Thursday, 22 March 2012

Paint Your Way to Paris!

Tonight I am discombobulated, and in a conundrum. If you've been checking in on my blurbs, or more likely somehow came across them by accident, perhaps you've noticed I talk about painting and great works of art a lot but have little to show yet of my own finished pieces. This may be because I start so many works and let them sit in limbo for ages. And. Ages.

Today I spotted this Andy Warhol quote:
"Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art."

Earlier this morning my partner came up with a condensed and effective summation of his own:
"You need to do it to get it done." 
(He was simply referring to me getting out of bed before 8 AM, yet the similarity to the Warhol quote is striking...K has always been a ruthless editor of lengthy phrases, able to hone a sentiment to its precise and hard hitting point in much fewer words ~ you may add this to the long list of reasons why I adore him) (I also refuse to let a fancy shoe company steal the spotlight by going too far with an entirely unrealistic too short version of the quote.)

So, here I am blogging, here I am entertaining myself on an overvalued social network that shall remain unnamed, here I am job searching in extensive vain (today I spent over four hours navigating a single lengthy online job application I kid you not), here I am cleaning my house to impeccable sheen, here I am NOT PAINTING enough!  Not only that, there has been a shortage of people showing up for the life drawing sessions, and the disheartened organizer has decided to cancel it until next September! Whaaa? I am devastated. Must I start a new group myself ? This island is full of artists who love to model and draw...where is everyone? All we need to do is sit and draw, and the model just has to stay stiller than the rest of easy, I've done both!  I had just started enjoying being part of a really meaningful group, and already there is talk of not enough interest. I'm not sure I can take this one sitting down...or standing up matter. 

Here is my other conundrum. My mother lives in the Etruscan countryside of Italy, in what I call my "parallel universe". I have not seen her since I went to visit in 2007 which means I should start believing in time machines as well. Now, a family reunion is planned for August. It's only my mother's side of the family though, and just the in this case it is not so much an entirely inclusive family reunion as it is a partial gathering of a scattered clan. I have cousins in South Africa and Austria, and family in other parts of Canada...and everyone is converging in a country house outside of Paris for a week in August. I'm expected to attend and of course I really want to be there! But I'm not sure anyone truly knows how ill equipped I am to make an overseas trip, except maybe my best friend in the entire world knows, and that is another story. These days I can't even take the ferry to Nanaimo due to lack of a return fare! And must we all travel in 2012 anyway? What if the world chooses Paris as the epicentre for tragedy? Wait a minute, people have already died millions of times over in epicentres of tragedy in their own home towns or abroad, all over the world throughout history, so really, that is a rather silly and self-centred fear. In any case, I was pouting about such sour grapes when a friend chirped up and told me:
"Paint Your Way to Paris! Do a painting every week and blog along the way! Auction at the end of the week. Get famous! Go to Paris!" Well, I love her idea but fame I find a scary nightmare and the idea of churning out weekly paintings is even more intimidating. Paris, though, not a stale biscuit at all. And I do like the sound of having a structured goal.

So, I am going to lock myself in my studio and get busy in my little fantasy world. By the way, we tend to go mildly stir crazy in these parts as the long drawn out winter weather alternates between teasing and receding signs of spring's slow arrival, so the time for creative outbursts is ripe and I must jump on it.

I think it apt that I now go quiet for a bit and do not post again until I have finished a new painting to show you! I won't be gone too long...just a few days. And I can't lose...I can keep hanging my work in our home and enjoying the scenery no matter what! I'm turning out the lights now and going to bed, darkness drops even deeper, and a new day will come, whose light will not be wasted by anything it reveals.

Our Living Room on Gabriola, Trees Waking
My Mother's Living Room in Basso Romano, Trees Shining

If a tree peaks in the window in the middle of nowhere, does it make a sound? Yes, yes it does...a sweet and content sigh that whispers "You are always here with me anyway".

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Out of the Woodwork, Creaking With Vague Ideas

Picasso said
"You have to have an idea of what you're going to do, but it should be a vague idea".

Saturday, and I woke to misty sun rays swirling through the morning shadows...(there are new buds outside the living room window, and more birds appearing on the porch)....

