Art and the Art of Reconciliation

Today saw the release of the final Truth & Reconciliation Commission report on the treatment of Aboriginal people in Canada. There is much to learn and much to do as a result of this report and I will leave a lot of that to wiser people than I. Much of it however is a reflection on the theft of children, their placement in residential schools, their horrific treatment and the subsequent long term damage to their (and our) culture.

I want to offer an experience Kim and I had almost 6 years ago now as perhaps one very small lesson of what we as white immigrants to these lands can learn from and perhaps do to support Aboriginal peoples, especially Aboriginal artists.

Kim and I were on a business trip in Vancouver in mid May of 2010. We went a few days early because it  also happened to be Kim’s birthday. We decided to have a walk around Gastown and look to pick up something for Kim’s birthday present. There are many “Native Art” galleries in Gastown and since Kim is interested in such things, that’s where we headed. We visited several places and while we were impressed by some of the work, a lot of it felt very overpriced and, frankly, not of great quality. There were a few things that Kim liked.

Now, it’s been several years and I honestly can’t remember what happened. Did I look something up on my phone? Did i overhear someone in one of the shops? I just don’t remember. But I do remember learning somehow that these galleries paid very little to the artists whose work they showed. Far less than what a regular gallery paid an artist. Was that even true? I don’t know. In any case, we left the last gallery around 1:30 prepared to head back to the hotel, without a purchase.

Just down the street, there was a man, an artisan, just setting up on a bench.  We stopped to see what he was doing.  He looked to be carving feathers out of cedar. We asked if he had any to sell, but he said no, he was just getting to work, but if we came back in about an hour, he would have one done.

Now this is the thing; instead of walking away and coming back to buy a piece of his art, we asked if we could stay and watch. He did a bit of a double take and repeated “It’ll be an hour or so…” We said that was fine with us as long as it was fine with him.

Over the next hour, we talked with Alec. We found out about his family, both from his home Mamalilikulla on the northern tip of Vancouver Island and his Vancouver family, his wife and children. He told us of his struggles in the city, but above all, his desire to use his art and culture to help his children. All the while, we were watching him create a beautiful wood carving called Raven Feather, Moon.

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Alec Mountain probably made dozens of these feathers a week on that bench in Gastown. But the reason it sits in a place of honour on our mantle is the time we spent with Alec. Listening. For us, our time with Alec is an inseparable part of this piece of art.

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And that’s all I know about reconciliation at the moment. It starts by listening and honouring those who speak.

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Kim with Alec Mountain from Mamalilikulla, BC

 

Gilakas’la Alec

He was a big man

He was a big man. 250 pounds probably. Face pockmarked & rough. I sat a table over from him in the food court at the City Centre Mall. I was killing time waiting to go on CBC Radio to talk about art. I was having some fries & a coke. He was having a burrito. A tiny thing. Hardly bigger around than the big man’s thumbs. Probably one of those 99 cent things. Two bites and it was gone. He sat there for a while, staring at his hands. I ate my fries.

The people at the table on my left finished eating, stood up and walked away, leaving the bag from McDonald’s on the table. The big man immediately got up and and dumped the contents of the bag on the table. Napkins.

I reached into my coat and opened my wallet. I never do this. Don’t get me wrong. I buy the food bank packages at the grocery store. But I don’t do this. But there was something about this. This big man, eating a tiny 99 cent burrito. Maybe the only thing he’d eat that day.

I asked him if he was still hungry. He just nodded. I reached in to my wallet. A 5 and a 20. I grabbed the 5, ready to give it to him. No give him the 20. What if he buys something to drink instead of food. So what. You’re going to have drink when you get home. He may not even have a home.

I hand over the 20. He doesn’t look at me. Just the barest grunt of acknowledgment. I turn and watch as he walks to the McDonald’s kiosk. He will eat. And maybe have a beer later. Merry Christmas, sir.

And yet, as I finish my fries and walk through the food court to my interview, I’m not feeling good. Instead I’m seeing sad, hungry eyes. Everywhere. There’s twenty people there that could use a meal. More. I can’t feed them all. I tell myself at least the big man won’t be hungry tonight.

But even the next day, I can’t stop thinking about the big man and the burrito. And all the people I didn’t help.

And then as I’m driving to work, I hear the CBC morning show talk about the 20th annual Turkey Drive for the Edmonton Food Bank

I remember that they have an online auction. I can help. I can do something. Maybe not for those specific people in the food court. But for someone. Maybe a couple of dozen. I can donate a print of one of my pieces to the auction.

