Happy New Year

Happy New Year!
 
While everyone else was writing their summaries of 2012 or their New Year’s Resolutions, I was lying in bed and complaining about how I was starting 2013 with a bad cold. And then I had to catch up on life, and the blog kept getting pushed back. So my resolution to update the blog weekly went down the drain before it could even begin!

But you know that one of the secrets of success for artists is to keep plugging away. So here I am, not late…but early for the Chinese New Year!
 
2012 was another great year for my art. It was my best year ever in terms of sales. I have been fortunate enough to see my art sales grow almost every year since I began working fulltime as an artist. I also feel privileged to have met so many wonderful people who support my art: clients, other artists, art bloggers. One amazing part of the internet is that all of these people who I have never met in person, and yet they immeasurably encourage me in my art practice.
 
Of course, there were setbacks too, but I’m trying not to dwell on them. One of these days, I do intend to write a whole post about rejection, but I’ll be putting a positive spin on that too. I avoid the dark side, because it’s too easy to live there.
 
So what’s in store for 2013? First off, I do vow to blog weekly…from now on. I’ve even had requests to post more, well from one person anyway but that’s enough for me. I’m actually quite surprised at how often people tell me they enjoy reading my blog, I write a blog post and I rarely get immediate feedback, except from my sweet husband. (By the way, my children find this slightly embarrassing and hugely amusing: “You see each other all the time and you write to each other on the blog. Mom!”) But back to the blog, months later people comment to me in person about blog posts they have enjoyed, so obviously I should blog more. Besides I enjoy writing…
 
 
This year I’d like to continue my 2012 vow to do more giving. Just as an update, last year I did loan two paintings to the Union Gospel Mission, donate a painting to the National Nikkei Museum fundraiser, give away five paintings in contests on my fb page and through my newsletter. But I have tons of other ideas for giving, and frankly it was a lot of fun. During the holidays, I was delighted when my kids wanted to come to the studio and make art. When I posted the resulting paintings of the Ikea monkey on my personal fb page, a friend wanted to buy one but instead I gave her the painting and asked her to make a donation to an animal charity. She gave $$$ to the Vancouver Humane Society in my name (which was lovely of her) and they sent me a thank-you card with a pig on it! So the new year is starting off right.
 
But my biggest push in 2013 is around learning. I’d like to learn some new art skills or techniques this year, so I’ll be looking for interesting courses to take. I’m particularly interested in learning more about Photoshop, screenprinting and figure drawing.
 
There is a particularly inspiring thread about learning art on a board called Conceptart.org. A man named Jonathan Hardesty decided that he wanted to improve his drawing skills, particularly in the digital realm. So he began putting his sketches up and asking for feedback. He pledged to draw one sketch every day, and more on weekends. To be honest, the first sketches are pretty bad, BUT Hardesty differed from most people. First of all, he did stick to his pledge, he posted drawings constantly, good and bad. Secondly, he kept an open mind all the time. If someone made a suggestion, he thanked them and took it. He was never insulted or defensive, and as a result he got even more advice and encouragement. It became a virtuous circle.

I guess I don’t have to tell you that this story has a very happy ending. You can follow Hardesty’s visual journey from his first drawings to the masterful artist and art instructor that he has become, in this thread.
 
So, I guess the point is that resolutions are not just for belated New Years. We can all strive to be better…at drawing, at business or wherever our imaginations take us. All it takes is an open mind and a willingness to learn.

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I can too draw!

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One of the great surprises of my artistic career is that I now create abstract paintings.  I think I actually have a prejudice against abstract painters. Just painters, not abstract paintings which I have always loved: from the graphic late Matisse works to the saturated canvases of Helen Frankenthaler and best of all the glowing colours of Mark Rothko.  

I just had this theory that artists became abstract artists because they couldn’t draw.  I had seen proof of this in my student days at Emily Carr and in studios beyond.  You could call it the Picasso effect, if you look at Picasso’s early work you can see that he was a skilled artist but his main fame developed from his cubist period.  Later, artists began skipping the exploratory representational period and going right to abstraction. If they had ideas and theories to apply to their work this could be a beautiful thing, but lesser artists just aped the giants in their fields.

Abstraction gave birth to huge groups of people standing in front of paintings and saying things like:
My kid could do that!  
What is that supposed to be?
I don’t get it.
Can we go for lunch now?

I was determined that I was going to be able to render well, even though I hated work that was photographically realistic. My theory was that if I could draw, I would be free to explore any ideas I had and not be forced into more design-y work.  So I took lots of drawing classes and practiced my life drawing.  My life drawing is still not terrific, but I need to be practicing more.  As perverts everywhere say, just not enough nude people lying around when you need them.

Probably the ideal artistic practice for me would be someone like Richard Diebenkorn or Gerhardt Richter.  Both artists alternate between representational paintings and ethereal abstractions.  While I can hardly place myself in their exalted company, I like the idea of change and keeping your viewers off-balance.  The ability to thumb your nose at everyone who tries to pigeonhole your artistic practice. 

My process now actually layers paintings that are representational one atop the next.  By the end, you can hardly recognize any of the individual layers and the end result is often quite abstract. I can see the layers underneath though, and in my mind it’s a series of representational paintings.  I still find it frustrating to not be able to draw exactly the way I would like to on demand, yet some days in the studio are better than others.

Yesterday was an excellent day.  We all have things that we enjoy drawing. I have a lot of success with dresses, fruit, desserts and cats. (Not dogs, my dogs range from goat-like to pillowy.)  The other thing I love to draw, but am not always successful with, is buildings.  The painting I am currently working on is from an old photograph of Powell Street in the heart of old Japantown.  It’s going very well, and although I hardly ever show my work in progress, here’s a photo of how it looks right now. I will be back in the studio today and by tonight it may be completely changed. I just hope I don’t wreck it, but pushing the good work is where I learn the limits.