...and I was treated to an incredible breakfast put together by my man....
orange, avocado, banana, herbal cheese on nutty bread and...potater chips!!

On Thursday I signed up for my third summer as an artisan at the Gabriola Farmer's Market which begins in May. Only two months to get ready. And before then, I'm going to show my painting "One Season" at the Crafted Booty Event thanks to Mariko and Bryan.

Meanwhile, I plod away in solitude and just hope I can be pleased with the next eventually completed painting. I know my style is naive and simple, but it does come from my heart...I have no idea at the outset how a painting will evolve except that always, always, if I have a vision to begin with, it never winds up anything like it. Just as a leopard can jump at you and surprise you within your own dream, the finished result is always an entirely unannounced arrival. But usually halfway through, the painting is proud to be unfolding and it guides my brush and says "I am what I am, I was born like this, don't fret."

So, I'm just looking forward to buds opening, and getting my creaky body out of the house...I tore up part of the front garden the other day to rid it of weeds and make room for flower beds. What to plant there, not sure yet. As Picasso also said "If you know exactly what you're going to do, what's the good in doing it?" 

Quite frankly, whenever we start to slip into doubt (as I did at the start of this month in my job interview) we should all listen to good old Picasso. He was so full of clever quotes. I'll do better next time, Pablo! 

Incidentally The Tate Britain is showing Picasso currently, in case you are in London. 
I'm not, so as usual, books will have to do.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

What a Mystifying Painting! ~ Erm, That's My Palette.

I found this simple little wooden brush holder at GIRO awhile back and it's my favourite tool with which to tame my somewhat OCD oil painting method.
I start out with it empty, 
but as I use my brushes, 
I place them in the slots, 
and if possible in the order of the colour wheel. 
That way I can get more out of an already used brush if the colour on it works again on its own, or as part of a mix. Once the holes are all full with used up brushes, I usually clean them all and start fresh again.

As for cleaning brushes quickly before almost immediate reuse, a friend of mine recommended a a gentle and deep rubbing through with a tossable cotton cloth and a quick rinse with dishwashing liquid and water ...this can save relying on turpentine every time!

I also like to keep dry brushes and Q-tips handy simply for scraping through a wet layer of paint to the reveal the dry layer of differing shade underneath, or even to wipe off excess from heavy-handed dabs, rather than smudge them with a cloth.

Speaking of Smudge, here she is keeping me company on her favourite sleeping chair in the studio.

I love having my pets around while I paint. Usually Seeker will plop down on the rug and watch me with one eye while watching the cat with the other, or give me advice on shading and such:

And of course, for the dreamer who lives inside of  books far too much, pets are willing to oblige without questions as well...blurring out now....envisioning...dancers of some sort, in fluffy aqua tutus against mild russet walls....and caramel orange smudges.....

Saturday, 10 March 2012

No Matter When You Die, It Will Be Too Soon

Nothing more to say here. The title says it all. Well, ...except...No matter how difficult things get, stay in the adventure. Go towards the light and the love. Violence begets violence. Stay the peaceful one, no matter how hard it feels to do so, no matter how it tears at your soul. Stay peaceful but inquisitive, peaceful but searching, peaceful but open, peaceful but passionate. We are all still learning, at different paces. Have compassion. Do not think you are always right, or expect others to know it. Listen. Understand. Be graceful. Communicate with respect. I try, I really do, but we're all flawed. Acknowledge your flaws, but don't beat yourself up over them. Don't take things personally. Look at the big picture, the one that is way (WAY, sorry to say) bigger than you. Put your own beautiful self in the world, make no apologies for what you entered life as naturally, but know you can keep moving towards your better self. You will hurt yourself and others on the way to your enlightenment. It's inevitable. You arrived here for a reason, exactly as you came. I'm not wise...this is what I have learned from others, and what I value so far on my journey. Often, I find it hard to listen to and to live by. So, I pass it on to you, my sister, my brother, my dear dear entire worldly family, in thanks for teaching me the same, and in the hope we can all keep each other going. ~ Ranza xo

Friday, 9 March 2012

I Don't Know Why I Liked it So

This is one of my favourite oil paintings ever, Blue Mountain by Vasily Kandinsky, for so many intangible reasons.