And you can help. Bid on it HERE. Catalog price for this piece is $250. That’s 10 turkeys. I’d love it to go for more.

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Help the Food Bank. Help those people in the food court.

Help the big man have something more to eat than a 99 cent burrito.

Merry Christmas.

Jay

January Solo Show Details

Readers of this blog will know that last June I received word that I’d been selected to exhibit a solo show at the Gallery at Milner which is an art gallery in the main branch of the Edmonton Public Library system (2014 Library of the Year for North America). The gallery is just inside the main entrance and receives a lot of traffic every day.

 My exhibit is called Alberta. Of Earth and Sky  and will run January 2 – 30, 2016. It will feature some of my existing and new work prominently featuring my representations of Alberta. I currently have 18 pieces ready to hang for the show, most of which have been completed in the last 8 months.1_nichewall

Initially I thought I’d have some kind of reception but being that the show is in January and people usually have post December party fatigue, I decided that I would try & think of something different. After the crazy experience of the mural reveal and pop up art show where there were lots of people but I barely got to say more than hi to anyone, what I really wanted to do was provide an opportunity for as many people to be able to come and see the art and talk to me.

Thinking back, I realized I had a ton of fun interacting with the people out on the beach during my Art Retreat (which I just realized I’ve yet to write about! It’s been a crazy summer and fall).

artRetreat

So with that in mind, I’m super pleased to be able to announce that every Saturday during my show, I’ll be live painting at the gallery between 2 and 5 pm!!

If you’re local, I hope you’ll come down on one of the Saturdays and if you’re not, watch my Twitter feed because I may live tweet and/or Periscope some of the afternoons.

 

 

See It Live! New Public Art for Edmonton.

Update 4: A nice article in a local paper on the project

Update 3:

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TaaDaa!

From the bike path.

From the bike path.

Update 2: For those asking (yes, people have asked!?) The reveal will be broadcast on Periscope at 5:15 MDT (-6 GMT)

Update: Listen to an interview I did about the project on the CBC morning show Edmonton AM.

Last spring I saw a tweet that changed the way I think about what my art can be. The tweet was a call for proposals to paint a mural on the back wall of a local hotel. For some odd reason, I thought, “Hey I should do my art…but 100 times larger than what I normally do.” I submitted a version of a painting I had completed earlier this year.

Varscona Mural Project

Varscona Mural Project submission 27×80 ft

As I wrote about, I made it to the final 4 but ultimately wasn’t successful. I’m not sure why, but I was pretty upset about not being selected. I mean, who wouldn’t want that on their wall right? (ego much??) Over much of late April and early May, I whined about not winning the commission, but also did a bit of “have a blank wall? This could be yours.” marketing on Twitter.

Capture

One day, Brad Ferguson of Edmonton Economic Development (a major force in business in Edmonton) tweeted me out of the blue and said I should contact the Westin Hotel in Edmonton and try to get them to hire me to paint a mural on their giant wall.

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Now that wall is GIANT. Something like a 150×40. I may not be terribly afraid of taking on new things, but I’m not stupid. Doing something that large, visible and in the center of downtown…without ever having painted anything larger than 3x4ft…? That would be stupid. So I haven’t contacted the Westin (yet).

But I just couldn’t put the idea of doing a mural aside. Then I saw this series of tweets

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See, the funny thing is, our family business, the one that consumed my time & energy for almost 20 years and was one of the reasons I didn’t paint for so long, well, we own one of those buildings. One of those blanks canvases. And frankly, it was a bit of an eyesore and attractor of tagging.

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It was perfect. It desperately needed some love, it wasn’t too large (17x40ft) and faced out onto a greenspace that hundreds of people walked by every day. And I guess, for the tiny part of my brain that said “you’re crazy”, it wasn’t someone else’s wall I’d be learning on.

The next thing to do was decide what to do for the mural. My initial thought was to just do the mural that had been rejected earlier in the spring. I’d also just finished a Painting I called “Unexpected” that I thought would look alright.

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The more I thought about it, the more I felt that I should save the landscape-y murals for more bleak urban areas (cough Westin Hotel cough). This building looks out on a green space so I thought I’d look at some of my other work. The one that really jumped out at me was “The Vocalist”

The Vocalist

“The Vocalist” 20x26in oil on canvas © 2015 JayB

There was only one problem.

