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WELL, HERE WE ARE
And where is that? Where is that for you?
It feels to me as though we all woke up one day in either a sci-fi movie or a nightmare. I recall looking with disbelief and horror at the news reports spreading red all over the world map as a new virus spread all over the WORLD! Wait, WHAT? I kept thinking and saying “This is surreal” and I know I was not the only one doing so.
“This cannot be happening!” But it was. It is still happening. We are at war with a potentially deadly enemy that we cannot see. Yet we try to protect ourselves from this enemy as the medical community, the epidemiological specialists, the world leaders and first-line responders report what is happening now as well as what newly revealed information has been discovered and verified about this life-threatening disease that has suddenly taken over the world.
At the same time, political interests muddy the informational waters with their own agendas. There are completely divergent opinions being spread everywhere. There are conspiracy theories running rampant on social media. There are those who adamantly state that there IS no virus, that it simply does not exist, that it is a step toward the ever-ominous NEW WORLD ORDER, which is heading our way, or is here already as some say, with Biblical proportions, and the accompanying Biblical prophesies.
Then there are those who are rebelling against what they perceive as a threat to their freedoms under the Constitution of the United States. Those who ascribe to this underhanded and continuous threat, refuse with a passion to take any of certain recommended precautions, such as wearing a mask to lower the possibility of viral spread, or social distancing to protect others if you are carrying the virus asymptomatically. “NO!” A rabid shout rings across the land to the media. “You can’t MAKE me”! It sounds rather like what you would hear on a playground levelled against a perceived bully or rival.
Then there is present the invincibility we all felt when we were younger. We all know what it is like to be young and feel invincible. The first words spoken more often than not in the face of tragedy is something akin to “I never thought it would happen to ME! I mean, know it happens, but not HERE!” We feel as though we are watching a movie about somewhere else. But it is here. And we are here, in the midst of it.
We have lived in this twilight zone for months now. We have watched the statistics of case numbers, hospitalization and death. They seem to become numbers only, changing daily, and we can far too easily forget that the numbers represent real PEOPLE, with families and friends and lives they lived before COVID. We are glad when the death toll seems to go down numerically. Have we forgotten that ONE DEATH is too many? What percentage of your family are you willing to sacrifice? We certainly remember when it is our own; our mother or father, sister or brother, son or daughter.
One university student wrote an op-ed in a newspaper saying she had experienced her friends’ attitudes that their Bud Light, or their party, was more important than the life of their grandparent! She is a student with immune deficiency and has chosen to stay home to be safe and to help her family be safe. But we see the reports broadcast of the parties at beaches, in the absence of social distancing, let alone face coverings, despite these recommendations coming from CDC and the WHO and many medical specialists worldwide.
And it is not just the younger population who defy suggestions meant for the betterment and safety of society as a whole; I am reading many outcries from many ages and sectors about the abuse being inflicted to our right to freedom inherent in these suggestions should they become, dare we say, RULES?
I will say here that I simply do not understand that point of view. As we are learning that the simple act of wearing a mask CAN reduce viral spread from one individual to another, especially when BOTH are wearing masks, I hear this outrage and denial and complete refusal to comply to what is perceived as “Big Brother” mostly from Americans, and I simply do not understand the validity of their claims. The information has been reduced to cartoon form to illustrate the principle, and still the masses cry ‘NO’!
There appears to be a complete disregard of anyone but SELF, without empathy for another, respect for another, or indeed a concern for another. It is the ME as the centre of the universe ideation on steroids!
So, here we are. And were IS that?
I am Canadian and I am glad to be. I am happy to wear a mask when I leave the house (which is pretty much never) to help lower the spread of this killer. My husband is the one taking the responsibility of going out when we need to pick up prescriptions or food and he takes all the precautions, despite his witnessing of many individuals who forego any of them. Our response here in Canada is much better than in the US. Time will tell how well we did in the long run.
We are both of an age that is listed as more vulnerable to this virus, and more likely to die from complications. That adds a whole new impetus to the mix. My husband has asthma so is even more susceptible according to the growing collection of knowledge concerning this virus. And here I am, at home.
Where are you on this continuum? Are you doing all that you can to starve this virus? To help your family, friends, neighbours? I don’t see why we wouldn’t join together against this insidious enemy, an enemy that is killing people and leaving families devastated. Never before have I lived through anything like this. I was born after WWII and experienced a peaceful life growing up. This is the first war in which I have fought. I have never been asked to change my lifestyle to protect society as a whole, or to change my habits to protect an individual, but I have not and would not hesitate to do so. Can you imagine if people failed to join together against the real threat of invasion in WWII? Refused to comply with blackout rules or rationing? It is unthinkable.