Painted in Russia in 1908/09, I first saw it (or at least, first really paid attention to it) while flipping through a book called Living Colors, A Guide to Color Palettes Through the Ages (on page 143, if you happen to have the book). I turned the page upon it and stared at it for a very long time.

BLUE MOUNTAIN ~ Vasily Kandinsky

I don't know why I liked it so, perhaps the first lure was the combination of vivid colours brought to a textural burgeoning flourish by short dab & chop shaggy carpet brush strokes! It's three coordinates are the three primary colours, and I think this is at the heart of its emotional impact. It struck me as fervent, playful and yet prophetic. So, it didn't surprise me to read that Kandinsky believed that "colours should be used in art purely for their emotional and symbolic content." The segmenting of this painting beckons you to honour the very separate physical presence and movement of the red, blue and the yellow, parted between by a rising divide that to me resembles a white fire-hearted river or glacier smoking its way to the sky! The triumphant rearing up of the horses (oh I love horses!) heralds a proud pageantry and optimistic procession marching onward. Its modern "chunkiness" and brave simplicity of contrast just makes me want to stare at it and enjoy the impact. And above all it inspires me, I do believe I will reach for this type of effect in some of my yet to be unleashed work (says the procrastinator). 
Curious about Kandinsky, I read up on him a bit more and realized I enjoy his philosophy as well as his groundbreaking embrace of abstractness (oh to be ahead of your time). I also share his dream of  "a better more spiritual future through the transformative powers of art."

Oddly enough, the house we live in is painted room by room in the three primary colours! The living room is red and yellow, the kitchen is blue, my studio is yellow and the bathroom is red! This sets off a base for the most adventurous decor, as any object added as an accent falls gracefully into the entire prism and nothing really needs to match but instead blends in to subtly enrich the overall feeling of charm! Is art intrinsic to our lives? Yes, even in the most subliminal way.

Daffodils in Sunny Kitchen Against Blue Walls
Indian Accents in the Living Room
My Yellow Walls in the Studio

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Broccoli and Eggs for Dinner, Lucian Freud for Breakfast

The other day set out to be a drainer and today was not much better in its over all dull pall of events...I've been thinning my soles looking for work in Nanaimo during these tough times (as if I describe a passing phase) and had finally landed an interview (exactly where shall remain untold for now). I was so out of practice, even though I tried to prepare well, I don't believe I was in top form or presented properly. Neither did I foresee being tested after the oral interview on my computer skills...I was feeling rusty and the easiest steps I knew so well on any other day would not even click. Wanting so much to win the job I became flustered during the test and was sure I had failed it (right after boldly expressing what a calm and steady worker I am under pressure, too!) Before even leaving the building I was convinced I had spoken too much and digressed under questioning, had not remained focused on the specifics of the job description, had forgotten entirely to mention certain crucial aspects of my resume that may have helped clinch it, talked too much about irrelevant experiences, and got stuck stumbling over my answers. To top it off I left in a rush, carrying a pen that belonged to the panel, and had to run back and return it.
On the ferry ride home what small bit of confidence I was clinging to had begun to wane, and by mid-evening, I was doubting myself entirely. I said to K, I'm sorry honey, I'm not going to get this job. He said, you know what, it's OK. What will be, will be, and I love you no matter what. 

Still, I slunked off (if that is not a word, let me call it one, it is very descriptive of the physical manifestation of my mood at that moment)...I slunked off and shut myself into my chilly studio and proceeded to get lost in my painting to avert the slow demise into self-loathing.
After some distant noise in the kitchen, K knocked on the door with this steaming plate of broccoli, tomato soup and egg souffle and locally baked bread.

K is the best cook ever, no matter what we have in the cupboards, he serves it up so beautifully every time. His daughter F also surprised me with a plate of her home made chocolate chip hummus concoction. Sustenance! Abundance! I made some headway with my painting, and went to bed full and feeling loved.

Today there was no call from the prospective job, and when I walked our dog Seeker to the mailbox in the rain, he sat chewing his stick watching me sympathetically as I shoved my hand deep to the back of the slot...nothing. Not the small refund we're expecting from pet insurance, not the very important mail K has been waiting weeks for, not even a rejection letter from any previous job applications...nada. Just the Harbour City Star newspaper.

