Time really does fly - it’s hard to believe it is already more than a month since the opening reception at Place des Arts for my solo show Balance! I am so grateful for all of you who came out on a cold and wet winter night – your comments and kind words mean so much to me and have helped me thru a challenging time since the opening due to a family member’s critical illness. Although it’s been hard on a personal level, the support I’ve been getting is really appreciated and I’m excited there are still three more weeks for people to connect with my work before the show ends. If you haven't had a chance yet, I hope you'll be able to spend some time at the gallery, enjoying the work of all the artists.
I’m a rule follower. It’s the way my brain works, and probably why I’ve been successful at my day job in software engineering. I follow the traffic laws, the bylaws of my housing complex, and the laws of my country.
Since gingerly beginning to dip my toe in to the world of art three years ago, to jumping in and establishing my professional art practice, I’ve looked for clues to help me understand the rules of being an artist. Guess what…..I’ve discovered that firstly, there aren’t rules, and second that following rules in this space, really isn’t helpful.
Listening to what I’m drawn to, instead of what I think I should do has been the most helpful strategy. Listening to what is true for me. Listening to what feels right, and to what feels like I need to leave behind. It’s a different way of being for me but one that feels increasingly comfortable. Do you give yourself permission in your life to listen to what is true for you?
I love learning. Which is a good thing since my day job is in the high tech sector where if you aren’t continuously learning you get left behind super quickly. But even in my art life where the processes I utilize are slow, methodical, and time intensive, I want to continue to evolve, to learn, and to incorporate new ideas and directions.
A month or so ago I met with the lovely and energetic Pennylane Shen of dazedandconfucious.com. I had heard good things about Pennylane and I was not disappointed! We spent an hour together and by the end I had a page full of mind bending ideas about ways I can further develop my practice and avenues I might pursue. I’ve spent the past month researching some of the ideas, sifting and sorting thru what and how I will incorporate these changes. I’m excited to keep moving my art forward and to see the ways in which I can keep advancing.
Confessions of an ArtistRead More
Last week was the opening reception for ArchiTEXTURE, a group show I’m very pleased to be part of. The venue is the Anvil Center, in New Westminster, Canada. I was honoured that so many people took time to drop in and meet the artists and of course to see the art! The other artists are Judy Villet, Janet Archibald, and Terry Aske.
When the discussions for the show theme were happening, the four of us thought it would be interesting for each of us to create a 20”x20” artwork, referencing the “WowWestminster” sculpture in Pier Park on the Fraser River. This sculpture, by Jose Resende was commissioned by the Vancouver Biennale, and was unveiled in 2015. If you haven’t seen it, the installation incorporates four shipping containers positioned to create a W. It’s quite a sight to see!
Each of the four 20”x20” pieces speaks to the sculpture in their own unique way. Several of the other pieces in the show also reference the installation, as well as other elements of the skyline of New Westminster. If you’re in the area, please do drop in to the gallery space on the third floor of the Anvil Center!
I'm super fortunate to have a roof top deck overlooking the forest. When the hot weather finally arrives where I live, it’s time for me to start dyeing and painting cloth!
This process means hauling cloth, buckets, various chemicals, and dyes up to the roof top. Not only does the deck have ample space for me to work, but when I’ve finished making my marks, or simply mixing the dye into containers, the extended sun exposure means the heat works to activate the chemical bonding reaction needed to fix dye particles to the cloth.
This year, I want to explore different types of marks, and to do more layering of colour and texture. I’m also trying to expand my palette beyond blue, grey, and more blue! We’ll see at the end of the season how successful I was, but on my initial session, I managed to create two green pieces of cloth (the proof is on my Instagram feed)!
I’ve been working on a project for a client involving an antique kimono which was unfortunately damaged in a flood. The client has requested the kimono be used in a large wall hanging to honour the memories she has of the family she received the kimono from. While the scale (huge), the fiber (silk), and the process (assembling relatively large pieces of cloth) are all very different from my those I use in my artwork, I have been enjoying working with this beautiful garment.
My first step was to take the kimono apart, stitch by stitch. I was amazed to find the whole garment had been stitched together by hand with silk thread. As I worked at carefully removing the threads, I wondered about the artisan who had created this beautiful garment. I was curious about what part of Japan they lived in, and when the kimono was created. The quality of the silk is incredible, and given the age, it is still a strong and vibrant piece of cloth.
