Thursday, July 29, 2010

Studio space

It was about a month ago, I think, that I decided I needed to find studio space. I did a huge interweb search, narrowing down and focusing on what I was looking for. I determined three things.

1. It doesn't have to be very large at all. I like working in small spaces and even an eight or nine square foot room would probably be sufficient for me. This also means I don't need a really expensive space because I'm comfortable with something so tiny.

2. It does need natural light, and lots of it. I like small spaces just fine, but only if I can see out into the big wide world and big wide sky. Besides that, I find painting better with natural light. I remember looking at the studios in the basement of Art Central in Calgary and recoiling at the idea. I can do small...but not dark. I'm not a toad.

3. Accessibility. I don't want to add some monstrous commute to my day. This is a really difficult task to accomplish in London as the average commute is an hour, give or take ten minutes. I know I've been hugely lucky to get a temp job that's only a twenty minute tube ride away from my house. I also know that I love the accessibility of painting in in my room at home. So if I'm gonna go for studio space, it has to be reasonably close so it feels like 'going to the office' (But much more satisfying of course) without some long, convoluted and difficult journey to get there.

Course, I've just said I've got my room and my room is very nice...but I sleep there.

Tip for a good life: Don't sleep where you work. In fact, you shouldn't do anything but sleep in your bedroom. It's a proven fact that it's healthier and allows your mind to rest more if your bedroom is just a bedroom.

Besides that, I'm a neat person. I wasn't always, but I am now and it's important to me. I like things to be tidy and I like things to be organised. But when I'm painting, I don't care. And when I'm working on something I want to feel that uninhibited freedom that comes with knowing I can shut the door on the mess and just walk away.

So I went and looked at a studio in Wimbledon. The Wimbledon Art Studio, as it is so aptly named. It's about a thirty minute walk from my house, fifteen minutes if I had a bike or decided to use Boris' Cycle scheme, along a road that follows a cemetery. Get to the end of the road and there's a miniature round-about and then a small detour around some industrial areas and viola.

The studios.

There are two different buildings. One is a converted warehouse with skylight windows and the other (Pictured above) is all newly built studios. They come in perfect little sizes that I love and they have fantastic windows that let in lots of gorgeous sunlight. They're also very reasonably priced with no hidden added costs.


Always with that darn 'But'. It loomed over me as I spoke with the studio owner and he told me about the fabulous perks: Two open showings a year with an income of over one hundred thousand. Galleries from all over London, private collectors, a showcase of ten of your pieces on the studio website... it's no wonder they have a wait list.

Oh, and I can't afford their reasonable price. Not on what I make, not even close. Well, unless it was the only thing I spent my money on.

Still, I'm glad I looked. I'm glad I actually took the time to consider a studio, even if I know this was the cheapest one that ticked all my boxes and anything else I might have been interested in would be twice or triple the price. It's a good job I'm going to take a digital design course. Perhaps then I'll have enough cash to justify such a glorious workspace.

One day...

One day.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Things are happening...and another Mighty Woman

Ten canvases arrived yesterday! Five of my standard 24X36 for my Tarot Cards and five of a smaller size, for a secret project I hope to start this weekend.

I also got new business cards.

About a year ago I made some fabulous business cards using photo paper and Microsoft Word. The idea was to have ten images of the work I do accompanied by my contact details. They were hugely popular and served me well. But as the last one went off in the hands of another fan, I knew it was time to get a new set with a different focus.

As my psychologist has been saying since I started living life as an artist: I need to specialise.

Well, my specialty is acrylic paint, most certainly. My three choice surfaces are canvas, canvas shoes or plaster cast masks I sculpt myself. My cards needed to reflect this but also needed to have all those fabulous details like my Facebook fan page, twitter account, blog and website, along with my email and name, of course.

