Monday, May 31, 2010

The Sketchbook

Most artist have a sketchbook they carry around with them almost anywhere.
(Or should that be 'almost everywhere'? Perhaps it should be both.)

I am a writer at heart and since an early age I have filled the pages of journals with words, occasionally pausing to sketch something here or there. The most perfect journal I've ever owned was a hand bound blue leather one with unlined pages. I could write as much as I wanted, but when the desire to sketch took me the pages were heavy enough to be worthy of this application.

My current journal is lovely, but it doesn't full fill both journal and sketchbook, so I've been using my proper full-sized sketchbook once again. I have to admit, it's not well used. When I was in high school I filled sketchbooks rapidly. This was due to the high volume of assignments given and my own passion for filling it as I went along. Not long after I graduated I went through a period of about three years where my creativity wained and then pretty well ceased. This was my own fault for not paying attention. I put my focus everywhere but on myself.

That lesson has been learned, but it's odd to pick this sketchbook up and look through it again because so much of what it's in it was from that time when I lost myself. I dated the first page: Begun August '05

That's a long time to not fill all those lovely blank pages. Even now it's still only about three-quarters full. What does grace the pages is both unusual and interesting to look at. There is a spattering of drawings from those three years where I was hardly journalling and in no way would have identified as an artist. The few that there are seem almost pained. Occasionally I see one where I was trying to get out from the strange shell of a person I'd let myself become.

More recently the pictures are exploratory. I can see the ones from my time at the Youth Animation Project. Experimentation came back into my life. I can see the way in which I began to draw again, not because I felt I should, but because I simply must.

The most recent entries are the work I've been doing on a business card design and for the Calgary Dyke March logo. I find the logo the most interesting as the inspiration for it came from a sketch I'd done years ago. Done years ago, but still in this particular book.

When I got my first tattoo I was so eager for more. I was addicted but I knew the cost would probably keep me from going too nuts. As a result I spent a lot of time doodling tiny things for one off tattoos here or there. One of my designs incorporating a black triangle and the symbol for Venus was abandoned as a tattoo, but never far from the back of my mind. It was a design I'd been quite chuffed with and as it is, the committee for the Calgary Dyke March has loved all the new versions I've sent.

It was bizarre, though, when they first asked me to do it because I instantly thought of that symbol and figured it would be perfect. Since most of my sketchbooks have been left in Calgary, I thought I'd have to re-design it from memory. As it is, that symbol is in the corner of an otherwise empty page, very early on in this book. It seems a lifetime ago, drawn when I was working at an entirely different job, when I'd first moved out of my parents house. Drawn by someone far more naive than I am now. Drawn and re-visited in an entirely different life.

I can look back through my journals and see how much I've changed, but there's something inherently different about seeing growth in the images I've drawn. I remember myself then. I remember how I felt like I had everything figured out. How I felt like it was actually possible to accomplish such a thing. I remember being really certain of where I'd be in five years.

I couldn't be happier to have all those preconceptions blown away.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Update and Overhaul

I've decided my artwork needs a more dedicated direction. After a lot of time of playing about with what I put out there, it's occurred to me that I know what I really love doing and I know what I'm good at but I only do because I can.
I think truly amazing art needs to be something done with your whole heart and head.

I've taken on the incredible project of producing my own Tarot Deck on 24X36" canvases. I adore working on them and with each completed card I feel like I'm taking another step forward as I develop my skills. I love to paint and I love to paint on more than just the flat surface of a canvas.

Some of my most cherished pieces have been the paintings I've done on canvas shoes. These are entirely unique, designed specifically for the person who will wear them. Each one has been satisfying from the initial sketching to the final delivered product, for both me and the new owner of the shoes.

Add to that the fun of a sculpted mask, fit perfectly to the face of the customer, and painted with the same techniques as I use on my Tarot Cards.

Each surface is unique in it's own way but all three take acrylic well. All three leave me feeling more and more fulfilled and all three spur me forward to produce more.

As it is, I've done an overhaul on my website. I want to narrow my skill set, truly develop my work in the one medium and see where it takes me.

Of course I'll continue playing with glass in my own time. When the desire to sculpt something hits me, I've got all the sculpey I need to keep me amused. I'll continue to share the dabbling I do on my site and through this blog, but I am a painter...therefore, I paint.

Friday, May 28, 2010


I've felt quite neglectful of my blog lately. This is partly due to my now full schedule and partly due to a lack of inspiration. I'm just not feeling it. All my recent attempts at writing have fallen flat. Even as I began typing this entry I started and stopped repeatedly, not entirely sure what to write, where to go and what I wanted to get across. Essentially, I feel like I'm updating it because I should, not because I have anything in particular to say.