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But I decided I’d add to the original to fit the building. This has the added benefit of making the mural a truly unique piece, not just a larger version. Plus I get to paint the Vocalist’s hair 🙂

Now that I had a design, I needed to figure out how I was going to actually make it. Edmonton summer weather can be filled with supper time thunderstorms and because I was going to be doing this after work, I decided that trying to paint directly on the wall could be problematic. In planning my rejected mural, I went to a mural painting seminar put on by The Paint Spot. One of the suggestions was to paint on Dibond panels which are thin sheets of painted aluminum laminated to foamed PVC plastic. They are stable, light, easy to work with and last 10+ years outside. In searching for a supplier, I found one who recommended I use Nudo Polymetal panels, which are pretty much identical to the Dibond, but are about 35% cheaper.

Next major issue was where could I actually paint on these panels? Certainly not in my condo. I can’t even get a 4×8 sheet down my basement stairs. And there will be -20- panels to do.

Well, turns out, our business rents about 10,000ft2 of pretty crappy space for storage. And has for about 5 years. The space was pretty full, but with some creative stacking & sorting, I managed to carve out about 400tf2 which would be enough to work in. Problem solved. Cost? $0.

Lastly I needed to figure out how to actually paint on these panels. First thing was to scale things up. That was pretty easy. Photoshop painting onto building to scale and create a grid.

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Slice into individual panels

BuildingGrid_10And project on the panel on the wall.CJFZfONUYAAbOym

Then I needed to decide on paint and painting technique. I knew I was going to use acrylic but once I saw how large these panels really were, I knew that brushwork was not going to be practical. Fortunately, I have a -lot- of spray painting in my background. I spent many years painting signs and displays in the 80’s, I’ve painted about 10 cars and I’ve done airbrush work as well. I am very comfortable with a spray gun. Once I decided that “spray was the way”, paint choice was simple. I went with the Golden Fluid Acrylic with the addition of the Airbrush Extender. About $600 worth…to start

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I eventually used over $1000 worth of paint. It goes a long way…but it’s a -big- wall.

Next up was 20 days of painting panels.

You can also follow the progress of the project and my thoughts as I was doing it by searching for the hash tag #yegmurals on Twitter. (or just click the link )

I’m really happy I decided to capture the process in a time lapse. Already, I’ve forgotten what it was like to do it..

I finished the painting portion of the project on July 31. It took me 20 days to do 20 panels.

What was I thinking!

What was I thinking!

All told, there’s about 45 hours of painting that went into the piece. I got pretty fast once I remembered how to paint. (I have lots of experience with spray painting, but it was a long time ago!)

Next up I had to build something to move the panels safely to the site. So I built this mobile crate thingie. CLmzpDtVAAA5snEThen I went on an Art Retreat…which is another blog post to come. Once I came back from the retreat I started wall preparation. Initially, I was simply going to mount the panels directly to the steel panels of the building but the wall was badly damaged. I decided the best way to deal with the wall issues was to build a wooden framework, mount & level it on the steel wall panels and then mount the mural panels to it. We banged out the worst of the dents, rust treated the bad spots and soon had the framework up.CNrlqzDWgAAlIMo (1)I had the panels delivered on September 1. It was pretty stressful. My crate thingie wasn’t as sturdy as I’d hoped. The panels are about 35lbs each…but there’s 20 of them so that’s 700lbs! (Next time, bigger wheels and more bracing)CN1TCmuUEAAkNqrThankfully they arrived without incident and we began installation the same day. CN3A6diUEAA9bk9

We’ve run into some issues with weather with wind and rain

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… but as of today, all but 3 panels are installed and it looks like this weekend will be dry and warm so I should be able to get the final 3 panels up, all of the fasteners touched up and any final tweaks done.

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The last part of the process has been to organize “The Reveal” which is going to take place on October 7 from 4:30 to 6:30pm (mountain).

In planning the reveal, I realized I needed a name for the piece. This summer has seen the closing of many live music venues in Edmonton and I decided that this piece is a bit of a response to that. The mural is a celebration of the joy of seeing music live, featuring a stylized singer and dancers in the lights and energetic colours of a music venue. I’ve titled it “See It Live”

You're Invited!

You’re Invited!

I’m hoping to make a bit of a splash with this. I’m also going to have a “popup” art show as part of the reveal. I hope to have about 20 of my latest works on display so there’s another reason to come 🙂 I’ve already been contacted by local media and should see some coverage.

If you’re reading this before Oct. 7 and are in the Edmonton area, you can RSVP at Eventbrite. If you RSVP, you’ll receive a signed art card of “The Vocalist”.

