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Tuesday, 28 July 2015

PREPARATIONS

Two events are coming up in early August.  They are off the beaten track in terms of artistic opportunities making them doubly interesting.  

1
The first is an exhibition of large works, which will be shown sequentially in two different senior's homes off the island of Montreal.  I will also be giving workshops to the residents, one in September and one in October.  The event is part of a project that aims to provide the elderly with "live" cultural experiences including music and art.  Quality of life and continuous learning is important at any age.  

Tags and my list of works are almost done (I keep changing my mind as to what I want to bring) and I'm planning how to load my trusty hatchback to ensure the schlepp, unloading and installation unfold as efficiently as possible.





Chaos reigns in my abode. Paintings rest against walls, some wrapped, some not.  There is still so much to do, edges to paint, labelling, and throughout all this, continued creation.  You have to admire people who live with artists. Their level of patience is superior to most.




The workshops are still at the embryonic stage but my subconscious noodle is hard at work, aiming to come up with something that will stimulate and entertain.


2
The other event takes place in a magnificent vineyard.  I went for a preliminary visit and was astonished to discover this elegant operation twenty minutes from my abode.  The owners are obviously interested in art and have partnered with an association of sculptors to show large works on their property year round. The number of exhibited sculptures grows annually in concert with the grapes.

The event takes place every weekend from August 8th until September 20th. I will be there the weekend of August 8th and 9th.

2-D artists will be showing their work within the confines of a large white tent.  I'm not usually a fan of art fairs, (they feel a bit like flea markets to me), but previous participants have told me the experience is unusual and convivial.   There's a great deal of camaraderie among the artists, and let's not forget that this is after all, a winery...nectar of the gods and goddesses will surely flow.  

The event is in its fourth year and growing exponentially from a tourism standpoint.  Good for the winery, good for the artists.

Besides showing and selling available paintings, artists create a work onsite. Tables are provided but I will bring an extra one.  Smaller rather than larger paintings are recommended.  

I've been in full production and I'm starting to pack.



 
Yikes!  My mind is in frantic list mode.

DIANE BRING:
  • Bricks and rope (yeah I know, sounds odd but things have to be weighed down and anchored otherwise they do a Wizard of Oz thing).
  • White tablecloths (I was told neutral white is best, hello Walmart).
  • Business cards
  • Canvas, paints, water container
  • Works (preferably transportable in boxes).
  • Easels
  • CV
  • Scissors
  • Lunch
  • Identifying sign saying who I am (in case I forget).
  • Bill book 
  • Extra folding table
  • Chair 






The list is far from complete.  I have yet to wire new paintings so they can be hung on a metallic grid. I've been slipping my limited edition digital prints into elegant presentation envelopes.  Lookin' good.

Getting ready for two events that will be happening a couple of days apart is a tad nerve wracking but I'm looking forward to both. 

I just hope the weather cooperates during the vineyard event.  It would be a bummer having to spend the entire weekend in an anorak and rubber boots pondering the effects of climate change.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

LILLIPUTIAN CHARMS

Scale:
A single plate of many that covers a reptile;
A frustrating metallic-type buildup on kettles and bathroom tiles;
A weighing device to avoid at all costs when depressed;
To climb something high, like a mountain;
...and 
a system of measurement that artists wrestle with.

BIG:

Many works in museums tend to be large-scale.  In 2011, I went to see a Fernando Botero exhibit at the delightful Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio. I had always enjoyed Botero's work via reproductions in books but viewing the originals was another experience entirely.  Many of his corpulent figures were bigger than life size and created a dynamic, overpowering and other-worldly ambiance in the allotted space.  It was phenomenal.  

That's the power of large-scale artwork.  It becomes the room and is seldom "underwhelming".   

Finding brio in small work is the bigger challenge.

At university, we generally used large sheets of paper and canvas for drawing and painting.  My model sketches tended to be expressive as I poured out years of suppressed adolescent angst.  
When I started out as an artist, I took a lot of room and used my entire arm to make lines. The paper never seemed big enough.  


small:

I felt muzzled when I drew small, and it showed.

Things became increasingly exciting when I discovered pens with tiny nibs. They were known as rapidographs and were used primarily by architects and designers. They clogged up easily unless they were meticulously cleaned after each use (not my forte). I wrecked a few but eventually managed to keep them flowing. The limitations of these pens became obvious as I tried to obtain variations within each line. It was near impossible, but nonetheless, using them gave me confidence.

Painting small was way more difficult.  It suddenly seemed as though my work was done by someone else.  I finally figured out that while small drawings benefitted from using minuscule tools, painting with tiny brushes didn't work for me.  Everything became painfully precious.  My arm muscles longed to swing in flamboyant arcs. 