I have a theory. Sometimes fear is paralysing. And sometimes fear makes us rebel, under the banner “this is not happening; it can’t be happening”. People flaunt their actions in the face of the enemy. They take a stand to be unshackled, to be what they call ‘free’, to be authors of their own lives. And they will be. Sadly, they may be authors of the deaths of others, or the illnesses, or the losses, but no matter it seems, as long as they are unified together in denial.
I won’t go into the political parade of ignorance, lies, denial, and false information being distributed daily by leaders of the western world, because that is a swamp I choose not to revisit. Yet, I am witnessing a general wave of outrageous suspension of reasoning and common sense in our world today.
Lastly, I want to ask the question: “how are you FEELING? Coping?”
It is a big question with great variability in responses, I am sure. As an artist, I feel empty sometimes, as if there is nothing more I can give. Then something happens and I HAVE to paint. (I will cover that more in my next blog entry) I often feel lost, blinded by the grief of the tragedies, the stories, the pain and loss. Then I rally and remember that I can only do what I can do. I feel isolated but then again, we have always been private people and have always protected that privacy. I feel weary, fatigued and just want to crawl into bed and sleep. Sometimes that is what I do. Each day, I have to figure out why I am getting out of bed, what I can do to make my darling's life better today, is there a friend who needs to hear from me? I have to overcome the ennui and the feeling of sadness, and well, get on with it. But always being kind to myself and realizing that I can do only so much.
We all have to heal, to adapt, to find a way to move forward safely. I pray that you find your way in this mire of disturbing reality.
As I sit here gazing out over our lake, I can’t help but notice some signs of the coming fall season. There are fewer jet skis or wave runners flying across the surface of our small lake and therefore, fewer squeals of joy and excitement coming from the various inflated kid carriers usually towed behind. The small parkette next to our home lacks the giggles and splashes of children or the barking of excited and very wet dogs. It is a lovely day today, but not a hot and humid one.
There are no changes noticeable in the colour of the leaves across the lake and yet a few maple leaves have been blown onto our raised deck the past few days.
I wonder if I am ready for the coming seasons. Tomorrow will be my last Monday of my weekly art show and sale at a nearby resort, Bayview Wildwood Resort. I am thankful for all the people I have met, many of whom were visiting from some considerable distances: north to Tobermory or west to Colorado and all parts in between. Another visitor put me in contact with a fellow artist who summers in the province of Alberta and winters in Barbados. I am now in touch with her and we are contemplating an art show team up for a Toronto gallery.
One day, I enjoyed a long chat with a gentleman who is struggling with MS, who shared my own geographical memories of growing up in Toronto Ontario. We shared all the “is that still there?” questions and answers.
The kind words gathered over the two months were like drops of honey, lovingly praising my work; priceless warmth and encouragement.
I find myself thinking about the importance of embracing every moment, every experience, known and unknowable. It rarely unfolds as expected, often blossoming into something brand new; a new friend or collector; a new idea for a series of paintings. A quiet day that could feel like wasted hours turns itself into that precious conversation about my home town with a man I shall probably never meet again, where I shared his pain and his joy.
WE grow with each encounter and change with every experience. As artists, we can use all of it to fuel our hearts, our expression, our muse.
One young woman voiced her desire to paint with acrylics. She was afraid that if she did, they sure wouldn’t look like mine! (Just as I know mine don’t look like some other artist I admire) I was granted the real privileged opportunity to encourage her to do what she loves, try what inspires her, take a chance and a leap of faith, perhaps in all likelihood to find joy at the end.
Autumn is approaching with its astounding beauty showcased well in the area where I live and paint. There are so many trees, so many lakes and rivers, so many granite rock cuts and cliffs to paint. Inspiration is there, wherever I look.
Life is like that. Sometimes we can see what is coming or at the very least the shape of what is coming. But we seldom can realize the hidden joys and moments of clarity and joy hidden in the depths of oncoming days.
In the autumn of my life, approaching winter won’t frighten me. I will do my best to be open to inspiration, to new experiences and adventures, to friends I have yet to meet, and lost ones reinstated, stronger than ever.