We’re inviting a lot of folks from the city, the province and arts community as well as businesses in the area. Bizarrely, I’ve had requests from some of my Twitter friends to “Periscope” (ie; live stream on Twitter) the reveal for those in far flung places. So I will try to do that. Watch the #yegmurals hashtag or follow me on Twitter @jayispainting to keep up to date on that.

Finally, I’m hoping that we can convince some of the businesses along the greenbelt to do the same. I’d like to make my MakeSomethingEdmonton project into a much larger project, that sees this area turned into a public art corridor featuring art from some other Edmonton artists (and maybe another from me??). It would be great for the city and the local community. Stay tuned for that!

I’ll do a recap of the reveal once it’s over. Then I can get back to getting ready for my January Solo Show and starting on a 3×6 ft commission that I just picked up this weekend. (!!!) Working artist working.

Oh, and Westin Hotel? You can expect a call soon 🙂

Working Artist Working.

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Works Started at my Art Retreat – August 2015

Over the summer I’ve found myself in the unusual position of having so many things going on that I’ve hardly had a chance to think, let alone write something here. And almost all of what’s been happening has been art related so I’m absolutely thrilled.

I think the only way to catch up properly is to write a few posts and document the summer. But this post isn’t one of those. What I really want to write about this morning is the shift in how I think about myself as an artist and how I feel about my art.

Artist is a title that I’ve been very reluctant to hang on myself. Professional artist, even less so. Years ago, I was around some artists who were very unsupportive of those who didn’t have a degree. The few works I showed them received minimal response along the lines of “that’s nice but leave the real art to us”. At least this is what I felt. Perhaps my own insecurity as an artist was reflected back at me. What I can say is that they were never supportive or encouraging of what I was doing. I now  know the work was reasonably good as I just sold a piece I did in 1996 (future post!). I couldn’t see there was merit in my work at the time and that’s one of the reasons I gave it up.

Once I realized I -had- to paint again, I also gave up worrying too much about what other people think. Don’t get me wrong, there’s very few things better than having someone tell you they love your work, but, at least for me, that can’t be the reason I paint. So I just paint.

The other shift was realizing that if I was going to paint, I couldn’t simply “get around to it”. I needed to make it part of my daily routine. Once I started do this, things started to happen. I got better. I got faster. I started posting progress pictures on twitter and began to receive great feedback. Which made me want to do more. To be even better. To do bigger, more challenging things. Even things like meet other artists. Go to workshops. Get out in the art community. Submit to artists calls. Granted I’ve not done -a lot- of this, but it is happening.

It’s funny. When you do things, things happen. Gave some work to charity and found out people will buy my art and some will even pay quite a bit for it. Submitted for a Gallery show and was accepted. Submitted to a mural project, was final 4 shortlisted but passed on. Almost submitted to a mural project and ended up in a discussion artists’ rights and copyright. Actually created a really big mural and ended up having a pop up art show. Had an artist refer a mural-ish commission to me because she was unable to do it. Posted work on Twitter and had multiple inquiries on sales and sold some. Went to an art retreat and painted for 5 hours a day for a week. Came up with an idea for a multimedia project that could keep me busy for months. Found a temporary studio right under my nose. Turned the temporary studio into permanent studio. Applied to a large public art call. These last few things are the things I’ll write about in future posts.

I’m still not a “professional” artist as I don’t (yet!) make my living at it and I don’t have the letters behind my name. Maybe it’s because of my past experiences with “professional” artists but I’m not sure I’ll ever feel like that’s a term I want applied to me. But I’m OK with that. I’m a working artist. And I’m working.

Exciting News. A January Solo Show!

Some Mondays you come in to work and it’s so stereotypically Monday, it’s almost funny. Then there are days like yesterday. While having a coffee, I checked my home email and found this.

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!!!!!!! This will be my first public showing of any of my art -ever-. It will be a solo show of around 15 works.

The Gallery at Milner is an art gallery in the main branch of the Edmonton Public Library system (2015 Library of the Year for North America). The gallery is just inside the main entrance and is also accessed by a local coffee shop so traffic should be amazing. There is also the potential for “off-site” sales. They don’t want to be involved in any transaction but will connect me with potential buyers.

My exhibit will be called Alberta. Of Earth and Sky  and will run January 2 – 30, 2016. It will feature some of my existing and new work prominently featuring my representations of Alberta.

