Sometime between the ages of 8 and 10 I took a course in watercolour painting at the Haliburton School of Fine Arts. Thanks to this course I discovered that I loathe and despise painting in watercolour.
This is not to say that I don't appreciate watercolour as a medium; on the contrary, I admire anyone who has the patience and skill to use watercolours well. In order to achieve the light, translucent effect, the artist has to give up a lot of control and allow the water to move the paint. Artists who use this medium will say that knowing exactly how much water is in your brush, or on the paper, at any given time comes from experience, but I'm quite certain its a magic trick. I mean, that's the only reasonable explanation.
To say that I've avoided watercolour paints like the plague would be an understatement; to me they are the literal definition of "the worst." My feelings toward watercolour paints might be a reflection of the amount of control I like to have while creating art and... it's a lot. I like to have a lot of control.
So it might come as a surprise that I spent an afternoon testing watercolour markers. But do you know what watercolour markers have that the paints don't? Control! Hooray! Beyond having control over fine details, the markers also don't stain the paper the way that watercolour pencils can, they dissolve more completely. The downside would be that covering a large area is difficult; there will be no wet-on-wet washes with these markers... but if you aren't interested in performing some sort of ancient art ritual, then it isn't a big loss.
I painted fish and they are floating in nothingness like the weirdos they are.
The beginning of most watercolour rituals.. or so I'm told:
Last weekend was my birthday and if you can't blow off the 1001 things you should be doing for the thing you want to be doing on your birthday, then when can you? That's a very long way to say that I started a painting.
After three Pack AD concerts in a week's time there were a couple of songs that stood out to me as more visual than the others. The first I attempted to paint is a song that's less than 2 minutes, and entirely instrumental.
So of course I started the painting but haven't had time to finish it... I have, however, had time to agonize over it and sketch ideas on sticky notes. Because apparently, despite the fact that I have more than one sketchbook, my best ideas are worked out in ballpoint pen on office supplies. Evidence below.
It has also not escaped my notice that the top two sticky notes appear to include sketches of wonky boobs. `\_(ツ)_/`
Apparently not my commitment to this blog!
I have to admit that 2016 was a slow year for creating art; usually July and August are my most productive months given that the rest of the year my job hijacks my life, however, last year we decided to do a kitchen reno ourselves. And so, my summer was spent painting cupboards, laying tile, plumbing and generally making a mess. Up side: I can tile a pretty awesome back splash; downside: no time for art.
There was one notable art-related event last year. In June 2016, I went to see the Pack A.D. play The Red Dog in Peterborough. They played a few songs from a then yet-to-be-released album, and about half way through one of them, I realized that I could see it quite clearly. I went home and immediately produced a sketch...
I painted this entirely from memory. The album hadn't been released yet, so I hadn't heard the recorded version of the song, which means this sketch is the truest representation of the music that I've been able to achieve. Its a raw impression of the song, achieved just from hearing it live.
... and then I decided to give it to the band. Because as an artist, there is nothing like feeling inspired and truly, their music has inspired me to create some of my best work, with an element of surrealism that has never before appeared in my art. While I hope I was able to convey a modicum of my appreciation to Becky and Maya, I'm certain I didn't. Of course they were very sweet and gracious and seemed genuine in their curiosity/appreciation, but looking back, I can't help but wonder if doing this was weird? Awkward? The artistic equivalent of stalking? Maybe one day I'll find the words to be able to properly convey my thanks.
In August 2016 I found out the song was called Yes I Know and its the second track on their album Positive Thinking. I was in a hotel in Calgary when it appeared in iTunes, and I was afraid that when I heard the recorded song, I would instantly question the painting. Thankfully, I felt only relief when I heard the recorded version, because I knew I wouldn't change a thing.
I was planning to do a 34'x 36' canvas of this, but I decided against it. Firstly, I don't think I could reproduce it accurately, and secondly, I like the idea of the inspiration for the painting being in possession of the only original.
So there's another new album that was released just a few days ago and I've been fortunate enough to hear most of the songs live, three times... we all know where this is going.
This past week I hit critical mass; there were too many ideas rolling around in my head and I had to get rid of them. I broke out a giant 36" X 36" canvas and painted another song. Yeah, I'm still doing that whole music thing....
This is the second time I've tried to paint the song 'Positronic'. The first time wasn't terrible (I'd forgotten I called it 'R.Painting,' an homage to my favourite science-fiction author Issac Asimov who coined the word positronic... pretty clever!), but I've always felt it was a bit forced:
I still kind of like this painting, but its too obvious. I don't feel like it reflects the song... it doesn't seem sophisticated enough, if that makes sense.
The second painting is much larger and started off strangely with a yellow ochre and white under painting. I don't know what possessed me to do an off-white under painting; it was a rookie decision that I completely regretted later as I was labouring to make the dark tones have any depth at all... ugh. Anyway after a few hours (possibly six or so...?) I ended up with this:
There is a lot going on in this painting and once again I'm vaguely surprised by the surrealism that emerged. I never plan it, though there was a ballpoint pen sketch of the top of a screw that proceeded this painting:
The colour is also unusual; I NEVER use yellow ochre. Its so unusual that I even remember when I purchased that tube of paint- it was 2003 when I took a painting course at school and it was on the supply list - but there I was, reaching for the yellow ochre. The usually bland colour actually worked pretty well in this painting.
At some point while I was working I decided this was going to be called 'Machine'. Not as original as 'R.Painting' but apt.
Update: 08/15 I found out that the muse for all of this art will be playing at a festival in Ontario this fall. Its in Vankleek, Ontario. According to Google that is 4 hours and 57 minutes east of here..... Its a heck of a drive to see what's likely to be a 25 minute set.
Of course I'll go, I have to go, otherwise, what will I paint?
