still encourages me to “grey things up a bit”. When she sees a finished work that is more subdued than my usual palette, she’s often very excited and prods me to go more in that direction.

Nimbus
Nimbus, Acrylic on Canvas, 16 x 20″, 2011

I’m not convinced, however. Sure, I like my less intense works, but they’re still not my favorite. Don’t get me wrong. I like more subdued works when they’re done by other artists, but it’s just not… me.

Being true to myself and my work is important to me. I struggled for years to find myself and my artistic voice. I’m not letting go of it, now that I have it. I am not going to compromise my work for something that someone else will like better.

Yes, my work uses bright and intense colours. No, that’s not going to change anytime soon. I love my work, and loving your own work and being confident in it is the first step to getting other people to love it too.

Getting there...
Still working on a recent commission, which I got because the client loves my use of brilliant colours!

 

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It’s time again for Retro Art of the Week!

Spectrum I

Spectrum I, Acrylic on Canvas, 30 x 60″, 2007

This is a rare painting where I was convinced by an instructor that it was too bright and encouraged to tone it down quite significantly with grey. It makes me happy you can still see much of the colour coming through the grey.

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And now for something completely different.

I’ll be completely honest with you.

I hate writing.

I always have. I’ve never been anywhere near eloquent. I was the slowest writer in my class in elementary, and I switched back to printing as soon as they let us. In junior high, I’d doodle instead of taking notes. University art history classes were spent drawing whatever was being shown on the slides. One of the main things holding me back from applying to graduate programs is the essay writing.

Why am I writing a blog then?

I’m told practice makes perfect. The more I write, the more natural it will come. I’ll be better at finding the words I want to use. And it won’t take me so darned long to do it.

 

I’ve never really understood the need to write about one’s art. It’s visual art. You look at it. I intensely dislike seeing some art and then needing to read a page of text to understand the meaning of it. I firmly believe that a good visual artist says all they need to say in their work, and any text provided is just a bonus. If I see a painting I like, I like it because it looks good. It’s visually stimulating. I don’t want or need the artist telling me why it’s good.

Contemporary art culture demands an artist statement. I can understand the desire of art galleries and curators to read such text from an artist when they are first exposed to their work. A good artist statement contextualizes the work within an artist’s practice and shows the dedication of the artist to their own career. A statement can also describe the work itself, which is helpful because most gallery submissions are made through reproductions of the works, which is far less preferable to seeing the work in person.

For a viewer, however, to require such a statement to fully appreciate an artwork is ludicrous. Visual art is for seeing. Not reading about. If it is not visually compelling, it is an unsuccessful work.

 

I am still struggling in drafting my own statement. I have my ideas, I know why I paint and want I want to achieve. But to put it into words is a whole other story. I have trouble finding the words and putting them in order to convey what it is I want to say. I’d rather be in the studio, painting.

 

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Retro art of the week!

Day Two

Day Two, Acrylic on Canvas, 48 x 72″, 2006

Inspired by: God creating the heavens and separating them from the waters.

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Sleep? Isn’t that just a lack of caffeine?

This popped up on my Facebook news feed this week:

The battle rages on in this house. I’m a stay-at-home-mom of a very busy toddler. When he’s down for a nap I heavily debate between working down in the studio or taking a much needed nap myself. Often times I wind up doing laundry, or dishes, or weeding the garden, or even sitting on the computer writing a blog post.

Time management is something that ALL artists struggle with. Only a lucky few are successful enough to be able work in the studio full time. Most artists need to have other jobs to support their artistic practice, which can take a lot of time and energy away from their art. The ability to spend large quantities of time in the studio simply becomes non-existent.

Reflecting upon my own work, I have come to realize that my creative process itself evolved out of my inability to spend hours at a stretch in the studio. When I was completing my degree at the U of A I was never able to spend the long hours (or all-nighters) in the studio that my classmates were, as I lived out of town and commuted every day on a set schedule. By my last year in school I developed a style and technique which complemented my tight schedule quite nicely. My paintings developed into works which were heavily layered with translucent paint. It would take hours for a layer to dry before I could add another. So in between paint applications I could grab a much needed coffee, mix paint, prepare stretchers, and complete assignments for other classes. Just before I rushed out of the studio to catch the bus I would add the day’s last layer to the paintings I was working on, so they would be dry and ready for me when I returned in the morning.

Even now, working from home, much of the time it takes for me to finish a painting is waiting on a layer of paint to dry before I pour on another. This “pour and wait” technique allows me to pop down to the studio while my son is occupied (say, eating breakfast or something) and add a layer to a painting. I’ll check in on it periodically as it dries, mulling the painting over in my head. By the time that layer is dry, I will have reflected on the painting enough to know what colour or pattern will be added to the painting next. If there is something that will require a longer period of time, I’ll usually wait until my son is in bed so I can focus on the task at hand.