Well, February has passed me by with some very cold temperatures here in Ontario, Canada, but with less snow than we used to endure where we previously lived before moving here. Now, I don’t know about you, but I tend to cocoon during the winter months, cold and snow not being among a few of my favourite things. And sometimes painting and writing even became difficult. Cuddling up with a blanket and my darlin’ and a good book, or watching tv ranks higher during those dark, vitamin D deficient days.
Consequently, I did not finish a blog post for February. It was, however, an important month. It was International Black History Month here in Canada, although it was started in the United States in 1926 by historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. It has received official recognition from governments in the United States and in Canada, and more recently has been observed unofficially in Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
I wanted to post something on my facebook profile that would educate someone or shine a light on something important, and during my search for historical figures in Canada, for example, our Lincoln Alexander, a lawyer and the first black Member of Parliament the House of Commons. (1960-1980) He became Lieutenant-governor of Ontario 1985–91. The 21st of January has been celebrated as Lincoln Alexander Day across Canada since 2015.
We met this man, during an unveiling of a plaque in Otterville, where he was the official guest. The plaque commemorates the African Methodist Episcopal Church and Cemetery. Beginning in 1829 escaped slaves fled persecution in the United States and found homes in the Otterville area. In 1856, trustees of the African Methodist Episcopal Church purchased the half-acre lot and built the first Black church in Oxford County. Later the church was transferred to the newly established British Methodist Episcopal denomination. Its cemetery is one of the few preserved Black pioneer burial grounds in Ontario, Canada. So states this amazing plaque.
My husband’s grandfather was the Minister at that church, after being a garbage man and milkman. That is the reason we, as members of the Hollingsworth clan, were invited to attend. It was an honour and a privilege to attend and meet family members, many of whom we were unaware.
There was one with whom we were very aware, however. Joey Hollingsworth, my husband Darryl’s cousin.
A Canadian man famous for his tap dancing received a lifetime achievement award from the Ontario Black History Society. Joey Hollingsworth, born in London, Ontario, broke racial barriers through his televised performances.
He received the society's first-ever lifetime achievement award at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. His career led him to appear on many TV shows in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. "I did [CBC's] Pick the Stars in 1954," he said. Hollingsworth also helped make a name for himself when he appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1962.
You can find this information and more here: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/hollingsworth-lifetime-achievement-1.4507784 as well as other places online.
I didn’t have to search far to find this famous Black talent and historical figure, a member of our family, later posing for photos with Darryl, our son Jeremy, and Lincoln Alexander, not long before the latter passed away.
I learned a great deal when we attended that unveiling, and I learned more upon reaching out again and talking with Joey Hollingsworth. February was not a lost month, but rather a revealing and interesting month.
It is good to learn, and learning should never cease, but continue as a life-long pursuit. You never know just what you might find!
Now we are in March, International Women’s History Month! What treasures will I learn about now?
Here it is, January, a new year, a new start, a blank page of a 365-page book waiting to be written.
We wish one another a happy and healthy new year. We wish for prosperity and good things to happen to ones we are about. We celebrate, each in our own way, the end of this 365-day cycle, welcoming with anticipation the beginning of a new cycle; a chance perhaps to feel better, to do better, to love better, to BE better.
I have discovered that, despite the trite cliches and common words used, this renewal means different things to different people, sometimes radically so. Resolutions are made and often broken. Endless lists created in desperate hope for better outcomes.
What is the common thread throughout? Improvement. Growth. Becoming. Higher goals set and achieved. Less stress. Peace. Control over events in our lives.
Now, I don’t know about you, but for me, this past year has been challenging and not in a good way. I faced many challenges and some are ongoing, with no resolution in sight. I have had reason to feel beat up and battered, criticized and confused, hurt and harassed; effectively brought to my knees, figuratively and almost literally. Can you relate?
I know that it is important to remind ourselves when troubles face us, that it is not what happens to us that is important, but rather how we react to what happens to us. A cliche which carries a profound truth. We have control over how we react to situations, while we have little or no control over outside events that happen. And we seek to control the directions our lives take, the achievements, the goals, and accomplishments, all of which are interrupted by unforeseen events. So buck up, you are not alone.
The fact of the matter is that everything is temporary. Success is temporary. Failure is temporary. Our future depends upon the choices we make ourselves. And the choices we make in turn depend on how we perceive ourselves on the continuum of life, how we see ourselves in this world, what we believe is true.