Not that there isn't plenty to write about. I'm working on a logo for the Calgary Dyke March, for example. It's an on-going project I've been both elated by and struggling with for weeks. As of right now I don't know which design will be chosen and I don't feel it's right to share what I've sketched out until the chosen design is officially revealed by the committee.

I'm also continuing on with the Devil Tarot Card. Initially this seemed to be one of those cards I was going to complete in only a few weeks time. I was flooding with energy for it and each time I worked at it the progress was ample and left me satisfied. The last time I sat down to it, however, this was not the case. I found myself feeling jittery. I was constantly up and down, leaving to go do something else, distracted easily. I wasn't mindful in my work and as a result I ended up painting and re-painting the same part on the horns several times over until I'd worked myself into a froth of unease and I finally just put it aside.

I've also remembered that, due to some visitors, I now have my light box here in London! I was fiddling with it today, pondering what fun we could have and considering a few ideas I've been batting around. Nothing too huge...more just mindful concentration practices, which are so well aided with a light box.

So there's plenty for me to write about, I suppose. I'm just not finding the time or space to get into the groove. But these things happen. Life is up swings and down swings. Life is starting over, jump starting, new directions and bigger ideas.

I think I'm going to sit at my light box for a bit, actually. If only to see what I come up with.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

REMEMBER in all capitals, but not shouting - Kait's Mix Tape

Today the sun has been out in full force and I've been listening to my 'meditation mix', a collection of songs with lyrics that remind me to centre and focus. I've been struggling with my Devil painting and it's driving me nuts. I've been trying to find a balance between doing what I have to do to pay the bills and doing what I'm meant to do because I can't not be an artist. As it is I've felt like I've been neglecting myself and this gorgeously sunny weekend has been about figuring out that balance.

Here is a lovely bee that contributed to my contemplative and wonderful weekend.

The Love Generation - Bob Sinclair

I love people. I love how the trouble-makers challenge me to grow and how anyone can be a trouble-maker to anyone else, no matter what your relationship. I love that people that may seem insignificant can have the most incredible impact. I love that without even knowing someone, they can change your life.

I practice compassion as best as I can and I love listening to this song as a reminder for all that. When I go out in the world I'd much rather add to the love on the planet than add to the aggression.

The Healing Room - Sinead O'Connor

When I was fourteen I went to my umpteenth Ontario-based conference with the Students Commission, a national organisation that empowered youth by asking them how they were going to change the world now, rather than when they grew up (Explains a lot about me, doesn't it?). On one of the days we got to go in to Ottowa. Whilst there I found a Sinead O'Connor CD and bought it on impulse. I recalled how my mum and I used to listen to her when I was a kid and I figured this was one of her old CDs. I didn't know about her little debacle or that her career spiraled into a black hole as a result and this was a new album that would go almost entirely unnoticed.

This particular song didn't stick out for me initially but has since become crystal clear. It's about knowing yourself and listening to what you have to say. It's about finding a balance within and using that to balance how you are without.

Be Like Water - Sarah Fimm

I found this song on the D.E.B.S. soundtrack. I adore this song beyond belief. It's so important to remain fluid, to allow change to happen and to not be restricted by putting rules and boundaries around what we feel we should or shouldn't do. Sometimes life will be unhinged and difficult but that doesn't mean we need to run away from it. Running away from what makes us uncomfortable is to deny the very essence of what it means to live. Life is change, life is being hurt, life is smiling and laughing, life is exploring and growing, life is a new job, an old car, a new house, an old city. Life is meant to be lived fluidly and we cannot fill the holes and cracks in another person life. We can't be someone else's fix. We must be our own answer to the life we choose to live.

A Moment to Myself - Macy Gray

"Quit bitching about how nobody really love you..."

Very important to take time to have conversations with yourself. The one person you're with your entire life is yourself and it's so important that you learn to love who that is.

"The answers I've been looking for have been here all this time."

Be O.K. - Ingrid Michaelson

I like dancing to this. I bounce around on my toes and I love it.

...and we all will be O.K.

I promise.

Good Mother - Jann Arden

Keep grounded, face forward, hold onto your heart, love yourself and remember who loves you.

Have a happy Sunday.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Thai Art

I've been to the Buddhapadipa Temple in Wimbledon several times since my arrival in January. When I go my experience consists of wandering around the temple garden, occasionally finding a spot dry enough to sit and spend the time reflecting. I go there to centre and often the absolute beauty of the grounds inspires me. It was after a temple visit that I made my second Buddha painting.

All my past visits have been during the week, when the temple is closed. The monastery is open to visitors; people come to speak to the monks or to offer food. I've been in the building where they live and had a lovely time there, but all my visits after that first time have been found me quite alone on the grounds.