Next, I pondered for quite some time how I could create something which would showcase the delicate patterns on the surface of the kimono. With some trepidation, I began to carefully cut sections of the kimono, putting the sections back together like a puzzle to create a new arrangement of the kimono sections. Soon the wall hanging will be ready for adding texture in the form of machine stitches. I’m excited to be able to present the finished wall hanging to my client in the next month or so. In the meantime, I am pleased to be carrying on the slow cloth tradition in my own artwork, albeit in a very different form to the tradition of a hand stitched kimono.
The last few months have brought quite a few changes for me. I started the year by changing tracks at my corporate employment from working as a software engineer to working as a Business Systems Analyst. Even though I’m still working on the same team, the role is so different that I’ve basically had to deconstruct the way I’ve worked for the last 35 years and build myself a completely new framework. The pace is frantic, and most of the time I feel like I’m on the edge of control. I love my new team, I like learning new things and I like to be busy so it’s very satisfying.
I’m about to leave the beautiful co-working studio/gallery space I’ve been at for the last 18 months. I love my studio, and the community there, but for a number of reasons, it’s time for me to move on. This weekend I’m moving to Studio Southwynde, my home studio. It will be easier for me in many ways as being out in the world is a challenge for me in terms of managing my physical balance. I’m a little leary as my tendency to overdo it is always ready to overtake my logical reasoning of when to stop. On the other hand, I will need to find new ways for my art to be seen in the world.
Lastly, my eldest son is moving home at the end of his university semester. His younger brother and I will welcome him here of course, and we’ll work through the adjustments of three sharing our cozy home. So much for his bedroom becoming my studio!! Through it all I will continue to make the art which has become central to my being in so very many ways. I suspect you will be seeing quite a few new pieces in my Balance series!
For most of my life I’ve been fascinated by West Coast First Nations design. As a teenager I traced images of ovoids, u shapes, crescents and others, carefully filling them in with my fountain pen and black India ink. I love the juxtaposition of the stark contrast of the figures with the inspiration of elements from the natural world.
Spending summers on my family’s sailboat meant we visited many First Nations villages, most of which were abandoned, the beautiful totems at these sites falling into disrepair with the exposure to the sun, the wind and the inevitable rain.
For years these totems have been on my mind, the memory of them waiting patiently to find a place in my work. I’ve created the first 4 in my new Totems series, working to capture the powerfully haunting, yet stately presence of west coast totems. I hope you’ll enjoy these artworks.
Last week I attended an art salon critique session hosted by Michael King at 100 Braid Street Studios. It was a nice group of painters, with me being the only non painter in attendance. Michael began the session with a comment about the importance of the title when looking at a piece. Because I work in series, my titles are always the name of the series, followed by a number starting with 1 for the first piece in the series, and so on. Hearing the names of the paintings we reviewed definitely influenced how I interpreted the pieces we were looking at.
It was fascinating to listen to the discussions about chroma, temperature, value, and design strategies as well as the way the painters approached their compositions. And what a novel concept to be able to go back to the painting and redo parts of it…something that isn’t easily feasible on a completed textile work.
When it was my turn, I presented Equilibrium #1. I was pleased with the very positive comments and reactions to the piece. It was interesting to hear the reactions of non textile artists to my work. I very purposefully try to find opportunities where I can be in the company of artists who work in a variety of mediums as I find there is much to learn from the way different mediums influence process.
The second piece I presented was Balance #16, one of my favourite Balance series pieces. I find it soft and tranquil. Much silence and perturbed contemplation ensued. I started to feel worried about what the comments might be, but as with all the previous critiques, the comments were kind and constructive. The feedback I received was very thought provoking, causing me to seriously consider renaming my inaugural series. For now, I’m still pondering.
Last weekend was the 13th annual New Westminster Cultural Crawl and 100 Braid Street Studios, where I have a studio, was one of the venues on the crawl. We were happy to welcome many new visitors as well as renewing connections with previous visitors. The weather was wonderful, and the sunlight lit the artworks of all 16 studio artists beautifully.