The beginning of a new year is as good a time as any, and perhaps better than others, to examine the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. Am I a victim of circumstances or an overcomer? I may be one or the other depending on the day and the event. What happens next will be greatly impacted by the answers I give to these crucial questions: am I strong enough to deal with this? Do I deserve the success for which I strive? Am I good enough to excel in this area or that? Do I believe in a Higher Power and will it help me succeed along the way?
This January, now, I am looking to answer some of the crucial questions facing me honestly, and to create the best life I can for myself, for my family, for those with whom I come in contact, friends and acquaintances alike. I am asking myself “Who do I want to become and what do I need to do, or improve upon, to BE that person? What can I do to make my husband’s days better? How can I be a better friend? A better companion? A better mom, sister, wife? A better artist? These are things I CAN control. Your questions and answers will be personal to you, but our lives will be impacted greatly by the answers and the ensuing required ACTIONS we take. We know what we need to do and where we need to improve if we are honest with ourselves. I need to learn how to be more patient with myself and with my husband. I know what is required and how to act upon that.
So, I am committing to act in certain areas personal to me, to do a better job in my life, to impact others positively, to give the universe whatever it is I have to give that will make a difference; to paint better, to write profoundly, to befriend unselfishly and honestly, to love unconditionally.
What areas in your life can you improve? If we do better, we can better face those things we cannot control. We can be stronger and selfless, confident and ambitious, peaceful and calm. I yearn for a more balanced life. I am getting there but there is always room for improvement.
What about you?
As you will see as we move on together, what, I am really talking about is a renewal of creative energy, a desire to try new things, expand my repertoire, stretch my artistic muscles so to speak. Artists have these epiphanies now and again, when they see in their mind’s eye, a call to take a road not travelled thus far, and this has been one for me.
I must include here, that my enthusiastic launch proved to be less that stellar. I am working on a painting of roses, using an instructional video as a starting point, and my new mantra is “who knew roses could fight BACK?” It has not been easy, and yet, it is exciting to stretch.
Now that I have introduced myself to you, let me continue to show you where I am now.
From that first workshop experience, I knew I had a hunger still to create art, a love for the work, a desire to improve my craft. I didn’t really have any idea where to go for help and my low self confidence held me back from just DOING it.
So here are my first suggestions. If you are just beginning with your painting, attending a workshop is a great idea. It is a situation where you have a person right in front of you to answer your questions and in addition, you have other aspiring artists with whom to connect. By asking others, you may find other workshops you would like to try or learning materials which helped other artists to improve and expand their work. Now remember, when I was starting out, there simply were no internet possibilities for learning which are so available now! Now YouTube for example has a plethora of instructional videos to watch and study, save to view later, with the idea of following your own particular direction. I definitely recommend you search these resources.
Many talented and accomplished artists write blogs which are filled with valuable information. There is literally an endless supply of assistance. There are online webinars to ‘attend’ in the comfort of your own home. In the near future, I will add links to my web site connecting to some webinars which have been valuable to me, and which were free to listen to: something important to my rather impecunious state. Johannes Vloothius was one of them. He has paint along videos as well, materials you can buy at very reasonable prices and his desire to teach seems to be important to him.
I am a researcher at heart, so I spent what was probably too large a segment of time researching all these materials, without actually DOING what was recommended. And yet, I did learn. It is a funny thing: you often don’t realize how much you know until you are asked a question or you try to instruct someone else! Suddenly as you freely talk about your passion, at a dinner party or whatever, the fog lifts and you happily proclaim to yourself, “Wow, I know a LOT about this!” That is what happened with me anyway. And remember, different people learn differently. Some are kinetic learners, needing to be busy DOING, and some are readers; some need to listen to instruction, and videos may be a preference offering better results. Find your best way to learn what you need to learn to be a better artist.
While delighted with my first watercolours resulting from that first workshop, and while thinking they were much better than I had any right to expect, I have to confess that now, from my present point of view, after much more painting, I can see the flaws and faults, and perhaps you will do the same. Don’t dwell on the shortcomings of your work– it won’t help you at all. They are just a step on a long and thrilling road. The pride I felt after so many years of NOT painting or even drawing, was a springboard for me to move forward and not give up. Concentrate on what you did well, what you created when you didn’t know you could! Stay inspired!!
Next: Creating Your Creative Space
RENEWAL 1:HOW TO GET STARTED
Well here I am finally, ready to embark upon what I have been calling a new journey in my life as an artist. My intention is to implement all that I have learned over the years, all that I am currently learning, and learn more as I paint.
