Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New Work

Above is a montage of new paintings for sale in my Etsy shop, Luule. I resurrected the store and have decided to try it as a place for selling small work. There is also an artists run gallery gift shop I'm looking into. These paintings look so much better in person and I like the idea of them hanging in a bricks and mortar store. I've discovered a gloss varnish that I love that gives a rich, shiny patina to my paintings that I wish was visible in my online images.

I also have 2 pieces in the ArtSpacific show in Delta that opens on May 3rd and runs until the 26th. I was happy my work was accepted and liked the pieces I entered, but seeing my pieces on the wall does remind me that size does matter. I'm itching to go big. I'm hoping to complete a big piece for an upcoming show which I'm not going to name because being accepted into it is tough and unlikely, but trying will be a good challenge for me.

Now I must sleep and when I wake up, I plan to spend some time loitering on all your blogs, something long overdue, paint ravens and try to avoid snacking on the girl guide cookies I was coerced into buying.

The Suburban Naturalist

Artist pal, Andrea gave me a book for my birthday called Crow Planet by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. I know, I know, more bird/crow talk. But this book is more than just about crows. It's also a contemplation of how we view nature in man made places. Haupt writes, "Too often, nature is romanticized as the place out there, the place with all the sparkly trees in the Sierra Club calendar, the place we visit with a knapsack and a Clif Bar, where we stand in awe of the beauty and refresh our spirits..... In my urban ecosystem, I drive around a corner and a crow leaps into flight from the grassy parking strip. We startle each other. If nature is Out There, she asks, what am I?".

This book resonates with me because much of what she writes reflects how I feel. In the early days of this blog when only one person was reading, (Andrea, a stranger then, one of my real life best friends now), I wrote about parking my minivan and reluctantly exploring my surroundings that were walking distance from my house. In the bowels of same and more same suburbia, I soon noticed crows were the most interesting things to watch on these quiet streets. The more I observed them, the more I became aware of how intelligent they were and became interested in learning more about them. Wanting to paint crows (and other birds), is a natural progression (bugs may actually be next).

Being open to our surroundings, even if they appear mundane or we'd rather be somewhere else (like New York, Paris or walking in the Alaskan wilderness) tends to give us a greater appreciation of our place. I don't grumble about living here as I once did. Adopting the curiosity of a naturalist has made the tiny details of my world interesting.

Having said that, I don't hold a romantic view of nature either. I used to, back in my 20's, with a desire to drop out of society, live off the land, connect with nature and be free man. I was always disappointed to discover the majority of people I met like that smoked pot all day, wore goaty smelling Ecuadorian sweaters (no offense to the people of Ecuador and their knitwear) and were generally kind of....lazy? militant conformist for the clique of nonconformity? The back to nature attitude is nice in theory and all but of course, truly back to nature also means incredible hardship and labour, possible starvation, illness and no escape back to mom and dad's comfortable house when things get hard. Even Thoreau didn't REALLY rough it, modern historian Richard Zacks wrote,

"Thoreau's 'Walden, or Life in the Woods' deserves its status as a great American book but let it be known that Nature Boy went home on weekends to raid the family cookie jar. While living the simple life in the woods, Thoreau walked into nearby Concord, Mass., almost every day. And his mom, who lived less than two miles away, delivered goodie baskets filled with meals, pies and doughnuts every Saturday. The more one reads in Thoreau's unpolished journal of his stay in the woods, the more his sojourn resembles suburban boys going to their tree-house in the backyard and pretending they're camping in the heart of the jungle."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Art Find Fridays

Josh Keyes paints images of wildlife making the genre relevant with jolting surrealism. I love his work. It's highly illustrative, disturbing, beautiful and wrong, that to me is a juicy mix for some interesting art.

30"x40" acrylic on panel

"Burst I"
30"x80" acrylic on panel

Paula started the idea of posting art finds on Fridays. Check out her find this week.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Down by the River

Train Passing
Ellen Sereda

I'm still painting feathered creatures. I got a new camera last year, an entry level SLR. I'm not a materialistic person, but I have an attachment to this camera that borders on unhealthy. I love it so much, I think my kids feel in competition with it. They do however, think it's hysterically funny that I would rather give up all my clothes and be naked than give up my camera. I think I'm serious when I tell them that. The only thing that I've discovered that bothers me about my new camera, is that it didn't automatically make me a great photographer.

After shooting about 1000 pictures these past two weeks, I got maybe 15 good shots. I was so frustrated by my ineptitude, I blamed my surroundings instead of myself. I told myself I was hanging out too much in beautiful places. All these lakes and mountain vistas, I've been oversaturated by beauty, maybe I needed something grittier, more urban. I don't have anything urban in my commuter suburb town, but there is a run down area, by the train tracks and the river. When I told my husband I was going there to take pictures, he said with a smirk (and probably a little truth) , "watch out for the Hell's Angels".

My first time I went down by the river was years ago, just before Christmas. I received some kind of government cheque in the mail, wrong person, wrong address. Working in social services at the time, I assumed it was a welfare cheque. I felt terrible about the mistake and imagining some poor man with no money before Christmas and the hassle he would have to go through to get another cheque, I decided to hand deliver the cheque myself (I was naive and didn't know you weren't allowed to do that at the time).

I was surprised when I found the address on the map. I knew there was a shake and shingle mill and some run down businesses but I didn't think anybody lived by the river. When I got there, I discovered, nestled among a few industrial type shops were several houses. They were decrepit shacks that looked like they should have been condemned. I found the address and noticed two men in a wrecked car on the lawn, obviously strung out on drugs. I pegged it for a crack house and wanted to turn around but didn't because... I'm sort of stupid and a little determined sometimes.

As I was trying to muster up some nerve to get out of my car, a man walked out of the house, a big, mean and scary looking biker dude. I thought, oh God, look at him! he's killed people! I just know it, this is it, I'M GOING TO DIE TODAY. Nobody will hear my screams and oh, how convienient, there's the river! They don't even have to drive, they can just walk over and throw in my cold, lifeless, dead body.

The man didn't speak, he just stared at me suspiciously . I croaked out a weak "Hi, uh, are you _________? "

He nodded.

"Oh, well, ha, umm...I guess I got your mail by mistake, I thought you might need it" and screamed silently to myself, "PLEASE DON'T KILL ME!"

He took it, said nothing and left. As I drove away, calming myself down, I started to think, "I know that man from somewhere" but I couldn't place where it was I had seen him.

Several weeks later, passing by a lottery kiosk in a store where I often shopped, there he was. It was a picture of him that had been hanging there for about a year. He had the same suspicious, unsmiling expression as he held up a nice fat cheque in his hand. He had bought a winning ticket at the kiosk and won the lottery, a six figure sum.

What the hell was he doing living in that falling apart shack by the river, getting government cheques? I'll never know.

The riverfront is slowly changing. One day, probably sooner than later, the shacks and old shops will be gone and there will be ice cream kiosks, cafes and tourist shops where you can buy Indian dreamcatchers made by authentic white suburban housewives doing piecework while watching The View. People will take leisurely strolls down there with their families and their dachshunds and toy poodles. Until then, here are some of the pictures I took last week. The robin I painted above was there, looking a bit rough around the edges. But that's to be expected, he lives down by the river.