Essentially it came down to needing two-sided cards...something I could produce myself but would be a lot less labour intensive to have someone else do. I searched around a bit and found that Moo was the best option.
Gotta say, hugely impressed with the result. It's lovely having a miniature portfolio in my pocket. I have yet to give out my first one but I'm going to the Science Museum of London tonight so we shall see who I meet. I also have plans of popping round to the National Portrait Gallery on Friday evening for their drop-in sketch class hosted by an artist. I'll have plenty of chances to network.

And speaking of sketches, here's 0ne of Kiki Smith:

Kiki Smith works in a variety of mediums, including fibre, screen printing, painting and sculpture. I can't say I'm entirely pleased with my sketch of her. The shadow in the photo I used was off-putting, but it was still fun to research her and get to know yet another hugely influential, strong woman that has contributed to shaping our world. I would like to explore her work further, especially as she plays with the strong connection between humans and animals. Being in London and with so many galleries at my fingertips, I'm sure I can track something of hers down.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The South of France

What a beautiful place, where time seems to have paused somewhere in the early 19th century. Reminiscent of Mexico in some ways and yet unlike anywhere I have ever been before...

The small town of Chateauneuf-du-Pape is about so much more than just wine. It is French culture steeped in age, sprinkled with modern conveniences and brimming with a strong sense of heritage. Wandering the streets in the baking heat was an experience in itself. The exploration of winding, cobbled roads led to small and wonderful finds. Passing the church at the heart of the village, one could hear organ music playing within. Further up the path and there was an area shaded by beech trees, small stone benches places strategically out of the glare of the sun. To the top of the hill and there it was, the Chateau built for the New Pope. What remains of what was obviously an immense structure are a few walls and arches, still magnificent on that hill top setting. Standing in one of the windows makes it apparent as to why they chose this spot. The wind is a refreshing change from the heat below, a heat that is intensified in Avignon, where the Pope would normally reside. Add to that the breathtaking view of distant mountains, rolling fields of grape vines and sunflowers and the speckling of orange rooftops from the town. It was something to gaze upon, something to soak up, my back pressed against warm stone, my face lit up by the gold of the setting sun.

In Avignon there were festivities to be found! The high city walls hid streets packed with people there to shop and see the sights or there to make a living. Throngs of performers in odd and delightful costumes roamed between the people, stopping occasionally to give a brief show or to hand out fliers to nearby diners. The distinct smell of cigarettes and sweating bodies was mixed with the scent of delicious provencal food or blossoms growing nearby. At one point there was a magnificent downpour, when the intense heat has built to the point of a thunderstorm. The people all crowded under awnings, waiting for the torrent to finish. When it finally did the air was muggy, dense with moisture. I didn't care one bit, happy to continue along, snapping photos of street art, sculptures and gorgeous architecture, as I had been doing all day.

In Arles the atmosphere was more subdued, as was I after such a long day of discovery. I wandered around the Colosseum, intending to circle it. Instead I found myself distracted by a cool cobbled side street and then a church. I followed the growing shade to a wall overlooking the houses below. Terracotta roofs stretched out, a forest of satellite dishes and antennae protruding from the otherwise ancient buildings.

I can easily say I have come away feeling satiated with the experience. It was entirely enjoyable, as was the company. It's also given me a lot to think about, a lot to reflect on and hopefully, something more to fuel my art.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Devil

When I complete one tarot card I usually find myself fueled to jump right into the next one. The last card I completed was the Magician and, eager to start my next piece, I did a survey on Facebook and Twitter to see what the general opinion would be with regards to the next card I should do.

The Devil was the inarguable winner and, if I'm honest, the one I really wanted to do anyway. I could picture it quite perfectly in my head and I couldn't wait to begin working on it.

Initially I was fueled with that continued inspiration from completing the Magician, as well as knowing so many people were eager to see my interpretation of this extremely dark card. However, I found my inspiration waining and after one particularly frustrating day of working on the horns, I took it down from my easel and left it facing a wall, tucked away where I wouldn't have to think about it.

