Walking and Seeing

When I see people walking around with big canvases, I always wonder what they’re up to and what projects they’re planning. Walking home in the hot sun with a 40” x 40” canvas yesterday, I now have some insight into what they’re thinking: “Crap, this canvas is heavy.”

I love to walk.
When I’m home, I hike around the foot of Mount Seymour with a friend (a friend is a necessity given that there are black bears around!) But here in Montreal, my walks are urban ones, and I love them! I like seeing the interesting old architecture, the beautiful gardens, the charming shops. I like seeing the chic Montrealers walking and biking to work. And of course, I love seeing cats.
If he lost his glasses, he probably can’t find his way home.

There’s no better way to get to know a new place than by wondering around. It’s something we do on every vacation, and getting lost is even better. Walking alone, I’m observing more than usual. I’m quite inspired by places where art animates businesses. Graffiti art has definitely crossed over to the professional side, and young business people have adopted it. Today I saw a new café being built where black and white graffiti art is on feature walls and the menu frame, with minimalist décor it’s all very chic and cheap. I also saw this adorable patisserie:
Yum, if it’s good enough for the bear, I’m in!
(Correction, I went to Sophie Sucre on the weekend, and I’m told that the “bear” is actually a cat! Better and better, and the cinnamon rolls are yummy there.)
Of course, having no car means that I have to carry everything I buy home. I really wanted two large canvases, but I decided that one at a time was enough. Having to work in the small space I’m in, that’s probably better anyway.  I’m used to being surrounded by all my equipment, and here I have to make do constantly. The focus is on the painting, rather than my normal process of layering.
Perhaps it’s like this in many big cities, but Montrealers have a habit of leaving their unwanted stuff on the sidewalk. On this morning’s walk, I could have had a choice of three different couches: brown leather(ette), burgundy velour, and a beige of unknown fibres. There were TVs, hangers, a footstool, and even dryer balls, although it’s tough to imagine anyone desperate enough to take used dryer balls.

Miraculously, exactly the things I need have been turning up. Yesterday, I found a like-new set of three wire drawers from Ikea, just what my son’s closet needed. Last night, I noticed my back was sore from bending over at my makeshift art table, and today voilà: a nice modern chair appears on my block, which saves me from having to lug it far. What will tomorrow bring? I think I’ll wish for a 40 x 40 canvas to magically appear on my doorstep.
Advertisements

Good Deeds

Doing something nice for someone else should be its own reward, right? Well sure…but there can be other benefits. My friend, Denise Relke, has been a huge supporter of my art for ages. Not only does she admire my work wholeheartedly and buy paintings from me, but she helps out too. Every year, she comes and minds my studio for an hour during the Culture Crawl, so that I can grab lunch and do a mini-tour of my own.
Denise runs her own jewellery business, Sporty Jewels.  She is very self-sufficient, and seldom asks me to help her in return, even though she has booths at various sporting events all year round. So I was very happy to have a chance to repay her kindness when she needed a promotional dartboard for her jewellery booth. She had an idea of what she wanted, and we brainstormed on how to achieve it. We got a round piece of plexiglass cut, and then I drew a dartboard pattern on it and painted it with bright acrylic colours. She got personalized darts to complete the game. The whole project was a big success, with her customers loving the playful aspect of the promotion.


It looks like a tropical location, but it’s actually Victoria,
Of course, Denise was overly grateful and brought me a gorgeous orchid for the studio. So my good deed was already rewarded, right? Well, actually the biggest reward has been that I had to buy a compass to draw the dartboard. And having a compass has caused me to paint dartboard patterns everywhere. In the past months, here are some of the layers I’ve painted.

  

So you see, creative ideas can come from all kinds of places, even good deeds. Does this inspire you to do something nice for someone today?

Destroying work

I just destroyed a large resin painting. First it was sawed in half and then I attacked it with a sledgehammer.  This act was not a cultural protest or a temper tantrum.
Recently I’ve participated in some on-line critiques, and what I’ve noticed is the tendency of mediocre artists to get too attached to their work and fret about small changes. Half the time, I want to suggest that they do 99 drawings and then post the hundredth one, instead of agonizing over the first one. After my latest exasperating experience, I thought about myself. Was I discarding 99 works, or was I clinging to my own work?
Throughout my art career, I have periodically destroyed my artwork. When I work on paper, I cull the weak drawings, roll them up and burn them in the fireplace.  There is something satisfying about the flames, as if getting rid of old work would make better paintings rise like a phoenix from their ashes. Paintings on canvas were even easier, once I decided that I was no longer satisfied with a painting, I would simply gesso over it, completely obliterating the original and creating a new, slightly textured canvas to work on.
However the resin works on panel have been more difficult to destroy. I can paint or resin on top, but not all the works lend themselves well to this. Obviously I’ve already invested a lot of time and money in them as well. Usually I don’t resin a work until I’m completely happy with it, but occasionally show deadlines force me to rush work and I’ve ended up with a few paintings I’m not quite sure about. Luckily, sometimes someone comes in and falls in love with one and takes it home, but the other paintings stay in the studio like sad wallflowers at the dance. So I selected one painting I’ve never been happy with and sentenced it to death.