Update: 09/15 Did you know its really difficult to sit in a car for 4 hours with a broken collarbone? Yeah, so that's a thing that happened to me while mountain biking in Algonquin Park. No ballet, no painting, no trip to Vankleek, only this ridiculous figure 8 brace that makes me look like I'm wearing a backpack all the time. Ugh.
This is the painting... I have no idea if its done yet, but the song doesn't make me as heartsick anymore.
Update 07/15 Its done. I called it 'Hollow' and any feeling of relief that I had from painting the song has completely abandoned me. I can't listen to the song anymore; the emotional trauma it conveys causes me emotional pain.
Work is so, SO busy right now and I have many things on the go, and yet I spent time painting over the weekend.
It is absolutely ludicrous, but I honestly cannot get that song out of my head. Late the other night I finally got tired of it making me feel heartsick and decided to at least start the under painting:
The texture is pretty clear thanks to the angle of the photo; I think the brush strokes reflect the quality of the guitar. And while that might look black, the colour is actually a very deep purple.
Tonight I had a hard time staying away from the painting because I really, really don't have time to spend on it right now, but then I found myself sketching my ideas in pen on sticky notes:
Somewhat unusual methodology but at least it provides temporary relief for my brain.
... when I said that new music from the Pack AD would elicit more art. I haven't painted anything yet, but given that I'm typing this at 2am, I can say with confidence that the need to paint is actually keeping me up tonight. And I would stay up to paint except that I need to be alert and productive tomorrow, so I'm opting to purge some thoughts here in order to get some sleep.
I'm kept awake because a few days ago, my oft-mentioned artistic muse the Pack AD released a video for a song from their last album, along with a four-song EP. There should be no doubt that I downloaded all five items from iTunes as quickly as possible; to say that I've been excited for new material from these ladies is a massive understatement.
The EP, entitled 'Meta Animal', has 'Animal' from their last album, 'Motorvate' a song they played on tour last year, but was only available to download for people who pre-ordered the last album (like me), a cover of the Three Oh Sees 'Nightcrawler', and 'Back in a Hole', a new song.
Can I tell you about that new song?
The first time I listened to it I was struck by the airy, almost sweet quality it seemed to have. Its acoustic; the vocals and guitar are without the usual hard edge that characterizes their music. Musically, the song is beautiful; Becky Black has an incredible voice, but lyrically it left me with a distinct pit in my stomach.
After listening twice more that uncomfortable pit just grew; I was extremely emotional. To say I felt 'sad' seems trivial because it was something more than that... I felt heart sick and I had to convince myself to listen to the song again. When I paid more attention to the lyrics, I realized there was absolutely nothing airy or sweet about them. While I can hear two 'voices,' its the desperation and loneliness of someone drowning in themselves that stands out the most...
... I know this painting is going to be emotionally draining.
Now that my new studio is set up, I'm back to my usual school year routine of gazing longingly at an empty easel and wishing I had time to paint. Thank goodness for March Break, otherwise this painting would still be rattling around in my head.
For some reason I can't seem to shake the whole music-art theme I've been working with for the past year. This is the longest that an idea has ever pestered me, but it continues to produce some pretty interesting paintings so I suppose I'm just along for the ride...
...all of this to say: I wasn't entirely surprised when, as I was listening to The Pack A.D. song Deer while driving to ballet class, I had an idea for another painting. A couple of days later I produced this:
Oddly, I had a pretty clear image in mind when I started to paint. The result, however, was the complete opposite which was very frustrating. I stared at this painting for the longest time wondering where it had come from before I realized what happened...
In December I had the opportunity to see The Pack A.D. open for another band. Since they weren't the headliners their set was short, but apparently seeing their music live continues to have an impression on my subconscious. As is evidenced by the two photos below, without any intention of doing so, three months later I have painted the concert.
I find this fascinating and vaguely unsettling at the same time; my brain dragged up imagery from months prior and it unintentionally came out in my art. I suppose it goes to show that an artist can never tell what is going to influence them, or for how long.
Perhaps this concert stands out in my mind because my husband and I managed to overcome our extremely introverted natures and actually say hello to the band after the show...
I remember virtually nothing of what I said (I know I didn't manage much and I'm sure what I did say was embarrassingly inarticulate) and I most certainly didn't mention all of these paintings because... how am I to approach that? I have the feeling that 'I can't stop painting your music' is the artistic equivalent of 'I'm in the bushes outside your house.'
For the record, Becky Black (far left) and Maya Miller (far right) seem like lovely people; both very kind and gracious. Apparently they're recording new music right now and the way things are going with me, I know that more music means more paintings.
There has been no art for many months because we bought a house, sold our other one, and moved. Its pretty much been hell around here because there is nothing more stressful than selling a house. Staging so that your home looks more like a magazine photo shoot than a place where people live, is not only the most ridiculous requirement of putting a house on the market, but not at all 'artist friendly'. Though I will say that staging was much easier to achieve because I could simply go to my supply of framed art rather than purchasing soulless Ikea art.
Now that we are settled (somewhat) in the new house, I have officially set up an ENTIRE ROOM as my art studio! No more basement corner 'studio' for me!
Behold the post-move disaster:
Organized ALL art-making things in one location:
... and the most exciting part: I FINALLY have space for a full size easel! Oh how far I've come from the days of bracing a canvas against a wall and painting cross-legged on the floor like I did when I was in university.
That sunset painting didn't get finished until tonight! As with all of my work there were some tense moments, especially when I went temporarily crazy and decided to add a starburst??? But after listening to 'Airborne' again, the rest just came to me and luckily I was able to finish.
There's a sunset, clouds and the sun behind the clouds. I unintentionally ended up creating something vaguely surreal; I feel as though the music really inspired this one.