The reason why this is a ‘new’ journey is not that I am a new artist. Perhaps it would better be called a ‘RENEWING’ journey. I have been painting for some years now and loved art all my life. I have not been as fortunate as many who have painted all of their adult lives. I attended art college, but for many years following that experience, I was unable to embark upon my life as an artist, amateur or professional. The reasons are many and not required here. Let’s just say life intervened in a big way, as is often the case.
Whether you are an experienced artist, or brand new, I hope you will find something worthwhile in my blog posts during my journey. I will be sharing much of what I have learned over the years and what I have discovered by doing it myself. I have learned from other artists and art materials, some of which I will recommend. I am not being paid for this, but have collected materials over time, often from other professional and talented artists’ recommendation. I plan to share links to people and places on the internet which I have found helpful, either instructional or inspirational. Sometimes simply seeing what a particular artist is able to do with a particular medium is awe-inspiring and motivational in itself.
Many of us can understand having a dream to do or be something, yet being unable to make it a reality. I have ‘met’ many new artists in my face book group “Artists’ Tips and Tricks’ who have started to paint or draw as they retired from a full time job in the marketplace which had nothing to do with art. It is never too late to begin.
I would like to share some basic background to introduce myself. I grew up in Toronto, Ontario in Canada and attended the Ontario College of Art in Design there. I had a somewhat troubled life, managing to overcome some setbacks. There is no doubt that these kind of experiences can leave us without a strong self image, and without self confidence which was the case for me.
When the time was right I met the love of my life, my husband Darryl. He was and is a very talented singer/musician so life became centered on that which meant travelling on the road for the next 7 years. We were blessed with a son and settled in one place, while my husband continued with his supporting of our family, entertaining in resorts and clubs, and supplementing by doing any of the many things he is capable of doing. After a great deal of thought, we decided to home school our son, so my career became teaching for the next few years. Obviously, I had no time or energy for starting to paint and was feeling rather far away from my dream. I had not practised it for so long that I felt rather inept in those days, hearing the voice in my head which said I couldn’t do it.
I really didn’t even begin to use whatever painting skills I had until our son was grown enough to permit it. I began by attending a water colour workshop near where we lived, and my eyes were immediately opened to previously inconceivable possibilities and my heart was filled with the passion I thought I had lost. I still had something!
In my next post, I want to connect with anyone reading this by sharing the challenges and successes that followed, the perceived failures and frustrations. It seems that I literally condensed years of drawing and painting into a very short period of time. I hope you will stay with me.
Lynne P Hollingsworth
In a time when one would be challenged to define in any cogent words, what art IS, what defines it, what categorizes something as 'ART'... I stand here to share my own artistic efforts, my own creations, my own art....But more specifically for this occasion and this gathering, I find myself wanting to talk about the Christian and his or her art, her creation, her outpouring of ..what? and from ...wartists we are so ready to pour ourselves out on canvas, or paper, or on stage, painting a target on our chests, presenting our innermost stirrings to be criticized or appreciated, denigrated or praised. I only know as an artist, I must do so. It could be said that we paint this imaginary target on ourselves when we walk in the world, when we leave our solitary spaces... but artists seem to really step OUT there...put it all OUT THERE... why?
Well, I did not chose art. Art chose me. I learned quickly however that when there is not peace in my spirit, I cannot create; when there is no calm in my heart, I cannot paint; when I am drained by the weariness of worldly things, I run dry. Yet I cannot be passive and stagnant for long, for the need to create is strong, imperative, incessant, challenging and necessary for my being.
We say a piece or a dance performance, or a song, is 'inspired'....it gladdens our heart, or brings us to tears... it touches us deeply for reasons we cannot fathom. In fact this essence of the unknowable withers under scrutiny, to my mind. Inspiration is not a mere myth. There exists a real inspiration, coming not from the Muses, but from the living God, which one is free to follow or not.
The so called ZONE of inspiration is an experiential thing. For me it is the time when I have submitted completely to God and His grace and mercy and love.... then there is an outpouring of this inspiration to the work. I cannot explain it, define it, or draw a picture of it: it just happens, but only if I am in the place to receive it. I believe deeply that my painting "Man of Sorrows" was given to me to execute to show me just how God can and does take me on the journey, as a passenger, following, and not as the captain. That position is taken, in my work, my words, and my life.