I proceeded to spend the following weeks questioning my talent, my inspiration and my motivation. Was I suddenly painting to make a profit or because people expected me to produce something? I was being far too critical of my work, something very out of character for me. I began feeling trapped and almost like I was regressing. I didn't feel like anything I did was 'enough' and when I was creating something, whether it be writing, painting or drawing, it felt almost forced. It was more like checking off a to do list than letting creativity flow for the sake of it.

All of this was making me feel very shaky. Add to this being in a city four-thousand miles from my closest friends and my family and working a temp job that deals with a particularly fatal sort of cancer, it was no wonder I was coming unhinged.

As soon as I stopped fighting the general discomfort I was in and embraced it for the learning experience it was, things began to loosen up a bit. I ventured out to a few social events and decided that I needed to shift my focus for a little while. It was also about this time that I received a package in the mail from my aunt. In it, along with a lovely letter from her, (letters will always trump emails) was a photocopy of some of my Grandma's memoirs.

As a child we can have an incredible connection with our relatives purely for the wonderful unconditional way in which they love us. When we lose them as children we don't get the chance to know them as adults and I have often felt I missed out on this with my Nan. These memoirs, and the second round that arrived last week, have changed that. As I read them and began learning about the incredibly brave, curious and talented woman my Nan was, I began to realised that so much more than the colour of your hair or eyes can be passed down through your bloodline.

Her story gave me so much to reflect on. I returned to my sketchbook, leaving my brushes and acrylics to rest, my unfinished canvases all turned away so I wouldn't feel their incomplete surfaces reminding me I was stuck.

When I did that sketch of my Nan I don't think I actually knew what it was loosening up inside me. I suppose her story has reminded me that life is an adventure and we can either make something of it or just let it just happen to us.

This morning I woke up much later than I usually do. I was feeling a bit uncomfortable knowing I didn't have a bunch of stuff to do for the day and in the back of my mind I was thinking about that unfinished painting I started in May. I decided I could face it if I faced it one little bit at a time and rather than resume with the horns, I started in the corner with the cobweb. I finished that quite quickly and to my satisfaction before moving on to the chain. This was completed with the same ease and sense of self accomplishment. I touched up the horn, added the text and slowly peeled the tape away from the edge to reveal the stark white frame against the intense flames. And I breathed in that feeling of struggle and self depreciation we all experience and I breathed out bravery and a strong sense of self.

I am utterly pleased with this painting, and I think my Nan would be very proud.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mighty Women - Pema Chodron

So I set out to write a blog entry about Pema Chodron when the 'E' key on my laptop (Which has been a persistent problem as of late) got stuck for the umpteenth time. In a fit of frustration I shut the whole thing down and proceeded to remove a small cat's worth of hair from the keys, pulling the 'E' from it's home entirely to see if this would help. I vacuumed the whole lot and even gave the screen a good washing.

I started the whole thing up again and ran a 'tweet test' for the 'E'. At first it seemed to be just as hopeless as before and my first thought was, "My computer is going to be the bane of my writing from now until some unforeseeable point in the future when I can finally buy the shiny, lovely Mac of my dreams."

Then I thought, "I should go to bed."

Then I thought, "I'll feel guilty if I don't write this blog entry."

Then I remembered Pema and I thought, "You're thinking too much."

I pretty much always have one of her books on my person. I read and re-read her with great satisfaction. She has an incredible wisdom about her and reading her writing is much like listening to her speak. This is a quality I admire in an author and one I hope to emulate in my own writing.

It also helps me to remember to be mindful. When I can hear someones voice applied to the words they've written it tends to stick in my head. Her writing sticks. She is full of compassion and has the same humble air about her as the Dalai Lama.

She is my unofficial Buddhist teacher and I am eternally grateful to my psychologist for suggesting I read anything she'd written.