"Unexpected"

“Unexpected” 20×26″ oil on canvas June 2015 © JayB

As we get nearer to the date, I will be announcing details on an opening reception and I hope some of my local friends and artists can attend.

Special thanks to Meghan MacMillan for her encouragement to submit to the call for submissions.

Generally, I don’t like Mondays. Yesterday was an exception.

The Mantle of Contemplation

I wrote a version of this post on the bus about 4 weeks ago and WordPress Mobile ate it when I tried to post it. Well, I’m on the bus again, writing in Evernote. I’ll post it later.

Late last year I finished a piece called “Jazz” and really enjoyed playing with the shape colour & texture in the piece. I especially enjoyed being surprised by the people who showed up in it.

Jazz

“Jazz” 26x32in oil on canvas. © 2014 JayB

In mid February this year, I started a painting that immediately became a musical piece with the same feel as Jazz. I don’t remember if it was intentional, but the style was there right from the start.

Work in progress- Day One

Work in progress- Day One

After the quick start, we had a road trip to Florida for work and I didn’t get much work done on it until mid March. By the last week in March, I felt it was done.

 

Work In Progress

Work In Progress – Finished? Hmmm.

 

On the easel in the studio, I was really happy with it. Lots of movement, good colour and pretty balanced. So, I tweeted out “yay it’s done” our something similar. But I knew it needed to go on the Mantle of Contemplation.

So what’s that? Well, really, it’s just the mantle over our fake fireplace in our condo. But it’s in a real life setting, with real lighting. I put all my finished(?) Works here for a few days, or longer, to see how they sit with me out of the studio setting.

The Mantle of Contemplation

The Mantle of Contemplation

In this case I decided to hang the new painting alongside Jazz, to see how it compared.

The Mantle

The Mantle of Contemplation. “Jazz” and Work in Progress

 

And right away I saw there were problems. The piece was flat, too monotone and lacking the brushwork I really liked in Jazz .

Jazz - Detail

Jazz – Detail

 

So, despite being really happy with it in the studio, it clearly needed more work.

I worked on it for a couple more days, probably no more that 6-8 hours in total. And what a difference. -Now- it was finished – except for one more visit to the Mantle of Contemplation, because you just never know. But after living with it for a couple of days, I knew it was done. And from my perspective, it’s even more successful than Jazz.

The Vocalist

“The Vocalist” 20x26in oil on canvas © 2015 JayB

I guess the moral of the story is that everyone should have a place to objectively look at a new work. Does it work under normal room lighting? Do any flaws in technique show up? most importantly, how does it work in a home as a piece of art?

 

At least 50% or more of my work initially gets rejected by the Mantle of Contemplation. And they’re better works for it.

 

Spring Cleaning

It’s been a while since I posted, (as I was gently reminded on Twitter today), so I thought I’d update what’s been going on since the last post. I did have a really great post written a couple of weeks ago while I was on the bus but when I went to post it, WordPress Mobile ate it & I lost it all. I’m writing this on the bus too, but I’m using Evernote. I’ll post it when I get home, just to be safe. And I will get around to rewriting the lost post soon.

Anyways. Spring has been very busy. Here are the highlights.

The Varscona Hotel Mural Project

In early March, I saw a call for submissions for a large (27×80 feet!) mural to go on the backside of the Varscona Hotel in the trendy Whyte Avenue district here in Edmonton. Now I’ve never done a mural before, but I’ve been involved in many large scale outdoor sign projects in my years with the sign company in the 80’s. I thought, eh, why not & went to the information session. There were about 10 artists in attendance with varying degrees of experience. (I know because we exchanged emails & I looked them up online. Know your competition!)

I started playing around with ideas. None which were really working when I thought, “Oh, I bet I know what would look good”. I grabbed a picture of “Winter Solstice at White Sands” which had just sold, and Photoshopped it onto the building. Frankly, I was blown away at how good it might look.

 

Varscona Mural Project

Varscona Mural Project submission 27×80 ft

I spent the next week or so re-living my project quoting past life (again, courtesy the sign company) and came up with a budget. This included the challenge of figuring out how much paint to use. I found a great trick using Photoshop which I’ll have to write about sometime.

I submitted my project & then began the waiting.

I waited & waited. And waited. Inquiries went unanswered. Finally, almost 3 weeks after the supposed award date, I got an email saying, “Oops we forgot. You didn’t win.” And that was it. The project was administered by some art students as a project & I guess exams got in the way or something. I have to say I was pretty disappointed, not only with losing with what I thought was a very strong proposal, but with the way I was treated.