The entire soul of the artist reaches and rules his or her work. As a Christian, it is not for me to try to separate my art from my faith. I live and breathe and walk and speak and write and draw and paint my faith, by the Grace of God, with His mercy THROUGH faith. When I question what is happening, or bring too much worldly thought and criticism to it, I in fact, diminish the power that has been provided me. And self criticism is commonplace with artists, creators.... it can be argued that to view your own work with as much emotional distance as is possible can be a good thing, in that you strive to improve it, with technique, with mediums, with emphasis, hues and composition: however, that very emotional distance can turn a gifted piece, an inspired work, which perhaps even the artist doesn't herself understand, to an uninspired work.
It is absurd to try to dissociate in yourself, the artist and the Christian. They are one, if you are truly Christian...otherwise, your art may be isolated from your soul by some system of aesthetics. This is the trap.
If you want to make a Christian work, then be Christian, and simply try to make a beautiful work, into which your heart will pass; do not try to "make Christian."
I know an artist who paints wonderful landscapes and his name is Michael Godfrey. His artist statement is simple and profound --His desire is "that his paintings reflect the wonder of God's creation." I admire him greatly and hold him and his mission in high esteem.
An artist who is wholly a Christian creates Christian art. It may manifest in portraits that somehow portray more of the subject's inner existence, the soul and spirit of the subject; or a deeper illustration of how the artist SEES that spirit, shares its strength or vulnerability. A landscape may indeed have a more incandescent depth, something that bypasses the eyes and strikes the spirit within.
I have always said that my husband Darryl's singing, bypasses the ear in some way and passes directly into the heart. It is that aspect which I have experienced in his singing that defies scrutiny, correction, criticism or technological analysis: it simply IS. It exists, it moves, it touches, it inspires, it comforts, it is of God.
It overflows from a heart suffused by grace.
If someone finds something I have created "beautiful", I have to stress that any beauty which is perceived emanates from my heart, a heart filled with God's love and my awe and wonder; the wonder of the beauty around me, the masterful glory of the clouds in the sky.... therefore it flows, not from me, but from God. if something bypasses the eye and strikes the heart, then I have succeeded. So I continue. I am on a journey, as we all are, growing and learning.
I create because I must. I know I must strive not to please people, but to glorify God. Perhaps this is one of the most difficult aspects of the artistic journey: to learn to trust God completely in the face of worldly criticism and advice, well meant though it may be. Indeed, this is perhaps the challenge of the Christian on his or her journey PERIOD.
I must run my own race, surrounded and encouraged by those who have journeyed before me. I am Christian, and my art is, therefore Christian.
Evolution of a Painting
...Or should I say “revolution” of a painting?
Have you ever had a painting you thought was coming along quite well, but you just knew it could be better? Perhaps the direction you were taking met a dead end?
Of course this can happen when you don't plan ahead with thumbnail sketches, composition assessments, and value sketches all designed to eliminate the need to take a sharp right turn during the painting process.
Well, I am afraid I sometimes let my brush get ahead of my brain, my paint get ahead of my plan, if I even HAD a completed plan. This is the story of a painting I THOUGHT was coming along just fine. I even 'kinda' liked it (high self praise for a self critical artist).
In the area in which I live, there are many lakes and rivers and consequently, many marsh areas, magnets for wildlife and flowers, a great source of interesting light reflections and daylight or weather changes which intrigue the artistic eye. Grasses, lily pads, flowering or not, trees, birds, clouds, shadows---all fodder for the artist either plein air, or photographed to be referenced for the studio process. I looked at many photos...this one is near my home.
I have many photographs taken from my area, and I often seek out other photos for reference on sites created specifically for artists, such as Paint my Photo. (http://paintmyphoto.ning.com/) Some of the photos on this page were copied from there.
...My process tends to be some sort of absorption of the myriad aspects that make up the appearance and FEELING of the subject I am painting... so wetlands bring to mind weeds, and mist perhaps, muted light, wildlife, lily pads.. the kind of place that would be silent except for bird calls, or frog croaks. I cannot explain it; I often look at many photos before I 'see' it in my mind.
What I have not mentioned is that I did paint a painting from my mind's eye, it sat in my studio for awhile, and I kept looking at it in a discontented way, so I actually started with a painting, hence "revolution" of a painting:
So, I began this painting, deciding on the grassy wetlands, and leaving the potential addition of wildlife as a later decision. I love the texture of wild grasses, the different shades of green and yellow, reds, and golds...against the blue and purple hues of the water.