I had to find a way.

After much experimentation, I tried larger brushes.  Strokes became more dynamic as I freed my inner critic. I devised a method of sorts:
  • Start with big brushes (get sloppy);
  • Develop shapes with medium-sized brushes;
  • Fine-tune with small brushes (add lines if required and target areas of colour).
While it may not be a method that works for everyone, it did for me.  I obtained the effects and spiritedness that had previously only happened on a large scale.  

Tiny paintings are like jewels that shine against a long bare neck.  
Sometimes a little goes a long way.







Monday, 22 June 2015

OLD NEWSPAPERS REVISITED


Gray Face

Increasingly, news is delivered to us via smart, shiny, electronic gadgetry.  Papers will soon follow the way of the dodo.


No more...
  • ink stained fingers after flipping pages,
  • stretching of arms and fighting with oversized sheets to read small articles in distant corners,
  • chemical smell
  • rips, holes, or missing portions of interesting articles,
  • rain-soaked, heavy, dripping masses requiring four hours of drying before they can be perused,
  • waiting for a paper that never arrives,
  • news seen 3 days prior on the Internet.

But this is what I will miss as my tablet replaces the newspaper...

  • a morning gift via home delivery,
  • the chemical smell,
  • newspaper stands fresh with high contrast headlines,
  • photographs of passionate people created with tiny dots (frequently walloped by the goddess of printing accidents),
  • the touch and sound of unfolding pages,
  • something to start a wood stove fire with,
  • scissored bits of history that yellow, fade and deteriorate (I've found many in old recipe books),
  • collage material and action poses.

The above list could be expanded ad infinitum depending on who's preparing it.  In a previous blog post, I wrote of finding old English and French newspapers dated 1942-44 in my attic.


Echo
What will we find years from now?  Will our old iPads still work after we try and charge them?  Will they become more toxic landfill?  

I think of my Spectra Polaroid Camera and slide projector that I can't bring myself to give away.  I found film for the Spectra online but the cost was way beyond my budget.  Too bad because beautiful things happen with polaroid cameras...

...but I digress.

The old newspapers were an unintended gift from someone who wanted to insulate our house.  New modern "stuffing" is now up there but a few 70 year-old papers lay forgotten after renovations were done.

I photographed numerous pages and have been creating a series that merges or juxtaposes drawings with decaying images and punchy headlines in serif fonts.  Ironically, I am integrating historical events in my digital work.  

It's territory fraught with emotion.  


Pillars

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

THESE SHOES ARE MINE

When I visit my mom at the seniors' residence, I am gobsmacked.  While a large percentage of the residents are quite a bit older than I am, quite a few are younger or around my age.  Whoa!

What has life whacked them with?   

One lady has Parkinson's and severe asthma, others appear to have speech or motor problems perhaps due to illness or an accident. They need help to function everyday.  Walkers and wheelchairs abound; the community is frail but some still manage to walk without too much difficulty.  

I constantly remind myself not to take what I have for granted and not to worry unnecessarily about matters that are beyond my control.  Things can change at the drop of a hat.  I'm thankful that I can still cook my own meals (there are no Thai curries, hot Mazatlan dips, or sushi in this publicly run residence), do my own laundry, paint and draw, go out with friends, learn new software and take care of my plants. 

I long to become an independent, eccentric crone who takes close up pictures of bugs and who paints sarcastic canvases about life's absurdities.  So...in the spirit of offbeat and whimsical aging, I would like to emphasize the importance of funky footwear.


These are my shoes.  




They make me happy.  

Warning:  The older I get, the more colourful and alive my feet will become.  




It also doesn't hurt that shoes happen to be a great source of inspiration.

Monday, 1 June 2015

DREAMING IN CLUTTER

One cramped messy corner
Before undertaking any type of project, I clean and clear to make room for what will inevitably happen. 

My studio has a life of its own. An invasion of paper, tools, binders and books appears out of nowhere to nourish an image in the making. The workspace becomes a temporary, if somewhat perilous work of art in itself.

The old studio was bigger than the one I have now, but even there, l managed to trip on litter that mysteriously grew from the floor. Precariously balanced piles of research contributed to the harvest by flying from perches and landing with a bang that I rarely ever heard.  

I suffer from creative deafness.  When I am parked at my easel, I become a frequent source of frustration for those around me.  Family members that approach while I am task-focused are met with high-pitched shrieks and leaps of surprise.  

Startling the startler is nature's revenge.

