Friday, January 29, 2016

blue skies

I am loving this winter
compared to the last!
- Pauline Leger :)
I took this photo just the other day
on my afternoon walk.
Can you see the second sun there? 
When I took the photo, 
i was blinded by the sun in my face
so i didn't notice anything else in the sky...
but who knows? 
Maybe it's a reflection of something in the lens,
or maybe it's another planet.
Either way, it's beautiful.
This (below) is a photo of our front yard
taken a few days ago.
..and this is the same view,
taken at about the same time last year!!
Ask me why i was so often down in the dumps.

(the snowplow, trying to clear our road last year. Yes, that was the ROAD)

I found last winter so difficult
(for more reasons than one)
and i wonder how you all put up
with my ranting & complaining all the time?

The main issue for me last year was this:
I worked at a job that i grew to hate.
It's a strong word, I know.

I tried to like it, i honestly did.
I tried to understand my co-workers.

I tried to take the advice of some people,
to just go in, do your job, and come home
but i just couldn't do it.
(my friends told me to not go back) :) 
The frustration stayed with me.
And my reasons for staying?
I had said YES.
I needed to work.
The money was good.
It was close to home.
It was only a 5 month contract.
Eventually though,
i started to notice a difference in me.
A difference I didn't like.
I was more often sick.
I would often wake with headaches.
I was losing patience 
far more often than i normally would.
I didn't want to see my friends much.
Everyone annoyed me
and everything just felt heavy.
Some would say that's just menopause -
and maybe some would be right... 
but i know it was more than that.
It was something deeper.
(and no, it wasn't depression)
So I finished my 5 month term
and i told myself I would never work again
in such a negative environment,
regardless of the money.
It may not be negative for everyone,
but it was negative for me.
Imagine putting an free spirited artist
(who is not interested in material wealth)
to work at Wall Street.
Yeah, it was kinda like that. 
And I say all of this because
i met with my doctor a few weeks ago
for a routine check up,
and the first thing she said was:
Wow. You look so much better
than the last time i saw you.
I told her about my decision
to stay away from work that drains me
and my starting a gratitude journal again,
and going outside whenever I can...
First, she said she was so happy for me.
Then she said:
i know a few things about you...
I know that you can't stand injustice & greed

I know you love art & making work that matters

and I know you're an introvert...

So how did you ever make the decision
to even apply for this job?
she asked with a smile on her face.
(she's a good doctor and she knows me well) :)
We all do things we don't wanna do sometimes.
That's life.
Very few people love their jobs all the time.
But deep down inside
when we are negatively affected
by the environment we are in,
we have to do everything in our power
to remove ourselves from that environment.
Deep down inside,
we all know what's good and what's bad for us.
So I let go.
I decided I wasn't going back to the same thing this year.
Letting go was exactly what I needed.
I am in such a better place now.
Letting go of expectations.
From others and myself.
Letting go of the idea that
I need to make a ton of money.
(Again, we need far less than we think.)
I'm happy for those who reach their financial goals
but if my goals are different (if i don't want the BMW)
then my LIFE will be different too.
Let go of society's definition of success.
Do your OWN thing.
If you work at a donut shop with fun people,
and you get up in the morning
and you're happy to go to work -
you are living a good life!
If you love crafts
and you work at a craft shop with fun people,
you are successful!
There are people who make $75,000/year
and who 'burn out' on a regular basis.
That is NOT my definition of a good life.
And speaking of a good life,
whenever i see photos on-line of someone's work space
i'm usually in awe of how clean it all looks.
Of course, we all know things aren't always as they SEEM.
Everything in its place.
Everything organized and tidy.
Not a speck of dust anywhere.
Let's just say that's not me. ;)
This is part of my workspace
and it's on a good day.
With crap on every inch of the table...
and lots of stuff on the floor too!
Fluffy with a bad hair day.
We all have our bad hair days, right?
So we also have our bad/messy art table/floor days.
Blue skies...all the way.
Just for you.
Thanks for being here!
Have a great weekend everyone!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