I got rid of the row of evergreens, so I would have more depth, more sky and lowered my point of view to add to the depth of field.
As I said, I liked the direction it was taking (for these pieces seem to take their own direction at times) so I posted them on face book.
I am blessed to “know”, via face book, many talented artists, a favourite one of which is Michael Godfrey. He is a very talented artist who paints beautiful paintings. I was blessed with a dialogue with him about this painting and this is where my vision became reality.
He reminded me of some rudimentary, yet crucial, components to address in every painting, many of which could be lost in the enthusiasm of the artist. We have to address depth of field, warm colour verses cool colours (cooler in distance), fading intensity, the importance of the light affecting the mood...oh so much that I know in my brain, yet needed to add to this painting.
With that brief but potent input, I finished the painting, adding as you will see, depth with the cooler colours in the distance, warmer in the foreground; I added the source of light glowing as it does often in the clouds and reflections in the water....As Michael stated so well, “suble use and control of light” is something all artists need to learn and adopt in their work. Great advice from a great artist and one I consider a friend. Oh, I needed reminding!
So I did apply these things, and learned a great deal in the process, which is the aim of both the accomplished and the growing artist. Let me correct that--- all artists, whether accomplished as far as reputation and sales are concerned or not, are always growing; it is a great part of what we do, what we are called to do, and every work of art is a lesson. We learn as we do, including trying things that don't work: failing can only happen if you don't try!
Now, I have another painting with which I am not content... another 'revolution' work! And so it goes...
I ask you to forgive the play on words for this blog title. I simply couldn't resist.
I was asked recently to use whatever skills I possess to paint a 'Muskoka Chair' with some fine art design, determined by me, for a charity auction whose purpose was to raise funds for our local hospital fund. I was delighted to accept.
A Muskoka Chair is what is called elsewhere an Adirondack Chair, and this one had a unique feature in that it folded up, offering a new painting challenge.
I had painted a chair some time ago for another fund raising auction,
but it was not the folding kind.
My time was extremely limited, so I completed this work in one day. The previous day had been used to prepare the surface, already sanded, with layers of Gesso, and then tinted Gesso, in a pale blue shade that was part of my design plan. I used acrylic paints, professional grade. I have seen on the internet that some have done chairs with Latex, but I chose this route.
Here you can see the first layer of white Gesso being applied.
The chair had to be completely covered in several coats and I tinted the final coat with Ultramarine blue mixed with some white, a touch of red, umber and Dioxazine Purple until it reached the desired hue.
Once the pale blue was applied over the entire chair and allowed to dry, I mixed a darker blue from several colours for the background of the heron, representing water and sky.
And now I moved on to the actual design.
The first step was to draw the position of the Great Blue Heron, my subject, on the back of the chair, so that the feet would rest on the seat of the chair when completed. We see these birds around here quite often, and they are much beloved around our many lakes.
I carefully laid in a dark under painting for the body of the bird that would show through where I needed, in shadows or feathers.
Once dried, I worked on the head and body, building up colours and layers to catch the unique shading of this beautiful bird.
Once I was satisfied with my completed painting, it was sent to be sealed before going on to the auction.
My recommendations for this project include being able to spend more time than one day with it. While a pleasure to plan and execute, it is at times awkward to paint certain areas and the artist has to be aware of all the nooks and crannies of the chair, and how it will appear folded.
To do the painting, I had the chair on a table, the better to reach areas without bending which would tire me much more quickly. Remember to let the chair dry completely and cure, even with acrylics, before the sealing process.
Here is the finished chair.
I was pleased with the result although I do prefer canvas or paper as a support. The design has to take into account the spaces between the slats of the chair, and some subjects would not work on such an interrupted surface.
Welcome to my second “first” blog. I call it my second because my first “first” blog was meant to be more of a smiling introduction, a bit of humour to break the ice for a reader receiving an invitation to read YET ANOTHER blog. I enjoyed writing it, had fun doing so, but now the time has come to write of many things, hopefully of a more useful nature for those who dare to venture here.
I read a post recently answering my question: “ What would YOU like to find in a blog?” (my own mini market survey) which suggested that there is a need among new artists, trained or self-taught, young or not, who have yet to show their work, for some practical suggestions about where and how to actually begin their journey. How does one BEGIN? With what tools or learning materials should one begin?