She is also my next 'Mighty Woman' in the exploratory project I'm doing to capture and record those incredible female influences now and throughout history.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Untitled Buddha

One of my birthday gifts this year (Along with some new brushes) were two 15X19 deep edged canvases. I've never used a deep edged canvas before and it was also a smaller size than I prefer, but I saw this as a wonderful challenge. It was a way for me to do something completely different with my work purely because the sort of canvas being used put me out of my comfort zone.
But what to do?
Usually I get an idea and then go buy a suitable canvas for it. This means I've become a bit predictable. My Tarot Cards are on 24X36 inch canvases. They're meant to be consistent as they represent pieces of a deck. By default, when an idea has seized me, this becomes the canvas size I use if only because I usually have a blank one around.
So how to find inspiration for a canvas that sat looking at me, gazing at me with potential, wanting to be filled, but also pushing against everything I usually do?
Obviously I needed to do something equally different with the art that would adorn it. I needed to do something experimental, not so thoroughly thought out as a Tarot Card. It worked for my Blue and Green Buddha pieces, so why shouldn't I access that same sense of exploration with this?
I decided to use my Buddhist nature as my key influence. I'd also tap into some of the more experimental things I'd thought about but not necessarily done before and I went back to some of my old ideas that I had enjoyed but not repeated.
To begin there was a simple sketch...nothing major, just an idea of a tree, a hill and a figure. I applied implied texture to the sky and physical texture to the clouds by layering the paint. As it was I'd just received my plaster cast in the post (For mask making) and felt that the texture thing was working really well. I soaked several chunks of the plaster and built a gloriously bushy representation of the Bodhi tree leaves. Painting the hill with a course hogs hair brush produced some excellent grass, which I criss-crossed with small flowing streams. I left my meditating Buddha to the end, seating him in a red lotus flower that acts as a punctum for the entire piece.

Working on this has been an interesting journey. I have begun to look back on a lot of the work I did in school when I was just embarking on the learning journey of artwork. It's reminded me that we must never think we have mastered anything. There will always be room for growth as long as we remember not to hold on too tight to the way we've gotten comfortable doing things.
I couldn't think of anything to call it besides 'Untitled Buddha', which is also a change for me. Usually I find myself unable to choose from multiple good titles for a piece. So here it is, from me to you. For prints, posters or cards or to purchase the original ($275USD) visit my website.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Magician Revisted


Thanks to George at DigitalArte and to RedBubble, I now have posters, prints and cards of my Magician tarot card design available!

I've gone the route of RedBubble for a few different reasons. Whilst before my prints were done by a single imaging company in Calgary (They did a fantastic job and I extend many thanks to Heather for all her fab customer service.) this only worked if all my customer base was in Calgary and I was there too. As I've had interest internationally and as I am currently based in London, a solution needed to be found.

Through RedBubble my work can be printed as a poster, greeting card or canvas print. As the customer you can choose the currency that works best for you and pay securely with PayPal.

As of right now I don't have all of my work imaged, so not all of it is available in a print. When looking at my website you will see a 'Buy Now' button to the left of the image of a piece. Below that, if prints are available, it will say so in purple text. Just click on that text and follow the simple steps through RedBubble to choose how you want the image reproduced for your personal collection.

Easy peasy!

If there is a piece you're dying to get a print of and it doesn't have a RedBubble link, just drop me a line at

Friday, July 9, 2010

You Are Worthy of Love (Green Buddha)

In December I painted a blue Buddha piece that incorporated my writing into my painting. Painting it was an extremely mindful process and I couldn't have been happier with the result.

It was well received by you, my wonderfully supportive fans. So well
received that the original was snatched up in 24 hours and I was rushing to have prints made and delivered right up to the day of my flight to London.

Upon my arrival in this magnificent city I knew I wanted to do another one. I'd enjoyed the entire process and the idea of sharing my art and writing in a single piece is wonderful for me.
Not only that, but it's reflective of my own continued exploration of the world around me and how each of us is seeking to live our lives well.

