(not) dead to me

I've been neglecting the internet a bit. Facebook has been very ranty with privacy setting woes and twitter is talking about lockouts and presidential debates. In times like this, I am very thankful to not have a television. I've said it many times, and maybe it's a case of keeping my head in the sand, but I like to think of it as 'selective listening'. I read news online. I talk to people. I'm aware of what's going on....I just choose not to be bombarded with it constantly. My home is my refuge and creative haven. I like to keep it as stress free as possible. As simple as possible. It helps me think and paint better. I've just finished two commissions. I'm waiting to hear back from the buyers as to what they think of the final images I sent them. It's a long weekend though, and not many people are checking their email. It's a bit nerve wracking, but at the same time....I take it to mean they are away from their devices, eating lots, visiting and having a good time in a room WITH people in it. I can wait for the response. Tonight is my turn for turkey-coma.

Commissions are a funny thing. They take longer in some ways. Sometimes they lack creative flow. The challenge of varied subject matter is nice, but there is a lot of stop-and-start. A lot of looking, and thinking. Not that there isn't any with paintings I come up with on my own....but it's easier to take risks with those. There is no real deadline, and no one to specifically please except myself. That sounds really selfish, but with painting, like anything creative that you do for yourself...YOU determine ultimately what happens next. It's like those choose-your-own-ending stories I loved in elementary school. With a commission I WORRY if the buyers like it. I don't ever want them to be stuck with a piece they don't like. When I paint my own things....someone sees it and loves it and wants to buy it. Sometimes that is much easier. But easy is not always good or fun, and I'm not complaining about commissions. It's been a 'work week' in the studio. So yesterday, after I completed commission #1 and sent of the email, and was waiting for layers on commission #2 to dry so I could continue work on it.....I did something I hadn't done in a long time.

I painted over two older paintings with a opaque coat of Paynes Grey. Why? I didn't like the look of the pieces anymore....and they've been sitting around for a while, not selling....collecting dust. It was time. Much like I imagine the satisfaction of giving a fresh coat of vibrant red paint to a tired looking barn feels, I felt so much better staring at these now stormy grey canvases. And I have just the thing to put on them instead!

I was in the Paint Spot the other day, and picked up a book by the artist on exhibit there. Catherine Owen. The book is called 'Catalysts: Confrontations with the muse'. It's a wonderful collection of journal entries and essays about various creative endeavors she's been involved in. She's a poet, and a writer. She used to live in Edmonton. It inspired some insight into what others find inspirational....what things fixate in their heads that they try and process through writing or painting. Plain things....things you would look at and think of no consequence. Why write poems about a berm that blocks sound from the Whitemud into your backyard? It got me thinking about artists I admire and other things I'd like to paint. About traveling around home and away from home. I've been listening to a fair bit of poetry lately. I've developed a bit of a poetic crush on Mary Oliver. Bob Chelmick reads a lot of her work on his program on CKUA: The Road Home. She writes about the wonder of things she sees on a walk. Daily life observations. This in turn got me looking through my photos and planning what to paint next and thinking about traveling and my upcoming trip to TO.....

It's a chore to see. It's a learned skill. We look at things everyday, but most of the time we fail to SEE them. Seeing everyday things and in turn, being inspired by them enough to paint or write about them is a great feat, I think. Like handing someone binoculars when there is a large bird in the sky. Yes, you are looking....and yes....it's a large moving dot in an overcast sky....but when you SEE through those binoculars.....goodness! The color in the feathers....the beak....the wingspan. NOW it's impressive. Now you've seen it. Now you are excited.

I was walking my dogs through the paved back alley ways of Parkallen, where I live. I saw remnants of these lovely tall sunflowers that had grown well over the height of the fence. They were a bit dried out and frost damaged, but because of this their leaves and stalks were purple and green and rust colored. I went back a few evenings later and got some pictures of them and that is what is going on the newly recycled canvases. The bearded dude saw the photo I was painting the outline from and simply said 'but they're dead.' 'True,' I said 'but countless paintings have been made of trees in fall, or of battlefields or still lifes of things....and no one seems bothered by the dead leaves, bodies or fruit.'

   

(two reference photos. the one on the right is going to be more a play on color and negative space.)

Something else I haven't done in a long time, is outlined a piece in black instead of red oxide. I'm excited to work on these....and I'm not quite sure why I seem to be dwelling on sunflowers lately; but I figure as the body craves chocolate on occasion, my creative brain is craving sunflowers. I'm thankful I can indulge my creative craving. I hope you got to indulge in things you are thankful for this long weekend too.