Writing

Finally, some answers

“Is that all you do? Paint beautiful paintings?”

One of my professors asked me that question almost 10 years ago. It has resonated with me ever since.

I think I might finally have an answer for him.

I have struggled for years to put into words why I paint, and what inspires me. Every artist statement I’ve ever written seemed shallow, only scraping at the surface of what was really going on in my mind. I love painting. I love painting with bright colours and patterns. I love the freedom of abstract art, where people can see what they want to see within my paintings. But why?

I have also struggled for years with constant fatigue, low motivation, and little self-worth, without knowing exactly why. I’ve mostly kept these struggles to myself, believing I was making a big deal out of nothing.

I feel that both of these seemingly unrelated issues have recently been resolved. My doctor and I agree: I have Depression.

For a long time I fell into the trap of thinking that I needed to get over myself, that I had nothing to be sad about. In reality I consider myself extraordinarily blessed. But there was always this niggling feeling that something was truly not right with me. There was really no denying the physiological symptoms I have been struggling with, in spite of my positive outlook and faith in Christ.

Depression lies to you. It tells you that nothing is worth caring about. It tells you that no one cares for you. It tells you that you aren’t good enough. It tells you that you’re crazy for feeling this way when there’s really nothing wrong. It’s a grey fog that muffles the small joys in life that really make life worth living. Depression isn’t about feeling sad. It’s about feeling nothing at all.

Now I know why I’m always tired. Why I sometimes don’t want to paint. Why I sink into creative lows. Why some days it’s a struggle just to get off the couch. Knowing these things will help me fight these things, with a little help from my doctor and a lot of help from my faith, my family, and my friends.

I have always been inspired by small joys in life and sharing them with others. Some days they’re easier to find than others. When I do find them, I cling to them. I never want to let them go. They become brightly coloured paintings that remind me about the good days to help me through the bad ones. I do not paint the visual beauty of the moment, but rather the emotional or spiritual beauty. I paint how I feel when I feel good to brighten up the darker days when I feel nothing.

Finding the beauty of these moments keeps me motivated to go out and find more. By finding these moments and painting the joy in them, I can share them with those who are having dark days of their own.

I paint beautiful paintings to remind myself and others of the beauty of everyday life.

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Shoot the Puck!

An artist cannot keep themselves cooped in their studio. It is simply not sustainable. Without connecting to the world the art becomes stale and uninspired, and the artist doesn’t get any feedback, good or bad. Most importantly, an artist cannot sell their art if no one know it exists. The artist must step out into the world and showcase themselves and their work.

And guess what? It’s really scary.

Speaking with galleries and submitting your art to them is a nerve-wracking experience, especially if your CV is a little sparse. Self-doubt creeps in: Will they like my work? Will they take me seriously? Do I really need a masters degree like all the other artists they showcase?

It’s tough to silence your biggest critic: Yourself. Eventually you just need to trust yourself and trust that your work is as spectacular as everyone else says it is (to your face, anyways).

So, I’m stepping out.

I’m sending out a few introductory e-mails to galleries who take e-mail submissions. I’m taking note of submission deadlines for other galleries and getting ready to submit via snail mail. In other words, I’m finally getting off my duff, and reaching out from my studio and into the world.

I know I won’t always be successful in my endeavors. Rejection letters will always sting, at least a little.

But you can’t score a goal if you never shoot the puck.

Goal!
Photo credit: CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

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New Year, New Beginnings

A new year brings with it a time of reflection on the past. 2012 was certainly a year of ups and downs.

Ups: My best friend married her best friend. My son has grown (and continues to grow) in leaps and bounds. My mother has gone through a successful chemotherapy protocol. My husband is starting to get his own business off the ground. I volunteered with the City of Fort Saskatchewan and showed off my artistic skills for a series of promotional videos. I completed a commission for my MLA for her local constituency office.

Vibrant Skies
Vibrant Skies
30 x 54″, Acrylic on canvas, 2012

Downs: Not many, but one doozy. In late November I landed in the ER at the local hospital. I was almost 10 weeks pregnant at the time. Unfortunately, I lost my baby.

