One: Depression

depression, blog, co-creation, mixed media

Symptoms of depression include feeling tired. Exhaustion is often a topic of discussion among my entourage lately. More and more people outside my circle of acquaintances are also expressing a desire for a break from the whirlwind of engagements and responsibilities leading nowhere.

Plague of Worried Well

In addition to these various conversations, several people I know have either committed suicide or attempted it. The trend seems to be growing and getting younger. Generally, there seems to be a lack of hope or the loss of a sense of fulfillment. Some have identified this trend as a plague: the plague of the worried well.

Divorce

The northern hemisphere generally enjoys freedom from starvation, physical ailments brought on by lack of shelter or clean water, enslavement and poor educational opportunities. We are the privileged. Obviously, this is changing as the numbers of disenfranchised, homeless and unemployed rise. The divorce between church and state enforces this situation. We are no longer taught the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Creating a link

Much of my work attempts to create a link between the material and the spiritual worlds. In the separation of the two we have formed a meaningless existence focused on the rights of the individual instead of the whole. The malaise from which our very comfortable half of the world is suffering has its roots in a complete disregard for our planet, its well-being and the well-being of its inhabitants or future generations.

Depression is cyclic

Depression visits me on occasion. What Dr. Ben Kim suggests as an antidote for these very normal down times is extremely helpful. When the first seven suggestions fall short of shifting the mood, the last two, in generous service to others, usually gets the job done.

Embracing the flow

We all get down at times. The flow of up and down is a natural occurrence. Instead of resisting the flow we could try a different tactic. Holding the tension of a depression while actively looking for the lessons it is trying to teach us opens doors we never knew existed. Patience, presence to the moment and persistent gratitude all help to get us through the tough times.

Still on

Don’t forget to take in the show at Harcourt House. “In Search of the Human Essence” runs until July 14th. I forgot to post a sign: Lift the Veil. Take a peek under the plastic sheet supporting the poem. Enjoy!

Coming soon

August is very busy with a show in the Mezzanine at Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, beginning the 9th. Collectif Devenir hangs “Abondance” on 20th with an opening reception on the 7th September at the Kiwanis Gallery in Red Deer. And the member show for CAVA opens on the 5th October. Keep tuned for more details!

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One: Pilgrimage

pilgrimage, retreat, blog, flow, trust

This weekend we participated in a short two-day pilgrimage in Banff. The plan entailed two fifteen-kilometer walks, one from the park gate to Banff and from Banff up Sulphur Mountain then to the hot springs. Not all plans come to fruition as envisioned.

Perfect for a pilgrimage

Perfect weather greeted us Saturday morning. Our meditation revolved around the question “Where are you going?”, John 13: 36-38. We had each selected an image cut from a magazine the previous evening. Our leaders encouraged us to seek out the reason why the photo spoke to us and how it reflected our life within the context of the quote.

pilgrimage, retreat, blog, flow, trust
Seeing clearly

Why this photo?

The first reflection: the couple in my image gazed toward the light yet the mist impaired their vision. A sense of well-being permeated the photo. Although I cannot see the results clearly (I am not in control) I can trust the direction I have taken.

Preparations

In preparation for this event I had taken up some strenuous physical exercises at the gym while breaking in a new pair of walking shoes. I had neglected to consider the weight of a back pack. Not used to the load I found the easy first walk difficult to complete. My feet and legs were in torment by eventide as I had fatigued tendons beyond comfortable. Later I noticed the tenderness of my arms, hands and shoulders as well as the muscles embracing my rib cage. Apparently, I had used the walking sticks well.

Pain

Early the next morning I stretched my left foot, testing the waters so to speak. Ah, yes. All was well. My right heel screamed in protest. Not so good. The organisers arranged for the backpacks to be stored for the day. Even without this weight, I decided to forego the climb. Several people took the bus with me to the gondola. We were to meet everyone at the top for lunch, some spiritual nourishment and a soak in the hot springs.

pilgrimage, retreat, blog, flow, trust
Passing the time

Meditating

Over the course of the day I reflected on the question and the photo. I took the time to sketch the view. Having nowhere to sit I developed the drawing to the point when I could finish it from memory as I took the weight off my feet in front of the elevator. Joining the others who had stayed behind we decided to eat as the lunch hour had passed long ago.

pilgrimage, retreat, blog, flow, trust
Allowing the flow

Finding quiet in the tourist flow

The second reflection: amidst the bustle of the environment I remembered a quiet moment from the previous day. A beaver dam, perfectly constructed, adorned the south side of the path. The water flowed, keeping the pool fresh behind the barrier. A mound of sticks hooked within a grove of dead pine toward the middle of the pond provided shelter for the inhabitants. A perfect example of co-habitation. Beavers only block the flow enough to create a depth of water to keep them safe. Allowing the flow refreshes their habitat. My life is best when I allow rather than resist.

Peace

I could complain about the difficulties of the pilgrimage. I could. And instead of the peace and the gratitude of being able to walk again without limping I would be drained of energy. I choose to allow the flow. I choose to trust. All is well, and all will be well.

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Different Strokes: Drying Oil Stick

oil stick, drying, drawing, life drawing, flow

Artists have their specialities. Being human we sometimes get bored doing the same thing over and over again. One of the ways to keep fresh is to try a series in a different genre or a different medium. A favorite break in routine for me is drawing, life drawing in particular. Lately I have returned to using oil stick as a mark maker for this exercise.