Temporary loss of hearing is also the plight of the daydreamer.  My grade school report cards attest that my mind was not on my studies but rather in world of ideas, dreams and fantasies that unimaginative elementary school teachers, frozen in bricks of rationality and routine, could never access or be bothered to understand.   

Habits continue. Mundane tasks like blowdrying hair or washing dishes require little brainpower and are equally conducive to daydreaming and part time deafness. 

"Clean up as you go along you silly goose and mop up your mind!" I hear you cry!  

But this interrupts the creative process doncha know. Once a work is done, a thorough cleaning happens. Ebb and flow...

and Leonardo da Dish Mop is born.




Sunday, 17 May 2015

BOLD AND BRAZEN

Sketchbook 
Nature repossesses her environment at the slightest opportunity.  As soon as the weather warms up, plants eagerly stretch towards the sun, nasty red ants (they bite!) build craters of sand near stones and trees, male red-winged black birds squawk and dive to protect their nests, and an army of  other creatures moves into the neighbourhood.

In previous posts, I wrote of the many unexpected visitors that have graced our property since we moved in three years ago. The list includes bullfrogs, groundhogs, foxes, metal-pecking woodpeckers (loud peckers attract more mates), field mice, snails, and of course, legendary racoons. It's rare to have encounters with wild animals because most of them have the sense to avoid humans. 

Our friendly neighbourhood cats also visit regularly and probably keep many wild things at bay around here. Recently they failed us.  

The back door was open and I suddenly noticed an animal peering into the house through the screen. I initially throught it was one of our neighbour's cats, but this one seemed larger than either Arthur or Oreo.  I stood up, edged slowly towards the door, and came face-to-face with nature's version of Zorro.  In spite of its exceptional appearance, I really didn't want it on my stoop.  I  assumed it would scoot away as soon as it saw me but no.  It looked right at me with calm, cool, collected eyes while I felt anxiety knot in my chest. 

I called my roomie and sure enough, he had already spotted Rocky through his office window.  We both dashed for our cameras and started to shoot.  It was a fearless creature who scratched a lot, washed itself repeatedly (I had no idea they were so "up" on hygiene) all the while casting the occasional glance at us.


It was an incredibly sleepy animal who decided to nap in a number of unusual positions at our door.  At one point, its head hung over the step like a tiny sack of potatoes.  We wondered if it might be sick.

Was it male or female?   It soon became apparent that Rocky was a "she" as her belly was alive with nipples. 







  







She snoozed for what seemed to us an interminable time.  We really didn't want Roquette to move in and feared that she might be pregnant because of her uncontrollable  urge to sleep. 

In a moment, everything changed.  She awoke perfectly rested out of a deep slumber, took a few guzzles out of our yet unopened pool, and nonchalantly wandered off never to be seen again.

Lovely as she is, I hope things stay that way. 



Tuesday, 5 May 2015

"SO SAYS - AINSI DIT" - THE PROCESS


Here are the English and French press releases for the exhibition "So Says - Ainsi Dit".  Thanks to Claudine Ascher for organizing such an interesting event.  I invite you to come and view the show which runs until May 24th, 2015.  

Artists were asked to document their process.  Mine follows after the press releases.






“You were doomed to put on a print dress and a rubber girdle and sit in a rocking chair on the porch….”

When I read Margaret Atwood’s quote, I was consumed by waves of memories.  

Sketch

Memory 1:

I come from a small town.  My parents and I would often take short road trips in the surrounding countryside on Sunday afternoons.  Porches played an important role in rural areas.  After church Sunday mornings, dressed to the nines, locals spent their afternoons rocking and watching to get a sense of what was happening in the world.  If strangers drove by, as we did, they were eyeballed as outsiders who’d best not stir up any trouble. I will never forget those looks, a blend of curiosity, wariness, and xenophobia.

Memory 2:

There was a house I used to avoid in my neighbourhood.  A young woman who was obviously suffering, would rock wildly on her parent’s balcony and bellow like a sick donkey every 30 seconds.   I was afraid of her.

Memory 3:

Women’s issues have always been a concern of mine.  I think of how we have been portrayed over the years, waiting, always waiting; waiting for the men to arrive. 


What I found particularly interesting about the quote was the order in which Atwood listed things:

  1. Doomed
  2. Print dress
  3. Rubber girdle
  4. Rocking chair
  5. Porch
Doomed:  A woman is in an impossible situation that she can’t get out of, fated to wait and rock in perpetuity.

Print dress:  This is the kind of flowered dress I saw women wear on my road trips.

Rubber girdle:  Interestingly, the girdle is mentioned after the dress.  I take Atwood literally and place the girdle over the dress. 