I feel wonderfully blessed that I am able to stay home with my son and watch him grow. I feel doubly blessed that this also allows me to pursue a career as an artist.  I need to remind myself of these blessings on a daily basis and take advantage of the time and talent I have been given. And the Tassimo machine.

 

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Hey look! I didn’t forget about Retro Art of the Week this time!

Laid Down

Laid Down, Acrylic on Canvas with holographic additives, 23 x 55″, 2007

Inspired by: Psalm 23.

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Creative Hurdles

As highlighted in one of my previous posts, I struggle with cyclical creativity. A large part of why I started this blog was to help keep track of my ups and downs, so I can become more aware of my habits and have more productive days/weeks. It allows me to reflect on the hurdles I have when it comes to getting down to work in the studio.

One such hurdle: my studio in the aftermath of my last bout of “productivity”.

Clutter-iffic!
Don’t worry, that’s a fresh cup of coffee.

Contents of the ravaged studio include (but are not limited to): half-started paintings, half-finished paintings, containers of mixed paint, freshly built stretchers, cut wood for not-yet-built stretchers, beading projects, scrapbooking supplies, a bag of fabric I bought in case I felt I needed another project (?!), and a box of Christmas presents fresh from the internet.

As you might have gathered, my studio tends to end up as a catch-all for anything creative. You might also guess that I’m not one to clean anything up after I’m finished with it. It’s a habit I’ve had since childhood (much to my mother’s chagrin) and has followed me to this point where it drives my husband nuts. I prefer to think that my clutter-tolerance is just higher than most.

But this particular mess is probably one of my worst – to the point where I found myself bringing paintings upstairs to the kitchen to work on instead of staying in the cluttered studio. I needed to do something about the chaos so I could get back down to business.

So on Thursday, my husband (who is thankfully on holidays this week) packed up our wee one and headed out of the house, giving me a much needed opportunity to blast some music, roll up my sleeves, and get to work getting the studio back into shape.

Well played, iPod… Well played.

It surprisingly didn’t take too long, once I got down to business. I even managed to do some laundry at the same time. I found I had quite the assortment of tape, some half-finished Christmas ornaments, and that I even hadn’t completely unpacked from the Art Walk last summer.

A few hours after I started…

…You can actually walk into the room!

The beading supplies are put away, and so is the scrapbooking stuff. Christmas presents are hidden. The bag of fabric now lives with my sewing machine in another room of the house. I have floorspace to move around on and lay paintings down. I even have some desk space to work/paint/sketch at!

Overall, I feel like I can breathe again. More importantly I no longer have this hurdle preventing my from spending quality time with my paints. Now I can feel better about getting started on my commission.

Isn’t this how the mess starts?
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Slow it down.

Well, I was walking down the street the other day,
You know, and I said to myself, what’s all this hurry,
What’s all this hustle and bustle.
Why don’t I just stop, look at the pretty roses,
Smell them for one moment, take the time to see,
Take the time to smell, have a good time in life.
Don’t let everything pass you by, you’re only here once
And I’ve been here longer than most of you.

— Ringo Starr

I had an epiphany the other day.

I wasn’t my average, “Hey if I get the Tassimo ready the night before I’ll only have to press a button in the morning!” kind of epiphany either. It was an actual, deep down, eye-opening, life-changing, “OMG” moment.

I finally realized what I want viewers to experience when looking at my paintings. It’s the exact thing I’ve wanted them to experience ever since I started abstract colour-field painting, and it’s so simple I can’t believe I never thought of it until recently.

I want my viewers to stop and smell the roses.

Not literally of course. My paintings aren’t scratch and sniff (but how cool would that be?!?). I want the viewer to take their time and have a really close look at my work. I want them to SLOW DOWN and appreciate the small details I incorporate into my art that may not be entirely obvious at first glance. Even my artistic process itself forces me to slow down and appreciate the moment as I painstakingly work on these small details.

Dots
Dot dot dot dot dot dot dot dot dot…

Now this is not an entirely unique desire. All artists want the public to really look at and appreciate their work. What is different for me is that I believe that we can (and need to) apply this sentiment to our lives as a whole.

Our whole society is caught up in the fast-food, Google-anything-on-my-smartphone, need-to-have-everything-yesterday mentality. When do we ever take time to appreciate the small moments in life anymore, without viewing them through the LCD display on our camera phone? When do we ever take the time to absorb everything around us without the buzz of a TV or radio in the background? It really only takes a few moments of our day to sit and reflect to appreciate the world around us.

I started using these little moments of time as inspiration for my paintings years ago, but it is only now that I am realizing how much this philosophy of slowing down and appreciating life applies to my art as a whole. This re-invigorates me! It gives my work greater context in society as a whole, instead of living in the bubble of Meghan it has for the past years.

Next step for me: Compiling this epiphany into an artist statement.

Also: LIVE IT.

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It’s time for the Retro Art of the Week! The colours of this piece will be the jumping off point for the commission I secured earlier this week.

Spectrum II

Spectrum II, Acrylic on Canvas, 39 x 68″, 2007

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