Uninterrupted flow

Oil stick has a wonderful quality; it does not impede fluidity of movement. When I am in the zone I require freedom of stroke and uninterrupted flow. It had been quite a while since I had used the oil sticks. A hard, outer coating naturally forms over time as the oil dries on the surface. Removing this thick layer revealed a fresh source of colour, ready for action. Occasionally, the entire stick dries solid. Since it had been so long I was not surprised to toss a few into the garbage bin.

drying, oil stick, drawing, life drawing, flow
Thick and heavy.

Too soft is too heavy

Different manufacturers produce different qualities. Different colours also vary in texture and degree of solidity. So far in my exploration of different name brands the Shiva line affords the best mix of intensity with a firm texture. The Windsor and Newton variety is rather soft, leaving too much paint on the surface. Consequently, stacking the drawings becomes a problem.

drying, oil stick, drawing, life drawing, flow
Covering horizontal surfaces

Notoriously slow drying

Oil is notoriously slow drying. Hence a dilemma occurs at the end of a three-hour session as one prepares to go home. How to preserve the best drawings without transferring colours from one page to the next is the question. Most of my quick sketches done on cartridge paper could be put together, oil to oil, as I would not consider keeping them. One two-minute drawing, however, had caught the pose so well. I placed it on top of the stack.

Sticking together

What to do with the larger, more complicated drawings? I have tried placing them in plastic bags, the one the stack of paper came with when I bought it. That works fine for the first round. The oil, still rather wet, leaves traces on the inside of the bag which become a hazard for the next session so one can essentially only use them once.

oil stick, drying, drawing, life drawing, flow
No time to dawdle.

Separating things

Another possibility is placing less expensive paper sheets between drawings, Mayfield for example. While this may be a good solution it requires preparation before one leaves for the public studio. Often, I do not know what I will be using until I am faced with the blank page.

Table top drying

Finally, once home, one could use a drying rack as the oil stick takes about a week to dry. Having no place to put such a useful tool I spread the sketches which have made the cut around my studio on various horizontal surfaces. Nevertheless, oil stick remains one of my favorite tools simply because of the quality of line it leaves behind.

 

Wishing everyone a splendidly creative week.

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Different Strokes: Stopping

stopping, semi-abstract, mixed media, landscape

In many of the articles other artists have written I notice the point at which one decides to stop and put the brush down is always a challenge. Stopping is particularly difficult when one is a perfectionist.

Perfection is overrated

As the years pass my obsession to be perfect diminishes with practice. Yes, practice. Being the centre of the universe where everything depends on me is definitely overrated. Allowing the spirit to flow through me is much less tiring. Semi-abstraction demands a certain detachment from the work in order to see what is happening there in the midst of the accidental. Consequently, I need a way to detach.

Fresh eyes see clearly

One of the best ways is to set aside a work in a place where I can glance at it as I go by. If, over a week or so, my eyes see nothing to distract from the whole, I can pronounce the painting finished. Sometimes the setting aside requires removal from my sight for a period of time, so my eyes adjust to a new vision. This second method of detachment is useful for images causing me discomfort from unidentified sources. Fresh eyes hone in on mistakes much more easily.

Tweaking

So often, what I thought may be complete is in need of tweaking. The danger in changing one thing leads to changes in another and one loses the beauty one is trying to enhance. Much of my work captures the essential in the chance encounter of pigments or in the puddles within the texture. Leaving it alone retains the magic.

stopping, mixed media, semi-abstract, flow,
Almost done

Stopping now or later?

Stopping is always a challenge. Just one more thing… Occasionally, the one more thing leads to a restart all together. Perhaps someday I will learn when to stop without the struggle of “one more thing”. In the meantime, one more stroke calls to me in this piece. We will see if it is one too many! Life is so good.

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My Creative Process: Flow

blog, flow, mixed media, acrylic, landscape

In the flow

All artists wish to be in the flow. Flowing means effortless creativity. Everything falls into place just right. Some days are better than others… It may depend on sleep, or eating habits, or grumpiness, or too much wine….

flow, blog, mixed media, landscape, acrylic
The photo does not quite fit the grid.

Three new paintings

Wine aside, I have begun three new paintings all of which fall into a similar colour spectrum. As usual I have chosen a visual reference for each and designed a notan to determine where the main light and dark shapes form the best balance.

blog, mixed media, flow, acrylic, landscape
Notan thumbnail: deciding on the shapes of light and dark

Lights and darks

With the planning in place I proceed to throwing paint, letting it dry and deciphering the lay of the land. In this particular painting, I had just initiated the placement of the light shapes when I encountered a problem with the texture. I confused the lines of dripping paint with the coarse sweeps of a comb. No longer able to continue in the arena of light I switched to the dark.

mixed media, flow, semi-abstract, landscape
The drips and the texture combine to make a mess.

Retreating to consider

The darks formed the tree trunks. Again, I retreated into the distance and considered my straight watercolour guidelines. The trees in the photo were straight. One tree did not want to go there.

blog, mixed media, acrylic, landscape
Watercolour pencils sets the guidelines.
A sharp curve

Knowing better than to force my will on my muse I gazed more deeply into the chaos before me and decided to go with the texture. Carefully forming the trunk so it gradually grew smaller as it approached the top of the canvas I noticed it took a sharp turn to the right then climbed to the left. Interesting. So be it. There must have been a fierce wind storm to snap the trunk. What courage to keep growing after such a setback…. Imagination makes sense out of nonsense.

blog, flow, mixed media, acrylic, landscape
The darks make placing the lights possible.
More fun

The painting is far from finished but with the lights and darks established the fun intensifies as I add colour and reflection. Life is good.

Events

Do check out my events page for upcoming shows and happenings.

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