Fortunately, as part of my “hey what’s going on” inquiries, I sent an email to a consultant on the project. I got an email back with some more detail. It turns out that my proposal was one of four finalists that were submitted to the building owners who chose the winner. The winners are 2 professional mural artists from Montreal. It’s a bit disappointing that they didn’t choose a local artist, but I’m told they are originally from Edmonton (so that’s local-ish?). It’s hard to know what were the key factors. Experience? Well, my none is none. Cost? At full wall coverage, my project was expensive with over 50% of the budget in paint alone. Design? Well the building owners have to pick something that works for them.

In any case, knowing I made the final four, made me feel a lot better about the whole thing. Now I just need to find another wall & a sponsor. 🙂

Miscellaneous paintings

During the “waiting time” I managed to complete several works and start and stop on a few more.

One weekend, completed 2 small pieces, one of which is well in the style I’m most used to, and another which is very different.

“Aurora over Buffalo Lake” is something I think most people who know my work would recognize. I’ve resisted painting aurora because they can just be so cliché. This one worked well though, I think. I may do more.

 

Aurora Over Buffalo Lake

Aurora Over Buffalo Lake 10×26 Oil on Canvas 2015 © JayB

“Woman of the Earth” is quite a departure for me in terms of subject & technique.  I’ve wanted to combine landscape & figure for a while now & I’m really pleased with how this turned out.

 

Woman of the Earth

“Woman of the Earth” 10×24 oil on canvas. © 2015 JayB

I also completed a large (my largest ever in fact) canvas and another in my music series. I want to do separate posts about these 2 so I won’t go into detail about them here.

Supporting Another Charity event. 

In my last post, I talked about Letting Go of work & my donation of a painting to a great cause.  Well a couple of weeks ago, I was contacted on Twitter by someone from the Zebra Centre. They were having a gala & auction and the organizer, Chris, had seen my work on Twitter (value of social media anyone?) and wondered if I’d be interested in donating something. After I checked out who they were, I said yes. I looked at what I had and didn’t really see anything that I wanted to donate but since I had a couple of weeks, I’d paint something specifically for the event. I decided I wanted to paint a landscape with a tie to Edmonton. Despite living here for most of my life, I’ve not really done that. I thought it would be a good challenge. Of course, it’s hard to paint anything about Edmonton that doesn’t involve our beautiful river valley so that’s what I did. The basic painting came together in exactly one hour.

 

Work in Progress

Work in progress 22×26 Oil on Canvas 2015 © JayB

The next week & a bit was just detail & refinement. By the time it was finished, I knew it was one of my most successful pieces.

Sunset on the North Saskatchewan

“Sunset on the North Saskatchewan” 22×26 Oil on Canvas 2015 © JayB

So much so that I decided I should spend the money & have it professionally scanned.

 

Sunset on the North Saskatchewan

Sunset on the North Saskatchewan with miniature colour giclee on canvas proof after scanning

 

When Chris picked up the painting on Friday, he said something which I’m still chuckling over. He said “When I saw what you posted the first night, I thought hey, that’s great. Then you kept on making it better.” It’s funny that what appears done to other people & what I think is done can often be quite different.

So Saturday night rolled around & I’m watching Twitter for the hashtag for the event as they had said they were going to “live tweet” but I ended the night knowing nothing about what happened. I assume the organizers were too busy organizing to tweet. Not surprising I suppose. I woke up feeling nervous. Did anyone bid? Yes, I’m pretty sure someone did. But how much? Finally at around noon Sunday I direct messaged Chris on Twitter and asked how we did. This was the response.

 

After the Gala Tweets

After the Gala Tweets

I was a bit stunned. Kim had been telling me it will sell “for a lot” and I guess I thought there was a possibility of selling for “a lot”, but it’s hard to imagine what that means. But this blows me away. Someone looked at a painting by an unknown artist (me) and said, “I really want that and am prepared to pay $1200 for it.” I mean, I paid almost that much for my first car. It’s just wacky. But wow, what a great feeling. And to know that it’s going to a great cause makes it even better.

On a side note, a potential buyer was going to come over and look at some of my work last weekend. He cancelled. He’s going to be mad because my prices just went up. 🙂

Finally, a website.

