Monday, 25 August 2014

Unlocking The Mystery

Agnes Lake Teahouse, acrylic, 20x24

At this time when all the paintings I have started need to be finished, and they all stare at me and beg not to be ruined, the responsibility can get a bit overwhelming and I can’t help resorting to some melancholic musings about the ultimate purpose of it all.

Almost every topic that touches upon art goes back to that nagging question – why do we create art? There are many, many theories and who care whys, but the question still keeps coming back to me. Somehow I keep thinking that unlocking that mystery is of utmost importance, and at the same time I know I never will unlock it.

One interesting lead is in the fact that there are two distinct types of art that I create. One is the art for me - for the joy of the process. I truly don’t care how the thing looks at the end as long as I enjoyed creating it and learned something along the way. The second type is art for my people, with which I desire to touch someone. It doesn't need to be pretty or perfect if I feel that the end result gives me, and thus someone else too, a kick in the heart.

This is obviously an attempt at some kind of communication – but why? How is that “special” communication different from the “normal” one? Why do artists nurture it and why is it important? How come many non-artists appreciate it, but some don’t? If there is a box of paints, a musical instrument, pen and paper, a chunk of clay, laying around, why do some reach for it and others don’t? And of those who reach out, why do some go to their room and never come out, while others inflict their doing onto public? I don’t buy the “for money” argument, because money can be made in larger quantities and with less effort and heartache, and it can buy a lifestyle.

The longer and deeper I live my art life, the more I feel that communication with art cuts through any other kind. No matter what else is going on in my life, a flash of color, a tune of music, a powerful image, any form of art  at all, has the ability to take me to a completely different level of feeling and thinking. And it just is so that some of us experience this and some don’t, or perhaps we all do, but at different times in life. 

Yes, to be an artist is a profession, but a very special one that sits on the base of something much, much bigger and grander than bread and butter.

I wish everyone many, many wonderful hours in conversation with art!


Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Inner Student

With the summer speeding by, it's a good time to make the upcoming fall less scary by planning some great art projects, but also some great learning  activities.

With my October show preparations in full swing, I am also aware of the adrenaline depletion that will follow. What better way to rejuvenate the old brain than by learning something new?

Many venues are already publishing their education schedules, and there is a wealth of courses and art books available on line. Here are some of my favorites:

- Federation of Canadian Artists Education Program
- Painter's Keys resources

I am making sure to plan a course or two for late fall, and at the same time I am remembering moments with some of my most favorite teachers.

Demo in the snow by Bob Genn, Banff, May 2011

Stephen Quiller, Gabriola Island 2009; Bob Genn, Bugaboos, 2010; David Langevin, Gabriola Island, 2009; ...and ...ooops, how did this get in here? Just making sure you are paying attention :-)

I am deeply thankful to all the art gurus I have ever met, geniuses and others! I appreciate immensely every morsel of information the gurus had to share because I learned something from every single one of them. The craft, the language, the attitudes - it all makes the world of arts.

And I had some very colorful teachers over the years - the ones that grabbed my brush and found it okay to make the last few strokes on my almost finished painting, the ones who wanted me to buy their signature paints or books, the ones who never did demos "out of principle". One even tried to break into my car with a coat-hanger (pardon me for this insider joke that takes me to a memory of a very dear friend who would be very amused to read this).

My feeling was always that teachers provide much more than they are aware, and especially to the students who are very attentive . Some students are focused on teacher's shortcomings,  overlooking the great buildup of knowledge that can be gathered.

The truth is that you have to find the student within yourself, and that student will find a teacher withing everyone else.

Happy learning!


Thursday, 7 August 2014

Pattern Maniacs

Lake Louise From Big Beehive, acrylic, 20x24

As I am working my way through new paintings, I notice how much I love to start a new piece and how rapidly my attention drops during the painting process. The puzzle of a new piece is addictive, and for me it’s all about formation of new patterns, and composing of the scene in a particular way that follows some design idea.

Patterns are one of my obsessions. I find a lot of pleasure from dissecting images, tucking some unruly elements in or out, and omitting others. For the most part, nature fits amazingly well into patterns of dynamic symmetry – you just need to find the right one for the image (I wrote about this in a previous post here). The  rule of thirds and the golden mean are just a beginner’s stuff.  The possibilities are truly endless.

The way I like to look at the new scene is to ask myself – in which way did the nature construct this landscape so that it is pleasing to my eye? Most often the elements of the pattern are very subtle and need intensive observation, and in some cases they have to be imagined (which is fun, but still not as satisfying as discovering the real things). Sometimes a fleeting suggestion of a cloud or a crest of a wave, or an aura of a reflected light is just the thing you need to complete your idea. 

Indulging in untangling of natural patterns to this extent may seem like a sign of an unhealthy obsession, but I am sure that I am not the only one. In fact, books have been written on this subject, for the use of designers, architects and other professionals whose job it to please someone’s eyes.

Another thing I would like to emphasize is a caution about reuse of same designs over and over again. There is no greater thrill for a sensitive viewer than seeing a painting composed in an original way. Sometimes we have a happy accident of stumbling into a new and exciting way and we delight in it, feeling that we have made a breakthrough, but we are not sure how it happened or why the following paintings fall flat.  The key is in the conscious use of fresh patterns.

But, I know that this is not everyone’s cup of tea. Pattern or no pattern, artists find ways to create something new and beautiful every day – our happy “asylum” is full of all sorts of creative characters, and we - the pattern maniacs, are just one bunch in the courtyard under the watchful eye or art lovers and criticizers.

Now, if I could only figure out how to make the rest of the painting process as much fun as this!

Best Wishes!