On the weekends the temple is open for a service and ceremonies are conducted. I was hesitant to go to any of these if only because I enjoyed the serene quality of the grounds when I was there alone. I also found myself going there when the general crush of London was starting to get to me and the point was to avoid a crowd.

Today I felt it was important for me to go, regardless of it being a Saturday.

I'm so glad that I did, as today I've had the most incredible experience of watching a young man being ordained as a monk. I sat inside the temple, surrounded by some of the most stunning and intricate artwork I've ever seen in my life, and participated in a ceremony that is truly indescribable. A very lovely woman sat next to me throughout, explaining the customs and translating when necessary and to her I am ever-so grateful.

There was something so incredibly profound about being there today. I'm not often unable to find the words to express how I feel or what saw, but so much of today was just about being. It was magnificent and serendipitous.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sadie Lee

I've said many times before that art school just isn't my thing. I don't like the idea of paying exorbitant amounts of money to get a piece of paper that doesn't guarantee me a job. Certainly, you learn a lot about business development and how to explain your art. You learn techniques and you get to work with an abundance of materials. But I can do all those things without going into debt.

I'm a strong believer in apprenticeships. Since landing in London I began to seek one out, hoping I could find an artist willing to take me on, knowing I could build my skills by seeing and doing. I would be receiving a one-on-one lesson every time we worked together.
Unfourtunately apprenticeships of yore seem to have faded away to government controlled things with specific age limits and even more specific craft. Essentially, there are none for a creative painter and sculpture who dabbles in animation and writes like a fiend. However, my partner had her eyes open and noticed something that can only be described as 'Right up my alley'.
A workshop with the incredibly talented artist, Sadie Lee.
There wasn't a moment hesitation before I'd booked and confirmed the whole thing. Since doing so I feel spurred on. Now I'm searching for one off classes, workshops that are conducted in much the same way as my stained glass class and weekend opportunities to go somewhere and create. I feel like, now that I've registered for this one thing, there's no stopping me.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


London is full of them and they're beautiful!

I want to know how they choose the artists for these things. Calgary did something similar with cows a few years back. It's brilliant fun.

Apparently there are over 250 of them and the website features a downloadable map that you can use to track all the little beasts down. I shall have to get on it!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ads on Underground

This morning I noticed this ad on the underground.

An ad like this could be taken one of two ways.

It could mean that you're waiting for a lottery ticket and hoping that maybe you'll be able to make it big as an artist because artists that make it big seem to have an excess of funds.

In this regard I'm not bothered by the ad. Reality check: sitting around wishing and hoping and doing silly art for the sake of a pay cheque isn't going to happen.

But look at it another way and it's sad. It's like the idea of living your dream is 'foolish' and won't amount to anything.

One morning I was watching BBC and they were interviewing one of the radio hosts about the topic of the show she'd be hosting later in the day. She looked at the camera and said, "Do you want your children to be successful or happy? we're going to talk about encouraging them to do well in academics vs. doing well in arts and crafts and things."

I find this mentality all over the place; the idea that success equals money and money equals a desk job.

I once read a blog entry about what success means and what it means to an artist. How do you measure your success?

The blog entry was listed under the suitably titled 'Deep Thought Thursday' and I chose to put a lot of thought into it. When I chose to start identifying as an artist it was at a time when my life was a blank slate. A number of catalysts had lead me to shift my perspective and start fresh. Fourtunately I was raised to know that success and happiness go hand in hand. Happiness is loving the life you're leading and to do that you must be leading the life you're meant to. We are each of us responsible for making that happen. No one is going to come along and give us the winning lottery ticket or buy our money making scheme.

It's not about pinning a sock onto canvas. It's about exploring your talent, knowing you will never learn it all but striving to learn as much as you can every day. It's about seeking growth and embracing change.

I could say reality is overrated but it's not that. I think reality is ill-defined. The reality of the world is that you have one life to live and it's not actually that long. So if you are a famous artist, go be a famous artist. And if you're a business guru go be a business guru. And as you do what you are, you will be successful and you will be happy. Even when things are miserable, you can find happiness in knowing you're loving the life you live because you're living the live you choose.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

And so it continues...

I think the best part of painting the flame was that I got to do so whilst sitting in the dining room with my mum and a dear, dear friend present. It was clearly beneficial.

I have to admit, however, I'm a bit nervous about how I'm going to go about doing the spider-web (Hard to see now, but it's down in the left-hand corner.)and the chain. A fun challenge, though. As with all my paintings, I try to do something that makes me uncomfortable each time. Obviously, having tackled flame when I did the Temperance Card, I have come to love doing it. I'm certain that doing it under another image shan't prove to be too difficult...once I get the right technique.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Perfect Design

Several weeks ago I was at stained glass class working on a pattern. What was initially going to be a 'quick sketch' soon turned into an extremely tedious, but very fun, line drawing. There wasn't anything particularly detailed about it; the pattern was far simpler than my previous one. This one was more technical, involving a lot more concentration and accuracy on my part.