how inspiration found me

In our life, there is a single color,
as on an artist's palette,
which provides the meaning of life and art.
It is the color of LOVE.
- Marc Chagall
There's been very little art happening here
for the past few months,
but a few nights ago,
i sat my ass down and told myself
i wasn't getting up
until i painted SOMETHING.
It could look like crap, I didn't care.
But I was gonna paint something.
Whenever i have these dry spells,
i try to practice patience and trust.
Patience with myself (you can't force something out)
and trust that inspiration will find me eventually.
So I lit a candle,
put on some instrumental music,
and played with paints.
I initially started with just a few colours,
and the intention of just spreading them
on the canvas with a palette knife.
Just blocks of color.
I kept playing with colours & shapes,
alternating between palette knife & brush,
feeling at this point like it was nothing
but a big mess.
But it didn't matter. 
I was painting.
Then I flipped the canvas upside down,
and only then did I notice
what looked like a woman with 3 legs
(upside down, at the top center of the canvas).
Or maybe it's a woman holding an umbrella.
Or tugging a security blanket. ;)
So I flipped it over again
defined a few more lines,
and something happened at this point.
I began to like it.
I looked at it for a while,
then I left it for the evening.
When i woke up the next morning,
i looked at it with fresh eyes
and natural lighting
and i loved it.
Funny how that happens...
When i finished painting in the evening,
i thought "yeah, i guess it's not bad"...
but when i saw it in the morning light,
after a good nights' sleep...
i really liked it.
I see people and streets
and a city and trees...
And the best part for me
is the mystery woman...
Another quick drawing
from the DRAWING YOUR LIFE book.
My gratitude journal,
that i had neglected for a while
but have now begun to write something in here
on a more regular basis.
One of the best ways
to make your life better
is to jot down a few things
you are grateful for each day...
to become conscious of what you HAVE
rather than what you are missing.
And by what you have
i don't mean things. :)
What I'm currently enjoying...
the biography of Marc Chagall.
I love art that tells stories.
Marc Chagall's art tells stories.
A beautiful little video here,
with the work of Marc Chagall
and music that makes my heart melt:

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Monday, January 18, 2016

light and dark, past and present

Hello folks...
I've been thinking a lot lately.
Thinking about what stories I want to tell.
What stories want to be told.
I haven't felt inspired to do much painting
and although i have been writing,
It feels like I've been thinking more than doing.
Started the day wanting to clear out some things
in my blue room 
and then I found this.
This is Liz - in all her glory.
This photo is so her.
She's been gone since 2011 already.
Hard to believe.
I think of her often
and sometimes I write her a letter,
just like we used to do 
when she lived far away from home.
It's hard to process such a loss
even after years have passed.
She had sent me some of her photos
when she was studying her craft in Ontario.
She and I were studying at the same time.
(she in photography & I in graphic design)

She had a way of capturing light and shadows
that always made my jaw drop.
The light and the dark.
She was always able
to see this in people as well.
The good and the bad.
She believed EVERYONE was salvageable.
Regardless of what you had done in your past.
And this unexpected surprise
on a trip to St-Martin's, here in New Brunswick
when all she was aiming for
was the lighthouse and the water.
I love sorting things out like this
because I always find
things I'd forgotten I had
and it always gives me perspective
on where I've been
and where I'm going.
Past and present.
Like finding this...
It's a pencil drawing I did of Brother André (Frère André).
My grandmother Leger loved him
so i drew this for her when I was 19.
When Mémére Leger died,
I gave it to mom and she kept it in a frame.
And now it's here with me again.
I'll need to iron out the paper
and put it in a frame again.
I used to love doing detailed portraits like this.
Now - not so much.
Back when i signed my work
like i was fucking Picasso!
My lovely niece Melissa got me this for Christmas
(and other fun stuff too!)
It's a pencil case
but i hung it like a work of art for now.
And the print on the left
is something I found on ETSY
by an artist in Germany.
It's an illustration of Paris (Montmartre).
I love it.
You can find her art here.
If I don't find inspiration,
who will?
Years ago, I used to love portraits
that looked like photographs (like the Frère André one)
now, I love these kinds of portraits
because they are all about imagination and feeling
rather than just "draw what you see".
Jean-Michel Basquiat was a genius
when it came to playing with color and composition.
Not everyone would agree
but that's ok. ;)

I love his stuff anyway.

Doing a portrait that looks like a photograph
is something that anyone can learn.
(yes, that means you!)
They only need to be willing
to put in the hours
to practice their skill.
It doesn't mean it's any less 'art',
but it just impresses me less now.
I just think that doing something like this (below)
requires far more confidence
and imagination
and skill
and courage as an artist.
I always feel like I'm getting
an intimate look
into the soul of the artist
when i see something like this.

Into his heart.

Into his mind.
There is a quote by Leonardo da Vinci that I love:
Where the spirit does not work with the hand
there is no art.
That's what this is to me.
A painting with spirit.
Van Gogh may have had a broken spirit,
but this portrait was done nonetheless
with heart and not just with hand.
You can feel it.

When you begin as an artist,
it's important to be able to paint an apple
that looks like an apple.
But eventually, if you stick with art long enough,
you're gonna want to paint that apple
the way you feel it,
not the way you see it.
You're gonna want to give more life to the apple
than what you see with your eyes.