Rocking chair:  I want it a bit warped and lopsided to underscore the mood.  She is forced to sit on a slant.

Porch:  It is old, faded, in disrepair.  Weeds grow through and around things.  They are out of control.

These are the changes the painting went through...  

On the left, the painting is roughed out.  I proceed to paint the girdle pink and to darken, (doom and gloom) the background.  



I outline the limbs and define where I want white trim.  
  


I add a dandelion on the bottom left.  (They are about to sprout on my property and I am dreading having to pull them out forever and ever.)  I vary the colours in each brick. The shoes are brown.  I decide to make them match the dress.  Final refinements include adding more weeds around the bricks and darker shadows in the background, trimming the left post of the rocking chair, and adjusting the arms and hands.


 

I am tempted to create another painting based on the "Doomed Cafe" initial sketch, which would take place in a social setting with lots of savoury (and naturally unsavoury) characters.  Who knows where it will all take me.  A small paper piece is in the works at the present time.  


Saturday, 2 May 2015

LEARNING TO WRITE

The desk had a hole in the upper right hand corner.  A shiny new bottle of navy ink fit snugly inside it.  

I was going to learn how to write.

School decided we should become acquainted with dipping pens, the kind that permanently stained our clothing for the upcoming year. I could barely contain my excitement at the prospect of actually writing with a pen!  (Until then, we'd only been printing in pencil).  

Imagine crusty men of old, writing in the gloom by candlelight, their bushy eyebrows and long beards dematerializing into the shadows.  It was like that but sans darkness, eyebrows, beards, and the candle. I was in another world.  

I smudged and blotched my way through years of practice.  If water happened to drop on the ink, the words would disappear into beautiful blooms of gradient colours.  Writing was definitely an aesthetic experience.  

Our pens evolved over time and eventually sported a little gizmo on the side that pulled out to suction ink into a cartridge. Dipping became obsolete. This was progress at the cost of experiential joy.  

Eventually pens came with cartridges that were already filled. The colour range was lovely, inks came in black, dark blue, and turquoise (I loved turquoise!)

Last week I came across my drawing pens. This triggered a nostalgic fit so vivid that I felt compelled to run right out and buy the old fashioned writing kind.  I initially looked online for fountain pens and was aghast at prices.  I hollered to no one in particular: "Hey people! What's with this???  I had one in Grade 3 and it cost almost nothing!!!"  

Supply and demand I guess.  

I grabbed my coat and told my roomie that I would see him later because I was going to buy a fountain pen. He looked at me as though I had just come back from cavorting with bats in the proverbial belfry.  



The ensuing dialogue went something like this:

HIM:  "What brought that on?"

ME:  "Um, I just want one."

HIM:  "Why?"

ME:  Well, um, I was thinking about what it felt like when I was a kid...writing with a pen, the ink bottle, the blotter, how the ink flowed, how the letters varied in size, how interesting the experience was.  I'm going to get one to write in my journal."

The love of my life still looked totally befuddled.

I rushed out and zoomed to the nearby office supply store. Nothing.  I went to the local art store.  Plenty of art pens but finding a simple fountain pen that wasn't for calligraphy was more of a challenge.  Finally, with help from the clerk, I bought one made by a British company that was way too expensive.  Luckily I happened to have a gift card.  It's easier to impulse buy with a gift card.

Writing with it wasn't as easy as I remembered.  It didn't flow like the one I had in my youth.  I had to shake it every time before writing.  



I tried to remember what they taught us in school.  Cursive writing was fun, full of curvy lines. I think it went something like this!

Letters had to be of even height. I often chewed on my protruding tongue to achieve a passage of visual beauty. 
















I'm still having fun with my new pen although I wish that the ink would flow more smoothly.  I have to write at a certain angle to get the results I want.  

It's a writing pen but I can't seem to stop myself from doodling.  C'est plus fort que moi.




Thursday, 16 April 2015

IN SEARCH OF DISCIPLINE

My brain is flowing out my nose in a continuous aqueous stream. At this rate of loss, I should invest in a tissue company before I am no longer capable of rational thought.

A nasty, demon-powered virus has inflamed my sinuses and eclipsed my spirit. The frustrating part is that I may have unwittingly contributed to its triumphant invasion.

As an artist without a day job, I am still, after two and a half months, trying to find a working rhythm and routine.  One advantage of not having to get up at 6:00 in the morning is exercising the freedom to work late into the night.  After years as an early but groggy riser, my body is resisting change and assailing my immune system.