Goodness knows there are many, many books and videos out there with instruction and suggestions, enough to weigh down even the most arduous enthusiasm, but they can sometimes be either so numerous as to intimidate the new artist, impossible to whittle down to ideal selections, or too advanced for some to decipher. Especially for the uninitiated, the one who has not been schooled in art, this plethora of material can be, well, overwhelming.
Despite some training, I prefer to call myself self-taught. It is not something to be ashamed of, for the journey can be more difficult without a teacher, and usually longer, but very rewarding. It gave me time to develop, and find my way as a person first.
So I am very qualified to respond to this person's question. I know what it is to wonder where to begin, what tools to look for, what books to study, and I have bounced from pillar to post finding them AND my self-confidence.
I didn't know where to begin either. I was overwhelmed by the choices I found, the expertise of the artists whose work I admired online, and the expense of launching. My husband was extremely supportive and more than willing to head in whatever direction I chose, if I could only CHOOSE one.
I had begun as a child with drawing and had remained in that stage of development throughout the years of marriage and travelling for my husband's work, having our son, home schooling him through high school level and so on. It wasn't until our son had come to the place where he was teaching himself computer programming at college level, that I had the time to explore my options where my passion for art was concerned.
So, how did I begin?
A friend of mine who was aware of my love of drawing invited me to join her at a workshop being presented in my neighbourhood by a watercolour artist. This was my particular jump start experience. I went, I watched, I conquered! Well, it sure felt like conquering to me when I produced a painting that even I liked! Considering it was my first attempt in a workshop, I was delighted with what I created. Not too shabby for one who had never used watercolours before!
That first hurdle made the next ones easier to approach. For me, jumping in was easier with a life guard. I used what I had learned to paint more, setting up my own still life and experimenting more with my chosen medium, watercolour. Now I was brave enough to try some things on my own. I tried and failed and tried again. Was the work I produced my best work? Well at that particular time, YES! Now I would be hesitatant to show any of them. Others I have reworked until I could share them with people other than my very supportive family. There are one or two that I still like, for one reason or another, usually personal, but of course, I see the flaws clearly with more experience, which is a good thing. We ARE our own worst critics, but that can aid in development. Just try not to be TOO hard on yourself, a lesson I am still learning.
So I would suggest that a good way to begin to get over what I call “starter-stalling”, also known as FEAR of FAILURE, (or conversely Fear of Success) is to search out and attend a workshop of some kind, within your budget, in a medium that is interesting to you. If, like me, your budget is limited, you will find there are community workshops available at a more affordable price. And of course now there are workshops on DVD and online! I did not have those options back in the day.
However you do it, start with someone who has been there before, and grow and experiment from there! Ask questions, try new things, watch and learn. Don't reinvent the wheel; just get it turning for you! If watercolour isn't your style, try another medium. I find acrylics very user friendly. I happen to like their ease of clean up and their quick drying time. If I need more drying time, I can use acrylics that are made to dry more slowly, and work with them for a longer period of time on my canvas. Oils are amazing, and required considerable practice for me. They still do! Or draw with pen and ink, pencil or pastel, or yes, coloured pencils. I was amazed at what some artists create using coloured pencil!
The main thing is to start somewhere. Begin with the understanding that you must try and fail before you can learn and grow. You have to give yourself time to find your niche, your preferred technique; this won't happen unless you get your stuff together and show up at the easel, or the kitchen table.
There will always be those who can do something with higher quality or speed than you, so get over that now. Don't let that intimidate you! It would be easy to feel defeated by the awesome talent of other artists. You are not them and they are not YOU. You are unique. Your purpose is to find what YOU like, what YOU find joy doing, where your talent and abilities lie and then do THAT with all your heart
Read, research, soak up information. Get your 'but' out of the way, and forge what can be a joy-filled future doing what you love. Find a place to start and then learn as much as you can about what you have chosen. Or move on to some other medium. You don't know until you try and try again. The mature artists are still trying out things, and techniques, and learning as they paint. You will be amazed by the things that happen once the wheels are turning and the motor running! Experience is truly the best teacher!
Next time I will discuss some specifics I found helpful in my journey. I am adding links all the time, so feel free to check those out. “The Painter's Keys” is one of the best I have found anywhere online, along with FASO (Fine Art Studio Online). Just start your engines, my friend, and have fun on the trip!
I will also be sharing some of the best books I have found on the market.