An important part of that is our ability to love who we are in any state we find ourselves. We must be our own best friend when we are miserable as well as when we are joyous. The smiling Buddha seemed the right choice to convey this with an image and my accompanying words are my own interpretation of the things I read and contemplate on a daily basis.

Prints, posters and cards now available through my website.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mighty Women...con't

Petra Kelly 1947 - 1992
Graphite on paper sketch KSCH 2010

Born 29th of November, 1947, Petra is one of the must influential women in the history of politics. She founded the Die Grunen, the German Green Party in 1979. Her
activism was honoured in 1982 as she was presented with the Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Peace Prize).

In Barcelona there is a small tribute garden to
this incredible woman. Though it only consists of a small terracotta sculpture and a few plants, I think it's a beautiful and simple gesture that she would have appreciated. The key feature of the memorial garden is a cherry tree, which was her favourite tree. The inscription on the accompanying sculpture reads:

No hi ha un cami vers la pau
La pau es l'unic cami
(Peace is the only way)

Many thanks to M.A. for contributing the photo to the right.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

London Journal - Sixth Month Anniversary

"How long have you been here, then?" she asked.
"Today is my sixth month anniversary, actually," I replied with a grin.
"Oh wow! Well, happy six months. And do you like it...hate it... not sure?"
"I love it, yeah."

I do. It's got it's ups and downs and it's been difficult at times, but I still love it. I no longer argue, however, when people tell me that coming here was a really big decision. The idea that coming to London might be brave didn't occur to me. I was really only thinking about how foolish it would be for me to stay in Calgary when I knew I wanted to see and do so much. It felt so right and so doable and though I knew there would be challenges I figured nothing would phase me.

Silly me, making assumptions.

It's been difficult, most assuredly, but fully worth it. I can easily say, right now in this moment, that I don't know what to expect for the future. I feel like the rug has been pulled out from under me and that's just fine.

In the words of the marvellous Florence:

"I'm not scared to jump
I'm not scared to fall
If there was nowhere to land
I wouldn't be scared
At all"

Monday, July 5, 2010

Doreen Lucy Hatch

The response to my last blog entry was amazing! Evidently you all have a lot of recommendations for mighty women who truly have changed the world. This presented me with an important question:

Where to begin?

The names flooded in from you: Petra Kelly, Nina Simone, Kim Cooper, Kiki Smith, Gretchen Bender, Lisa Braun, Susan Rothenburg, Georgia O'Keefe...

This just made me think of my own list; Mary Beale, Sadie Lee, Hazel Dooney, Tracy Chapman, Dame Shirley Bassey, Angelica Kauffman, Mary Moser, Mary Portas, Margaret Mead, Esthero, Pema Chodron...

It all seemed a bit much, to think about representing each of these women with a piece of art and to choose only one to start with. But it was the response from my Facebook Fans that gave me the clear and obvious solution. When I asked them to contribute examples of strong women they admired and why, each of them listed family members: Mothers, sisters, aunts, partners...

There is a woman I admire very much, who I have recently begun to get acquainted with in a different way than I ever had before. She couldn't be a better choice, I think, for the beginning of this project. Born December 14th, 1920 my grandma Doreen lived in Luton, England for her entire youth and into her young adulthood. In September 1945 she married my grandfather, a Canadian soldier fighting (Well, actually cooking) in WWII. At the end of June 1946 she boarded the Aquitania and went to Canada to live. At the age of 25 my grandmother made the reverse journey I have just made, but rather than eight hours flying with an obnoxious stop-over in Chicago, she went four days by boat and another four by train to a province 4,000 miles from her family and friends. At 25, in a world where the only way to stay in touch was a letter in the mail, my grandma did something far more courageous than I have ever done. I admire her strength and resilience and I dedicate this entire project to her memory and to all the wonderful women in my family who have shown me I can achieve anything I set my mind to.
Line drawing in pen, lifting it only once for the entire outline. Face filled in after initial sketch completed.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Mighty Women

When I was younger I didn't like calling myself a feminist. It seemed to have this stigma to go along with it and too many people assumed feminist meant man-hater, or something similar. I can't honestly say I would call myself a feminist now either, but less so for that reason and more to do with the fact that labels imply some sort of solid identity and as we are ever-changing so are the words which we can use to describe ourselves.