And you're gonna start looking for paintings 
that make you feel something
rather than those that look like photographs.
At least I hope so. :)

I may have shared this video already
but it's filled with Van Gogh's work
and a beautiful Don McLean song,
so I'm sharing it again.
Thanks for being here!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

to do or not to do?

Greetings earthlings! :)
Well, I've accomplished very little
in that usually wonderfully creative time
between Christmas and New Year.
Here we are, almost mid January...
all getting back to our 'normal' routines,
whatever that may be for you.
I woke up this morning,
made a pot of coffee,
and decided I would sit myself down,
and do Susannah Conway's
(you can download it here, if you're interested)
I suck at goal setting and planning
and I don't do resolutions -
but her way of looking at things...
the important questions she asks,
always seem to lead me on the right path.
I've always been hard on myself.
I am not a high achiever,
& I don't have high expectations,
but I get a LOT of shit done
in the course of a year,
and I don't take enough time
to celebrate that.
I've never been good at celebrating
my accomplishments. 
There's a disconnect between
what I DO
and what I THINK I do.
I'm surprised sometimes,
when I look back at what I've done
or where I've been.
If I want to do something, I do it,
then i just move on to something else.
Until someone says: "that's amazing!",
I don't think much of it.
Last week, someone asked me about 
the illustrations I had done in the past
for children's books.
I pulled out a few things I had done
over the past few years
and sent pics of them to her in an email.
As I was going through them, I started thinking:
"wow. I've done a lot of illustrations!" 
"wow. How lucky that I was able to illustrate
so many fun children's books!"
"Some of these are pretty damn good!"
I do things in small increments...
one little piece of art, here and there.
But I rarely ever pull them all together
and look at the whole.
I guess that's what I'm trying to do -
in art and in life.
Pulling everything together
and celebrating what actually gets done.
Celebrating the lessons learned.
Celebrating the small steps towards change.
Towards a life that feels more like "me".
I'm not gonna get all corny
and open a bottle of champagne or anything,
but just SEEING everything
I've managed to get done,
even when I feel like I'm not doing much.
Last year, I did the "29 faces in February" art challenge.
One small portrait of myself, every day for 29 days.
I did them on small index cards,
so they wouldn't take much time.
When I finished the month,
the index cards went to the corner of my table,
and I never looked at them again.
Until the other night, when I was sorting out some things
and I saw them.
I put them all on the floor, all 29 of them,
next to one another,
and I was impressed with the mosaic of color and style.
"Wow." I thought.
"I did this".
Sometimes, I actually don't remember
making the art.
But i do know one thing:
i was happy while I was doing it. :)
Because many of us as artists
are rarely compensated with money (at least consistently),
it's up to us to gather our work now and then
and admire how much we actually get done.
Money is never an indicator
of how much you accomplish (or not).
Never use money
as a measuring stick for anything.
Especially not for your happiness.
Use joy instead.
Peace of mind.
The way you feel 
when you sit yourself down
with a blank canvas & paints,
or with a new journal and a sparkly pens,
or with a good book...
Ralph Waldo Emerson only came out
of his sanctuary in the woods when his money ran out,
and he came out only long enough to make enough money,
to allow himself to go back to the woods again
and do what brought him joy - write.
If making money had been his priority,
I doubt that we would have
so many of his great writing.
The real joy for me
has nothing to do with the money I make as an artist,
but it has everything to do
with making the art itself.
So I'm setting 'intentions' for the new year.
Not plans, not resolutions, not goals.
Which basically means:
no pressure.
And also,
something you can't fuck up. :)
 ...and a little bit of art. 
Very little these days.
 I'm taking what comes my way
and making the best of it.
 Acrylic on paper...
On fire, with little energy.
That's what eating a ton of chocolate
and drinking too much wine will do.
And menopause. :)
What I'm currently reading.
The first is a graphic novel,
beautifully done about Dahmer as a student in school.
We tend to forget that there are killers amongst us.
The second is written by the author of WILD,
a collection of beautiful stories & words of advice,
by someone (Cheryl) who was basically an orphan at 21.
And John Elder Robison (Look me in the eye)
is the brother of Augusten Burroughs,
the sad memoir of how they were raised
by parents who were both mentally ill.
John's book is about his life with asperger's.
Their father was a college professor in the eastern USA,
and their mother was a poet/writer.
It always amazes to me that people can be raised in such dysfunction
and grow to become productive, sane human beings.
I guess some make it (like John Elder)
and some don't (like Jeffrey Dahmer).
I am loving each of these books.

Thanks for being here.