I have been riding a roller coaster of emotions since that day. There are times when I am praising God for the short time I had with my baby, that I am still healthy, and for the wide network of support He has given me. Other days are not so great, and I lean harder on Him and that support network. I have struggled artistically, not wanting to taint any works in progress with my sorrows, and not wanting to start any new works that would simply remind me of my struggles. I’ve been writing a lot, as a form of catharsis, until I feel ready to step into the studio again.

 

 

The new year is also a time to look forward to the upcoming year. A friend posted a fitting quote today on Instagram.

Photo credit: Riz_B

I find that I have hopes and make plans for the future, but I never get off my duff and do anything to achieve my goals. There are two solutions to this problem: Either stop making plans and having goals, or DO SOMETHING for goodness’ sake.

So, I’m doing something.

Though I haven’t produced anything in the studio since my miscarriage, I have been working on the business end of things. I finally have something close to a workable artist statement. I visited my favourite art store last week to pick up a few new tools for when I do get back into the swing of things.I’m gathering a list of galleries and shows to apply to.

When I finally find the time to breathe after putting all the Christmas decorations away and celebrating my son’s second birthday(!!!!), I’ll venture back into the studio and pick up a brush again. And I will live in the present, so I can have the future I want.

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Passion

I’m trying to figure out if my creative lows are caused by a lack of passion. I’d like to think that it’s not true. I feel passionate about many things, including my work.

But then I spend time with my friend E and I really have to wonder.

E is the epitome of passion. She’s passionate about her work. She’s passionate about her boyfriend. She’s passionate about her family. She’s passionate about the arts. This passion oozes into everything she does and every conversation she has.

And it’s incredibly infectious.

I spent a good amount of time with her this past Tuesday evening working on not-so-secret-project-that-I-will-reveal-later. A lot of that time was spent talking about my art. To say she likes my work would be an understatement. She loves the colours and textures I use, and was SO excited when I let another person touch a canvas. I offered to let her touch one, but she might have exploded with glee if she had taken me up on my offer. She asked insightful questions about the art and managed to bring me out of shell and speak about my work, which I never find is an easy thing to do. I was so at ease and excited that I managed to speak to complete strangers about my work, my techniques, and the materials I use. I wish it was always that easy.

Fluid Acrylics
A complete stranger was awed by this arsenal of Golden fluid acrylics.

Even though we wrapped up late at night, her enthusiasm had me up and excited into the next day.

What just happened? I was in the middle of a creative low and suddenly I want to work on all the paintings all at once? Is my own passion not enough? Apparently not.

I need to get out more and talk about art more. There’s an art community out there and I need to get more involved. Only by speaking about my work with others can I build and show my passion for it. By writing about it I can better develop the language I need to use.

Darn. It always comes back to that writing thing, doesn’t it?

 

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Excuse me while I go share this on Twitter.

A couple of things happened this week, that seem totally unrelated at first.

I got a new phone! I’ve hopped on the Apple bandwagon and got a iPhone 4 (for $0, thank you Telus). This is a drastic improvement over my 3-year-old Samsung Gravity. I’ve been spending a lot of time amusing myself with my all new capability to Twitter-on-the-go-Yay-Instagram-Ding-new-email!

I’m also still in the process of fleshing out my artist statement. In case you missed it, my work is all about slowing down and enjoying the moment, in the moment.

Does anyone else see the irony here? While my art focuses on the little moments that might be missed if one didn’t slow down and look around, I’ve joined the masses in Tweet-this-Take-a-photo-Update-my-status-NOWNOWNOW.

 

I’m doomed.

 

I’ve come to the conclusion that my Aunt G really has life figured out.

Aunt G lives in a beautiful city in the interior of British Columbia. She works as a Kindergarten teacher, and lives alone in her beautiful home on the side of a mountain. She has no computer, a television she barely watches, and I very much doubt she owns a cell phone.

Sounds boring, eh?

I thought so too, until I realized that she really is living her life and enjoying things as they happen. She quilts. She takes hikes in the mountains. She travels. She renovates her home.

And she does all of this without updating any statuses, posting photos, or checking in anywhere. She truly does enjoy the moment, in the moment. She isn’t distracted by techno-anything.

 

We all need to do more of this.

Enjoying my son, while I can.

 

 

 

 

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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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