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About Inspiration

A few months back I signed up for a weekly portrait drawing group which had changed their practice from in-person to online due to the COVID situation. A weekly inspirational photo is sent to members and the portraiture begins. Participants send images of their pieces to the coordinator a few days later and they are shared by email and social media. I thought this was a fantastic way to maintain group practice and cohesion while we are all safely distanced. I was inspired to join!

A few months later and I had received all the emails and photos and yet I hadn’t participated. I wasn’t inspired.

Why? What is it that inspires me and what leaves me lacking? I wish I could say it was one thing or another but it’s… complicated. It’s about the subject and a spark of interest or recognition of familiarity they present to me. It’s also about what I’ve got already going in the studio that I want to maintain or complete. It’s about the stresses of work and life in general. It’s about my health and the way it wanes and waxes. And sometimes I think I will never be inspired again and will always have to push myself (or trick myself with a novel medium or challenge) to get work done. I did stop making art for 8 years at one point while I was back in Uni and building a career in IT.

And then it happens. It’s like my creative spirit needs to hibernate and gain strength but then jumps out of the cave like “Rrrrooooaaaarrrrr!” I’m back! That feeling of excitement and anticipation and hunger lit me up and I was already planning a strategy to get it done. Clear out my calendar, I’m gonna paint!

The photo of the week of Tommy Douglas and his face was begging to be expressed in a more animated way than a black and white staid photo (beautiful photo, just very traditional). I also liked that I knew my little brother could tell me more about Tommy Douglas than I already knew, what with his encyclopedic knowledge of everything Canadian.

Initially a monochromatic portrait came to mind because the photo is black and white. But when I sat down and painted, the palette expanded.

I’ve been working hard at landscape painting for the past year. That diligent work needed focus and dedication so I had not done a portrait for over a year. But I’d developed a process for practice which was working for me so I used it for this portrait; I find a subject of interest and prepare my tools to begin. Then I imagine what I’m looking for in this piece; how I want it to feel, look and say. With that in mind, I browse through the work of the artist who MOST inspires me, Richard Schmid.

And it keeps me on track. I know how I want to paint, what I want to express and Richard Schmid’s work reminds me of the level of professionalism that I am striving for. His work reminds me that I am working towards something, not just painting another painting. Because honestly, sometimes it feels like I’m just creating more work to put into the basement storage area. Even if some of my work is selling well, a lot of it goes into the bowels of mediocrity. C’est la vie.

With the Schmid inspiration process, I am striving to get to his level of quality work. It’s a DREAM and a very presumptive one. I’d rather aim high and eventually hit higher than I could have without that inspiration.

Blah blah blah. Enough words. More paint!


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Sidney Fine Art Show

This year both Andrew and I decided to submit work to the prestigious Sidney Fine Art Show. I’ve done so in the past and enjoyed being a part of the show. Andrew has never submitted. The show is a good one; high quality work beautifully presented. It’s on the more traditional side and generally takes a less broad approach to jurying (than say, the Sooke Fine Art show). Meaning, there are fewer “what is that doing here” pieces. The tricky decision-making aspect of this show is that the show is only up for one weekend and the submission and jury process is not done online so it means driving to Sidney 8 times. We counted. 8 times (including attending the opening and artist’s nights).

Regardless, we submitted the maximum of 3 pieces each and both had all 3 pieces juried in! Yahoo! I’m looking forward to going to the opening night and artist’s night and to seeing how our work fits within the rest of the art work. I hope you will join us there!

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Things really heated up inside the studio and out this past long weekend! I had 3 days in the studio and it was fantastically creative and productive! While I did wander out to enjoy the sunshine on the deck and do some chores, I took the opportunity to work on a diptych and a portrait commission. The portrait commission is a surprise gift so you won’t see it until the recipient does – but it’s well underway. Actually, Andrew and I are both trying our hands at this portrait so the purchaser will have a few options to choose from and we both have a great model to work from.

But back to the diptych…

The Conversation
The Conversation, Diptych, 12″ X 24″ (unframed) Studio oil

I started out by painting the female member of this duo and titled her “Coquette”. And I was so happy with how she came out that it inspired me to create her male counterpart – “Coquet”. Together, they created a partnership which no longer seemed appropriate using those titles and so The Conversation was born. When I look at them, looking back at me, I imagine myself interrupting them as they speak closely in front of a painting at a gallery art opening. Theirs was an intimate exchange of mysterious, even suspicious nature and I had intruded.

They were great fun to paint and gave me special delight because it appears that I have finally learned how to control the technique. Using just one colour is very similar to drawing with charcoal – in fact, I sort of consider these painted drawings. I use my brush and a rag to push and pull the darks and lights of the oil paint just as I would use the charcoal stick and chamois to push and pull the charcoal.

The portrait commission has started in the same manner but I am going to push it beyond the one colour once I have the likeness where I want it.

The countdown to summer holidays and art shows is on now and if this past long weekend was a taste of what’s to come, it’s going to be a fantastic season!