One of the other reasons I haven’t written anything here is that I’ve spent the last couple of weeks wrangling a website into existence. You may or may not know but among other things, I build & maintain our company’s website. I’m right in the middle of final testing to launch the first redesign of the site in 4 years. The very last thing I want to do when I get home from work is work on websites. But since I had this gala thing, I wanted to have something in place should people be interested. So after deciding that I wasn’t going to build a site from scratch, I bought a premium WordPress theme with the idea that I’d just upload content and be done. Well, not so fast. Between complete lack of documentation from the theme developers & the cumbersome nature of WordPress, it’s been a struggle. But as of yesterday, I have something that is sort of presentable. There still be bunch of things that drive me crazy but I’ll work on them over time. I don’t want to build websites. I want to paint.

In any case, you can visit the new site at www.earthskyart.ca. It has most of my work posted & contact information. I will be selling prints & originals through the site at some point but if you’re interested now just drop me a note on the contact page.  Eventually, this blog on wordpress.com will migrate to the website, but I’m not sure when.

Whew. That was a lot to catch up on. And I didn’t even talk about those other 2 paintings. I shouldn’t leave so much time in between posts but in my defense I’ve been busy with arty things so that’s a good thing. I did manage to write about 80% of this on the bus so I guess that may be a good option to keep more current (now that I’m not relying on the @#$#!%#% WordPress app to write it)

Now off to put together a submission for a show at the main public library here.  Busy, busy spring.

Letting Go

UPDATE: I’m pleased to report that my painting sold for $550. Apparently there was spirited bidding among 3 young lawyers. It’s also great because there was another well established, well known Edmonton painter with work up for auction and his 2 paintings went for $300 a piece. 🙂

This last year has been my most productive period of painting ever. If you’ve read my first post on this blog, Outside Lilooet, you’ll know that I took an almost 20 year break from painting. But since I began painting again in late 2013, I’ve managed to complete almost 20 pieces (?), some of them quite large (for me anyways).

I am really thrilled with not only what I’ve produced, but the range of styles & techniques I’ve used. It really feels like I’m learning with every new piece.

One thing I have -not- learned is how to let go of these pieces. Since I’ve put my work on Twitter and with friends and acquaintances seeing what I’ve been doing, people have been asking me if/when they could buy my work.  The answer has always been “soon, but not just yet”. I’ve said I am trying to get enough work together for a show, which is true. I’d love to do a show. (No idea how but that’s a learning bit too right?) The truth is I just haven’t been able to let any of these pieces go.

Now it’s not that I still have every piece that I’ve ever produced. In the 90’s when I was living in Calgary, I made a lot of metal and glass work which I sold through a couple of galleries there. It never really bothered me as most of that work was functional art. Maybe even “craft”. I never did present any of my Old Paintings to the galleries.

It’s also not true to say that I still have every painting I’ve ever done. Some of my favourite pieces hang in the home of family members. Even though some of them are hundreds of kilometers ways, I still get to visit them, even if it’s only once a year. To truly say good bye to a work that I really like has just been unthinkable.

However, in that last couple of months I’ve realized I also have a problem with that. I think it’s part of an artist’s job to get their work where other people can see it. Or if it’s not their job, it’s required by their ego (or mine at least?). I certainly get a huge thrill when someone tells me they love something I’ve created. Who wouldn’t?  To sell a piece is further validation. “Not only do I love your work but I’m willing to spend actual money on it so I can look at it everyday.” -That’s- validation.

The other purely practical issue with keeping all my work is that I simply don’t have any more wall space. I hang everything but I’m now at a point I’ve got to take something off the wall if I produce something new. We live in a condo so we don’t have a lot of storage (or any, really) so I’m starting to pile things in my “studio” which is also our yoga & meditation room. The clutter is not good feng shui and it’s just asking for paintings to get damaged. I’ve already poked a hole through a canvas. Thankfully it was blank.

So what to do. A couple of months ago I decided I really needed to get back at doing yoga classes or I’d seize up entirely. I’d done yoga for about 5 years when I injured myself and had to stop (and then failed to restart for two years). I also knew that the bass player in Kim’s band was have the same sorts of old man issues I am having and I convinced him to come to yoga for the first time ever. Due to a few issues, Steve missed the first couple of classes but after his first class, he came out saying “That was awesome.” The problem was that the next week’s class was cancelled because of a teacher’s workshop. Steve said “Can we get together and do it ourselves?” (yes he liked it that much). I said, “Sure, come over to our place and we’ll go through a class.” I can actually hold a decent yoga class because I’m so unbendy I’ve done the same Level 1 class for over 5 years. I can’t -do- the postures, but I know what they are and can explain what we’re supposed to be doing (well enough for  raw beginner who is as unbendy as I am at least)