When I came home, I decided to watch again a video my mum had sent me about Lucian Freud. His softly spoken opening words hit home with me at the core of my being. I want very much to find a fulfilling and enjoyable job with a dental plan and kind coworkers and a viable salary. And I need to keep looking rather than sit waiting on a call that may not come. At the same time, I only have control over one thing....I can keep painting, no need to answer to anyone but myself about the value of my endeavour or the quality of my work. I can choose how to spend my days. And sometimes I will even ignore the dishes and paint on through the piling mess. After all, it doesn't seem Lucian dusted much.

I have a gorgeous book on Lucian Freud, have held a fascination with him, and used to fantasize (while he was alive) about being painted by him (how I would have made it to London was not part of the fantasy...maybe on a unicorn). David Hockney speaks about what it was like to be painted by Freud in this amusing and insightful video, also recommended by my mum, which made me giggle.

Even though the last couple of days have been pervaded by a sense of socked-in stagnancy, the little boosts from family ~ my love's cooking, F's chocolate hummus spread, and my mum's perfectly timed video share have been sparks of light. I wish I could capture that quality of light on canvas....perhaps there is a way.

Itchy Red Velvet and Tobacco Spit....Almost

For the first time in my life, I have a real studio space. My very own studio space! Before you start to envision rafters and skylights and high white ceilings and paint generously splattered on giant easels and a robust nude model eating grapes in graceful repose while laid out upon scads of drop sheets somewhere off to the side, zoom in a bit. I have a little room in the corner of the house with an entirely separate entrance opening onto three outside steps, and one window looking out at the poplar trees, and an easel propped against a wall, my own closet, my ancient rickety bookcase, a mish mash of natty pillows squished beneath an armchair caved in with books, all my blank canvases awaiting their slow awakening, my antique desk, a rug for our dog to nap on, a shelf for our cat to peer from, jars of wornout brushes, a quirky 1960's lamp, everything I need, or so I feel, to become the painter I want to be!

OK, I am giving you my real life version of one of my favourite opening pages in a you know it? that evokes nostalgia you can taste and smell, that prods poignantly at the ache for creative space and the potential launch of a thousand future imaginings. When my sister and I lived together in our wild twenties, she framed the first page from Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffanys, and hung it on the front door of our groovy Calgary apartment. Much later in life, when I moved out again on my own as a newly single woman, I typed out the same page of script on mottled green paper, and put it in a small faded wooden frame and kept it on a desk in the bedroom of my Vancouver apartment. I've still got it, and now it sits in my own studio on the window ledge, and I enjoy pausing to read it every now and then when I experience a lag in my motivation, or a bout of identity crisis, or a general absence of mid-century charm anywhere nearby. Or even if I miss my sister.

Here it is....(best to close your eyes and have a good friend read it to you aloud in a soft and distant  voice):

      "I am always drawn back to places where I have lived, the houses and their neighborhoods. For instance, there is a brownstone in the East Seventies where, during the early years of the war, I had my first New York apartment. It was one room crowded with attic furniture, a sofa and fat chairs upholstered in that itchy, particular red velvet that one associates with hot days on a train. The walls were stucco, and a color rather like tobacco-spit. Everywhere, in the bathroom too, there were prints of Roman ruins freckled brown with age. The single window looked out on a  fire escape. Even so, my spirits heightened whenever I felt in my pocket the key to this apartment; with all its gloom, it still was a place of my own, the first, and my books were there, and jars of pencils to sharpen, everything I needed, so I felt, to become the writer I wanted to be."  ~ Truman Capote

We're not all the same about personal space...for me, a private area, decorated by me and for me is a very nurturing and focused place to be. Sometimes I need to sit alone entirely uninterrupted, pouring at length over images in art books, turning from one page to the next with reluctant slothlike attachment... before I even lift up a brush....even if I am simply searching for a shade of red, or an eyelid to study. Sometimes I need to sit and meditate and stare out the window to watch the sun change the shadows on a tree. Sometimes I need an hour to select and layout my paints! Most of all, the room is there for me to enter at my own whim, and know it is there and mine, clean or messy, but always solitary, and always offering to aid me in my process. For me, it feels very hard earned at this point in my life, and yet I still want so badly to truly deserve having it.

The walls are stucco too!