I very much enjoyed talking to visitors to my studio, who seemed to come in a steady stream all weekend! Although I find these kinds of events very wearing as it’s hard for me to concentrate on keeping my balance and talking to visitors, I learned so much by talking to people, hearing their reactions to art, their art practices and much more. And a big bonus, many of our studio visitors went home with new art for their collections!
If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you may know that I recently spent a three week holiday from my day job working in my art studio nearly every day. It was pure bliss. I went from managing two jobs (day job, and artist), to only having to work out the logistics for one of them (artist). I consciously tried to slow down my pace, starting a restorative yoga practice, walking, and spending time meditating each day.
Despite the insistence of my logical mind that I needed to be “doing” more, I found that by taking time to be still and to “do” less, I was actually able to be more creative while in the studio. This is quite revolutionary for me as I’ve always followed the mantra of if there are more minutes in the day, then it is imperative that I fill them with useful activity. Once I got into the pattern of doing less, it was relatively easy.
I returned to my day job a few days ago, and found my plan to go to the studio and accomplish at the same pace as during my holidays quickly derailed. Now I need to find a way to balance the doing less to be more creative within the smaller amount of time that is available. Have you tried doing less in order to do more?
I used to think my day job as a software engineer and my artistic life were at opposite ends of the spectrum. But it occurred to me the other day that they are more similar than one might think. Although writing computer software is often portrayed as a scientific process, I can tell you, thirty years on in my career, that more often than not it’s the skillful and creative application of techniques honed thru experience. There’s always the delicate balance between creating a product that serves the customer, and the cost to the organization to build it.
In my artistic practice, I draw on a similar skillset – spending time up front to understand the goal before me, then using the techniques in my technical skillset to create a piece of art that serves the person viewing it. At various points in the project, I’m called upon to solve technical challenges in a way that fits within the framework I’ve set for myself.
Where do you find crossovers in the diverse areas in your life?
By nature, I am quite a private person, choosing to quietly go about my life...but part of the work to embrace the artist aspect of my identity naturally involves finding opportunities for my work to be on display. After the initial jitters about how my work would be received, I began to purposefully share my work via social media as a way to be seen in the world. After seeing my posts, people began to ‘follow’ me and I got a bit freaked out by it! My sons, being of the social media generation, were rather amused by this, assuring me that being followed was really a good thing. Fast forward a couple of years, and it’s now much easier to post frequently and I’m delighted when people follow me!
Last month I took an even bigger leap, arranging for a professional photographer to do a photo shoot of some of the processes involved in my art practice. The photographer, Michele Mateus, was delightful, made me feel very much at ease, and took a ton of gorgeous shots. Sharing some of these photos online, in particular, the ones with me in them, has been very challenging for me these past few weeks. It’s definitely much easier to post photos of only my artwork! Hopefully with time, this new level of exposure will become as comfortable as sharing my art.
In Vancouver, Canada, on Granville Island, there is an artists’ paint store called Kroma Acrylics. For years I have walked past this store, lingering only outside the door, gazing longingly at the beautiful window displays of colour paint chips. The reason? I didn’t consider myself qualified to go inside.
This sounds ridiculous when I write it here. Since when did anyone need to be qualified to go into a store which is in the business of selling artists paint? The other week when I plucked up my courage and went inside, no lights flashed over my head and no sirens went off to announce me as an imposter. I received generous help and came away with 4 tubes of gorgeous paint which I came home and promptly and happily used to paint on my cotton fabric.
Do you find there are places where the only thing stopping you is yourself?
My earliest memory of doing something artsy is from when I was in the eighth grade. I know, not all that young. My childhood was filled with time spent on the sea, sailing in my own small boat, and in my family’s larger one. I remember constantly sketching sailboats with the bow wave peeling away as the boat sliced thru the waves. In my art class in high school we did batik and so it was no surprise that the subject of my batik piece was sailboats. I can still remember the smell of the beeswax.
The piece I made languished in a drawer for many, many years until one day in the late 1990s when I needed a starting point for a work that was going to be part of a round robin project. I pulled out the piece, and handed it off to my fellow round robin participants. The image below is the finished piece.
What’s your earliest art or other childhood memory?