Steve had never been to our place so had never seen my art. Our living room is pretty much a gallery as every inch of wall space is covered so as soon as he walked in he saw pretty much everything I’ve done in the last 8 months. He told me that he really wants to buy “The Kiss“, but Kim also says that it’s her favourite. I’m not sure who will get it. After our yoga class, which went quite well, we had some lunch. Steve is a family court judge and he told me that he’s organizing the Rock & Robes a fundraiser for YESS.org. It’s a night of live music where all the musicians are lawyers & judges (yes, that’s a thing). He said that he’d love me to donate a painting to the silent auction. I was flattered but didn’t give him a firm yes or no. I still couldn’t imagine giving up any of my work. Over the next few days, Kim pushed hard for me to say yes and finally I did. I didn’t know what I would donate but I had a month or so to figure it out.

At first I thought about donating one of my old pieces from the 90’s but I figured that really didn’t showcase what I am doing now. And despite this being a benefit, it -is- a showcase for my work. I also thought about some of my recent paintings like Learning Jazz or Bashaw Moonrise but I really couldn’t bring myself to part with them. They are so different from what I’ve done in the past, I am not ready to see them go. I think I’m still processing them somehow. I did have that problematic work in progress piece that I mentioned at the top of It Was A Good Week. I decided that it was a good size for the auction, and if I could make it work, I would be prepared to give it up. I thought somehow landscapes are something that I’ve done so much of, that it wouldn’t be quite as difficult to see go to someone else.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and it’s finished (and framed!).

"Winter Solstice at White Sands" 20 x 26 Oil on Canvas © 2015 JayB

“Winter Solstice at White Sands” 20 x 26 Oil on Canvas © 2015 JayB

I am pretty pleased with it and with the feedback from Twitter, Steve and other members of the organizing committee. (“That is absolutely stunning! Wow. A fantastic donation!!”) 🙂

Kim also fell in love with it. “That is soooo much like the lake. You’ve captured it perfectly.” Then she said “Please, please don’t donate it. I want it!” I guess I’m not the only one who has issues letting go.

Despite Kim’s arguments and the fact that I really do like how it turned out, (even with my ambivalence with it at the start), I stayed firm and decided it was going to auction. Last night I took a couple of pictures and said goodbye. A bit sad but also excited for it to move on. (and hoping it brings a good value for the auction.) It gets delivered today and I’ll probably never see it again.IMAG2155On posting about this, two of my Twitter artist friends independently gave me the same advice.

Wise words on letting go.

I did attach a note to the back asking for them to send me a photo of it in its new home.

It was a good week.

A couple of weeks ago I started the painting below. Almost from the start I felt a bit -meh- about it. I don’t hate it, but it doesn’t feel finished and I’m not sure what to do with it.

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Untitled Work in Progress

I’ve decided that when I get stuck on a painting, the best thing to do is to just set it aside and start something else. Last week I started on a small painting with a retail store canvas I had in the closet. I decided just to paint with no plan and a day later I had this:

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“Stellar Nursery” 12×18 oil on Canvas @copy; 2015

I was initially going to name it “Earhole Fire Flower” due some tipsy tweeting with Vicki P, but I’ve chickened out and called it “Stellar Nursery” (which was a suggestion from @StellarPillar although I had the same idea).

Then last Saturday morning I found an old hand built canvas with some failed work on it. I started with the idea that I’d do another one like Stellar Nursery, but in a different palette.

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Work in Progress

I went to yoga and came back to work on the painting. For some reason I picked up a palette knife and a couple of hours later I had this:

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Work in Progress

Which, frankly, surprised the hell out of me. I have done exactly 1 palette knife piece in my life and that was well over 20 years ago. To say I’m pleased with this one is a bit of an understatement.

Sunday morning I got up looking to paint something else. As you might be able to see I have a couple of larger canvases I built leaning on the wall but I wasn’t quite ready to tackle them. Looking in the closet I found a second handmade canvas, exactly the same size as the one done on Saturday. So…Diptych!

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“Bashaw Moonrise” 10×16″ (x2) Oil on Canvas © 2015

These were a lot of fun and I think they turned out pretty good. In fact, It was a pretty good week.

IMAG2069Of course, that feeling was quickly extinguished this morning as I started on one of the new larger canvases. A terrible idea, erased after an hours work. Art has a real way of keeping one humble.

A Total Mess WIP

A Total Mess WIP – Time to start again.