Having completed one piece of stained glass, I now have an understanding of how it works. I set out to do my second one with a very clear concept in my head. I wanted to use a circle of glass for the centre and have it spiral out in a rectangular frame. The middle piece would be red, followed by orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.

I set to work with this drawing only to find it consuming the entire stained glass class session, minus the time taken to purchase the glass.

I was eager to start cutting glass the following week but as circumstances and prior plans would have it, stained glass class was put on hold. It was several weeks before I returned and during this time I was certain that the pattern was tucked neatly into the same package in which my chosen glass was wrapped.

It wasn't until last week that I realised the truth. I opened the package and the pattern was not to be found. It was lost, but for strange fragments in my memory where I can uncertainly place it on a bookshelf, in a bag, or sandwiched in a pile of paper. All of my searching has resulted in disappointment and thus I must accept that it is gone.

The difficulty with this is, I have convinced myself that it was Perfect. Of course such a thought is quite silly because I could probably have tweaked it here and there and if I put the same effort into a new one it will likely be an improvement. I seem to have convinced myself that it won't be something I can duplicate since it seemed just right as it was. I may be putting this Lost Pattern on a pedestal and it's an easy way for me to claim this as The Piece That Would Not Be if only because I'm stubborn and the thought of duplicating it is more frustrating than anything.

But these things happen and the glass is bought and paid for and awaiting it's purpose. I can't leave such stunning colours wrapped in paper for long, so I am once again embarking on the task of drawing a own pattern, anew.

So once again I find myself ending an entry with the ever apt term: Such is life.

Monday, May 3, 2010

...and it just happened to be Queen's day

The smell of pot lingers on every passing breeze. Beer cans and bottles pop under the tires of passing cars. Around the corner women in lingerie stand in windows, beckoning you to buy their services...

and yet 'sleazy' or 'degraded' is not how I would describe it. There is a quaintness here. The bicycles chained along cobbled streets and lovely brick bridges crossing multiple canals are charming. It's merely sensible to the people living here to legalise such things so they can be regulated, and in doing so it's removed that element of debauchery.

Of course it does present me with a predicament. Ask people what the three main attractions of Amsterdam are and they're likely to say legalised marijuana, beer and the Red Light District. Granted, I did find the black lit ladies titillating and even thought provoking, but none of these three things really interest me.

Coming to Amsterdam meant embarking on exploration of a city I knew very little about beyond the obvious three factors named above. Whilst I had thought the Rijksmuseum would be a must, circumstances altered this. Due to a lot more rain than predicted the lines for the Rijksemuseum and the Van Gogh Museum were ridiculous, with estimates of a three hour wait.

However, when you haven't got a plan, you're inclined to discover the most amazing things. Like Rembrandt Huis, where you get to walk into the actual studio space of one of the worlds greatest masters. Or the Homomonument, three pink granite triangles pointing in three important directions: To the Wester Kerk (West Church), Anne Frank Huis and the Dam Memorial, erected in memory of those lost in WWII.

The flower market is another must, if only because Amsterdam is known for it's tulips. For a laugh there's the Sexmuseum, which is nothing but silliness, as emphasized by a seat that proceeds to 'violate' anyone who chooses to sit in it. The Foam Gallery, however, offers a variety of esteemed and thought provoking photographs, and will redeem anything lost from a visit to the aforementioned museum.

Of course no trip to Amsterdam would be complete without a canal boat tour. This proved to be a particularly fun way to go about spotting the gable stones. When Amsterdam was newly established the profession of the person living in the houses would be portrayed by an elaborately carved piece of wood or stone that was mounted above the door (not in the gable, as the name would suggest.)

Even after all this, I have to say my favourite thing about Amsterdam was the ability to walk around it. With a population of 750,000, the streets are anything but crowded. Although, my arrival was strangely planned as it turned out to be Queen's Day and evidently the entire population was in the streets, along with every can of beer they'd managed to consume. But they are a very polite people and almost overnight the streets were cleared and the pleasant bustle of the city was anything but hurried. Meandering around the roads I found myself familiarising with them so efficiently that I was soon keeping the pace of locals, hopping the tram with confidence and finding my way back to interesting shops with ease.

As my confidence grew so did my belief that mounting a bicycle to get around really is another Amsterdam must. As it was, the pouring rain put off such thoughts quickly. But it's a beautiful city and I can't possibly come up with a good reason not to return. I love the Dutch, I love the art, I love the sights...

I will most definitely be going back.