Everyone I’ve told about this destruction asks which painting it was, or suggests I should have just given it to them. I won’t even say which one, for fear they will say “I always liked that one,” which would make me feel awful. If it was a painting I really liked, I might consider donating it to a charity, but those paintings I’m not sure about…I think it’s better to destroy them. I don’t want to be an artist who clings to her work, just because she spent time and money on it.
As someone who has done a lot of reading about clutter while avoiding doing anything about it, I am very familiar with the idea that clutter clogs the energy in your room and prevents action. Paintings that hang around too long depress me, and make me question my own abilities. Getting rid of this painting made me feel both sadness and relief, but when I go into the studio the empty space is energizing. I was able to finish three paintings in a project I’ve been ruminating about for four months!
Last night I went for drinks at our neighbour’s place and she said to me, very gently, “Is everything okay? I saw you between our houses, doing something…with a sledgehammer?”
I laughed and told her I had been destroying a painting.
“Ah well,” she said, “It looked like you were getting something out of your system.”
That’s the truth. Getting rid of work can be cathartic for your studio and your mind. Try it and see.

Four new paintings you won’t find on my website

Having a strong individual voice is as important in art as in anything that gets marketed. It’s confusing to the viewer if you’re constantly in flux, and clients or galleries prefer a distinctive look. 
Lots of people who are just beginning in art paint a vast array of subjects: still lifes, landscapes, people or animals, and they experiment with many different media as well. Recently a few people have asked about learning abstraction from me, but I don’t think it is something I can teach. My theory is that you need to go through a long period of experimenting, of trying new things until you find something that really fits you and is unique to you.

One friend, Kayla, told me that she had a friend over to her house who immediately recognized my painting: “Oh you have a Mary Anne! I love her paintings!” This was a huge compliment for me, both to be recognized for my style and to be recognized, period, by someone who isn’t in my immediate family.

However, once you find your “style” you need to be able to evolve it enough so that you can keep growing. We’ve all seen painters who get trapped by their success, churning out copies of their one original style because it sells. I wonder if this turns the wonderfully creative act of painting into manufacturing.



I have spent a lot of 2012 playing in the studio, experimenting with work that is quite different for me. First off, I’ve been doing some representational pencil drawings, which I can use as layers on my process paintings. Secondly, I usually paint on panels, but I had some canvas panels gathering dust and I wanted to do something new. The results are these paintings which I have tried to layer using paint and medium, with mixed results. But I like these paintings very much, I’m not sure where they will lead, but sometimes you just have to follow the creative muse. In the ten+ years I’ve been painting, I find that whatever you do in the studio is never wasted, it shows up somewhere. No matter where you are in your painting life, you need to try new things.


Michelle Sirois-Silver’s studio

An organized rainbow!

When I was a child, I used to go to the home of a graphic designer who had her studio in the basement. I loved to wander downstairs and look at her papers, her pristine white drawing table and best of all her markers, perfectly lined up in the full rainbow of colours. Seeing ALL the colours in perfect order gives me an enormous thrill to this day. And that is why I love going into the studio of textile artist, Michelle Sirois-Silver.

These fabric stacks are my favourite things in her studio,
 the textile equivalent of a paintbox
.

I first met Michelle when she moved into the shared studio across the hall from my studio, and then followed her into her studio in the basement of her home, and then I helped her link up with her current studio. I’ve been wanting to take photographs of Michelle’s studio ever since I saw her first studio, and now with the Culture Crawl on the horizon, I can feature this lovely spot and anyone can visit it as well.

So here are some photos of Michelle’s studio, as well as her answers to my little studio Q & A.

Michelle, hard at work.

What is your favourite part of the studio?
My favorite part of the studio is where ever I am at the moment I am creating something. 
The old and the new.

Can you tell me about your studio routine?
I’m in the studio everyday 10-6pm.  I like to begin the day by organizing and putting away any new items and materials that I have brought with me that morning.  I set up my computer, cup of coffee in hand and begin work.  Generally, I reserve activities like magazine and grant writing, marketing, and updating my website for home.  I may pick up my rug hooking where I left off the following day, do some fabric dyeing, or create samples for a new work.  I take photographs of my work in different stages and I’ll use these images as a record of the process or for promotional purposes.  While I’m working I listen to CBC radio, music or audio books.  I try to schedule studio visits for the afternoon.  The day concludes with about fifteen minutes of clean up which includes a daily vacuum to keep the dust and fabric pieces under control.  

A little sampler which I found quite beautiful.


What is one thing that really inspires your creativity?

There are three things that inspire my creativity:  I love narrative and the art of story telling and I try to bring this sensibility to my practice.   Visually I’m drawn to images that inspire a sense of intimacy.  When I’m looking at something I shut out everything else around it and view that one thing in utter isolation.  When I do this the image alters its form and it becomes a range of colour, a dynamic value contrast, or a pattern.  Its new potential is inspiring. And talking with fellow artists about their work, inspirations, and processes.    

Here is textile piece of Michelle’s that I own and love. You can see more of her work at:
And if you would like to visit Michelle’s gorgeous studio in person, come and visit her on the Eastside Culture Crawl on November 18, 19 and 20, 2011.


This post is the kick off to a series of posts I will be writing on the Crawl, as we head up to the big event.

A dose of cute


Every once in a while I need a dose of cute. Whether it is watching Maru videos on YouTube or cruising a toy store , I crave a dip into the pool of all that is sweet and colourful.  This past weekend in Seattle, I was able to satisfy my cuteness cravings at Kinokuniya Books. This Japanese bookstore sells Paumes books, which are books made in Japan but featuring bright and creative homes, studios and stores around the world.
So far I have two of the books, but when I browse the website I long for more and more. The rooms are energetic and inspiring, filled with colour, art supplies, beautiful vignettes and adorable cats and dogs. Each feature is like visiting the home of some wonderful, creative friend whose energy and ingenuity make you feel energized.  The text is in Japanese, but since the images are so inspiring, I don’t think it matters. And the website has a mini gallery section as well.
I don’t think anyone can read these without feeling like creating something, whether it is a beautiful meal, a tabletop display or…art.