From what I can gather, the benefit of working while others sleep is doing so in absolute silence and tranquility.  I nestle inside an invisible egg, far beyond the fibre optic reach of telemarketers.  The flip side rolls in the following day; energy levels plummet as I am reassigned by the body police to a blurry, unfocused, parallel universe.


Yesterday I was up at 5:30 because I couldn't breathe. I grabbed a nearby box of 3-ply tissues, plunked myself in front of the keyboard and wrote:  

Birds chirp as the crawl space pump spits out melting snow.
peel masking fluid off a paper work.
I don't have to rush.  I am grateful.

Deep stuff confirming the obvious...the head cold has fried a portion of my brain. On a positive note, (I always look for one), even with throbbing, swollen sinuses, I managed a frisket peel and started a blog post. If this isn't a manifestation of discipline, I don't know what is.  I understand that I am not ready for the army.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

FLYING BUSES



2015
I am still amazed at how commanding, man-made, vividly-coloured metallic birds manage to soar through our skies. 
Physics was never my forte.  

Like many, I prefer terra firma, but I've never been one who, in pre-flight terror, clutches the nearest airline employee for dear life in an attempt to avoid boarding.  I am generally reassured by smiling flight attendants who emit an air of total calm as they prepare one and all for take off.  

1969
My first flight ever, and the always attractive stewardesses (beauty was on the list of hiring criteria then) were young, fearless, unmarried women who were oblivious to the pitfalls of risk taking.  Airlines attempted to make the trip delightful and civilized, a brilliant strategy to maybe help passengers like myself, forget that we were actually soaring at 20,000 plus feet above the planet. 

My long legs were nowhere near the seat ahead of me.  I could wiggle in my chair and grab a safety belt without scraping my hand against the rough, durable fabric. The aircraft interior was in nearly pristine condition and free food arrived in little warm containers filled with delicacies prepared by airline chefs!

Flying is no longer what it was.  

2015 
I recently returned to Montreal from Austin, Texas. The flights to and fro were okay, late coming back because we had to wait for a good part of an hour in Detroit while a technician repaired a couple of overhead bins. 

I was happy to have leg room on the first part of the trip back (until the stopover) because my companion and I were seated at the emergency exits.  Strangely, the more we inclined towards the jet stream, the colder I became. Initially I ignored it, assumed that my imagination was overactive or that the air conditioning was on full blast.  As time went on, my right thigh felt as though I had left it in the refrigerator for thirty minutes and my toes recalled the sensation of driving a rusty Volkswagon Beetle in twenty below weather. 

Cold air was seeping into the cabin via the emergency exit door.  I borrowed my partner's winter coat and wound it tightly around my legs to keep warm.  Before long, condensation launched a steady stream of water from the window down to my shoes.  Not exactly what I would call a high-end experience.  What happened to the colour coordinated blankies and pillows?

Free service included tiny bags of either pretzels, peanuts, or chips along with water, a soft drink, or juice.  

Are you trying to stay hydrated?  Here!  Have salty food!
Do you want to keep your blood pressure down?  
Tough titty! 

Other beverages, meaning booze, had to be purchased. Part of the rug-type material edging the seat in front of me was torn and suspended directly in my line of vision.  The button to lower my companion's seat was nothing but a hollow orifice.  He could fit his finger inside quite nicely but it was useless for its intended purpose.

A nonstop creaking sound worthy of a Vincent Price  horror movie enriched the drone of the plane.  I would quickly return my car to the dealership if it had that kind of rattle.

1961
These happenings brought to mind memories of the city bus rides I took to get home from high school. 

Drivers had a knack of pushing a little too hard on those brake pedals to simulate turbulence! The occurrence was especially challenging in situations where there was nowhere to sit.  I had to stand and white-knuckle grasp an overhead bar to avoid a solo flight towards the rear of the vehicle.  I landed on my face a few times.  It was not unlike returning from the airplane loo but not quite reaching one's seat during a one thousand foot drop 

The air inside buses was foul, especially in winter. I picked up many a cold virus over the years. Airplanes today also host a variety of interesting microbes from all over the globe that innervate our immune systems.  Supposedly cabin air is no longer filtered as efficiently as it was when smoking was permitted.  It might be a good idea to don a face mask before boarding.

Pretzels were never served on the bus.  If one wanted to eat, it was necessary and healthier to bring a snack, or better still, an entire meal from home.  Hint, hint!

2015
"Air Whatever" takes us to exotic and not-so-exotic places fast and almost always, safely. That's a good thing.  Yet I dream of a day when airlines might once again make the flying experience comfortable and affordable.  Sometimes it's necessary to look back to innovate.