But I do believe in the importance of learning about the world that shapes us by knowing as much as possible about where we've been and what that means for where we are going. I've been an avid collector of stories from 'Queer'-story since my first taste of activism at the age of fourteen since it seems to be near non-existent in history lessons. Now, as I've begun learning more about art, the masters and how we have captured our stories and lives through paint and sculpture, I've noticed a distinct lack of women cropping up. I realise this has to do with there being fewer women painters due to a lack of opportunity, but I know they were and are around.

I've also begun reflecting on strong, powerful representations of women in the world today. I don't believe my choice of a role model has anything to do with gender, but I have noticed that my favourite contemporary artists are all male. There is no denying that we have come a long way and it is rare for me to experience discrimination due to my gender, but I personally want to expand my knowledge of those women who are largely under-represented in our world.

There are so many great examples of strong, independent women that have influenced me on a personal level. Notably, the extremely talented P!nk. My best friend put it quite well when she said, "I love Pink, but really, not a huge fan of her music. Just the person. She seems pretty cool."

She is a stunning example of a strong, independent, vibrant human being. Whether you like her music or not, she is a brilliant role model as she shows what it means to be true to yourself. She is a rarity amongst female pop stars, but not, I believe, a rarity amongst the creative elite we have shone a spotlight on. She is just the begining as I am making it my own personal mission to seek out some of these incredible women who, regardless of their gender, represent the way a person can express themselves honestly and influence the world by living a life they have built with their own talent and strength.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Canada Day!

Today Trafalgar Square is the place to be for Canada Day Celebrations. I'm about to zip off to drop some paintings with my imager so I can get to the party early on. Before all this I wanted to post an update as I realise my blog has been silent since last Thursday (A whole week!) and you might be wondering why.

Last night I attended another glass class, which I haven't been to since May. I completed a new piece but I also reflected a lot on what I was doing and why.

I've mentioned my desire for an apprenticeship before; the fact that a class structure doesn't fit my learning style and that art school is an expense I cannot justify as it doesn't guarantee me any success as a painter. I do, however, love to dabble and play and experiment, which is why I went to glass class in the first place. It's also why I jumped on the opportunity to spend a day learning from Sadie Lee.

It's something I'll continue to do, of course, but I run a risk in sharing too much of my dabbling. I realise I have a wide range of talents and skills and I also know there is nothing I won't at least give a try, if only just to see what I'm capable of. This is what an apprenticeship and learning is about and as a strong believer that we are always capable of more growth, I assume I will always have new things to try.

But I know I mustn't spread myself thin. As a student I would be given hours to work on multiple things. I would be paying good money to have the time and space to sketch, paint, sculpt, mold, etch, fuse, knit, stitch etc. As it is, I'm a student of my own making in an environment where I am not in a constant state of experimentation, play and assignments. I make my own hours, and often I am critical of myself and how I choose to spend my time. I've managed to put undue pressure on myself to complete tasks. This defeats the purpose and is every reason why I traditional school system doesn't fit for me.

So I'm redefining, refining and focusing. I'm taking some time to look at my full repertoire, what I truly honestly love, what I see as a hobby and what I see as my career. Obviously I've already discovered that my masks and costumes are something I wish to pursue and I have strong dedication to my Tarot Cards and other paintings. Of course, I also know I enjoy design and wouldn't mind testing those waters.

You see, there is a lot for my to accomplish and ponder.

In the mean time, I've finished another painting this past week and as so many of you have requested a print of 'You Are Worthy of Love' I really should go get some imaging done.