At the beginning of August, I went to visit a gallery and working studio called 100 Braid Street Studios. When I arrived, I was greeted by the founder and owner, Susan Greig. Susan gave me a guided tour of the gorgeous gallery, and the beautiful studios of the artists. Afterwards, we sat and chatted about and I mentioned to Susan I was trying to find exhibitions in the area where I could share my artwork. Susan kindly answered my questions, and mentioned that there was a studio currently available at Braid Street. I didn't take much notice as I wasn't looking for a studio.
After I left the studio, all I could think about was what a fabulous space and community Susan and her team have created in this site that was previously a winery. Susan's description to me of her vision for the space, and the ways she fosters connections to community resonated with me and I knew I had to find a way to be a part of this talented and diverse group of artists. Overnight I put together my artist resume, a letter of intent, filled in application forms, and emailed them off to Susan, knowing full well that there was a lengthy waiting list for studio space, as there has been since the opening of the studios.
A few days later, I became the newest resident artist at the studios, and participated in my first cultural crawl. I've been amazed at how my art practice has changed in the 6 weeks I've been working from my new studio. I'm so delighted that this treasure showed up on my path, and I'm excited to see where things will go from here.
For many years, I wandered around in textile art land making a trail of pieces, feeling somewhat dissatisfied with each one, but not really knowing why. Nearing the end of 2013, frustrated with my scattered, indistinct voice, I stumbled upon the online classes offered by Lisa Call. In March 2014, I started Lisa’s class “Working in a Series” and my life (and my family’s!) hasn’t been the same since.
In the class, I chose the theme of a series (Balance), learned how to focus in on what I wanted to say, narrowed how I was going to say it, and produced a ton of work during the 12 week class. I learned new ways of looking at artwork, and at my own work in particular. The class curriculum, Lisa’s excellent support, and her strong encouragement to stretch well beyond my comfort zone, allowed me to make leaps I never would have made working on my own.
After the class was over, I felt like I had lots of material to work on, and plenty of ideas. I worked alone in my studio for about six months, but began to feel the need for connection and feedback. I decided to join Lisa’s year long online Master Class group. The members of the group are from all parts of the world, and bring a wealth of experience, and a fascinating diversity of styles. I highly recommend working with someone who can help you develop yourself as an artist, whether locally or online as I’ve done.
When I decided to start working in a series, I needed to choose a subject that deeply interested me. I chose Balance. Much of my life has been a study, in one form or another, not so much about balance, as about lack of balance.
From not being able to say no early on in my career as a software engineer, to having my balance system damaged during surgery, the theme of balance has showed up over and over. Living with the inability to physically balance my body keeps this squarely in my daily consciousness.
In many ways, this lack of physical balance has been a blessing for me. It's forced me to slow down and look at what is important to me, to choose each day what is the most valuable thing to spend a finite amount of energy on for that day. It's given me a focus in my art, and a wealth of ideas to explore in my pieces.
In our every day world, balance is at play in a variety of ways. On many levels, from global to local, there is a need to balance the resources we consume with the quality of life we've come to expect. There is the ongoing focus of the balance between nature and the environment, and the impact of humans on these systems. For individuals, there is the balance between how much time to spend at work, and how much time to spend with family, where to spend the precious resources of time and money, when to balance the security of a child with their need to become independent...the opportunities for balance, and imbalance to occur are endless.
Where do you feel a lack of balance in your life?
I’ve just started working on Balance #21, after choosing a palette of pale greens, blues and greys for the background, and turquoise, teal, and deep blue fabrics for the foreground pieces. I have an idea of what the final composition will look like, but the piece is created row by row, responding intuitively to what is on the design wall before me. Each piece is individually cut by hand, each piece an organically shaped rectangle, custom shaped to the pieces around it. A variable number of these pieces make up each row. Each row is sewn to the previous row until finally the surface layer of the piece is complete.
After the surface layer is completed, a piece of cotton fabric is taped to a flat surface, then a piece of bamboo and cotton batting is laid on the cotton, and finally, the surface layer of the artwork is laid on top of the previous two layers. These three layers are then pinned together with safety pins so no shifting occurs during the next step. Once the layers are together, thread colours are chosen to suit the artwork and the work of stitching in the texture begins.
After the texture stitching is completed, there are several hundred thread ends to pull thru to the back of the artwork, knot, and pull thru into the batting layer to secure the thread. Next, facings, hanging sleeves and a label are added. Finally a piece of wood slat is cut to fit the hanging sleeve for the piece.